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!

My Crown

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a wife who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). I praise God that I have a crown – and no rottenness in my bones. While I might not have many other crowns, if any, I have been blessed for nearly 20 years with a wife of noble character.

Last month was “pastor appreciation month” for many churches across our country, and in my 8+ years of pastoring Richland Baptist Church, our church family has done an amazing job of expressing appreciation. They are a joy to serve and minister alongside, and we praise God for our church family!

The reality, however, is that I would be a terrible pastor (though I am far from great anyway) if not for my amazing wife. If not for all she does for me, for our kids, in our home, in children’s ministry with our church, in so much behind the scenes for our church, etc., I cannot fathom how I would begin to keep up with the demands of pastoral ministry.

I do very few household chores because Marsha is always on top of things. Instead, when I am home, I am able to devote most of my time to hanging out with Marsha and the kids, having fun, and relaxing. Furthermore, with five kids, there are what seem like constant needs for rides to various school events, activities, practices, games, etc. Marsha handles the vast majority of those.

During church services and activities on Sundays and Wednesdays, Marsha is practically a single mom as I try to keep up with everything. Yet, she never complains.

Phone calls and emergency requests come up during inopportune times, but Marsha is always supportive, prayerful, and helpful.

Unfortunately, though, I often take her for granted. Our kids do, too. Shame on us! Instead, we need to embrace and live out the words of Proverbs 31:28-29 – “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: “Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all!”

I praise God for Marsha! In her, God has blessed me with an incredible wife, an excellent mother to our children, and a faithful partner in gospel ministry. She surpasses all others!

Thank you, Marsha! No blog post, thank you note, gift, or anything else could ever be sufficient in expressing how much I appreciate you and how much of a blessing you are to our family, our church, and me.

A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Praise the Lord for His favor!

Family Picture in front of U.S. Bank Stadium in August 2021 #skol

Growing Generosity

There are a couple birthdays in our family this week. Levi turned 15 yesterday, and Zoe will turn 10 tomorrow. While we do not make an overly big deal of birthdays in our home (i.e. no big parties), we do, like most people, celebrate by giving our kids some gifts. They also get to pick what they want for supper, and we all share something we love and appreciate about that person.

Over the years, it has been interesting to see how the non-birthday kids in our family respond to others’ birthdays. Naturally, as they grow in maturity and in their love for the rest of us, they have become more charitable in their comments about what they love about us and in their desire to give gifts.

When we would go around the table on someone’s birthday and share our “best thing” about the birthday person, we used to get comments like, “He has nice teeth.” Now, though, the comments have grown to be a little more heartfelt and meaningful (sometimes and depending on people’s moods, of course).

Likewise, while we used to have to convince our kids to do something nice for other family members, they are – while slowly at times, it seems – beginning to desire to do those nice things without being asked. Last week, for example, I heard one of our kids asking Levi what he might like for his birthday and different things he had considered.

As you grow in your love for someone and your commitment to that relationship, so does your generosity grow. Your relationship with the Lord is no exception. The closer you are to Him and the more you love Him, the more you want to serve and honor Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 on “Over-and-Above Giving” for the sake of the gospel. How much are you growing in your generosity for the sake of more people knowing and following Jesus? If your relationship with Jesus is growing, your generosity will follow. And really, as Jesus Himself declared, if your generosity is growing, your heart will follow.

To learn more about having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and the eternal life that comes only from Him, please check out The Story. Nothing is more important.

No Half-Bottom Jobs

If Marsha and I ask the kids to sweep the kitchen floor, but they only sweep half, will we be satisfied with their effort? Of course not. From an early age, we try to teach our children the importance of hard work and discipline. Do your best, right?

No “half-bottom” jobs, as I like to say. Growing up, I often heard coaches and others call it “half-something else” jobs or efforts, but I am trying to be clean and appropriate with my kids, while still getting the point across that we need to work hard. We need to give our all. We need to be committed. Do not go through the motions. Be all in!

Are you ever satisfied when you pay for something, need something, request something, etc., and you get an effortless performance or poor product in return? Rarely, if ever. Yet, are you ever content to give your half-best or leftovers to God in service and in worship? Are you satisfied with a half-hearted effort of going through the motions? May we never be!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Malachi 3:7-12 on the call and responsibility to give “The Full Ten Percent.” Of course, this applies primarily to our obedience in stewardship, but the commands and principles that are clear throughout Scripture call us to obey God’s Word fully in every area of our lives. Not partial obedience but complete obedience. No half-bottom jobs in life, and no half-bottom jobs in service to the Lord. And, really, everything we do is to be done in service to the Lord. So, no half-bottom jobs. Period.

Are there areas in your life where you are tempted to go through the motions? Are there commands in the Bible that you are compelled and convinced to obey only when comfortable and/or convenient? If so, regret (at best) and devastation (at worst) will come. Do not settle for less than God has in store for you (spiritual fruit and fulfillment) by giving less than God has called you to (faith and obedience).

