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?
Have you ever asked God, like the Israelites did in Malachi’s time, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). Even if you have not verbally spoken those words to God, surely you have at least thought them. We all have our moments of weakness, discouragement, selfishness, and foolishness. And, in those moments, we tend to lose sight of the big picture, if not lose sight of the truth itself.
THERE ARE STUPID QUESTIONS
We have all heard people say that there are no stupid questions, but that is not true. There are stupid questions – questions of foolishness. “God, how have you loved us?” is an example of a stupid question. In fact, is there a more foolish question than this?
Stupid questions are questions that, by intention, fail to recognize and/or remember Truth and rather attempt to justify our own shortcomings. Israel, for example, was an ungrateful people in Malachi’s time, often failing to remember God’s amazing love for them and instead, complaining about their circumstances. They forgot what God delivered them from, and they were instead focused on always wanting more.
Their question was filled with foolishness, much like a child who might ask his mother after not getting what he wants, “Don’t you love me?” Stupid question, whether we want to use such descriptives or not.
GOD’S LOVE IS UNDENIABLE
We would run out of time – run out of physical life – trying name all the ways God has proven His love for us. I will not even try to accomplish such a huge task. Instead, I want to briefly talk about one such proof – Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Our church had our annual VBS a couple weeks ago, and there are few pictures of God’s great love that are clearer than VBS. There are several reasons why VBS is so special, but I will stick to three… three reasons VBS is a great example of God’s undeniable love.
1. VOLUNTEERS SERVING
VBS is impossible without volunteers, and our church had more than 40 volunteers who served this year. Wow! Many of these volunteers showed up to our church facilities after a full day of work to then work for three more hours at VBS. And, let us be clear – VBS is work! VBS is hard work. VBS is exhausting and often overwhelming, but VBS is worth it. That is why so many volunteers serve.
God loves us and loves our children through volunteers who sacrifice their time, their energy, their resources, and even, at times, their happiness for the sake of serving others during VBS. God loves us through His church, and His church does amazing things during VBS.
2. CHILDREN RESPONDING
Children are a blessing from the Lord, even when they do not behave like blessings from the Lord. Oh, what a joy it is, though, when children respond to the gospel message during VBS (or any time)! If we know and follow Jesus, surely we must agree with the Apostle John: “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
That joy is true of our biological children and our spiritual children – those with whom we have the privilege of discipling and encouraging in “the truth.” What a great picture of God’s love when children respond to Him.
In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for their sake – that they get to know and follow God. In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for our sake – that we get to be a part of their journey. And, in their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for His sake – that He loves people enough to draw them to Himself.
Praise the Lord! God loves us by loving our children and opening their hearts to the truth about Jesus.
3. JESUS SAVING
None of this would matter – VBS, volunteers serving, or children responding – if not for the ultimate picture of God’s love: Jesus saving (saving people from sin and eternal death). We have VBS because Jesus saves. We prioritize VBS because Jesus saves. We exist as a church only because Jesus saves. Volunteers serve but not in vain because Jesus saves. And, children would have no reason to respond if not for the truth that Jesus saves.
Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series – The Greatness of God – through the book of Malachi. And, as is the point of this post, I will be talking about our “Great God of Love” (Malachi 1:1-5). Do you realize and rejoice in God’s great love for you?
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!
We’ve had a blast on vacation up in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Of course, the highlight of our vacation has been spending time with family. Here are some pictures from our time in Lanesboro and Wisconsin Dells, including pictures of the Drake cousins with their great grandmothers (first three photos)…
When you think about faith, do you typically think about how much faith you have and/or how great your faith is? More important than the measure of your faith, though, is the objectof your faith.
In whom do you believe? From where is your hope and assurance? If you are looking to yourself and the strength of your faith, what happens in your moments of weakness? What happens when your faith does not “feel” so great?
During our morning worship service today, I preached on “The Faith of Discipleship” (Mark 7:24-37). My challenge to those listening to the message (and to you) is that you have faith in Jesus and because of Jesus.
I would even argue that when our focus is in the right place, or more specifically, on the right One, faith comes easy.
Our oldest four children had their last day of school Thursday. Another year in the books! I am thankful for their school and for the education they are receiving. I am also thankful, though, that they don’t find their purpose and meaning in their education.
