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.
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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

Where’s the excitement?!

When the kids were playing outside on a cold Monday afternoon, I told them I wanted to get their picture (seen above) before we went inside for some hot chocolate. Silas said he wanted to do something “cool,” so he climbed up the worm and hung from it. Micah was having a blast outside and seemed pleased to show it. Zoe, though, was coldShe really tried to smile, but her facial expression said it all. She was ready to be done with the cold. Her passion and excitement were gone.

Now, I do not blame Zoe for this. It was cold. Hot chocolate sounded much better than a freezing picture.

What truly grieves me, though, is when those who profess to follow Jesus display a similar lack of passion and excitement when it comes to the Good News. When we think about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we ought to look much more like Silas (charismatic) or Micah (joyfully content) than like Zoe (sourpuss trying to fake it).

You might say, “Well, I’m just not a very emotional person. I’m reserved and laid back.”

Hey, everyone is passionate about something. Everyone has jumped for joy and cried out with excitement about something. And, there is no something that even comes close to the best thing – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation.

Why is it that I can go to a football game Friday night and see people passionately screaming in support of their team, but then some of those same people look depressed when gathered with the church for worship on a Sunday morning? There is no possible excuse I can fathom that makes this acceptable.

During our worship service with Richland Baptist Church tomorrow, I will be preaching on “The Sacrifice of Discipleship” from Mark 15. If there is one thing that gets people motivated and excited in life, is it not the sacrifice others make for us?

Well, there is no other sacrifice that can or will ever compare to the sacrifice that makes discipleship possible. Will you respond with passion and commitment? If you have saving faith in Jesus Christ, I believe the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Either Obsession or Rejection

Imagine if my son Noah (pictured above shooting a free throw) decided that he wanted to play basketball but that he also wanted to play video games on his Kindle during basketball practice and/or games. No coach in his right mind would be okay with that. You cannot give your best on the court if your mind (not to mention your eyes and your hands) are elsewhere. You have to focus. You have to be committed. You have to do your best.

My dad, who was my high school basketball coach, used to say something like, “You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.” In fact, if you were not “all in,” you literally would not “be in” (in the game, that is).

While I found myself obsessed with basketball (and sports in general) when I was a teenager, I was eventually sorely disappointed when basketball did not take me (or I did not take basketball) as far as I wanted to go. I am thankful, though, for the life-lessons of teamwork, commitment, loyalty, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and priorities that are learned through sports.

Still, sports are just a part of life. They are not, despite what I believed as a student athlete, life itself.

Following Jesus, however, is different. Yes, there are sports-related lessons we can apply to a life of faith, but sports, like everything else in life, pale in comparison to knowing the Lord. Walking in a genuine relationship with Him is what we were created to do. This relationship is life.

Thankfully, I learned this as a sophomore in college, when God opened my eyes to the truth of the gospel, and I placed my faith in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

To follow Jesus, according to the Bible, means being 100% sold-out for Him. In other words, you are either obsessed with Him, or you are rejecting Him. Too many people seem content to find a middle ground, but there is no middle ground with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You either give Him your all, or you are worshiping something or someone else. You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching through Mark 14:1-31 during our church‘s morning worship service. In verses 3-9 is the amazing story of a woman who gave up something of incredible value in order to worship Jesus. As a result, Jesus said, “I assure you: Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

This woman was obsessed with Jesus. Are you? Or, are you rejecting Him? Do not settle for the lie of an acceptable middle ground. Surrender your life to Jesus, ask for His help, and be all in. Unlike sports, He will never leave you disappointed.

To where does your life point?

For the vast majority of people, including each one of us when we give in to our selfish and sinful nature, life points inward. It points to self. It paints the picture that “Life is all about me.”

Being created in the image of God, though, our lives are supposed to point to Him.

In the 1st century, John the Baptist had a massive following. One could make the claim that John could have easily continued to grow his following and created his own kingdom, of sorts. That was not John’s aim or purpose, though.

John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance and preparing the way for the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. John did not want a following. He wanted Jesus to have the following.

When people were confused about who John the Baptist was and who Jesus was, and when there was concern that so many people were all of a sudden flocking to Jesus, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Oh, that we would all have such humility and Christ-centered lives that others would flock to Jesus because of what we say and do!

Why is this so difficult for us? Why are we so prone to look inward rather than looking upward? Why are we so tempted to talk about ourselves rather than about our Savior?

The answer to each of those questions, of course, is sin. Only Jesus can take away our sins, and until we surrender our lives to Him and commit to surrender ourselves to Him every single day, we will not win the victory over selfishness and pride. Have you surrendered? Are you surrendering?

In the following chapter of the gospel of John, there is a culture-shocking encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. After the Samaritan woman believed Jesus was who He said He was, she wanted others to know about Him. Should could not help but point others to Him.

Then, after others believed based on what they heard, they went to Jesus themselves and eventually told the Samaritan woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

Wow! Is this not a great picture of how the journey of faith works for all of us? People often first believe based on what they hear (and thus the importance of living out our faith and talking about our faith), but when people then sincerely seek Jesus themselves, they believe and trust even more because the result is faith that experiences a relationship with God.

Until that relationship exists, what you “believe” can change. Once you know the Savior, though, you find satisfaction and fulfillment that cannot be found elsewhere. What you believe is then based on a life-changing relationship with the Lord, and He will never let you go.

Only then will your life (your actions and your words) point others to Jesus.

To where does your life point?

Purpose & Meaning

Last day of school!

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 besides our 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 your purpose and meaning? You’ll never be satisfied, and more importantly, you’ll never be right with the One who created you with purpose and meaning unless you surrender to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Death & Folly

Life can really be great, can’t it? Simple things, like enjoying a walk on a beautiful day with family, are a blessing.

What if this life is all there is, though? What would that mean for death? And, what about the foolishness that so often leads to death? Futility, right?

That’s the reality for those who fail to consider the gravity of eternity and fail to seek and turn to the Lord before it’s too late.

In my message this morning from Ecclesiastes 9-10, I challenged my hearers to turn to the Lord in the face of both the reality and the “Futility of Death & Folly.”

You can listen to this and other messages by clicking HERE.