What’s Guaranteed?

When I brought our van in for its 6,000-mile tire rotation and alignment last week, I was shocked and disappointed to learn that I actually needed to buy new tires. You see, the supposed guarantee of the tires we bought a few years ago was 70,000 miles. Yet, at only 36,000 miles in, they were worn and needed to be replaced.

Sure, the warranty and expectation of 70,000 miles is for “perfect conditions,” but surely they should not be wearing out more than 30,000 miles sooner than warrantied!

When I was given the bad news and proceeded to ask what the deal was since I bought these expensive tires from the same place I was visiting, I was asked a series of questions…

Have you rotated and aligned the tires regularly? Oh, I see here in our computer that you certainly have – every 6,000 miles like you’re supposed to.” Yep.

Do you live on a gravel road?” No.

Maybe you drive kind of rough.” No, this is a minivan, and my wife usually drives it. She drives like an old lady (safely, slowly, and cautiously).

Maybe there was something off on the alignment. Oh, nope, I see that the alignments have been done twice per year, and the tires are worn evenly.” Yeah.

I don’t know what to tell you, Mr. Drake. This really doesn’t make any sense.” No, unless these supposed 70,000-mile tires are a scam.

Well, thankfully I received somewhat of a discount on new tires, but new tires are indeed what I purchased that day. What’s guaranteed? Another “70,000 miles“? Yeah, but I have certainly learned my lesson not to put too much hope in such guarantees. Really, it is not guaranteed but rather a claim, and the claim appears to be according to a dream-scenario, at best.

What is guaranteed, though?

What if the mileage rate on tires was actually according to normal driving conditions that the vast majority of drivers face, rather than ideal driving conditions that probably no drivers face? That would certainly be more practical and helpful, but I suppose it would not sell as many tires.

What is an expected warranty, though, if based on unreal conditions? What is guaranteed?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Zechariah 4 on what it looks like to be “Renewed and Strong.” While life is full of supposed guarantees and warranties and promises and claims, rarely can we be certain such expectations will be fulfilled. Yet, our Creator makes promises that are impossible (for us), and He never fails. Strength in Him truly is guaranteed.

‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Like our tires, many things are going to let us down in this life. We are going to let ourselves down, especially when we rely on our own strength and might. God, though, will never let us down. He is always faithful, always sure, always right, and always true. He never fails. His strength is guaranteed.

If we were to only drive our van perfectly on a perfectly maintained track, we would probably get those 70,000 miles out of those tires. We do not drive perfectly, though, and Missouri roads (like most roads) are far from a perfectly maintained track.

How similar is this for our lives, too?! The world around us is far from perfect, and we are far from perfect. We do not live perfectly, and our environment does not function perfectly.

Jesus Christ is the Only One who lived a perfect life. As the Son of Man, He fulfilled the perfect law of God and took the punishment our sins deserve by dying on the cross in our place. As the eternal Son of God, He then rose from the dead and defeated sin and death for all of eternity. Now, everyone who calls on His name is not only saved from sin and death but is also renewed and strong now. Still far from perfect, we can find great hope and assurance in Him, though, if we simply turn to and follow Him.

Are you renewed and strong in the Lord?

If you have yet to experience spiritual renewal and strength in the Lord, would you check out The Story and turn to the Lord today?

Snatched from the Fire

One of my favorite things to do with family and friends is to sit around a fire. I love the sound, the smell, the nostalgia, the company, and the fire. If not for the grace of God, I fear I may have ended up, at best, as a crazy fire man who has done even more dumb things than I have already done, or, at worst, as an arsonist who starts unnecessary and possibly illegal fires for fun. While I do enjoy playing with fire sometimes, I do not break the law with such fun and am usually able to avoid much fire-foolishness.

One of the things that people like me enjoy doing, though, is putting sticks in and out of fires to see them glow, stoke the fires, and simply satisfy our pyromaniac tendencies. Have you ever pulled a stick out of the fire, though? The stick will be burned, but it is still a stick. You snatched it from the fire before it was consumed.

In Zechariah 3, we have a recorded vision of an Israelite priest named Joshua representing the people of God and standing against the accusations of Satan. The Lord said, “Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:3). In other words, Joshua was facing the judgment and consequences of his sin (and the people’s sins), but God redeemed and restored him (and them). What a great picture of redemption in the Lord!

We, too, are like burning sticks in the fire, deserving of condemnation and judgment and yet completely unable to deliver ourselves from such devastation. And, unlike the sticks and logs that do not burn themselves but that I place in a bonfire, we are the ones guilty of sin deserving of eternal death. Our sin condemns us to that fire.

