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.

 

 

 

 

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.

uganda childrens prison

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

Seek His Presence

” Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” (Psalm 105:4)

You and I were created to live in real union with the very presence of God. The primary result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion was that they lost the gift of God’s constant presence. What a tragedy! Yet we avoid his presence, the very thing we were created for. “No one seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10) is the primary charge against a sinful humanity. This has always been true, but now we live in a day, in America, and much of the world, where efforts are being made to eradicate any sense of the presence of God in our culture. With evangelistic zeal today’s Atheist burns with a desire to convert everyone to the religion of despair and nothingness. Even churches are running away from the presence of God. They set up doctrines designed to prevent anything that seems supernatural or beyond us from taking place in worship. It’s as if we’ve said to God, “Thanks for getting us into heaven, but we’ll take it from here.”

Prayer meetings, once considered the lifeline of the church are now considered a waste of time. Do our children even know how to seek the Lord? Yes, we’ve taught them how to say prayers, but have we taught them how to take hold of God in prayer? Do they know what repentance is? Do they know anything of life in the Spirit? Or have we turned them into religious zombies stumbling along in the dark tripping over dead doctrines and flaky Sunday morning entertainment? Do they know what it means to feel the actual presence of God without music playing in the background? When was the last time you experienced God’s presence?

Did you know that God desires for you to know his presence on a daily basis? “Seek his presence continually.” Paul put it this way, “Pray without ceasing.” and “Walk in step with the Spirit.” Jesus said , “Abide in me…for without me you can do nothing.” We are called to seek to literally live in the presence of God. Many of us are so anemic about the God who we claim to believe in that we can’t stand a sermon that lasts 21 minutes, much less a day lived in His very presence. How will you survive in heaven where his presence is a constant reality? At the same time, we long for God’s presence.

There is a place deep in every human being that longs for God. It’s part of the design. God desires more for you than a religion or good behavior. God desires to dwell with you and impart his divine presence into every corner of your being. You were created to be a habitation of pure love and holiness. Your life was meant to radiate with the glory of God himself so that every thought, every word and every action flows out of the heart of God imparting life to everyone around you.

Imagine a home flooded with the presence of God. Imagine places of business where the atmosphere of heaven reigns and people are changed just by being there. Imagine a church so caught up in divine glory that life flows out into communities and transforms them into real life illustrations of the kingdom of God. This is not fantasy. this is potentially what can happen when God’s people push beyond religious duty and seek whole heartedly the constant presence of God. Many today are praying for revival, and it sill shortly come. But do we not realize what revival is? It is a rediscovery of the presence of God on earth. Would you be revived? Then commit yourself to seeking out the presence of God in your daily life.

You will never be fully alive without the divine presence. He is the sunlight of your soul, presently eclipsed by sin. When we turn to him and seek his presence the garden comes to life again beneath the warming rays of his healing love. Let us take the word’s of the Psalmist to heart and “Seek his presence continually.” Pray with me:

“Lord I’m tired of religion. I want you. I thank you that you desire to impart your very life to me so that I live in your presence. No more weekend visits for me. Sunday morning isn’t good enough. I want to live in your constant presence and power. Take hold of me and fill me with your life. Take anything from me that blocks the flow of your spirit into my life. I would rather have one drop of your presence than a ocean of temporary pleasure. Lord I want all of you to have all of me. Dwell in me. Change me. Replace me. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Walking in God’s Favor.

“And the King granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:8)

Nehemiah was a bit too old to attempt a back flip, but today he almost tried one! He could not believe what just happened. He had spent the whole night before pleading with God for favor from the Persian King. Through trembling lips he nervously requested leave to go to Jerusalem and attempt a rebuilding project for his people. Not only did the King grant his request, he also granted supplies and protection for the whole project! How long the old man stood there with his mouth hanging open is unknown to us, but I would have loved to have seen it. Retiring to his room, Nehemiah sat on the edge of his bed in sheer awe. Then He looked up to heaven, with tears of golden joy dancing across his face and tried to find words to give to his God. But how do you adequately say thanks when your future, once thought lost forever, has just been handed to you on a silver tray of divine favor? In such rare moments all you can do is rest in the unexplainable goodness of God. Nehemiah experienced the favor of God. Can you and I walk in such favor? Or is this just the stuff of ancient stories? To me the Bible is more than a collection of ancient accounts. It is the playbook for those who would know God and experience him today and into eternity. When we read Nehemiah’s explanation of things in chapter 2, verse 8 we see how his assessment of things shaped his destiny. You see many of us miss the favor of God in our lives simply because of the way we choose to look at life. When he wrote of his experience with the King, he gave the reason for how things worked out. Let’s be honest, many of us, if we had been through such an experience, we would have said something like this: “And the King granted me what I asked because…

