Slow down and look back.

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.

 

November 30, 2012 in Windsor Valley

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Yes, I make my kids “go to church.”

Yes, they go every Sunday and Wednesday. No, they do not have a choice. Yes, Marsha and I would still hold to this even if I was not a pastor, just like we do when we are on vacation.

The reason “go to church” is in quotations is because no one really “goes to church.” Rather, we gather with the church for worship, fellowship, service, etc., as the church is not a building but a family of believers. That is an entirely different article for a different day, though.

Today, I want to address why Marsha and I will always make our kids (as long as they are under our authority, of course) gather with the church. And, I think you should do the same with your children.

In fact, I will go so far as to say, I believe it is bad parenting to not have your children regularly involved with a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching local church. Now, I realize a statement like that can get me in trouble and can certainly come across as arrogant and/or unsympathetic to parents who would maybe like to see their children involved with a church but have a tough time convincing them of the importance.

Thankfully, because Marsha and I are followers of Jesus and have been active church members ourselves since before we were married, we have had our children involved with our local church since they were born. They have grown up with church as a part of their lives. Thus, they do not push back and do not request “skipping church” like many children might be prone to do.

I realize there are parents who come to faith in Christ, for example, and they have teenagers who have never really been involved with a church. Now, these parents face the struggle of leading their children to value and prioritize active church involvement. That surely has to be much more difficult than it is for me to convince my children to be involved with church. While I still believe parents in such situations should require their children to attend church services, I understand that the consistency and willingness may take some time.

Now, why do I feel so strongly about this? The simple answer is because I love my children, and I firmly believe that loving and caring for my children means doing what is best for them.

Do my children want to go to school? No. Every single one of them would gladly stay home and play rather than go to school if we would let them. Guess what, though? We make them go to school. An education is important, and so whether your preference is homeschool, private school or public school, I believe you should make your children get an education.

Do my children want to eat anything besides junk food? Not really, besides the occasional exceptions. Guess what, though? We make them eat healthy foods. Well, we try to make them. We obviously do not force-feed our children, but we do try to make sure they get as much of a balanced diet as we can feasibly facilitate. Any parents who would simply allow their children to always decide what to eat, regardless of the sugar and/or lack of nutrition, surely would not be considered wise and good parents, at least not in that area of parenting.

Education and health are important, so we make our children receive an education, and we make our children eat healthy foods. Do you know what is even more important than education and health? The answer is a right relationship with God. Why, then, would we possibly fail to value church like we value school and eating right?

Active church involvement plays a critical role in one’s Christian discipleship journey (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12), and so not only do we as parents need to make sure we are involved with a healthy church. We also need to make sure our children are, if we want them to learn biblical truth and become biblical disciples.

“Well, Nick, what if I force my kids to go, and that then pushes them away when they get older? I want them to make the decision for themselves.”

Honestly, I do not buy this excuse for a few reasons…

  1. We would never have this mindset with other things we consider important, like school. No not everyone is meant to go to college, but everyone needs some sort of education and needs to be prepared for a lifetime of learning. A good education helps with that, and we would never let the fear of “driving them away” keep us from educating our children. Why? Because education is important. Well, God is even more important, so let us make sure our children are educated about Him, too.
  2. If we as parents live out our faith like we should by loving God with our entire being and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40), and if our children see that faith through our daily lives and active church involvement, then it is highly unlikely that we will “push them away” by having them involved with a church. Rather, they will see the amazing benefits and fruit of faith and church.
  3. Even if they do not decide to do what is right when they become adults, does that mean we should stop modeling and expecting what is right while they are children? Of course not. Ultimately, they will have to make their own decisions, but it is our job to train them up in the way they should go and trust that when they are older, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
  4. What is the best way for us to teach our children how to make the right decisions in life? Is it not by teaching them, modeling it for them, and expecting it from them? How can we possibly do any of those things if we let them decide for themselves what is best for them? It is our job as parents to make sure they learn rightly and are in the best environment to do so.

Do you love your children? I am sure you do. Please hear my plea to get them involved with a healthy church – a church that believes and teaches the Word of God and makes disciples of Jesus Christ.

See if you can find a set of parents who raised their children in a healthy church and modeled their faith at home, who would now say, “That was a mistake. I wish I wouldn’t have made my children be involved with church.” I have never met anyone who said that, and I bet you will not either.

A healthy church will not push your children away. You will. Or, they themselves will harden their hearts and choose not to follow Jesus. So, do your best, while they are under your authority, to help them follow the Only One who can give them eternal life.

