July was a fun month!

August is already here, and it feels like July never even existed. Busy as usual, July was a fun month with a lot of family events and church activities. Praise God for His kindness toward our family and our church!

COX FAMILY VACATION

We had a great time, as always, with Marsha’s family during the first week of July. For the third straight year, we spent our extended family vacation at Windermere Christian Camp outside Roach, Missouri. With 17 kids and 10 adults, this vacation is never dull. We love spending time with Marsha’s family – swimming, playing basketball, cliff jumping, hiking, playing games, doing the ropes course, playing archery tag, visiting, and just hanging out.

Below are some highlights via pictures, and you can see more by clicking HERE. The pictures below can be seen in full by clicking on them.

CHURCH AND DAILY LIFE

Below are some more pictures, but to see some more highlights from Vacation Bible School, click HERE.

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Your Reputation Matters

We had Vacation Bible School with our church family this week, and dozens of parents and grandparents dropped off their children or grandchildren for three hours each evening, trusting that the children would be cared for and loved. Why such trust? In most cases, the trust was a result of relationships with one, if not many, of our volunteers working with the children. In other cases, there was a general trust in the church and the proven VBS program.

Simply put, reputation matters. This is true for us as individuals, and this is true for the church. This is true for everyone.

If our church or individuals in our church had a bad reputation in our community, who would trust us to teach and serve their children? Rightly so, most would not.

On Sunday morning during our VBS family celebration and worship service, Lord willing, I will be preaching through the short letter of 3 John and talking about the “Proof from Reputation” for genuine Christian faith. I hope to challenge people to ask themselves three questions for self-examination regarding personal character and reputation. The message, along with others in the series, will be available Sunday afternoon HERE.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider three requirements of a godly reputation.

1. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES TRUTH

Truth is essential when it comes to reputation. By this, I do not mean that everyone knows the truth about you, although that certainly affects your reputation. What I mean, and what John made clear in his letter, is that your understanding and commitment to the Truth are critical.

We must be “faithful to the truth” and “walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4) in order to be people of godly character, resulting in godly reputations. How? Well, only by God’s help “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). That “truth that remains in us” is the Spirit of Truth when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in faithfulness to the Word of Truth.

Have you ever met someone who is faithful to God’s Word but does not have a godly reputation? No such person exists because someone who faithfully obeys the Word of Truth will be proven to be a person of character and integrity. A godly reputation requires Truth.

2. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES LOVE

John wrote a lot about love in his three letters. He was certainly an expert, or as close to an expert as a human can be, for he was, after all, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John experienced God’s love in and through Jesus Christ, and he embraced Jesus’ command that we love God and love others. John knew love was essential for genuine Christian faith and likewise essential for a godly reputation.

Specifically in 3 John, there is an emphasis on the commitment to the mission of the church that demonstrates sincere love for God and others. If you truly love God, you will be committed to His mission. And, if you are committed to His mission, you will love and serve others; you will love and serve His church; you will long for others to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Gaius and Demetrius are great examples of this in 3 John. Gaius, for example, was showing his faith by supporting Christian missionaries, including those he did not even know (verse 5). In other words, Gaius’s love for God was proven in his commitment to God’s mission, and his commitment to God’s mission was proven in his love for others in God’s church.

What was the result? A godly reputation. Have you ever heard of someone known to not be loving and yet known for a godly reputation? Of course not. A godly reputation requires love.

3. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES GOODNESS

Are you known for your kindness and goodness toward others? This goes along with the love John mentioned earlier in the letter but is more about the visibility of love. Whereas the love is ultimately an issue of the heart, the goodness is about your actions, particularly those actions seen by others.

John shared a few contrasting examples in the letter, and in all three examples, it was each individual’s reputation that was proof of his goodness. Furthermore, goodness is proof of faith.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

While people can “fake it” for a while and sadly deceive others, the truth eventually comes to light. And, most importantly, God knows the truth. He knows our real reputations because He knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing what is good or doing what is evil. Others will know and see this, too, though, which is why there is ultimately proof from reputation of genuine Christian faith.

If you were to sincerely examine your own heart and life right now, can you see faithfulness to the Truth of God’s Word, a love for God’s mission, and a desire for good, not evil? If not (if any of those three proofs are missing, would you humbly ask God for His help? Would you willingly surrender everything to Him? Only a new life can bring about such radical change.

The amazing volunteers of Richland Baptist Church exemplified godly character and sacrificial service this week, and I praise God for them! They are the reason so many parents and grandparents gladly dropped off so many kids each night and why those kids wanted to keep coming back. Thank you, Richland Baptist Family!