1. I caught him when he was in a good mood.

2. I know how to work people and get what I want.

3. He probably has ulterior motives, but at least we have a win – win situation.

4. I was the just lucky I guess.

Strangely enough, if it hadn’t worked out we would be tempted to bring God into it at that point…

1. God must be mad at me.

2. God doesn’t care.

3. God doesn’t exist.

Funny how we work that isn’t it? God only gets the credit for our disappointments. Or worse, his existence is determined by whether or not we get what we want. Then we wonder why this whole faith thing, “didn’t work for me”. It didn’t work, because you really haven’t tried it yet. What you tried was superstition, not faith. God doesn’t bless superstition. He blesses faith. Nehemiah shows us what walking in faith, and consequently divine favor, looks like. Nehemiah 2:8 shows us the mindset that we need.

“And the King granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (2:8 E.S.V.)

 1. “The good hand…” – Nehemiah assumed the goodness of God. Even though his home town was in ruins, and the future looked uncertain, he understood that God’s nature is not determined by our present circumstances. For many, God is only good if I am happy at the moment. But all the saints of Biblical history affirmed, even in their worst moments that God himself is good. I have to accept, that as James put it, “God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one.” and that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:13,17) I must come to God with the assumption that God is good even when my situation isn’t.

2. “of my God…” – Nehemiah had a personal relationship with God based on faith. I cannot walk in God’s favor from a distance. From Genesis to revelation people who would experience God are called to a personal faith relationship with God. This came in Nehemiah’s time through obedience to the law, but now it comes through the one who fulfilled the law in himself, Jesus Christ. Friend you will never walk in God’s favor by simply believing there’s a God out there somewhere, and by trying to live by your own understanding of goodness. Jesus said, repeatedly, that we must come to God by personal faith and obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. Then I must daily walk in faith and growing obedience to him. Many claim to believe in Jesus, but have not yet begun a personal relationship with him. Read John 15 for description of how we are to live in a daily relationship with him.

3. “was upon me.” – Nehemiah trusted in the presence and power of God that was upon him. Whenever the Bible talks about the hand of God being upon someone, it refers to his power and presence. Nehemiah understood that the Persian King didn’t respond to Nehemiah’s clever words, but to the unseen power of God that was upon the servant of God. It reminds me of Jesus words at the beginning of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” (Luke 4:18) Jesus walked in divine power. This same power he promised to all who follow him, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….” (Acts 1:8…) Paul demonstrated this same confidence in the power of God in his letter to the Corinthians,

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 E.S.V.)

So we see that we walk in divine favor, when we start with a shift in our perspective. We begin to experience God at work in us and through us when we assume:

1. That God is good, despite how things look at the moment.

2. That God desires a personal relationship with me.

3. That God wants me to walk in his power, not my own.

Finally, I have to say that Nehemiah wasn’t asking for favor so he could simply live a good life and do as he pleased. Nehemiah walked in God’s favor because he was committed to God’s kingdom and cause. The underlying theme to all this is that we must live for God’s glory and kingdom if we are to truly find the fulfillment and purpose and favor we were created to experience. Jesus said it this way, “Seek first (in priority) the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

I won the shirt off his back!

Mark 15:21-32

“And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.” v. 24

I never was very successful at gambling, but today I lucked out. Usually, when we cast lots in the barracks I end up losing the shirt off my back. I just can’t seem to get those things to land in my favor. So after awhile I decided games of chance were best left to the older, more experienced soldiers. This afternoon, however, I was feeling lucky.