Tomorrow morning with Richland Baptist Church, I will be preaching through Mark 13, encouraging people to consider what we must understand about the end times and how we must respond. Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ? Are your children ready? You, more than anyone else, are responsible for making sure they are. Active church involvement is at least one of, if not the, best and most important ways for you to do that.

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Ice Cream Cake! Our three oldest sons enjoy some church family fellowship time after our evening worship service last Sunday.

Don’t be deceived.

Last week, Marsha and I took our kids to the Missouri River near Jefferson City. The kids were surprised at how big the river was and how fast the river was moving. Before this trip, I think they assumed they could swim across the river with ease or wade along its banks with pleasure. They quickly changed their mind, though, once they saw its width and its speed.

Not once did they ask if they could jump in for a swim, even though it would have felt good that warm, sunny day. And, trust me – it is rare for our family to be by a body of water without anyone getting wet. Thankfully, common sense (along with some parental instruction) helped our children realize that jumping into the Missouri River would very likely not end well for them. While a bird’s-eye view of the river would have indicated fun in the sun, a closer look was necessary.

When considering Christian discipleship, people often make assumptions from a bird’s-eye view, too. Instead of sincerely seeking God through His Word, they assume they know what discipleship is based on what they see from a distance and/or based on false teachings they have heard from others. God is the One who defines truth, though.

We are not able to decide for ourselves what discipleship is. Nor are we able to understand discipleship without seeking and trusting the One who created us – the One who created us for Himself and for discipleship, meaning following Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

Some might wrongly assume that the rejection of discipleship only takes place when someone blatantly and explicitly rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yes, that would indeed be the rejection of discipleship. What about those, however, who believe Jesus to be the Son of God and even believe He is who He said He is, according to the Bible, but do not fully embrace and surrender to Him?

Can one be a disciple without proper understanding (and resulting acceptance) of essential biblical truths like Jesus’ Messiahship and resurrection life?

If you read the first half of Mark 12, you will notice Jesus confronting those who were rejecting Him and His Word. You do not get to pick and choose what you will believe and what parts of God’s Word you will obey, and then still claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you do that, you are ultimately no different than the ones who completely rejected Him and sought His crucifixion.

Tomorrow I will be preaching on “The Rejection of Discipleship” from our Discipleship 101 sermon series. Will you recognize and confront the rejection of discipleship? This begins by examining your own heart, making sure you have a genuine relationship with God. And, it continues every day as you walk with Jesus and help others to do the same.

Don’t be deceived by a bird’s-eye view. Look closely by seeking God through His Word and growing alongside His church.

aerial photography of concrete bridge
Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Snapshots of Fun

Here are a few pictures from this past week. As usual, we’ve been happily busy with church activities, family gatherings, sports and school.

kids with the hornet
Although we were cheering for Noah and North Callaway, we were happy to pose for a picture with the Fulton Hornet.
Own, Tanner and Silas at Soccer Match
Three of the “Fearsome Foursome” (cousins who love hanging out together). Pictured here are Owen, Tanner and Silas. Hudson is the one missing.
Micah looking at pictures
When I was working from home one day, Micah sat right next to me and looked at photo albums for several minutes.
Cox cousins at Starkey's making pyramid
The Cox clan trying to make a pyramid in Starkey’s Lake.
swimming at Starkey's
Beautiful day with beautiful scenery and awesome people.
Tony Cox turned 74!
We celebrated Papa Tony’s 74th birthday on Monday!
Micah napping on the couch
Micah insisted he didn’t need a nap the other day. Minutes later, he was out cold.

Right Learning

Our church’s Vacation Bible School finished Thursday, and our big family celebration was today. Praise the Lord for those who have decided to follow Jesus for the first time and for the many volunteers who served our children and church family so well!

There are various reasons VBS is so valuable, not the least of which is what children learn about Jesus and following Him. As should be the case, Jesus is the focus of our teaching, and following Him is the focus of our plea.

Yes, there are a lot of valuable things we can learn in life, and there are a lot of good things we can do. But, should we not prioritize the best things over simply good things?

That was my challenge to those in attendance at our worship service this morning. Preaching through Mark 8:1-26, I talked about the “Teaching of Discipleship.” Will you prioritize learning the right things from the right One?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for “second-best” in many areas of our lives, including where we spend our time and energy.

When you think about your family, your commitments and your daily routine, are you prioritizing things of eternal value? Only through a right relationship with God and daily devotion to Him can anyone possibly be faithful in prioritizing the right things.

If this is a struggle for you, cry out to God for His help, seek Him with all your heart, and make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church that will walk alongside you in this lifelong journey.

Levi at crafts VBS 2018
Levi was one of many kids who had a blast in crafts during VBS, using creativity to learn important truths about following Jesus.

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

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.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!