These are most of the kindergartners Marsha and my mom had the pleasure of teaching and leading this week in VBS.

The Impact of Knowledge on Trust

No, Pack, No

If you were to walk up to my house one day and find one of my children outside wearing a cheesehead and an Aaron Rodgers jersey and chanting “Go, Pack, Go!,” you would be extremely surprised, if not shocked. Why? Well, because you know the Drake family better than that, right?

What if, though, said child proceeded to tell you, “My dad told me to do this. I’m cheering for the Packers because my dad said I had to.”? Surely, you would not believe what you just heard. You know I am a Minnesota Vikings fan and would never cheer for the Packers (unless a Packers’ victory somehow helped the Vikings), let alone ask or require my children to cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions).

You see, your knowledge of me would lead you to believe something just is not right with this scenario. Because you know about my unfortunate loyalty to the Vikings, you trust that I would not allow my children to chant and cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions) while still under my authority. Such horrendous things are forbidden in my house.

Understanding Required

Knowledge impacts trust. The more you know someone, the more you are able to trust him (or, the less you trust him if he proves unworthy of your trust). In fact, there are obviously many situations in which wisdom requires knowledge before trust. For example, you would never trust people to care for your children without knowing who they are. Trusting a random person with your children would not be wise.

While there are exceptions, many a fool has been made because of “blind faith.” Would you trust just any person with your money and investments? Of course not. “I don’t know you and realize that you don’t work for a bank or investment company, but here’s my life savings. Would you please do what you think is best with it?” said no one ever.

Understanding is required for proper trust. You cannot possibly trust with sincerity what you do not know in truth.

Knowing God

God is no exception, as He does not ask us to trust Him without understanding who He is. No, we cannot possibly understand Him fully, but we must understand Him some. He gave us His Word, so that we can gain a better understanding of who He is and who He created us to be.

He sent us His Son to reveal Himself to the world, so that we could truly know Him and have a right relationship with Him.

He gives His Spirit to all who know Him, so that we can experience His presence and continue to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Trusting God

And, the more we understand who He is, the more we naturally trust in Him. If you do not know who He is, though, according to the Truth of His Word, then your trust in Him will fail you. Your trust will be without a foundation. Your trust will prove to be illegitimate.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now” (1 John 4:2-3).

Do you know and believe the right things about Jesus Christ? Only then can you sincerely trust and follow Him.

Victory

And, only those who sincerely trust and follow Jesus have eternal victory, and that victory begins the moment you turn away from your sins and surrender your life to Him.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Are you seeking to grow in the knowledge of Him while sincerely surrendering to Him every day? Only then will your faith continue to grow.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels
Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels

Keep up with my Sunday morning sermon series through 1 John, including this coming Sunday’s message, by clicking HERE.

Who do you resemble?

While I honestly never saw it clearly myself, people often said I looked like my dad. Those who knew him, in fact, still say that. Likewise, people often say my son Noah looks like me. You can be the judge of that from the same-age picture layout of the three of us (above) and another picture layout of Noah and me (below).

The reality, though, is that children do tend to resemble their parents. This is the natural result of DNA. As children grow, they take on the physical attributes (and oftentimes the emotional, psychological and intellectual attributes) of their parents. Kids become more and more like their parents. This has always been the case and always will be.

A child resembling his parents is evidence that he belongs to them. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

A Christian resembling His Christ is evidence that he belongs to Him. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

Obedience and Transformation

The one who says he remains in God should walk just as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). What does it mean, though, to walk just as Jesus walked? Quite simply, this means to act like Jesus acted. God the Son obeyed God the Father, and John made the case that if we claim to have a relationship with God, we too will obey God.

While DNA (and the resulting physical transformation) are the reason an earthly son resembles his earthly father, spiritual transformation is the reason a child of God resembles his Heavenly Father. And, obedience is the proof of that transformation.

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands” (1 John 2:3).

Personal Examination

Are you sure you have come to know Him? Is there evidence of transformation and obedience in your life?

If someone wants evidence of being related to someone else, a DNA test can be done to determine if a biological relationship exists. While there is no physical DNA test to determine if someone is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, 1 John does provide a test of sorts. His whole letter points to the evidence of a true relationship with God.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 John 2:3-11 on the “Proof of Salvation,” talking about two ways to be sure you have come to know the Lord.

Would you consider examining your own heart today? God does not need to do a test because He does know your heart. He knows if you have truly surrendered your life to His Only Son for salvation, but do you know?

Again, what do you think? I honestly do not see the resemblance myself, but it seems people often do not notice it when looking at pictures of themselves and/or their children.

