I need to get over myself.

I don’t think he ever sent us a thank you note for that gift we gave him.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

He was recognized, but they didn’t say anything about all that I did for them.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Hey, let’s take a selfie and show everyone what we’re doing to serve others.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Why didn’t more people like my most recent social media post?” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Ah, shoot! They took my parking spot.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Look – someone is sitting in our seat.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Narcissism is an excessive interest and/or admiration for oneself. It is vanity and high esteem for oneself, loving oneself most and selfishly putting oneself first. Narcissism results in a sense of entitlement.

And, narcissism is evil. I need to get over myself, and maybe you do, too.

There is a reason Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, behind loving God with your entire being, is to love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said, “depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40).

Loving God most and loving your neighbor as yourself are the opposite of narcissism.

In talking about God’s will for unity in the body of Christ – unity that is impossible when we are self-entitled narcissists – Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3).

Yet, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and constantly wanting more for ourselves, rather than obeying the command: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Narcissism does not have to be taught, as self-centeredness is part of our sinful nature, is it not? We see this with small children refusing to share their toys. We see this with temper tantrums when things do not go their way. We see this with kids running to get to the front of the line, cutting off others in the process. We see this when a child hits another child because a toy was taken. We do not teach our children these things. They do these things because they are sinners.

Oh, if only we adults were better, but are we? Surely, narcissism is not a problem in the church, right?

Sadly, our selfishness is on full-display every week in church activities…

How often do you arrive early for worship services but take the farthest parking spot, so that others can get the best spots? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you sit toward the front of the sanctuary and in the middle of a pew, so that others who arrive after you do not awkwardly have to walk past you and ask if they can get by you? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you do the things no one else wants to do, even when no one is watching? “That’s disgusting (or hard or miserable).” Narcissism.

How often do you volunteer to serve in the church nursery or in some other area of great need, even without being asked? “I’ve done my time, so it’s someone else’s turn now.” Narcissism.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing a short sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. If you consider the life of King Saul, you might realize that he had lots of problems, but did not narcissism seem to be the ultimate sin that destroyed him? His self-love led to his jealousy of God’s blessings on someone else.

So often with children, we see our own narcissistic nature shining through. If I am honest with myself and with you, I need to get over myself. I am a selfish sinner who needs God’s help every single day. My children are no different than I.

As they learn to trust in Jesus, though, and as He begins to change their lives for His glory, we see results. The Holy Spirit begins to change their hearts, which results in changed attitudes and changed behaviors.

Praise the Lord! If He can change selfish children and give them a desire to get on the floor and play a less-desirable game with their younger siblings without being told to do so, then He can change you, too.

Narcissism destroys lives, so pray for God’s help to live a life of humility and to have contentment in Him. This is only possible in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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So Little Power

With 18 inches of snow came an overwhelming reminder of how weak and powerless I am, especially next to our infinite, mighty God.

I have spent hours shoveling this past week. I do not recall shoveling this much snow since I was a teenager living in northern Iowa. My back is sore, but I have slept well!

When the snow began Friday, I was hopeful that the storm would end by Saturday, so that we could clear the sidewalks and parking lot and still have church services on Sunday. Well, that obviously did not happen. In fact, our parking lot was not cleared until Monday afternoon, when two trucks with blades worked together for two hours to get rid of the snow.

Even those trucks had a difficult time moving the snow, as the snow was and is heavy. They had to do the lot with their blades halfway down and then go over it again.

As the time passed each day, I felt like such a weakling with a little snow shovel in my hands. My contributions to making the walkways and driveways passable seemed so slow and insignificant. And, even when I would get a sidewalk cleared, more snow would come, or snow would fall off the roof of the church building or parsonage, covering the shoveled areas again.

Is this not all a great lesson in humility? I have so little power, especially next to the mighty Creator of the universe. He created me. He sustains me. And, He is able to humble me whenever He pleases.

Another winter storm is coming this weekend. Again, I pray things are clear enough by Sunday morning to have services. I am actually planning on preaching on power – how we must be sure to not love and pursue earthly power (and what we should do instead).

