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?
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.
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!
I am a fan of the Minnesota Twins. In fact, I have been a Twins fan for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately for me and other Twins fans (and the Twins organization), the Twins have not won the World Series in 28 years. For the most part since that last World Series title in 1991, they have been fairly irrelevant in the Major League Baseball picture. Well, except that they have lost an MLB-record (and major American sports record) 16 straight postseason games. Do you realize how difficult it is to lose 16 straight playoff games?
In a sport where a series of games are played in most postseason matchups, it is highly improbable for a team to lose 10 straight games, let alone 16 straight. Being a Twins fan is hard lately – really hard. But, I will stick with them. I will continue to be a Twins fan. You might say I am “settling” for less by choosing to be a Twins fan, and you are probably right.
A couple of days ago, arguably the best pitcher in baseball – Gerrit Cole – signed a monster free-agent contract to play for the New York Yankees. The Twins would have loved to sign Cole, but he did not choose the Twins. He chose the Yankees. By the way, 13 of those 16 straight postseason losses I mentioned earlier were to the Yankees. Ouch!
The Yankees beat the Twins again. Why did Cole choose the Yankees? Well, perhaps the more appropriate question would be: Why would Gerrit Cole not choose the Yankees? With the Yankees, he gets more money, more fame, and a much better chance to win championships. If he chose the Twins, he would be settling for something clearly less beneficial for his baseball career. Sure, I would have loved for him to sign with the Twins, but I certainly cannot blame him choosing the team he grew up cheering for, the team that could pay him a lot of money, and the team that is certainly good enough to win now.
Cole chose the Yankees because, naturally, people do not want to settle for second best. God created us that way.
I say all this not only because I wish the Twins were better, but more importantly because Jesus is the best. And, settling for anything less than Him is the ultimate act of foolishness. God created us to need Him and be in a right relationship with Him, but our sin makes that impossible. He loves us so much, though, that He sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment we deserve, making a way for us to have that right relationship with Him if we will simply turn from our sins and trust in Jesus to rescue us.
So much better than a $324 million contract and a chance to play for one of the most iconic sports franchises in world history, and even so much better than a chance to win multiple championships and get inducted into the hall of fame – so much better than all of that is having a right relationship with our Creator.
Garret Cole probably considered his decision to join the Yankees an easy decision. Anything else would have been settling for much less.
Well, trusting anything or anyone other than Jesus to save you from your sins and give you eternal peace is infinitely more foolish. Only Jesus saves. He Himself said it best when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6).
On Sunday, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Advent series – The Light Has Come – preaching on “The New and Better Way” (John 1:15-18). Do not settle for less than Jesus. “No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him” (John 1:18). Settling for less than Jesus means settling for less than God, and you will only be disappointed.
Please realize, I am in no way saying that choosing the Yankees is like choosing God. In fact, as a Twins fan, I would have to say choosing the Yankees is more like choosing the devil ;-). Rather, I am simply making the point that we do not intentionally settle for less in much less important areas of life, so let us not do so in eternally important areas.
The most amazing part of the Christmas story is the part, I believe, we far too often take for granted – the incarnation. God put on flesh and became a human being!
Sure, we know Christmas is about the virgin birth of Jesus, and we sing songs about this miraculous event that changed everything. We have cute little nativity scenes and imagine the irony of the King of kings being born in a stable.
But, the incarnation… Do we really consider how incredible the incarnation was? Is it not the miracle of all miracles? You might disagree and say that the resurrection is the miracle of all miracles, but if you believe in the incarnation, then the resurrection is not difficult at all. After all, the Creator of the earth and the Ruler of life and death became a human while still being God. Of course He can conquer death!
Is the incarnation not the essence of the Christmas story and the miracle upon which the entire gospel story depends? Nowhere else is the Christmas story so concisely declared as it is in the verse I will be preaching from, Lord willing, on Sunday morning: John 1:14 – “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.“
Throughout the first chapter of John, the truth that Jesus – the Light who has come, the One and Only Son of God – is “the Word” is abundantly clear. And, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
So, God became a man. The One and Only Son of God, who clearly is God, took on flesh. In John 1:14 alone, there are two aspects of the incarnation that are overwhelmingly beautiful and incomparably powerful.