What if you love power?

Is there not something peaceful and joyful about sitting back under the power and authority of someone you trust? I do not mean in a lazy, apathetic way, but rather in a hopeful, reassuring way.

This is the feeling I imagine is experienced, for example, by our youngest son, Micah, when he is being pulled in our bike cart by someone like our oldest son, Noah. Surely there would be a good deal of comfort and contentment in such an experience.

Is this not what it is like, but to a much greater degree, when we find our absolute trust and assurance in the One who never lets us down? I believe so.

Why, then, do we so often long for power? Why do we love power? Why do we think we need power?

I am certainly not implying that we should settle for half-hearted effort and not give our best in our jobs, in our schools, in sports, etc. In fact, I firmly believe we should do our best and seek to accomplish great things for the glory of God.

What is extremely dangerous, though, is when what we are after is power. Any power we can attain is earthly. It is temporary. And, loving and pursuing earthly power will leave you desperate and hopeless. Sure, it might thrill and satisfy you for a while, but you cannot maintain that power indefinitely.

What happens when it is gone?

There have been a lot of people who have had incredible earthly power, but at what cost? Many have risen to unimaginable power, only to let that power control their hearts and ruin their lives.

King Saul was such a person. Things started out so well for King Saul, and yet, when he was at the height of his power, things spiraled out of control. Why? Because he cared more about his power than about the plans and desires of the One who is all-powerful.

“Oh, well that will never happen to me,” you might say.

If so, I will remind you, “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). King Saul was not careful, and he fell.

“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). King Saul thought his power and his wisdom and his plans were sufficient, and he fell.

Do not become the villain – the enemy of God – like King Saul. Rest in the Lord’s power. Turn to Him.

During our church‘s morning worship service on Sunday, January 20th (January 13th was canceled because of 18+ inches of snow), Lord willing, I will be preaching my second message in our series on the fall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. “Villains Love Power” (1 Samuel 14:24-46), and my prayer is that you and I not begin down the path to villainy by loving and pursuing power. If you are tempted to do so, cry out to the God of all power for help.

Photo by Benji Mellish on Pexels.com

Fear must not win.

When we spent time at Marsha’s parents’ house last week, I was able to help her dad take down an old antenna from their yard. Thankfully, he did most of the work, including the final removement of the antenna with his tractor (in picture below, which only includes the bottom half of the antenna).

Before getting to that point, though, he had secured a couple long ropes to the antenna going out from a couple angles to keep the antenna from falling into the house. One rope was securely fastened to the tractor, while I was pulling the other rope in a similar direction.

That antenna is much heavier than a couple men can handle. Otherwise, there would have been no need for a tractor and ropes. Praise God for tractors and ropes!

After some necessary cuts had been made and we had everything set and ready, Marsha’s dad began pulling with the tractor while I pulled my rope, and we were, at this point, only pulling down the top half of the antenna!

Was I afraid that the antenna would hit the house or crush me? No. Why? Well, certainly not because I am strong enough and certainly not because I am smart enough. Rather, I was not afraid because I was at a safe distance, was pulling on a good rope, knew the tractor was also pulling a good rope, and trusted that my father-in-law made a good plan to accomplish the task.

Faith filtered out any fear I had that something would go wrong. If not for faith and knowledge, when that antenna started to fall, I would have ran away for cover. That would have been an act of foolishness, though. Faith protected me from fear and folly.

Unfortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 13, his faith (or lack thereof) was defeated by fear. He feared what others would do, rather than trusting God and His promises. Thus, King Saul made a very foolish decision to deliberately disobey the commands of God, and the consequences were devastating.

Fear must not win. Fear is an enemy of faith.

During our morning worship service Sunday, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. In the passage I’ll be preaching through Sunday – 1 Samuel 13:5-14 – we learn through the beginning of King Saul’s downfall that “Villains Follow Fear.”

That may sound harsh, but everyone is in only one of two camps. You either follow Jesus Christ, or you do not follow Jesus Christ. In the end, then, you are either a redeemed servant of Jesus, or you are a villain in rebellion against God.

Don’t become a villain, which happens if you think you can do things your way or any other way than God’s way. Turn to Him in faith, and trust Him to take away your fear of anything that will pull you away from following Him.

Remember, too, that it is not the strength of your faith that gives you victory over fear, sin and death. Rather, it is the object of your faith who has already won that victory. Jesus Christ is the key. He is the Victor. He must be the object of your faith, or your faith will prove to be folly.

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

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.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

2018 Drake Kids
Micah’s face in this picture is a great example of how we often do NOT have it all together. Far from it, in fact.