53 and counting….

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I turned 53 yesterday. That puts me two years away from a senior citizen’s discount. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that in seven years. Lord willing, I’ll be sixty. Say what? After 50 birthdays start to become more and more important. (insert chuckle here)

It’s kinda weird to celebrate 53 years, partly because I still feel much younger than that. Even though it takes me longer to get up out of a chair, and I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t read anything without whipping out my reading glasses, I still feel pretty young. I still have lots of energy…most of the time, but I go to bed much earlier now than I did just a few years ago. But whatever delusions of immortality I had in my twenties are long gone. I know that one day this earthly life will come to an end, and statistically, that could happen in just a couple of decades, despite my hopes of living to be a hundred ( I think that would be very cool but only God knows about that.).

It’s kinda creepy to think about your life ending, but at my age I can’t help but at least tip my hat in acknowledgement to that weird guy with a sickle, standing in the shadows. I know one day he’s gonna come knocking and escort me to glory. Fortunately, because of Jesus the trip will be a short passage into life. I think if it weren’t for Jesus I would be in great fear of death. How sad it would be to think that my life was just an existence until death. But I have great hope that this short life is just  a warm up for eternity.

However, despite my great hope, I still feel some apprehension about the future. I’m done looking back with regret about the past. I’ve looked back and seen God’s hand on my life and for that I give thanks. God has blessed me beyond my expectations. But I can see also that I wasted a lot of my life being way too self concerned. God has graciously worked in and through this little clay pot of a life despite some basic mistakes. Here’s a short list of things I could get really depressed about if I tried.

  1. Too much talking. Too little listening.
  2. Too many hours spent on computer games. Too little on relationships.
  3. Too much time looking for affirmation. Too little time giving it.
  4. Too much self preservation. Too little self sacrifice.
  5. Too much concern for appearances. Too little concern for substance.
  6. Too much convenience. Too little perseverance.
  7. Too much fear. too little faith.
  8. Too much self. Too little others.
  9. Too much resentment. Too little forgiveness.
  10. Too much flesh. Too little Spirit.

I’ve spent enough time thinking about previous years and how I could have given more and loved better. I wept. I’ve confessed. I’ve mended fences…or at least tried, some refuse to mend. But as the Bible says, “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I’m done trying to fix yesterday. It’s time to move ahead into the life God has for me and my loved ones.

The great news of the Gospel is that God is always calling us forward to new life. I’m ready to move into the gift of life with a new zeal for God and His kingdom. In my short 53 years, despite all the ups and downs, one thing has remained. Jesus Christ, my wonderful savior has held my hand all the way. His love is greater than my regrets, stronger than my fears, and more powerful than my insecurities.

He has been unswervingly faithful and undeniably capable in all situations.My king has kept me in His nail scarred hands even in my worst moments. He has given me a wonderful family, amazing friends and tremendous opportunities. The great news is that no matter how long I live on this planet the best is always yet to come. Quite frankly, I have no intention of winding down at this point. My God has given me a great gospel to preach and a great life to live and I feel that I’m just now getting started. I want the second half to be greater than the first. I want my life to burst with God’s glory so brightly that you’ll have to wear sunglasses to my funeral!

If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. I want to encourage you to live your life completely for Jesus Christ. He is the very ground of your existence. He is the reason for every breath you breathe. He alone can give meaning and lasting purpose to your life. In fact, He alone can give you your life. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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The Invisible boy on the train track.

An invisible boy traipses along a deserted railroad track. He looks as far down as he can see, wondering what it was like, back in the day, when this track was filled with steel cars and hurried passengers. The smell of railroad ties intertwined with the whir of passing cars along the highway draws him further down the line. He’s surrounded by activity, but on that empty track he feels disconnected from it all. He wonders how far he could walk and how long he could be gone before anyone noticed his absence. He’s afraid to walk too far. He’s afraid his suspicions will be true. He’s afraid he’ll discover he could walk to China and the world would just keep moving like the traffic on the highway. Oblivious. Preoccupied. Not even aware he was gone.  But one day he decides to give it a try. He gets out on the track and walks. Alone. Invisible. Disconnected from the world speeding around him. Tired of being invisible. He just wants someone to see him. So he walks.