Praise the Lord, though, that He loves us so much that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to satisfy the just fire of His judgment. Jesus took God’s wrath upon Himself when He died on the cross for our sins. Then, He defeated sin and death for all of eternity when He rose from the dead. If you simply repent of your sins and believe in Him alone to save you, then He snatches you from that eternal fire.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from that passage in Zechariah on what it means to be “Renewed and Restored.” What does God do for us when He snatches us from the fire? What are the results? What are the truths of such restorative redemption?

Do not be deceived into thinking you can snatch yourself from the fire, and do not be deceived into thinking that you are not deserving of the fire. We are all deserving because we are all sinners who fall far short of God’s perfect standard, but we are also completely unable to save ourselves. We need the Savior of the world to snatch us from that fire. Have you trusted Him to snatch you from the fire, and are you sharing the good news and urgency of such salvation with others?

Only in and from the Lord can anyone hear the words, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes” (Zechariah 3:4). To Him be the glory!

If you have yet to experience the joy and peace of being snatched from the fire, please check out The Story today. Jesus loves you and is the Only One who can deliver you.

The Good Jealousy

If I was a jealous husband that badgered my wife and demanded that she talk to no one else in the world but me, I would not be a good husband. Such jealousy is wrong. My wife needs other people in her life, too. She has family and friends, and we have children. Those relationships are essential for her, and if I was jealous of those relationships, I would have a serious problem.

What if I said, though, that there is a kind of jealousy that is a good kind of jealousy? That may sound crazy, but I think many people would agree…

If I was jealous for my wife’s physical love and affection that is reserved for a husband and wife according to God’s perfect plan (i.e. Genesis 2:24-25; Mark 10:6-9), then I would be displaying good jealousy. In fact, if I was not jealous for such intimacy and was okay with that intimacy being shared with others, I would not only be wrong, but I would cease to be a good husband. My supposed love would be tainted and incomplete. To truly love my wife is to be jealous for her physical affection and intimacy that are reserved for me as her husband. Likewise, she should be jealous for the same from me and expect nothing less.

It grieves me, then, to hear about couples who have “open relationships” and do not reserve their intimacy for one another inside biblical marriage. They are missing out on God’s beautiful design and will not experience the fulfillment and satisfaction that are only found in His plan for our lives. Furthermore, they cannot experience a right and growing relationship with Him if they are content to disregard the truth of His Word and instead serve their own false idols (whether that be sexual lust or anything else that is outside God’s plan as declared clearly in His Word).

Biblical marriage, after all, is a beautiful picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 5:21-33). And, to be jealous for the exclusivity of marital intimacy is right and good.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Zechariah 1:7 2:13 on what it looks like to be “Renewed and Chosen” (by God). And, while the sermon will be about much more than good jealousy, one thing that jumps out at me from this passage of Scripture is the ultimate example of good jealousy – God’s jealousy (Zechariah 1:14).

When you are chosen by God and turn to Him for salvation, He is jealous for you. Just as He was jealous for His people in Zechariah’s time, He is jealous for His people today. God alone is worthy of our worship, and so it is right and good for Him to be jealous for us to seek to glorify Him alone, just as it is right and good for me to be jealous for my wife to be married to me alone. We were created to have one spouse and one spouse only, and we were created to worship One God and One God only.

What is your response to God’s jealousy for you? As we will consider Sunday, He is sovereign over all things, and how we respond to His sovereign control (and jealous love) is immensely important. Absolute and total surrender to Him (and Him alone) will suffice.

If you have yet to experience the love of God that is only found in and through Jesus Christ our Lord, would you consider checking out The Story?

What’s keeping you from turning to the Lord?

If God called you to Himself, what would keep you from turning to Him? Please know – He is calling you to Himself. He desires that you have a right relationship with Him.

You might respond, “Well, I’ve done too many bad things to be right with God.” No, you have not. True, we have all done too many evil things to have a right relationship with God, but His Son came to save and restore all who turn to Him. Thus, if you are still breathing, you still have an opportunity to know and follow God by turning to Him.

You might respond, “I don’t NEED God.” Yes, you do. We all do. Life might seem great for you right now, but what is next? What happens when this life is over? Are you certain of what your future holds? Are you certain of your eternal destiny? God is, and He alone can assure you of eternal life.

The simple reality is – we can either turn to the Lord in repentance and faith before this life is over, or we will experience His righteous, eternal wrath.