After talking about our need for following God’s direction according to His Word, Solomon said, “But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
The reality is that if we try to find purpose and meaning in anything or anyone besidesour Creator, not only will be be disappointed; we will fail miserably and for eternity.
“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
This morning I preached on the “Futility of Life,” challenging those in attendance to look to God’s Word for their purpose and meaning. You can listen to the message and/or others by clicking HERE.
In what or whom are you finding yourpurpose and meaning? You’ll never be satisfied, and more importantly, you’ll never be right with the One who createdyou with purpose and meaning unless you surrender to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Advent Season is here. The prophecies about the Messiah came true! “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
Merry Christmas! Our family is doing well, and we hope you and yours are doing well, too. A lot has happened in 2017, so here is a quick family update…
As you’ve likely heard by now, we are a family of seven! Our whole family, along with my mom and Marsha’s parents, went to China in May to adopt our son Micah. If you’re counting, that made five adults and five children. By God’s grace and provision, the trip went well, and there is one less orphan in the world.
Micah (age 2) is doing really well so far, as he has fit right in with our family in the seven months he has been with us. Bonding well with everyone, he loves playing with his siblings (who are all amazing with him), and is definitely a mommy’s boy, which we’ve learned is pretty standard for a 2-year-old. He has quickly picked up on the need to be rough and tough with three big brothers and a big sister who holds her own. We praise God for adding Micah to our family this year and can’t imagine life without him!
Noah (age 12) is in sixth grade and is really liking middle school life. He is learning to play the saxophone this year, using the same saxophone that his great grandpa Ralph Sorum used many years ago. Getting ready for the start of basketball season, Noah is also cheering loudly (and proudly) for the Minnesota Vikings. Skol! Most importantly, Noah is growing in his relationship with Jesus Christ and staying actively involved with our church family and the church youth group. He will be joining me and some other people from our church for a mission trip to Guatemala (orphan ministry and church outreach) this coming June.
Levi (age 11) is in fifth grade and is thrilled that he, unlike his big brother, still gets to have recess during every school day. 🙂 He is learning to play the guitar, and I’m hoping that he’ll one day help with worship music in our church. Also looking forward to basketball season and being a big Vikings fan, Levi does a lot with Noah, and I’m enjoying them more and more as they grow up. Professing faith in Christ and getting baptized in 2016, Levi is also active with our church family and is great with his younger siblings when not pestering them.
Silas (age 7) is in first grade, and even though he would much rather be outside playing than be in the classroom, he is tolerating school just fine. This will be Silas’ first year to play basketball, and we might have some difficulties convincing him that tackling opposing players is not the best way to get the ball. Thankfully, Silas continues to ask great questions about God and the Bible, and it is evident God is at work in his heart.
Zoe (age 6) is in kindergarten and is loving school, just as we expected she would. By far the most social of all the Drakes, Zoe doesn’t really know a stranger. She played soccer for the first time this fall and had a great time. Don’t let her friendly smile fool you, though, for she has a very competitive side that comes out on the field and hopefully will on the basketball court someday, too. Although listening isn’t her greatest strength when she’s in TeamKID and family groups (with our church), she is clearly learning and also asking some good questions about the Lord. We appreciate your continued prayers for Silas, Zoe and Micah to all have a clear understanding of the gospel and to respond in repentance and faith.
Marsha is continuing what I believe to be one of the toughest jobs in the world – being a stay-at-home mother. She never gets a day off and gets very few breaks, but she still loves her calling. Praise the Lord for all she does for our family at home and for our church family as a family group leader, TeamKID leader, nursery worker and prayer team member. She makes all of our roles so much easier and more fulfilling.
I have been the pastor of Richland Baptist Church in Kingdom City, MO, for a little over four years now. What a blessing! I love my job, and I love our church family! If you’re ever interested in keeping up with what’s happening with our church and/or listening to my sermons, you can visit MyRichland.org or get the free MyRichland app for your mobile device. Family pictures and updates, although infrequent, can be seen here at DrakeCity.com.
More important than a family update or Christmas letter, a right relationship with God is what we plead with you to pursue with all your heart this year. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Praise God for this amazing promise!
If you ever have any questions about what it means to have a personal relationship with God, please know that we would always be happy to talk with you and pray with you. There is nothing more important in this life (or the next) than making sure we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and walk faithfully with Him. Please contact us if you have any questions or prayer requests.