He walks for miles, waving at the oblivious passers by, imagining they’re waving back. As he travels along the track he leaves his home far behind, occasionally wondering if any of his siblings are looking for him. Once in awhile he thinks he hears a voice calling him home, but when he turns around to look no one is there. Must have been imagining things. So the invisible boy walks on. He walks on hoping someone will be able to see him. As he gets a little older and wiser he decides maybe it’s his own fault no one can see him there. He’s not trying hard enough. When you’re invisible you have to work a little harder to be noticed.

So be starts turning somersaults along the track. He discovers that when he’s performing, he becomes visible. But when he stops, he’s gone from sight again. So it’s best to keep doing tricks along the track.  Maybe if he turns enough really good flips the by passers will take note and someone will join him on the track. It works, well, sort of. At first no one seems to care about his attempts at acrobatics, but as he perfects his art, people start to notice. The slowing of traffic and the photos being taken by amused drivers, give him reason to flip even more. Finally, someone has noticed the invisible boy! So he flips more, turning and twisting, jumping and throwing himself in all directions, whatever it takes to keep the growing crowds cheering. But a boy can only turn so many flips before the has to slow down and rest. Then they’re gone again. Seems like all they wanted was the show. When he looks up from his rest he is invisible again.  His aching joints and the dimming of the sky  make it clear to him that he has wandered farther down the track than he thought, and the time has gone by faster than he imagined. He has spent way too much time doing tricks for attention. Eventually the time comes when he just can’t keep up the show. All he can do is keep walking. At the end of the day he’s still an invisible boy walking along the tracks. Disconnected. Invisible. Tired of turning flips. Wondering if anyone out there is able to see him.

Texts, Temples and Traditions ? Is that all God’s got?

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”   (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Every religion on earth says basically the same thing: “Here’s the textbook. Here’s the temple. Here are the traditions. See ya at the finish line…if you’re good. Good luck.”

You’re left with a text, a temple, and tradition. Every religion hands you the book of choice and leaves it up to you to make it through. But only the message of Jesus Christ says, “Yes we have rules, we have traditions and beliefs, but there’s more.” The good news of Jesus Christ is that God doesn’t just hand you a book and say, “Good luck, see ya at the finish line”…though many Christians live as if that’s exactly what God did. They’re missing the most crucial element. God offers you his very presence and power.

The good news is that God says, “You can’t make it on your own. If you try you will fail. So I have come to live inside of you and be with you along the way. It wont be you doing the work, but my Holy Spirit within you. Let me change you, and empower you to live the live I have called you to.” You see, when a person repents of their sin, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not only forgiven, they are indwelt by God himself.

Preaching the first Christian sermon ever, the Apostle Peter said it like this, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit who makes us truly Christian. He also makes us victorious over the sin and corruption of this world. In the passage at the beginning of this blog we see four powerful truths that help us live victoriously, the way God designed us to. Read it again then see below four life changing truths every believer ought to know.

1. God’s divine power has given us all we need to live godly lives in this present world. This means that we are not called to just be forgiven, then continue wallowing in sin, just consoling ourselves by saying, “God accepts me.” He does accept you but he also expects you to put away the old life and walk powerfully in the new one.  We are called to live godly lives as God’s children. You have all you need to do that if the Spirit of Christ is in you.

2. This power comes through knowing God personally. As you get to know him and rely on him, he imparts his power into your life. But you can’t have God’s power without a personal commitment to Christ. You can’t just believe God is out there somewhere. You have to develop a personal relationship with him. This relationship is with a person, not a system. The person’s name is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to open the way to eternal life, and to give us access to God’s very life on this earth.

3. We access the power of God by obeying his word and believing his promises. As a society we are great at analyzing the promises of God, but are slow to just believe them. You want to know why we don’t see as many miracles as they saw in the Bible? It’s not because God went on vacation. It’s because we have become so self reliant and cynical that we have trouble just trusting  a God who is way beyond us. But when we trust him, miracles happen. I’ve see high school students literally healed of sickness in my class room because they simply believed God.