There are many more reasons people give for why they refuse to turn to the Lord than I can address in this post. I cannot help but wonder, though, how many of the reasons are rooted in fear? Are you refusing to turn to the Lord because of fear of what others might think? Are you fearful of God’s call on your life? Are you fearful of how things might change? Are you fearful of not knowing all the answers? Are you fearful of surrendering your all to a God you cannot see? Are you fearful of trusting in a God you cannot yet understand?

If we feared God like we should – the God of creation, the God of judgment, and the God of salvation – we would turn to Him without hesitation. Instead, though, the temptation is so often to fear everyone and everything except God. What an eternally dangerous mistake!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through Zechariah called NEW. God is able to make all things new, and He wants to renew and restore you. For this first message, I will preach through Zechariah 1:1-6 about what it looks like to be “Renewed and Returning.”

Is fear holding you back from turning (or returning) to the Lord? The name Zechariah means “the Lord remembers.” What a great name for a prophet of God who authored a book about God remembering His promises and faithfully keeping those promises!

Do not let fear hold you back from trusting in the Lord with all your heart. If you do turn to Him, the amazing promises declared in the song below are yours to embrace. Praise be to God!

Happy New Year!

Well, 2021 is almost over, and we would like to wish you a happy new year! May we seek the Lord, honor Him with our lives, and glorify His name in 2022 and beyond! If you want to learn more about what it means to know and follow the Lord, please check out The Story.

If you have yet to do so, you can read our recent Christmas letter HERE. After publishing that Christmas letter, though, we were blessed to spend great time together with our families over the past week. Below are some picture highlights of our time together celebrating the birth of Jesus and giving each other unnecessary gifts.

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

The calendar year is almost complete, and we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

We are thankful for God’s continued grace, mercy, and provision in our lives – especially the good news of the gospel – that God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to take on flesh, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise again to defeat sin and death for all eternity. We pray you experience a closer walk with Him this coming year and prioritize Him above all else.

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Jesus. Praise the Lord!

Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year, as well as some short updates on each of us. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids’ requests. Thank you for praying for us! If there are any specific ways we can pray for you, please let us know.

Marsha and I ask that you pray God will give us wisdom to shepherd our children’s hearts to love and honor Him. Also, please pray that we will grow in our relationship with Jesus and help others to grow closer to Jesus. Finally, please pray that our church family will grow in our commitment to be disciples who make disciples. Thank you!

This coming year, we will celebrate 20 years of marriage. Praise the Lord!

Marsha is staying extremely busy with getting our kids to their various school events and extracurricular activities, serving in children’s and women’s ministry with our church, doing various tasks around the church property, volunteering in various roles, and being an amazing wife and mother.

I have been pastoring Richland for more than eight years now, and I love what I do! In my free time, I like to walk the dog, be outside, play basketball, and watch high school sports.

Noah asks that you pray for the rest of his final exams (coming up after Christmas break). Also, he asks that you pray he would be a faithful Christian witness and invite more friends to Richland services and events.

A sophomore at North Callaway High School, Noah is helping with student-led Bible studies there. He is also actively involved in our church’s youth group, and he likes watching football and basketball and playing video games in his free time. Since June, Noah has been working at Arby’s, too. They have the meats!

Levi asks that you pray for school and final exams and also that he will be a light and witness to his friends.

A freshman at North Callaway High School, Levi also attends the weekly student-led Bible studies. He is actively involved in our church’s youth group, and he loves playing high school basketball and taking care of our dog, Lottie. In the spring, he plans to run mid-distance events in track again. Since getting his driving learner’s permit in November, Levi is constantly (it seems) wanting to practice driving.

Silas asks that you pray that he will do better in school and that he will read His Bible every morning.

A fifth grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Silas likes playing football and basketball, as well as watching movies and using his creativity outside. He is actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family, and this past spring he publicly professed His faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and was baptized in May. Praise the Lord!

Zoe asks that you pray she will do well in school and be nice to people. We would also ask that you pray for Zoe to truly surrender her heart and life to Jesus.

A fourth grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Zoe loves being around people, is involved with student council, and is always wanting to be on the go. She plays basketball and also hopes to be involved with volleyball and track. Like Silas, Zoe is actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family and just began taking piano lessons.

Micah asks that you pray that he can be with his mom as much as possible. Yes, he is still a mommy’s boy and is not afraid to admit that. Will you please also pray for Micah’s spiritual health and salvation in Christ?

A first grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Micah enjoys reading, drawing, doing various projects, and playing Minecraft. He is also actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family and loves playing with his friends.

Lottie, well, she is a dog. We love her, though, and she is doing well. She loves being around anyone who will play with her and give her attention – people, other dogs, and/or any other living creature. Lottie is great at playing fetch, going on morning walks with me, and swimming. She will also wrestle and play tug-of-war with anyone who is willing.