Have you given your heart to the Lord? If so, make sure He has your whole heart in all things. If not, will you turn to Him today?

Knowing and following Jesus is the only way to have a right relationship with God and grow in a sincere desire to honor and please Him. To learn more, check out The Story.

Memories in Minnesota

Our family cherishes the memories from vacation, and our trip to Minnesota was no exception. We had a great time with my side of the family. Praise the Lord for family and the time we have together! Here are just a few of the highlights (click on any picture for the full view)…

I Still Can’t Dunk, BUT…

After my sophomore year of high school, my dad bought me a pair of Strength Shoes (pictured below). Then, he proceeded to take me to the high school track every other day at 6 a.m. to lead me through the strength and agility workouts. Our goal? For me to get stronger, move quicker, and jump higher. I wanted to not only be a better football and basketball player, but I wanted to be able to dunk the basketball (on a 10-foot rim).

While my dad did not care so much if I could dunk, he did want to help me get better, especially since he was the new head boys varsity basketball coach. Unfortunately for me, I have not grown since my freshman year of high school. While I hoped to be at least as tall as my dad, who was 6’3″ tall, I stopped growing when I was 6’0″.

Furthermore, while I am sure the Strength Shoes did help improve my strength and agility, they did not increase my jumping ability enough for me to dunk a basketball. After going through the program diligently between my sophomore and junior years and not getting the results I wanted, I added to the program between my junior and senior years by increasing the regularity to six days per week and even wearing the Strength Shoes when I did my shooting and ball-handling drills. My calf muscles got a little stronger, but I still could not dunk. Bummer.

Needless to say, I no longer use those Strength Shoes, and I still cannot dunk. I will not go as far as to say that the Strength Shoes were/are a gimmick that do not work, but I certainly did believe they would work better than they did for me. I was hopeful and even optimistic that they would be enough to “get me over the top.” They were not.

THAT’S LIFE

Is that not how life often works, though? Life is full of promises and supposed guarantees, and whether because of the claims, our circumstances and/or our own shortcomings, we get let down (or let ourselves down). That is life, life that really has very few legitimate guarantees.

A REAL GUARANTEE

God is not like Strength Shoes or any other “ultimate” system in this world, though. His Word never fails. His promises always come true.

For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

The Word of God is full of eyewitness testimony, fulfilled prophecy, kept promises, and eternal truth. God never fails, and His Word has been preserved for His glory and for our good.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 Peter 1:16-21 on the “Grace to Believe” the trustworthiness of God and His Word.

Do you believe? How does your life point to your faith? By the grace of God, He draws us to Himself and enables us to trust Him. Such faith will result in action, though, and I pray to communicate that clearly on Sunday morning (and daily through my words, attitude, and actions).

While we really do have to trust in people and in systems and in products in this life to some degree, make sure your ultimate faith and hope are in the Only One who never fails.

I still cannot dunk, but that does not affect my eternal status. Even if I would have grown enough or gotten strong enough to dunk the basketball, how much better would my life be now? Probably very little, if at all. More importantly, how much better would my life be eternally?

Jesus Christ alone can and does make me right with God, and He alone can and does give all who turn to Him the peace and contentment that will never end. If you have yet to experience such hope, please check out The Story and turn to the Lord today.

The world is full of promises and guarantees, but only one never fails. To learn more, check out The Story.

Why I pray THIS for my children…

When I pray each day for my and my family’s purity and biblical faithfulness, I often pray for my children’s future spouses. I pray that my children will walk closely with Jesus Christ and have no desire to marry someone who is not a faithful follower of Jesus. Please understand, too, that I pray this because I want for my children what God wants for my children. Unless they have the unusual gift of celibacy, my children will one day desire to be married. And, God’s desire for them is that they marry faithful Christians.

God’s Word is abundantly clear on this, as we are commanded not to marry unbelievers (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:39, which gives a Christian widow the freedom to remarry but only to remarry someone who is a believer – “in the Lord.”). This command, though, is not because we are better than others but rather because God knows we are not.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 910 on “Reclaimed Repentance.” The ending of Ezra provides a sobering reminder of why we must never compromise our faith in God by marrying those who do not have such faith. Sure, there are times when “things work out,” by the grace and mercy of God. What ends up happening, more often than not, however, is that when a believer marries an unbeliever, the believer ends up compromising his or her faith and betrays the Lord. That happened over and over again in Israel’s history, and it continues to happen today.

Thus, we must pray that God will protect us from such temptation. Pray this for yourself if you are single and hope to be married one day. Parents, pray this for your children. Grandparents, pray this for your grandchildren. Let us pray this for our church family and others throughout the body of Christ. Let us pray that we will be faithful to the Lord, which includes obedience to His Word. When we fail, let us pray for our hearts to be broken and for sincere repentance.