1. INCARNATION = HUMILITY
Consider, if you wanted to go and fix something and could do or be anything you wanted, what would you do or be? Imagine reviving your favorite sports franchise by becoming the star quarterback or the brilliant coach/general manager. Imagine turning around a big company as a genius CEO. Imagine fixing all that you think is wrong with our country by becoming President.
If you could be anything to restore anything, you would surely go big. You would enter the picture with power and might. We all would.
In fact, I imagine that we would all be just like King Caesar was at the time of Jesus’ birth, if left to ourselves. We would gladly want to tell the world how great we are by proclaiming the greatness of our kingdom. That is what Caesar attempted to do. He was declaring his greatness by counting all his people.
God, though, declared His greatness by becoming one of His people. And, not just by becoming one of his people but by doing so in the most humble, vulnerable way imaginable – as a baby.
Even if Jesus came to this earth as a young, powerful man, the incarnation would still be the most incredible act of humility the world would have ever seen. Why? Well, because Jesus is God. He created us. He sustains us. He is over us. Yet, He became one of us. And, the fact He did so by being born to an insignificant, unmarried couple in a no-name town in a cave reserved for livestock… Well, that only further exemplifies this incredible act of humility.
Jesus “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
The incarnation, coupled with the most shameful death imaginable, is the greatest act of humility the world has ever known.
2. INCARNATION = GLORY
In a way only God can orchestrate, the most humble act is also one of outstanding glory. No other person to ever walk this earth embodied the fullness of God, except His One and Only Son. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in [Jesus]” (Colossians1:19).
Jesus took on flesh, becoming fully man, but in doing so, He did not stop being fully God. Humility and glory. Again, this is why this was and is the miracle of all miracles. All other miracles can be understood, explained, and believed when you understand and believe the incarnation.
The incarnation is the complete glory of God filling the body of a man. He is the God-Man, and He proved so throughout His life and ministry.
The incarnation is the ultimate act of humility, and it is the greatest act of glory the world has ever seen. If you believe Jesus is who He said He is, and you place your faith in Him, you can receive the forgiveness of your sins and share in His glory for all of eternity. To learn more, check out the link below.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our church’s Advent series – The Light Has Come – preaching on “Rejection for Reception” from John 1:6-13. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus had to be rejected in order for us to be accepted. Jesus had to die in order for us to have life.
In studying for this message, Ephesians 2 kept coming to mind, as verses 1-10 are emphatic on the necessity of God’s grace and God’s rescue being necessary for our salvation. No sinner can save himself, and because we are all born sinners, we must recognize two reasons why this is our reality.
1. SINNERS ARE DEAD
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Writing to believers who had been saved from their sins, Paul was reminding them of their previous condition before salvation. This is also a sobering reminder of the condition of all people apart from Jesus Christ. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23).
Sinners are dead – dead in their sin and dead for eternity if something does not change.
2. THE DEAD CANNOT REGENERATE
For the dead to experience life, they must be regenerated. They must be revived. The dead cannot regenerate themselves. They are dead!
Paul made clear in Ephesians (and in Romans, Galatians, and Colossians) that only Jesus can save us from our sins. Only He can bring the dead to life. As dead sinners in need of revival, we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.
Without Christ, we are spiritually dead people walking on our way to hell, and only He can deliver us out of that death. Only He can revive us and give us new life, life that is eternal.
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If a dead man was brought back to life because of someone performing CPR, he certainly would not brag about that revival. Rather, he would want to boast in the one who did the reviving. He would be grateful for the one who performed CPR. He would surely realize what a gift he received in being brought back to life because he would not have regenerated himself. Rather, he was saved by someone else.
BELIEVE AND RECEIVE
“To all who did receive Him [(Jesus)], He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Salvation is not achieved by family, by our ethnicity, by our sincerity, or by our effort. Salvation is received by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Have you received Him? Are you telling others about Him?
Our third son, Silas, turned nine on Sunday. Like pretty much all nine-year-olds, he was pretty excited it was his birthday. He was happy to talk about it and thrilled to get some gifts, his choice of supper, and his favorite (and my favorite) dessert – cheesecake. No one who spent any amount of time with Silas this past weekend would have failed to realize it was his birthday. He was too excited to hold in that good news!