Seemed like a fitting reminder to me, then, that my “power” truly is not only temporary but limited. Praise God for His power that is matchless and eternal!

If you have not yet experienced how great it is to find your hope and trust in His power, I encourage you to call on Him today.

There are certainly some perks to snow storms and snow days, including extra family time.

What if you love power?

Is there not something peaceful and joyful about sitting back under the power and authority of someone you trust? I do not mean in a lazy, apathetic way, but rather in a hopeful, reassuring way.

This is the feeling I imagine is experienced, for example, by our youngest son, Micah, when he is being pulled in our bike cart by someone like our oldest son, Noah. Surely there would be a good deal of comfort and contentment in such an experience.

Is this not what it is like, but to a much greater degree, when we find our absolute trust and assurance in the One who never lets us down? I believe so.

Why, then, do we so often long for power? Why do we love power? Why do we think we need power?

I am certainly not implying that we should settle for half-hearted effort and not give our best in our jobs, in our schools, in sports, etc. In fact, I firmly believe we should do our best and seek to accomplish great things for the glory of God.

What is extremely dangerous, though, is when what we are after is power. Any power we can attain is earthly. It is temporary. And, loving and pursuing earthly power will leave you desperate and hopeless. Sure, it might thrill and satisfy you for a while, but you cannot maintain that power indefinitely.

What happens when it is gone?

There have been a lot of people who have had incredible earthly power, but at what cost? Many have risen to unimaginable power, only to let that power control their hearts and ruin their lives.

King Saul was such a person. Things started out so well for King Saul, and yet, when he was at the height of his power, things spiraled out of control. Why? Because he cared more about his power than about the plans and desires of the One who is all-powerful.

“Oh, well that will never happen to me,” you might say.

If so, I will remind you, “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). King Saul was not careful, and he fell.

“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). King Saul thought his power and his wisdom and his plans were sufficient, and he fell.

Do not become the villain – the enemy of God – like King Saul. Rest in the Lord’s power. Turn to Him.

During our church‘s morning worship service on Sunday, January 20th (January 13th was canceled because of 18+ inches of snow), Lord willing, I will be preaching my second message in our series on the fall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. “Villains Love Power” (1 Samuel 14:24-46), and my prayer is that you and I not begin down the path to villainy by loving and pursuing power. If you are tempted to do so, cry out to the God of all power for help.

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Fear must not win.

When we spent time at Marsha’s parents’ house last week, I was able to help her dad take down an old antenna from their yard. Thankfully, he did most of the work, including the final removement of the antenna with his tractor (in picture below, which only includes the bottom half of the antenna).

Before getting to that point, though, he had secured a couple long ropes to the antenna going out from a couple angles to keep the antenna from falling into the house. One rope was securely fastened to the tractor, while I was pulling the other rope in a similar direction.

That antenna is much heavier than a couple men can handle. Otherwise, there would have been no need for a tractor and ropes. Praise God for tractors and ropes!

After some necessary cuts had been made and we had everything set and ready, Marsha’s dad began pulling with the tractor while I pulled my rope, and we were, at this point, only pulling down the top half of the antenna!

Was I afraid that the antenna would hit the house or crush me? No. Why? Well, certainly not because I am strong enough and certainly not because I am smart enough. Rather, I was not afraid because I was at a safe distance, was pulling on a good rope, knew the tractor was also pulling a good rope, and trusted that my father-in-law made a good plan to accomplish the task.

Faith filtered out any fear I had that something would go wrong. If not for faith and knowledge, when that antenna started to fall, I would have ran away for cover. That would have been an act of foolishness, though. Faith protected me from fear and folly.

Unfortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 13, his faith (or lack thereof) was defeated by fear. He feared what others would do, rather than trusting God and His promises. Thus, King Saul made a very foolish decision to deliberately disobey the commands of God, and the consequences were devastating.

Fear must not win. Fear is an enemy of faith.

During our morning worship service Sunday, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. In the passage I’ll be preaching through Sunday – 1 Samuel 13:5-14 – we learn through the beginning of King Saul’s downfall that “Villains Follow Fear.”