4. God desires that we live as free people, not as slaves. We were not meant to just be forgiven. We were meant to be victorious. You can overcome that stubborn sin that keeps tangling you up. You can put away the porn addiction, the cutting, the gossip. You can live free of crippling anxiety and depression. You can walk away from the wreck of an immoral life. God’s power is real and available to all who turn from sin to Christ by faith.

Jesus Christ is offering you more than a text, and temple and a tradition. He offers himself to you. Will you trust him? Will you receive him?

Help my students perform a miracle!

I have challenged my High school Bible class to put their faith into action by attempting to raise $1000.00 to help support a worthy cause. The cause is a ministry trip being taken by three of our staff people and one student this coming May.
They are going to Uganda to work in a children’s prison…yes you heard it, a children’s prison. These children are all but thrown away in a facility without so much as a bed to sleep on and healthy food to eat. Our team will be going there to minister through a mission organization called, “Sixty feet” who ministers to many places like these. You can check out the organization on the web.
My students want to help out, although they are not able to go. They want to do what they can to raise part of the funding for the mission.IMG_20140126_034102

They have three weeks to raise the money.

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This is a photo of the sleeping area of the prison. Thirty eight children sleep here on the floor. No blankets or pillows. But the work of sixty feet and of our staff who are going to help, this can change.

 

Now for some practical information:
1. Where do you teach? The school is called Oakdale Christian Academy. It is a small Free Methodist Boarding school, located in the mountains of Eastern Ky. I’ve been ministering in this area for about 25 years. I’m a pastor, teacher, and Youth Camp Pastor. You can look up Oakdale on the web (Oakdale Christian Academy.org)oakdale sign
2. How do we donate? Send checks to : Erin Cook c/co Oakdale Christian Academy 5801 Beattyville rd. Jackson, Ky, 41339 Please write on the memo line “Bible Class Project” (Erin is the leader of the team. She and Kathy have served there in Uganda before, for several months. They are quite experienced in this ministry.)

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3. When is the deadline? All funds need to be in by April 24th.
If you have any other questions leave a comment or email me at mdriskill48@gmail.com

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Thanks for your help. Pastor Mark

The enemy within?

I have to write something today that’s a bit difficult to write. It’s  a hard message to all of us who profess the name of Jesus Christ, particularly those in the community in which I live. In the twenty five years my family and I have ministered here we’ve prayed and worked together with the churches of Breathitt County for the cause of the Gospel. (No we’re not leaving) Many in our county have worked and prayed for years to see a move of God that would transform our community. Our county has some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. I count it an honor to serve beside Pastors who truly love the word of God and preach it faithfully. They love the church and the gospel. Within those churches I see some of the greatest saints of God, of all ages seeking to serve him daily. With such a great community of faith you would think the churches would be bursting at the seams. But they’re not. Despite all the revivals, concerts, youth events and food giveaways we just don’t seem to be able to achieve the breakthrough that so many of us have longed for. We pray for revival. Hope for revival. But where is it? It can’t be that God is no longer interested in saving souls. Because He never grows weary. His love for the lost is boundless. Inexhaustible. We can’t blame the people outside the church. They aren’t more lost than other generations. The problem is we have an enemy that undercuts the gospel whenever it starts to go forward in our community. We all know that Satan is the great enemy of the gospel. No surprise there. But friends, here’s the hard part. We have an even more formidable opponent than the devil himself. As the old saying goes, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.” I fear that the greatest enemy of the gospel in Breathitt County is not outside the walls of the church, but inside. I say this with sadness because I love Breathitt County and the church, and because I know that I have often been an enemy of the gospel without even knowing it. So I write this to myself as well. Let me be more specific.