December 2021 Family Picture
December 2021 Drake Kids

All I want for Christmas…

What do you want more than anything else for Christmas? Questions like that get asked every year, and some of the results have led to songs like “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” by Mariah Carey, and “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” which my dad used to sing to kids who lost their two front teeth. Oh, the memories!

Really, though, what is the one thing you would like to have at Christmas? Might I propose that perhaps the one thing you and I want more than anything else is one of the many things we take for granted? Love is what I am talking about. Because the question of what we want for Christmas is often asked by those who love us, we do not stop to consider what it would be like if we desperately longed for love.

What if you did not have family or friends who cared about you? What if you had such family and friends but recently lost them? What if the holidays were a time you dreaded because of the memories of loved ones that you greatly missed? These scenarios and/or others are the reality for many, and such people might say that they just long for that love again this Christmas – that company, that sense of belonging, that warm embrace, that care and concern, that love.

Really, we all long for that love. We all need that love. God created us for that love. The problem, though, is not only that we take love for granted, but that we look for lasting love in the wrong places. The very reason we might find ourselves feeling unloved is because we have been let down by someone or something incapable of the kind of love we all desperately need – love that endures.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Luke 1:39-55 about the amazing example of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mary understood and embraced enduring love in such a way that her life was changed. In my message Sunday morning, I hope to communicate three realities of love that endures.

Ultimately, of course, this message is about the love of God. Mary realized the vastness of God’s love and declared one of the most famous hymns (or poems) ever recorded (Luke 1:46-55).

And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy” (Luke 1:46-49).

How true it is!

Like Mary, we must find our source of identity, fulfillment, and love in the Lord our God. Otherwise, we will be deeply disappointed and constantly find ourselves let down and longing for the “next best thing.” That “next best thing” will never come, though (or will never last, at least), because God alone can meet our deepest longings and satisfy our greatest needs. Most perfectly and sacrificially, He did so in and through the death and resurrection of His One and Only Son. Now, if you surrender your life to Jesus, you can and will experience the greatest of all gifts – enduring love.

Jesus alone made such love possible, and only when we find our hope, joy, and peace in Him, will we find ourselves continually satisfied and fulfilled. Most importantly, only then will we be made right with God and be able to rejoice like Mary did.

May the Lord help us to say with all sincerity, “All I want for Christmas is to know and experience the love of Jesus and help others to know and experience the love of Jesus!”

If you have yet to experience such lasting love, will you turn to Jesus today? Learn more by checking out The Story.

The Peace We All Want

When you consider what you hope to experience with holiday gatherings this Christmas season, I highly doubt you are looking forward to division, strife, and stress. You want peace and joy in those gatherings, right? If you get together with family and friends, get along with everyone and have a great time, you will look back on that time with fond memories. That is the kind of peace we all want this time of year, and all the time, really.

Do you know what else we all want, though, that we might not consider as much as we should? We all want lasting peace. No one leaves a fun get-together with family and friends and says, “Well, that’s enough peace and happiness. I need some stress and heartache in my life now! Who wants to fight me?!” Okay, at least someone in his right mind does not think or say that.

Lasting peace is the peace we all want. Not only that – lasting peace is the peace we all need and is the peace for which we were created.

The God who created us proved this to be the case by sending His Son Jesus Christ to make a way for us to have lasting peace. Our sinfulness and the resulting fallen world in which we live make such peace impossible, but through Jesus, the impossible became possible. When we turn away from that sin and turn to Jesus for forgiveness, He saves us from our sin and reconciles us to God forever. Only then do we begin to experience the peace we all deeply long for, the peace we all deeply need, and the peace for which God created us.

Have you experienced that peace? Are you looking to and trusting the Lord to help you to continue to realize and embrace the lasting peace that only comes from Him?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Luke 3:1-18 on the lasting “PEACE” that only comes from the Lord. Through John the Baptist’s ministry, message, and example, we can learn a few essential truths of sincere peace with God – the only peace that endures forever.

In the meantime, I encourage you to seek the Lord and pray for His peace. Pray that peace with Him and peace with others will be the growing desires of your heart. Pray that He will use you like He used John the Baptist to be a messenger and example of what lasting peace looks like. God help us for His glory and for our (and others‘) good!

Do you want lasting peace but are not really sure where to begin? Please check out The Story and surrender your all to the Lord. He alone gives such peace.