That may sound harsh, but everyone is in only one of two camps. You either follow Jesus Christ, or you do not follow Jesus Christ. In the end, then, you are either a redeemed servant of Jesus, or you are a villain in rebellion against God.

Don’t become a villain, which happens if you think you can do things your way or any other way than God’s way. Turn to Him in faith, and trust Him to take away your fear of anything that will pull you away from following Him.

Remember, too, that it is not the strength of your faith that gives you victory over fear, sin and death. Rather, it is the object of your faith who has already won that victory. Jesus Christ is the key. He is the Victor. He must be the object of your faith, or your faith will prove to be folly.

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.

Christmas is not just about what was.

Often times, what gives us comfort and joy is our present situation. When my kids are getting to play outside on a beautiful afternoon (like Silas and Micah above), for example, they are happy. They are enjoying life in the present.

We can also find joy, though, when we ponder great things that happened in the past. The other day, Silas was walking around our house polling Marsha, the kids and me: “Is Christmas about presents or about Jesus?”

Of course, Marsha and I have tried to teach our kids from the time they were able to talk that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am not sure if Silas was genuinely curious if everyone understood that message, if he was trying to trap one of his siblings in falsehood, or if he was trying to impress his parents. Regardless, I am thankful that he has at least learned and embraced the basics.

What we often fail to remind our children and ourselves, though, is that Christmas is not just about what was. Christmas is not just about what happened over 2,000 years ago. Christmas is also about what will be.

Why did Jesus come? What did His coming accomplish for us? What does this mean for our future?

Sure, we can find great joy in what happened. We can find great joy in what is happening. That joy would be futile and fleeting, though, if not for what will be.

Christmas is as much about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as it is about His birth. He was born, after all, to fulfill the Messianic promises, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins and rise again for our salvation. It is at the second Advent, though, when all of His promises, including the salvation of all who know Him, will be fully realized.

The ultimate joy of this season is found when we embrace the truth of the gospel – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation – experiencing new life now and placing our hope in the perfect life that is to come.

If Christmas is not also about what will be, it is not a great story because it is not a life-changing story. Thankfully, however, Christmas is also about what will be.

I am looking forward to celebrating this with our church family and guests this coming Sunday, when I will be, Lord willing, preaching on “Immanuel Crowned” (Revelation 21:1-8). I hope to share three truths about the future because of Jesus Christ.

Do you want to have the joy of Christmas today and every day? Do you want to rejoice in the past but especially in the future? Look to the One who is the Author of both.

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Prominence is not preeminence.

A couple weeks ago on a beautiful Saturday morning, our three youngest kids went outside to play and noticed that there were worms all over the church parking lot because of a heavy rainfall we had overnight. They then decided to go on a rescue mission of picking up the worms and putting them in the grass.

Afterall, if left on the asphalt, the worms would have fried and died in the sun. I am not sure how many worms were rescued or what compelled our kids to go on this mission, but they sure seemed to enjoy it. And, they acted as if it was an important mission.

Ultimately, though, this task our children prioritized that morning was just one of many things they did that day. It was not what they woke up to do, and it was not their first priority. Rather, it was something they found to be fun. Sure, they got their hands dirty, as seen in the picture below, when they proceeded to play in the dirt. Again, though, that was just a fun benefit of this activity.

Unfortunately, there are many people today who treat their relationship with Jesus like those worms. When convenient and enjoyable, they will “get their hands dirty” in the name of religion. Are they really passionate about Jesus, though? Is He preeminent (of utmost importance) in their lives, or is He simply prominent (important but not first place)?

Prominence is not preeminence.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching my third message in our Advent series: Immanuel to Richland Baptist Church. Preaching from Colossians 1:15-20, I want to challenge those listening to consider the supremacy of Christ and, as a result, surrender to Christ.

Jesus Christ is preeminent, and He is the only One worthy of the place of preeminence in our hearts. Does He have that place in your heart? If not, please consider calling out to Him today.

Surrender is a necessary humble response of repentance (turning away from your sins) and faith in Jesus, but surrender is also a daily decision to put Jesus first in all things. He is not just one of many priorities; He is the priority.

Silas, Zoe and Micah showing off the dirty hands