First I want to say that the problem on the inside is not so much doctrinal. Our churches are pretty solid in the basics of the faith, even with all the minor differences and nuances. The problem isn’t economic. It doesn’t take more more money or better stuff to bring revival. So what is it that keeps the church in Breathitt County from revival? Simply put the problem is power and control. I’ve noticed, over the years, a pattern. Whenever a church begins to start reaching the lost, it grows and begins to bear fruit, but suddenly it all stops and the church is torn apart. Why? Is it opposition from the outside? No. What consistently happens is an implosion from the inside. This implosion usually occurs for one simple reason. Power and control.

A handful of people in the church, who are used to being in control of things, rise up against whoever is bringing in the lost, whether it be a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, or just a member who loves people. They criticize, accuse and complain until the person who was making a difference leaves and the church is fragmented…again. Your church has either been through this or is going through it now. I’ve seen how ugly this can be first hand. I’ve also seen how ugly I can be when I’m the one so full of his own ambition that I’ve hurt the gospel when I thought I was helping it. You see that’s the thing isn’t it? We can get into a situation where we become so sure of our own ideas, and so committed to holding our own position that we actually think we’re helping the gospel, when all we’re really doing is protecting our turf. This kills churches and it dishonors Christ, who gave himself up for us all.

In my 25 years here, I’ve seen this stronghold of power and control in my own ministry and in the ministries of others in our community. We have to understand that as the churches of a community we are responsible for more than our own congregations, and certainly for more than our own self interests. Too many people in our community have simply given up on church because they came looking for God and found only people fighting for power. How many good pastors have been beaten up because all those new saved people were getting more attention than the two or three who used to be in the spotlight? How many new Christians have limped away from church because someone resented them for getting too involved? How many churches have been torn apart because a pastor wanted to be a celebrity instead of a servant? This desire for power and control can happen to all of us can’t it? It’s happened to me and it’s happened to you. Even now I know of churches where those who are doing the work of the gospel are being crucified by those who want to protect their own interests. The church is being assaulted from the inside by the stronghold of power and control. Paul warned those who destroy the work of God:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” (I Cor. 3:16-27)

In this passage Paul is saying that the church is God’s temple and you are part of it, if you destroy God’s temple you are assaulting something Holy, and God will deal with you severely. He was warning those who threatened to tear apart the Corinthian church over self interest. If we are to have revival we must tear down the stronghold of power and control, which has put a choke hold on the church for way too long. If your church has changed several pastors in just a few years, you may be under the stronghold. If you have one family or group that makes all the decisions for the church, you may have a stronghold  of power and control. If you have a long list of people who left the church without telling you why, you may have a stronghold of power and control. If you are afraid to be involved in your church because someone’s toes are in the way, you may have a stronghold of power and control. If you are really mad at me right now, you may have a stronghold of power and control. Finally, if you’re thinking, “I wish so and so would read this.” yep, you guessed it. It may be them…or it may be you.

So how do you overcome the stronghold of power and control? By practicing humility and self sacrifice. You overcome this by serving one another, not leaving one another. Leaving the church is not the answer. That’s the coward’s way out. It’s easier to run away than stay and pray. I should know, I have been the coward at times. We must stand together for the soul of the church and the cause of Christ. We have to fight against the stronghold of power and control by getting our eyes on Christ and giving up our own selfish ambitions. We also need to deal with those who are strangling our churches. You know who they are. They only see the church for what they can get personally out of it. In love and boldness you need to stand up against them. Stop handing the church over to those who just want to use it. If you pastor is doing the work of the gospel stand beside your shepherd, pray for them, encourage them and yes defend them. Finally, make sure that you are acting as a servant to your church, and not a ruler. Even as a leader you are called to serve others.

Church, let us work and pray for revival by putting away our need to protect our interests, and make it our chief interest to preach the gospel. Then the world will know that we meant it last Sunday when we sang, “He lives.”

(disclaimer: No, I’m not having trouble in my church. This isn’t a reaction to anything like that. I have a great relationship with my family of faith. I have a heart for revival in this county and I write this purely out of that desire.)

Beautifully Broken…Celebrating the Risen One.