Made for Joy

God’s plan for your life is that you have joy. Does that mean things will always be great and comfortable and secure and physically prosperous? Absolutely not. The Bible is full of teaching and examples that declare otherwise. God does want you to have joy and contentment, though. I believe this is clear because we are commanded to rejoice.

What if things are not going well, though? How can we still have joy? How can God expect us to have joy? “Rejoice in what?”, you might wonder.

Well, our reason for joy – the joy that lasts and endures through the ups and downs of life – is Jesus. The Bible never calls us to rejoice in our circumstances or rejoice in our families or rejoice in our careers or rejoice in our sports teams (praise the Lord!). Rather, we are called to rejoice in the Lord. He alone is sufficient to sustain us and fulfill us, no matter our circumstances. Yes, we are still called to give thanks in all things, but there are certainly things we cannot (and should not) give thanks for, i.e. sin and evil. Yet, even in the midst of evil, chaos, destruction, and devastation, we can have joy if we find our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps as well as any person who ever lived, John the Baptist understood this. He found purpose and meaning in the Lord Jesus, and the result was the kind of joy and satisfaction that can only come from Him. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from John 1:19-34, considering John the Baptist’s story and two keys to lasting joy and satisfaction.

To where, what, or whom are you looking for joy? We all long for joy, and we certainly never want our joy to fade away. Yet, when we look outside of God’s plan for our lives, joy will never last. Satisfaction will never grow. Contentment will never continue. Fulfillment will never be realized.

God created us to find our joy in Him. Yet, our sin makes it impossible for us to live in a right relationship with God and thus impossible to find lasting joy. Praise God, though, that He sent His One and Only Son to make a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and obtain a joy that endures.

Do you have that joy? If not, what are you willing to do to realize it and experience it? The good news is that you do not have to figure this out on your own. You were made for joy, so you simply have to look to the One who made you. Trust in Him to change your heart and change your life. Find your joy in Him, and you will not be disappointed. Life will likely get more difficult when you do, and yet, you will never regret surrendering your all to the Lord. In Him alone will you find the meaning and purpose that will satisfy your soul and give you the joy for which you were made.

If you have yet to turn to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation, please check out The Story today. Nothing is more important than being made right with Him.

Hopeful Assurance

Wednesday was Silas’s 11th birthday, and the day before his birthday, a memory popped up on my phone from the day before he was born. Marsha’s parents, her sister Amber, and our niece Emery were visiting us in Istanbul in preparation for Silas’s birth. Surprisingly, Silas was a few days overdue, and on November 23, 2010, we decided to visit a famous attraction – the Rumeli Fortress – along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. As you can see in the pictures, this 475-year-old fortress has a lot of steps, so we did a lot of stair-climbing that day.

Over nine months pregnant, Marsha did not sit out the adventure either. She joined us, climbing those steps, and there were some in our group who wondered aloud if that was very wise. “What if she goes into labor while we’re up on one of these towers?!” Well, she did not go into labor then, but it was just hours later, early in the morning of November 24, that labor began. Silas was born a healthy boy, and perhaps that hiking adventure helped ensure his birthday was not after November 24. God only knows.

When we were well-over an hour from the hospital and climbing those steps on November 23, 2010, there were certainly no guarantees that Marsha would not go into labor. Of course, I was confident she would not, and more importantly, she was confident she would not – at least not so quickly that we would not have time to get to the hospital. Based on her understanding of her body, having given birth to two sons already, and how she was feeling that morning, there was enough assurance that we could safely explore Rumeli Fortress. Okay, perhaps I remember things slightly differently than Marsha, but all went well.

Still, no guarantees. In thinking through all of that this week, I was challenged by what I will be preaching on this coming Sunday, Lord willing. As we begin the Advent season with Richland Baptist Church, I hope to talk about the “HOPE” that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ (looking specifically at Luke 21:25-36).

Everyone wants hope. We all need hope. We long for hope and assurance, especially regarding things as important as the birth of a child. Yet, we are unable to assure hopefulness in most things. Only the Lord can do that, and He secured that hope by taking on flesh, living a perfect life, dying on the cross for our sins, and rising from the dead for the salvation of all who call upon His name. One day, He will come again – His Second Advent – to bring to completion the salvation of all who know Him.

Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!” (Luke 21:28).

Are you looking forward to that day with hopeful assurance? If you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you can and should and will. Without Jesus, though, that will not be a day of hope but rather a day of fear and devastation. Be certain of hopeful assurance by turning to Him today.

We cannot be certain of good health, safe deliveries, smooth circumstances, etc., but we can be certain that God never fails to keep His promises. Like only He could, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33).

Happy 11th birthday to Silas Stephen Drake!