As I said yesterday I had cross duty after the “morning exercise” with that Nazarene. I was still pretty shaken by the whole thing, trying to figure out what this man had done to unleash the rage of two kingdoms. How could such a gentle character end up in so much trouble? He must have really angered the gods. Or maybe it was some kind of set up. Yeah that had to be it. He must have been taking the fall for somebody else. He had to be.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon trying to push my sensitivities to the back and focus on doing my job. We marched him through the streets, keeping our eyes open for sympathizers who may try to interfere. But it seemed like, aside from a few old women, this guy didn’t have a friend in the world. I watched him stumble through the streets with that cross beam on his back. Talk about carrying the world on your shoulders. This guy sure seemed to be. I had to get a bystander to carry it for him, and tried to ignore the man’s kids crying as he left them behind.

Finally, we arrived at the usual spot along the highway, affectionately named “The skull place”, or Golgotha, and began the messy part. This whole crucifixion thing is pretty gruesome work. It usually takes several of us to hold the prisoner down and shut him up while we fasten him to the cross. But Yeshua creeped me out. Even through the blood and torn flesh he seemed in control of himself, and to some extent, everyone else.

The other two screamed like pigs but this Yeshua character was as quiet as a lamb. Oh don’t get me wrong. He was in real pain. I’m surprised he made it this far. But when I saw how intentionally he laid his arms out and braced himself I was stunned.

The rest of the afternoon, I stood there trying to make sense of this whole thing. Here’s a guy taking in more hate and mockery than you can imagine. He just took it all in, as if he were guilty of every evil in the whole world. The two guys on each side had the usual looks of hostility and fear, as they drowned in their own body fluids. But Yeshua seemed more concerned with the people around him. I just about lost it when he looked me straight in the eye, then looked up to the sky and said something like, “Father, forgive them…” Who was he talking to ? I’ve heard some crazy things from prisoners on crosses, but never anything like that. Was he praying to the gods for me? I found myself feeling for the guy again, so I looked away. That’s when I decided to take a gamble.

A few of the soldiers were shooting lots for his clothes. The only thing worth gambling for was his robe. You could tell it was handmade. They laughed when I said I wanted in, but they were as always, happy to see what they could get from me. I threw in half expecting to lose my shirt, again, but for the first time in my life the lot fell in my direction! “I won!” I shouted to the utter amazement, and curses, of my competitors.  “The gods are with me today!” I kept telling myself.

“Well, rookie, put it on and see if it fits!” One of the older guys snarled half jokingly. So I thought, “Why not.” I was pleased to see how easily it slipped over my armor. For a moment I pranced around in my new prize while the soldiers enjoyed some comic relief from the gruesome duties of the day. Then I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.

From the cross on the left I heard, “Yeshua, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then from Yeshua, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” I couldn’t move. Standing there dressed in the robe of Yeshua I witnessed more mercy and love than I knew was possible. The robe seemed to shrink as I felt strangely embraced in it. How could a man so completely rejected love a common thief so freely. How could such an object of wrath emanate such love?

Suddenly standing there in that robe, I felt as if I were wearing more than a garment. I knew that I had spent my life killing but today I felt as if I had murdered a god. I felt condemned and yet strangely loved at the same time. I felt so unworthy that I tried to take the robe off, but I couldn’t get it off. It had come on so easily, but now it was like it was holding me and would not let go. Then one of the soldiers came up from behind and said, with a chuckle,

“Hey rookie, that robe has a great big blood stain on the back! Looks like you won’t be wearing that anywhere. That blood stain will never come out. “ The he walked away from me laughing and shaking his head. “Looks like you won the shirt off his back! Ha ha ha!”

I just stood there dressed in Yeshua’s robe. The blood stain was strangely comforting to me. Then I noticed the sky begin to darken. It was as if the gods themselves had stopped running the universe in honor of Yeshua, as if he were one of their own….

Promises are easier kept around the table.

Mark 14:66-72

“And he broke down and wept.” v. 72 

Promises are easier kept around the table than before the fire. The one Yeshua had named the rock, now lay in pieces in an alley outside the courtyard. The accusing roosters scream tore into his inner ear with unrelenting mockery. There’s a kind of weeping that is so deep that it makes your whole body convulse until you vomit up burning grief from deep places you had no idea existed. Peter was discovering depths of sadness that tore his soul to shreds.