If you have come to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you have His Holy Spirit living in you. One of the clear evidences of such a salvation and the presence of God in your life, then, is an ongoing desire to turn away from sin and draw closer to the Lord. This certainly includes – and is even much more – than our most intimate relationships.

No such desire for what I am describing above will persist in your life apart from God’s ongoing work in your heart. If you have yet to experience God’s unfailing love as made available only in and through faith in His One and Only Son, please check out The Story.

Vacation with Creation

When I go on vacation, I love to enjoy God’s amazing creation. I like to spend a lot of time outside, doing active things with my family. We did a lot of that last month during our annual vacation with Marsha’s family, and we had a blast.

Here are just some of the pictures from our trip to southeast Missouri, although there were a lot of moments we did not get pictures of because of jumping off cliffs and climbing rocks…

Five Questions for Growing Faith

During my niece Sahari’s birthday party last week, we had a blast playing laser tag. The above picture was taken right after the competition. When we first entered the course for the game, we were a bit unsure how everything worked, where we could go, where we could hide, etc. As the game progressed, though, we found ourselves moving about more confidently, shooting with more certainty, and knowing which ways to turn and how to find each other. Naturally, as our knowledge of the game and of the course grew, so did our ability to play.

That is how life works, right? As understanding and awareness increase, so do confidence and sufficiency.

So it is with our faith in the Lord. As we grow in our understanding of who He is and as we look to Him more, we learn why and how to better trust and depend on Him.

Is your faith in Him growing? What are you doing to facilitate such growth?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 8 on “Reclaimed Faith,” hoping to clearly communicate how we can grow in our faith in the Lord. Ezra set a great example for us, and we too can grow in our knowledge of the Lord and thus grow in our faith in Him.

Again, though, is your faith in Him growing? What are you doing to facilitate such growth? Here are some important questions that can help…

  1. BIBLE – Are you seeking Him through His Word each day?
  2. PRAYER – Are you consistently depending on Him in prayer and setting aside times for prayerful fasting?
  3. CHURCH – Are you serving His church with sacrificial commitment?
  4. DISCIPLESHIP – Are you sharing your faith and helping others to learn how to trust Him more?
  5. ACCOUNTABILITY – Are you allowing others to speak into your life so that you can be challenged when your faith is not growing?

There are so many important questions for us to consider because growing faith in the Lord is so incredibly important. Would you start with the five questions above, though? Would you examine your heart and consider your life? Would you ask someone these questions and ask him or her to ask them to you?

Let us plead with the Lord to grow our faith in Him! He is worthy!

Before you can grow in your faith, of course, you must have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? To learn more about what it means to know and follow the Lord, please check out The Story.

Obeying When You Don’t Feel Like It

As a dad, one thing I have never said to my kids is, “If your heart is in it and it feels right, do what I tell you to do.” Rather, I expect them to obey me, whether they feel like it or not. If you are a parent, I am sure you are the same way, right?

When I recently asked my kids to help me load my truck with chunks of concrete and asphalt (from the piles of dirt in the picture above), I did not expect they would jump for joy and celebrate the chance for manual labor on a muggy day. Still, I needed some help, and it was good for them to help me.

Granted, we can make mistakes as parents because we are sinners and far from perfect. Still, we give our children instructions and expect their obedience because we are trying to teach them right from wrong, educate them on the value of things like hard work and discipline, want what is best for them, and know (usually) better than they do what they need.

To an infinitely greater degree, of course, our Creator knows what we need. He knows what is best for us and has given us His Word to guide us. For His glory and for our good, He expects our obedience, and that expectation is not contingent upon our feelings. Because we are sinners who do not always have a great attitude, there will be plenty of times when we do not feel like obeying God. Will we obey anyway? Will I? Will you?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 7 on “Reclaimed Obedience” because God’s Word is essential for all of us. We must look to the Lord and depend on the Lord for growth in our obedience to the Lord.

No, we will never, on this side of eternity, be perfect in our obedience. Jesus alone was and is that, and He died on the cross for our disobedience and brokenness. He took the punishment that we all deserve for our sinful disobedience. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death for all of eternity. By turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation, we can and will live with Him forever.

One of the clearest and most important evidences of that salvation is growing obedience to the Word of God, both when we feel like it and when we do not. As the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and shapes us, too, we will grow in our desire to obey. By the grace of God, though, we will learn to obey even when the desire is lacking.

Will you seek and trust the Lord to help you be like Ezra, who “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10)? No matter how you feel, as God to help you obey Him in all things.

Are you growing in your obedience to God’s Word? Do you desire to grow and obey? If not, would you examine your heart and consider your relationship with the Lord? You can learn what it means to know and follow Him by checking out The Story.