Really, is this not the way it is for all of us? I do not mean that we all love and talk about our birthdays like children do. What I mean is that we all talk about exciting, good news. If something is important to us, we are compelled to talk about that something.
So, what is important to you? What good news are you sharing with others?
If you have believed and experienced the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then you will long to talk about this Good News. Advent – the Christmas season when we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior and longingly anticipate His Second Coming – begins Sunday. Do those who know you see in you a love for the Christmas story, the gospel story? If you have placed your faith in Jesus, the answer is surely yes.
On Sunday morning, I will begin a new Advent sermon series – The Light Has Come. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the world, and He came to our dark world to bring salvation to all who turn to Him. In this series throughout December, we will be considering the Christmas story according to the gospel of John and challenging one another to respond rightly to the Light.
If you respond rightly to the Light by turning away from your sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, is there any better news in all the world to share with others? What would a close examination of your life tell others about your greatest convictions, commitments, and passion? Is new life – eternal life – in and through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at the center of top of those priorities?
Again, I sincerely believe that if you have experienced new life, the answer surely has to be yes. When you have new life in Christ, you are either passionately talking about Him, or you are convicted that you need to be talking about Him.
Greetings! We pray you and yours are doing well and seeking the Lord this Christmas season. Thankfully, our family has had a good and “normal” 2018 (as normal as a family of seven can experience, at least).
Noah (13) is in 7th grade and had his first season of tackle football this fall. He really enjoyed football, and his team going undefeated certainly helped. Now, he is busy with basketball, which is his favorite sport.
Levi (12) is in 6th grade and just started his basketball season, too, where he is fortunate (at times) and unfortunate (at times) to have his dad as his coach. Now in middle school, Levi greatly misses his favorite part of the day: recess.
Silas (8) is in 2nd grade and is constantly seeking to make people laugh and have fun. He is looking forward to basketball soon but says his favorite thing to do is play with toys.
Zoe (7) is in 1st grade and is gritty and holding her own with four brothers. She, as much as her brothers, loves rough-housing and playing tackle football in the yard. She can’t stop talking about how excited she is to start basketball.
Micah (3 ½) has now been a part of the Drake family for 18 months, but it seems like he has been here all along. While he is still a big-time mommy’s boy at heart, he sure adores the rest of his family and loves to try to do everything his siblings are doing.
Marsha is staying busy with Micah on her heels all day, and she continues to serve our church family in children’s ministry on Sundays and Wednesdays. She loves hanging out with our family, being involved in the kids’ school activities and sports, and keeping up with various projects.
Nick has been the pastor of Richland Baptist Church for more than five years now, and he loves this ministry, particularly preaching, discipleship and outreach. He, along with the rest of the family, is beyond grateful that his mom, sister Ashley and niece Sahari all moved to Fulton this year. It is an incredible blessing to all be a part of the same church and see each other multiple times each week.
While there are countless things for which we can give thanks this year, nothing even compares to the eternal life that is promised in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to this earth more than 2,000 years ago, born of a virgin and lived a perfect life. Then, He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures promised He would.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He won the victory over sin and death, so that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Have you called on His name and asked Him to take over your life? If not, we pray you will make that decision before it’s too late because just like He came, as promised, the first time, He is coming again, as promised. And, His second coming is one of eternal judgment for all who have not yet surrendered to His Lordship, whereas it is a welcoming of eternal glory for all who have surrendered to Him.
If you have any questions about what it means to follow Jesus, please don’t hesitate to contact us. While we are far from perfect and certainly do not have all the answers, we would love to pray for and encourage you in any way we can.
Hope you have a great rest of the week and great start to 2019.
Often times, what gives us comfort and joy is our present situation. When my kids are getting to play outside on a beautiful afternoon (like Silas and Micah above), for example, they are happy. They are enjoying life in the present.
We can also find joy, though, when we ponder great things that happened in the past. The other day, Silas was walking around our house polling Marsha, the kids and me: “Is Christmas about presents or about Jesus?”
Of course, Marsha and I have tried to teach our kids from the time they were able to talk that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am not sure if Silas was genuinely curious if everyone understood that message, if he was trying to trap one of his siblings in falsehood, or if he was trying to impress his parents. Regardless, I am thankful that he has at least learned and embraced the basics.