How was your Easter, or Resurrection Day, Yesterday? Mine was beautiful, although not much went according to plan. I started the morning off with a community Sunrise service..in which I forgot that it was my job to arrange the service and get people to handle various parts of the service. Nothing like staring out at a sea of expectant faces looking at you, then suddenly realizing you have no order of worship, or songs etc. But thankfully Pastor Tom handled the music, and Bob Schaeffer, our speaker did a great job. Then on to my service, where we traditionally have a brunch combined with worship, which includes a blossoming of the cross. Brunch went well, and it was a nice service. We had some funny moments with the music as Jeremy and Meg tried to negotiate chords and notes between guitar and piano. They always do a great job, but there was a bit of laughter with a couple of songs. They both are great worship leaders, but this was the first time they had led together. But even with the minor chord confusion the song service was joyful and beautiful. Then came the blossoming of the cross. Usually we cover the cross in flowers from our gardens, but due to recent flooding and morning frost the cross was sparsely covered. A couple of folks were able to bring in flowers and my resourceful wife went outside before the service and got some wild flowers from the church yard. Oh and I forgot to mention that my daughter had trouble with her brakes on the way to church, so I was dealing with that early on. Then she got sick and Mary, my wife, had to take her home before the service. So any visions of a high powered super duper, cutting edge, crowd drawing Easter services quickly vanished. They won’t be writing about this in church growth magazines.

But it was one of the more beautiful days of celebrating the risen Lord I have ever experienced. We may not have wowed the crowds and mystified the seekers. I may not have preached an unforgettable message. But Jesus showed up in a beautiful way. Our service was pretty regular. Pretty unspectacular. And pretty awesome. I’ve been to a lot of Easter services, but only a few really got me in touch with the resurrection of our Lord in such a profound way. Why was it profound?

First, it was profound in it’s simplicity. For example, a simple wooden cross sparsely decorated with the flowers of the field, showed a depth of love from the people that you just can’t manufacture. I loved watching the children hang little wildflowers and Tulips on the cross. I’ll take that over a cool video any day.

Second, it was profound in it’s joy. Everything from singing a birthday song to Lauren, to clapping together when Theresa announce that her ailing grandfather, for whom we had been praying, was now getting better, to hearing the congregation sincerely repeat, “He is risen indeed!” as the service began. The joy was not pumped with hype and pretense. It was simple, pure and real. We have a church that truly loves Jesus and believes he is alive forever.

Third, it was profound in it’s impact. No, we didn’t baptize anybody. There was no flooding of the altar. Doggone it we didn’t even get a truckload of guest names to follow up on next week. But God’s people were inspired to live as those who have been risen with Christ. My Twelve year old friend Mike, who I’m training to preach, came up to me, after the service, and said two things that almost bring tears. First, he said, “I’m excited about being a preacher some day.” Second he said, “Can we start visiting the nursing home? I feel bad for those people who have nobody to visit them.” Mike wants to live the risen life. He wants to bring life to those who need it. Did I mention that Mike is twelve years old? He wants to bring the gospel to people who are too often forgotten.

Finally, it was profound in it’s brokenness. Like I said the services I attended were both a little imperfect, but still very powerful. Isn’t it just like our risen Lord to come to us in our brokenness and bless us. That’s what the story of the resurrection is all about. The risen one showing up in our midst, and blessing us just as we are. It makes me think of his first appearance to his disciples. They were hiding in an upper room, broken, afraid and in need of his presence. Then he walked through the wall and said, “Peace be with you.” May we allow the risen one to walk through our walls and bless us in our beautiful brokenness.

One persons trash is the Lord’s treasure.

When the woman broke the jar of perfume and poured it out on Jesus, her act of love was called “a waste” by his disciples, but Jesus called it a “beautiful thing she has done for me”. He said, in fact, that the world would not be allowed to forget it. Remember this today, the love you pour out for your savior may not be appreciated by anyone but him. Even fellow disciples may call your acts “A waste” because they don’t understand your heart. But know this, Jesus sees it differently. He knows your heart and he calls your outpouring “A beautiful thing that will never be forgotten.” So move past the critics and pour it out on the king who is worthy. He sees what no one else sees. And He will never forget it.