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

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.

Never to Lose

When I play all-time quarterback (meaning quarterback for both teams, for those who do not know and/or have not had the joyful privilege) with my kids and nieces and nephews, I never lose. I suppose you could say I never win either, but I do not see it that way. Instead, I get to throw touchdown passes all game long and the team for which I play wins in the end. As a competitive person who hates to lose, I kind of like being all-time quarterback. The game is fun, and I get to throw the winning touchdown pass. Never to lose; always to win.

I was thinking about this during our recent vacation when I had the privilege of playing football with some of the kids (pictured above). Seriously, I never tire of being all-time quarterback, kind of like I never tire of winning, although I do not always win in sports (or in life).

A much better victory is possible, though.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 5-6 on “Reclaimed Victory.” When we know and follow the Lord, we have a victory that is so much greater than anything this life has to offer. We have a victory that is far superior to the greatest of sports dynasties. We have a victory that lasts infinitely longer than any potential fame and fortune.

Victory in Jesus is eternal. We must respond to Him in order to experience His victory, though, and His victory demands a continued response from us. How are you responding to the God of victory?

Sure, we learn valuable lessons in life when we lose. Those lessons are good for us because winning does not come easy, and no one always wins in this life.

When this life is over, though, you will either have eternal victory or eternal damnation, eternal life or eternal death. Jesus enables you never to lose when you come to know Him. We must respond to the God of victory, and I hope to communicate those necessary responses Sunday morning. May we experience His victory, and may we celebrate His victory! To God be the glory!

If you have yet to experience victory in Jesus (or are unsure if you have), would you please check out The Story and turn to the Lord today?

Family Time in Illinois

Last month, we had a great time hanging out at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Illinois and doing a day trip to Chicago. We do not see our nieces, my sister Stephanie, and my brother-in-law nearly as often as we would like, so times like this are sweet. Here are just a few pictures from our trip…

What motivates you?

When I was in high school, I had a few teammates on my basketball team I thought were strange. In fact, I thought they were not only strange but also misguided and unmotivated. Why did I think this? Well, because they did not play basketball on Sundays. Really, I am not sure so much that it was these three teammates who made this decision as much as it was their Christian parents.

While they did not attend the optional Sunday evening open gyms we had during the summer months, I did not think much about that because we had three open gyms each week, and not everyone attended all three. What confused and even frustrated me, though, was when we had our weekend basketball team camps each summer… These teammates would attend the first half of the camp, but then their parents would pick them up Saturday evening to take them home. They would miss the final day of the camps – Sundays.

Why? Well, I knew the “why” from what they told me – they set Sundays aside for worship and fellowship with their church family and also for family time together. As a committed youth group member in my family’s church, though, and someone who rarely ever missed Sunday School and Sunday morning worship services, I thought, “What’s the harm in missing an occasional Sunday here and there. After all, this is basketball! We want to get better and win. Aren’t you motivated and committed like me?

I honestly cannot remember if I ever said anything to these teammates or their parents, but I definitely did not understand. Certainly, I can remember having some resentment.

During college a couple of years later, though, when I really started thinking seriously about what I believed about God, those former teammates and their families came to mind. In fact, when I came to the realization that I had been going through the religious motions and had never truly surrendered my life to Jesus, I realized just how right they were and how wrong I was.

A SUPERIOR MOTIVATION

Those teammates and their families did not lack motivation and drive, and I do not say that simply because those teammates were still really good basketball players during the season. No, their motivation was in a better place. Their motivation was superior to mine because it was based on the Only One who gives us lasting purpose and meaning.

Truly, our motivations are determined by our priorities, and while I claimed to be a follower of Jesus as a teenager, my priorities (and resulting motivations) proved otherwise. I was only motivated to be involved with my church when it was convenient and did not conflict with other activities I deemed more important. I was only motivated to read my Bible to check it off my list and feel better about myself. I was only motivated to serve others when I could get something in return. My priorities were really centered on my advancement, not the advancement of the gospel and the good of the church.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 on “The Motive (for discipleship and church unity): Racing for the Reward.” Paul used sports analogies that people in the first century Greco-Roman world would have understood. While there are some differences that I will explain Sunday morning, we can understand his analogies, too. We can understand the motivation to compete and win. We can understand the need for endurance. We can understand that there are certain necessities when it comes to particular priorities. The Christian faith, of course, is no exception, and how much more should we be motivated to walk with Jesus and help others to walk with Jesus.

I do not recall how much those former teammates and their families tried to point me and our other teammates and our families to Jesus. Clearly, I was not listening, even if they were, because I was comfortable in my own world, following my own idols. Their witness and example obviously had an impact on me, though, because here I am, 25 years later, still remembering it.

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). What prize are you seeking? What motivates you? Consider your commitments and priorities, and your motives will follow.

Are you running in such a way to win the prize – the prize of walking closely with the Lord and helping others to walk closely with the Lord?

If you have only really gone through the religious motions or have simply relied on “being a good person” to make you right with God, would you consider the joy of truly surrendering your life to Him and experiencing the salvation only He can give?
Learn more by checking out The Story.