“I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me…” He had said. “One who dips his bread with me…” 

Writhing on the ground Peter felt like a serpent impaled with a spear. All he could do was relive those horrible moments.

He had been standing by the fire warming himself, not sure if he should fight or run. He knew for sure he would be arrested for assaulting that servant, so he considered going into hiding. But he was unable to move. Suspended helplessly between his concern for Jesus, and his instinct to avoid further trouble, he warmed his hands while his synapses raced for a plan. Then she approached.

She didn’t bring any accusations, just a simple statement. Why does it seem our greatest temptations come wrapped in plain brown paper, almost unnoticeable until too late? She casually mentioned, “You were with that Nazarene.”

Fearful that she would point him out as the one who assaulted the servant, he tried to protect his cover,

“No, sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy lady.”     

The Rooster crowed.

Peter reasoned to himself, “I wasn’t denying him, just my association, in case they’re looking for me.”

Not only does temptation come in plain brown paper, it finds an opening and keeps coming.

Enter the servant girl again, only this time she told all the bystanders.

“Hey this is one of the disciples of that Nazarene.”

Fearing this time they would surely report him, he denied it.

“I’m not denying him, just my association with him. I can tell them later after all this blows over.” He assured himself.      

Then another chimed in, “Hey I can tell by your accent, you’re a Galilean. I know you’re one of them!”  Temptation also plays hard on your fears, and Peter was fearful of more trouble.

“_______it! I don’t know this Nazarene you’re talking about.” He shouted.

Almost immediately the rooster cut through the night with a menacing indictment. At this all his rationalizing and reasoning fell into a million scathing pieces. Peter ran into the night, oblivious to the laughing crowd behind him.

The sound of his master’s warning couldn’t be drowned out by his convulsing heart.

“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” Yeshua had said.

Promises are easier kept around the table than before the fire.

Satan delivered a package in brown paper and Peter received it first class.  What do you do when the promise you gave the Lord at the table, fails the test of fire?

Through the torrents of emotion Peter could only think of his dear friend, betrayed by those he had given so much to. Flashes of memory cascaded into his consciousness compounding his grief.

Every word Yeshua had spoken, every deed he had done hovered over Peter with a crushing heaviness. Glimpses of walking on water, passing out bread, and opening blind eyes hammered  him with unstoppable force.

Peter spent hours sitting in the corner of his home, arms folded around legs, rocking back and forth. “He gave me a life, and I gave him death. Oh God have mercy. His blood is on my head.”

But somewhere in the night something clicked. “Yeshua knew this would happen. He warned me. He wasn’t surprised. He knew I would falter. But he didn’t send me away.”    

That thought seemed to give him some hope, although he didn’t know why.

He knows that much of what we say at the table doesn’t make it past the door of the upper room, much less to the fire of trial. Yet he still calls us to be with him.   That’s the gospel.

Demolition

Mark 13:1-2

“…there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” v.2

Lord, I’ve built this for you.

Aren’t you impressed?

See my lofty work stretching skyward? You can read my name on the spire.

The marbled halls of  charity, polished

So shiny and clear, I can see my own reflection in every panel.

Stained glass prayer rooms depicting my noble thoughts

for all to see and marvel.

The acoustics are great in here.

You can hear my voice echoing all

the way

down

the halls.

Aren’t you proud, Lord? I built this monument for you…

At least

that’s how it started

I made this altar of golden accomplishments

to bring

you

glory

please excuse my fingerprints, I can’t seem to get them off.

I’ve tried, but they won’t leave.

What’s that Lord? I’m sorry I misunderstood.

How funny. I could have sworn you said…

What? It has to come down?

You must be kidding!

Don’t you dare!

Do you know how long I worked….

but, Lord…

I don’t get it!

I built this with my own hands!

It’s for you, so you’d better not

mess

it

up

If you touch one more thing I’ll ki…

No wait!

I didn’t mean…

What I meant to say was…

It’s mine. All mine. For you?

Where are you going? Stop. Come back.

I haven’t shown you my favorite part.

the Throne room…I’m sure once you see it you’ll change your mind.

Wait.

Now I’m confused.