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.

Merry Christmas!

Unfortunately, Marsha and I were not on top of things enough to put together a Christmas card this year, so this is our insufficient attempt to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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.

Merry Christmas! “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!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Reason to Sing

This past Sunday evening, our kids with Richland Baptist Church had a children’s Christmas program. They sang some well-known Christmas hymns and shared some stories of how God has used angels to touch the lives of His people, as recorded in Scripture.

Perhaps more than any other time of year, I love singing hymns about the birth of Jesus. No, I don’t mean the commercialization of Christmas and songs like “Here Comes Santa Claus.” What I love is the great theology found in some of our great Christmas hymns.

I loved hearing the kids sing them Sunday evening, and I especially love singing them myself with our church family.

Jesus is the reason to sing. His coming to take on flesh is a reason to sing. His life, death, and resurrection for our salvation is a reason to sing. Do you desire to sing?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55, talking about how “Redemption Is Certain.” When we know and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, the redemption we have in Him is certain.

Does that make you want to sing? If you have experienced that redemption, I am unsure how your answer could be anything but an enthusiastic “YES!”

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luke 1:46).

The same reason Mary burst out in praise – celebrating our great God of redemption – ought to compel us to to sing praises to the King.

Do you have that reason to sing? If not, would you consider turning to the Lord for the eternal redemption only He can give?

Then, let us sing together. He is worthy!

If you do not have the reason to sing praises to the King, would you read or watch The Story and cry out to the Lord for the Reason?

What a gift!

Perhaps more than any other time of year, December is a month we think a lot about gifts. What will we get those we love? What should we ask for on our Christmas list? What do we “need” or want? How much money should we spend?

Christmas time is often referred to as “The Season of Giving.” While I would like to think that is because we would do well to “keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive‘” (Acts 20:35), more than likely, we call this “The Season of Giving” because we are so consumed with the giving and receiving of gifts. Commercialization rules the season more than we would probably care to admit.

WANTS CONSUME OUR HEARTS

From the time I can remember, I have been asked every single year, “What do you want for Christmas?” I, too, ask this question, although I will admit that I am thankful for my wife, who does the vast majority of our Christmas shopping for pretty much everyone for whom we buy gifts.

Our wants tend to consume our hearts, though, right? Naturally, we ask for things we want, and this is not solely the case with Christmas presents. An honest assessment would reveal that this is the way of our lives.

We think about what we want. We seek what we want. We get obsessed, sometimes, with what we want. And, if we are honest when asked what we want, we tell people what we want. Discretion might keep a 30-year-old from asking for the pony she has wanted since she was 13, but if pressed, maybe she will even admit that desire.

THERE IS A GIFT WE NEED

So much greater than the things we want, though, are the things we need. Sometimes those things overlap, but usually our list of needs is much shorter than our list of wants. Makes sense, of course, because we are pretty fortunate to have much of what we need.

There is no greater need, though, than our need for redemption – eternal life through the debt of our sin being paid in full.

What greater example of “The Season of Giving” than the gift of God’s Son, who came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)! He came to redeem us – to buy us back. His blood-sacrifice on the cross is the only payment sufficient to cover our sins and make us right with God. His resurrection from the dead is the only victory sufficient to conquer sin and death for all of eternity.

When you purchase Christmas presents, you redeem them, to a degree, with your money. You take possession of them and make them yours (perhaps to then give to someone else) by giving up something – money.

That is exactly what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He gave His life to purchase your salvation. This is why we use the word “redemption” when referring to God’s act of delivering us from eternal death in hell by sacrificing His Son. He bought us and made us His own.

For this to be true of you, though, you must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for your salvation. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Matthew 1:18-25 on how “Repentance Is Redemption.” I hope to challenge those listening to trust in Jesus alone for redemption and for the assurance of such redemption.

Have you trusted in the greatest gift ever given – the gospel of your redemption? Are you finding great hope and assurance in this gift? Are you so grateful for this gift that you are passionately sharing it with others? Eternal redemption is the ultimate gift we all need and should be the gift that gives us the greatest joy, hope, and peace. Praise be to God!

If you have yet to experience the joy of redemption, would you consider watching or reading The Story?

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been another great Christmas with our family and church family, and we are looking forward to 2020. We pray that you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a Happy New Year, seeking to know and follow God with all your heart.

Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids sharing their own 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 would pray for us to honor God in our marriage, in our parenting, and in our discipleship ministry. Pray that we will grow in our relationship with the Lord and help our children and friends to do the same. Pray that we will be Christian disciples who make disciple makers.
Noah (14) asks that you pray he will be a better brother to his siblings.
Levi (13) asks that you pray he will talk with kids at school more about the gospel.
Silas (9) asks that you pray he will be more like Jesus.
Zoe (8) asks that you pray she will read her Bible every day.
Micah (4) asks that you pray he will learn his numbers and ABCs better.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14

If you have not yet experienced the eternal joy of knowing and walking with the One and Only Son from the Father, please turn to Him today. God bless you this coming year and beyond!