Exciting Relay Finishes

When I ran track in high school, I wished I was fast enough to run in the most exciting race of the night – the 1600-meter relay (4×400). Instead, I usually ran events like the 3200-meter relay (4×800), the 1600-meter run, and the 800-meter run. Levi, like Marsha and me, is probably more suited to be a mid-distance or distance runner, but he has been fortunate to run the third leg in the 1600-meter relay in most of the track meets this year, and his relay team has done pretty well.

He has passed at least three runners in each of his opportunities and has yet to get passed by someone else.

Below are a few of the exciting finishes to his legs in the relays.

Before you can run the race, you have to be on the team.

Levi had his first high school track meet Tuesday, and it was particularly fun to watch him run in the 4×400-meter relay. The last event of track meets, the 4×400 is exciting and intense.

Imagine for a moment, though, if you and I and a couple of other people decided we wanted to run in the race. So, we show up with our baton and walk onto the track to participate. Hopefully, we would not be allowed to participate. I say hopefully because our world seems to be allowing for more and more insanity, but that is a topic for another blog post.

We cannot simply walk onto the track and expect to compete regardless of our status. Likewise, we cannot declare, “Just let me show you what I can do, and I’ll prove that I belong here,” and then expect to compete. On Tuesday evening, only those high school student-athletes on the track teams participating in the meet were allowed to compete in the events.

Before you can run the race, you have to be on the team. Only those qualified to compete are permitted to compete.

So it is when it comes to life and our relationship with God. In order to do what God called you to do, you have to be who God created you to be. You have to be in a right relationship with Him before you can do His will for your life. You have to be qualified before you can compete.

And, only God can make you qualified. Only He can make you whom you were created to be. That happens in and through a saving relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Luke 10:25-37 on “Receiving Mercy.” Before we can truly give or show mercy, as God has called us to do, we must receive mercy. Before we can have compassion on others, we must experience the Lord’s compassion.

Before you can run the race, you have to be on the team. Are you on His team? Have you received and experienced His mercy?

If you have yet to experience the amazing mercy and compassion of God, would you consider checking out The Story and turning to Him today?

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

Growing Generosity

There are a couple birthdays in our family this week. Levi turned 15 yesterday, and Zoe will turn 10 tomorrow. While we do not make an overly big deal of birthdays in our home (i.e. no big parties), we do, like most people, celebrate by giving our kids some gifts. They also get to pick what they want for supper, and we all share something we love and appreciate about that person.

Over the years, it has been interesting to see how the non-birthday kids in our family respond to others’ birthdays. Naturally, as they grow in maturity and in their love for the rest of us, they have become more charitable in their comments about what they love about us and in their desire to give gifts.

When we would go around the table on someone’s birthday and share our “best thing” about the birthday person, we used to get comments like, “He has nice teeth.” Now, though, the comments have grown to be a little more heartfelt and meaningful (sometimes and depending on people’s moods, of course).

Likewise, while we used to have to convince our kids to do something nice for other family members, they are – while slowly at times, it seems – beginning to desire to do those nice things without being asked. Last week, for example, I heard one of our kids asking Levi what he might like for his birthday and different things he had considered.

As you grow in your love for someone and your commitment to that relationship, so does your generosity grow. Your relationship with the Lord is no exception. The closer you are to Him and the more you love Him, the more you want to serve and honor Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 on “Over-and-Above Giving” for the sake of the gospel. How much are you growing in your generosity for the sake of more people knowing and following Jesus? If your relationship with Jesus is growing, your generosity will follow. And really, as Jesus Himself declared, if your generosity is growing, your heart will follow.

To learn more about having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and the eternal life that comes only from Him, please check out The Story. Nothing is more important.

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)…

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.

Obeying When You Don’t Feel Like It

As a dad, one thing I have never said to my kids is, “If your heart is in it and it feels right, do what I tell you to do.” Rather, I expect them to obey me, whether they feel like it or not. If you are a parent, I am sure you are the same way, right?

When I recently asked my kids to help me load my truck with chunks of concrete and asphalt (from the piles of dirt in the picture above), I did not expect they would jump for joy and celebrate the chance for manual labor on a muggy day. Still, I needed some help, and it was good for them to help me.

Granted, we can make mistakes as parents because we are sinners and far from perfect. Still, we give our children instructions and expect their obedience because we are trying to teach them right from wrong, educate them on the value of things like hard work and discipline, want what is best for them, and know (usually) better than they do what they need.

To an infinitely greater degree, of course, our Creator knows what we need. He knows what is best for us and has given us His Word to guide us. For His glory and for our good, He expects our obedience, and that expectation is not contingent upon our feelings. Because we are sinners who do not always have a great attitude, there will be plenty of times when we do not feel like obeying God. Will we obey anyway? Will I? Will you?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 7 on “Reclaimed Obedience” because God’s Word is essential for all of us. We must look to the Lord and depend on the Lord for growth in our obedience to the Lord.

No, we will never, on this side of eternity, be perfect in our obedience. Jesus alone was and is that, and He died on the cross for our disobedience and brokenness. He took the punishment that we all deserve for our sinful disobedience. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death for all of eternity. By turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation, we can and will live with Him forever.

One of the clearest and most important evidences of that salvation is growing obedience to the Word of God, both when we feel like it and when we do not. As the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and shapes us, too, we will grow in our desire to obey. By the grace of God, though, we will learn to obey even when the desire is lacking.

Will you seek and trust the Lord to help you be like Ezra, who “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10)? No matter how you feel, as God to help you obey Him in all things.

Are you growing in your obedience to God’s Word? Do you desire to grow and obey? If not, would you examine your heart and consider your relationship with the Lord? You can learn what it means to know and follow Him by checking 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?