What we often fail to remind our children and ourselves, though, is that Christmas is not just about what was. Christmas is not just about what happened over 2,000 years ago. Christmas is also about what will be.
Why did Jesus come? What did His coming accomplish for us? What does this mean for our future?
Sure, we can find great joy in what happened. We can find great joy in what is happening. That joy would be futile and fleeting, though, if not for what will be.
Christmas is as much about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as it is about His birth. He was born, after all, to fulfill the Messianic promises, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins and rise again for our salvation. It is at the second Advent, though, when all of His promises, including the salvation of all who know Him, will be fully realized.
The ultimate joy of this season is found when we embrace the truth of the gospel – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation – experiencing new life now and placing our hope in the perfect life that is to come.
If Christmas is not also about what will be, it is not a great story because it is not a life-changing story. Thankfully, however, Christmas is also about what will be.
I am looking forward to celebrating this with our church family and guests this coming Sunday, when I will be, Lord willing, preaching on “Immanuel Crowned” (Revelation 21:1-8). I hope to share three truths about the future because of Jesus Christ.
Do you want to have the joy of Christmas today and every day? Do you want to rejoice in the past but especially in the future? Look to the One who is the Author of both.
Thanks to a great internship with KIMT in 1999, I had the opportunity to stand on the sideline with a sports reporter for the Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions game on January 2, 2000. While I have been to NFL, NBA and MLB games before, standing on the sideline of a Vikings game has to be my favorite professional sports memory.
In fact, not only did I get to stand on the sideline and help that reporter, I got to go into the Vikings’ locker room after the game! I literally rubbed shoulders with Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter, my all-time favorite Viking, and got to hold a microphone in the face of Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss. I remember just being in awe of all of these superstars. No doubt I was starstruck.
Not surprisingly, though, none of those players ever hung out with me after that day. None of them invited me over for supper or came to my parents’ house for a visit. They continued their lives as if they had never even met me. Why? Well, because they did not and do not know me. We have no relationship.
Yes, I was quite proud of that day and have told many people over the years how I saw John Randle’s gargantuan arms up close and stood within a few feet of Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. I bragged about that day as if I had actually accomplished something, even though I had really done nothing of any significance.
Now, if some of those players had proceeded to visit me and become my friends, I would have really been able to impress people. Well, at least some people would have been impressed. It is highly improbable this will ever happen, though. Not only will I likely never see any of those players in person again, but they will likely never align themselves with me. They have no reason to do so.
Have you ever considered how amazing it is, however, that the God of the universe promises to be with those who know Him?! One of the names of Jesus the Son of God is Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).
While you would likely be impressed if a famous football player regularly came to my house for supper, you are likely not impressed that God is with me all the time. He never leaves me, just as He promised. The reason this does not impress you is two-fold:
I have done absolutely nothing to earn God’s presence. Rather, it is by His grace and mercy in and through His Son that I (or anyone) can know Him and experience His resulting presence.
So, while this ought not impress you that God is with me, you certainly ought to be amazed and in awe of the fact that God would choose to be with any of us, me included. We are sinful people incapable of getting to God on our own, and so He came to us. This is the Christmas story, and it is the exciting message of Immanuelwe are going through as a church on Sunday mornings.
Are you impressed? You certainly are not and should not be impressed with me, but I pray you are awe-struck by God and His love for you.
Do you ever slow down in the midst of a crazy day to look back at pictures of fond memories? Google Photos help me do that when I get occasional notifications on my phone of throwback pictures to “Rediscover this day” from a previous year.
Today was one of those days. Several pictures from six years ago today, like those at the bottom of this email, popped up in my notifications. I could not help but slow down and look back at these fun memories with our children.
Then, I was reminded that this is really a great time of year to slow down and look back. In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is very easy to get distracted away from what matters most. So, slow down and look back.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on Advent: Immanuel, and I hope to challenge and encourage others to slow down in the present to consider God’s promise. Do not get so distracted by your everyday life that you fail to remember Who is in control and Whom you need to be trusting.
My messages are posted HERE on Sunday afternoons, but the most important message you can ever hear and respond to is this one.
Slow down and look back. Look back to the manger. Look back to the cross. Look back to the empty tomb. The One to whom we are called to look back is also the One who will come again. To be ready for the second Advent, we must look back to and embrace the first.