God isn’t as religious as you think He is.

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“It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This statement might just be among the most anti-religious things Jesus is recorded to have ever said. In one sentence, Our Lord turns over the tables of our religious presumptions and drives out the money changers of self made religion.
The words of Jesus here, must have made every Pharisee in town feel squeamish. He says something here that flies in the face of two prevalent forms of religion. In one joyful declaration or Lord knocked the legs out from under what I call, “The probationary gospel” and the “Cash and Carry Gospel.” Both of these are rampant in our culture today, and are as deadly to the soul today as they were in Jesus day.
1. “The probationary gospel” is a lie that portrays our heavenly father as nothing more than an irate deity, fuming over us with his bony finger poised over the Hell-button, just waiting for an excuse to drop the trap door open and send us screaming into the abyss. It’s a probationary gospel because it is entirely dependent on our good behavior. Imagine God saying to us at conversion, “Alright you little sinner. You’re forgiven for now, but if you don’t keep it clean you’re going back to the darkness.” It’s a fake gospel that says, ” If you die having even the smallest sin unconfessed, you’re going to hell !” Really? A salvation that is only as strong as my ability to confess? A gospel that depends on my goodness is no gospel at all.
Jesus says, “It’s your father’s good pleasure…” Your father was and is pleased to give you the kingdom. His salvation is not an act of obligation, but of divine love. If you are saved you are not on probation. You are not under the wrath of God any longer. God is your father and He is pleased to give you his kingdom and everything that comes with it. This leads to the second point.
2. “The cash and carry gospel” otherwise known as the health and wealth gospel. There are many preachers who are selling the gospel short, by making it primarily about money and health and material things. While I have no problem believing that God will meet all our needs and even give an abundance at times, the notion that the kingdom of God is about material things falls short of the message of Jesus.
The Pharisees loved money. If Jesus message had been about wealth and financial gain, they would never have crucified him. They would have flocked to him. I fear today that many preachers would have quite a following of Pharisees had they preached their messages in his day. The gospel is not about making it in this world, but in the next. Jesus said, “Its the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom of God is what is being offered here, not the kingdoms of this world.
The message of the gospel is not about how God can make you wealthy, healthy and successful in this life. Too many people become Christians because someone told them Jesus could improve their lives. While that is certainly true, that is not what makes the gospel good news. The good news is that we have an eternal kingdom that never fades, an eternal hope with greater riches than this world could ever offer.
Our lives are hidden with Christ (Col. 3). When prosperity preachers offer us mansions and cars and money they are thinking too small. If you read the verses that follow Luke 12:32 you will see Jesus inviting us to strip ourselves of any concern for material things and go after the real riches found in him. Paul tells us that “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (i.e. material things) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Friends, Jesus came preaching a message that is liberating to the soul! It liberates us from legalism and materialism, among other things. He liberates us by showing us a father in heaven who is not nearly as religious as we are. God is not religious, God is love. He is Holy love. He calls us to free ourselves from the bondage of sin and self, by faith in him. When we turn to Him by faith we find a heavenly father who takes great pleasure in giving us a kingdom that never fades, never falls, never dies. He’s not inviting you to the burden of religious duty or the greater burden of materialism. But to the freedom and joy we were created for. This comes only through turning by faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, who died to open the door for us.

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.

 

 

 

 

Three things you need to know before you walk out the door.

“And we are witness to these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:32)

The Apostles were on trial for preaching the gospel. Don’t kid yourself, the day is fast approaching when the church in America will be forbidden to boldly preach the gospel. But the Apostles boldly proclaimed anyway, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only that power can enable us to faithfully proclaim the gospel, not the churchy feel good message of those who would water it down, but the gospel…the one in the Bible, that still calls people to repentance of sin and faith in the crucified, risen and returning Christ.

The Apostles of this century will boldly preach this gospel by the power of the Spirit. In the verse above we see three things any serious disciple needs to know about the Holy Spirit. Go back and read it again. In short form, here are the three things you need to know before you walk out the door.

1. The Holy Spirit has made you a witness. They said, “We are witnesses…” Earlier, Jesus had told the apostles, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….” The Spirit came upon them and gave them a Holy boldness and power to be witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ. You may not have seen him raised from the dead, but you are a witness of what Jesus has done in your life. The Holy Spirit will give you power to boldly proclaim your unique gospel message. Not your own Gospel, but your own experience with the good news of Christ. Without that power you cannot be an effective witness.

2. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. “And so is the Holy Spirit…” The Holy Spirit came alongside the Apostles to confirm their message with powerful signs and wonders. He still does that today. When the gospel witness goes out, the Holy Spirit steps in and demonstrates the reality of Jesus life. Do you expect God to show up in power when you witness? He longs to come alongside and show the truth of the gospel. So how do you get this power in your life?

3. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. “Who has been given to those who obey him.” The Apostles experienced the power of the Spirit as they stepped out in faith and obedience. Friend, if you want to experience the Spirit’s power in your life, get up off your pew and go do something about the great commission. I’ll tell you that is the only way you will really experience his power. Some are wasting away wondering why God isn’t more real to them. Listen,  God will be as real to you as your obedience is to him. No excuses, no games. When you get out there and get about the business of communicating the gospel, God will show up in power.

So before you go out today know this, You are a witness of what Jesus Christ has done for you. Second, The Holy Spirit is also a witness of who who Jesus is. In other words, you give witness and He bears witness. Third, power follows obedience, nothing less. Now go out today and see what God will do when you obey his call.

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

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)