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?
It has been another great Christmas with our family and church family, and we are looking forward to 2020. We pray that you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a Happy New Year, seeking to know and follow God with all your heart.
Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids sharing their own requests. Thank you for praying for us! If there are any specific ways we can pray for you, please let us know.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. –John 1:1-5, 14
If you have not yet experienced the eternal joy of knowing and walking with the One and Only Son from the Father, please turn to Him today. God bless you this coming year and beyond!
“Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.
We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation,we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?“
Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.
Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?
THANKS AND GIVING
Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?
THANKS AND GOSPEL
If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.
While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).
Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?
Since getting our yellow lab, Lottie, in August, our lives have changed. We are not surprised about that, as whose life would not change when getting a puppy? Puppies take time, money, patience, and energy. They are also a lot of fun, though, and our kids (usually) like to talk about their adorable puppy. Life is different now. And, talk or no talk, no one in our family would claim that our lives are the same today as they were in July.
All this to say, Lord willing, I am going to be talking about an even bigger transformation Sunday morning. A new life in the family, like a baby or a puppy, changes the family. Bigger still is the change that comes with a new spiritual life.
NEW LIFE LEADS TO CHANGE…
Like the undeniable change our family has experienced in adding a puppy to our lives, the change that comes with a new life belonging to Jesus Christ is undeniable. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In Acts 16:11-15, the passage I plan to preach through Sunday morning, you can read about some of that change. The Apostle Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Christian faith, was changed in and through a personal relationship with Jesus and became a bold, courageous missionary for Jesus. And, that is where we find him in Acts 16.
Then, a changed Paul is used by God to bring about a change in an entire household – Lydia and her household. God is the One who does the changing, but He tends to use His followers to be agents of that change.
“A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14-15).
Lydia and her household were changed by God, repenting of their sins and surrendering to Jesus. Then, Lydia demonstrated that change through biblical hospitality. New life leads to change.
CHANGE LEADS TO CONVERSATION…
When life is dramatically different, we tend to talk about it. One cannot experience life with a new puppy, for example, and tell no one. More importantly and more dramatically, one cannot experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not desire to talk about Him.
Paul and his companions, consequently, could not stop proclaiming the gospel. They had been changed by Jesus, and that change led to conversation. That conversation, then, led to more change. And so it goes – the cycle of change continues. God changes lives and uses those changed lives to change more lives.
ARE YOU CHANGED?
We are unable to change ourselves, at least in a way that lasts. Sure, we can fix some things temporarily and develop some decent habits through repetition, but we are incapable of producing change that changes our lives eternally. Only God can do that, and He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit who takes over the lives of all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for new life. That is a new life we, just like Paul, love to talk about!
If you want to experience the change that leads to conversation, would you consider watching The Story by clicking the picture below?
Since I am not preaching Sunday morning, I thought I would take a break from my usual weekly update and share some fun stuff we did as a family the past couple months.
WE WENT ON VACATION
Both with my (Nick’s) family, as well as a few days with just us, we spent some time in Illinois and in Branson, Missouri.
THE KIDS STARTED SCHOOL
Only Marsha and Micah remain home during the week, as I am off to work, and Noah, Levi, Silas and Zoe attend Hatton-McCredie Elementary School. This is Noah’s last year there before he moves to North Callaway High School, at which time Micah will begin kindergarten at Hatton.
WE GOT A DOG
Lottie is a yellow labrador who was born on June 23, 2019. She has added even more fun (sometimes) and frustration (sometimes) to our family.
My dad used to say to people who complained, “Cry me a river. Build me a bridge. And, get over it!” While that might not be the most sympathetic and compassionate statement, it is probably something we all need to hear more often than we would like to admit.
An even better statement in response to one’s whining and complaining is found in Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.”
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching about our “Great God of Judgment” from Malachi 2:17 – 3:6, and as has been clear in this series through Malachi, God is worthy and deserving of our worship, not our complaining. Furthermore, our complaining is a sin against Him.
So, stop whining and complaining!
“About what?” you ask.
About anything. You name it – we like to complain about it. Let us stop it!
Here are two reasons I want to encourage you (and myself) to stop whining and complaining.
1. COMPLAINING BRINGS JUDGMENT
Just like the Israelites in Malachi’s time opened the door for God’s judgment through their rebellion and hypocritical complaining, so do we when we sin against God. And, complaining is sin.
We are not told to do some things without complaining or arguing – comfortable things, enjoyable things, or easy things. “Do everything without complaining and arguing…” Philippians 2 put no qualifiers on that statement. “Everything.” No exceptions.
“You have wearied the Lord with your words.
Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?”
When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”
That statement at the end of Malachi 2 could be addressing us, could it not? But God is here. God will judge sin. You and I and every other person on this planet deserve His judgment, and yet in His mercy and grace, He offers a way out. Stop complaining because complaining brings judgment.
2. COMPLAINING FORGETS GOD
Often when we are tempted to complain or talk about complaining, we might say something like, “There is always someone who has it worse.” While that is true, though, that is not the reason we need to stop complaining.
What if you could not find someone who had it worse? What if your situation was like that of Job’s, and you lost everything? Would it be okay to complain then? No.
Our reason for being grateful and not complaining is not because someone else has it worse, but rather because God is the best. And, complaining forgets God. Complaining closes our eyes and our hearts to God’s provision, God’s kindness, God’s goodness, God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s faithfulness.
Right before that challenge by Paul in Philippians 2, he explained the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord (Philippians 2:5-11). He, Jesus Christ, is our reason for gratitude. Heis the reason we should and can do everything without complaining and arguing.
One week ago, we brought home the newest member of the Drake family – a two-week-old Golden Labrador we named Lottie. Having grown up with labradors, I knew it would not take me long to fall in love with little Lottie. It has not taken Marsha and our kids long either.
One thing I love about Lottie, and I think most people love about dogs, is how excited she is to see me when I greet her after being away from her. For example, when I walk into our garage at 5:30 in the morning and wake her up, she is thrilled to see me and seemingly happy to be awakened. Then, as I go for a walk outside, she follows me around, not even needing a leash (not yet, at least).
Lottie makes me feel honored, in a way. Granted, I am not honored if and when I have to clean up her poop, but I am honored by her sincere excitement and loyalty.
PUPPY LOVE WILL NOT DO
While some might be tempted to think, though, “I’ll honor God like my dog honors me,” puppy love will not do. Sure, Lottie shows me a great deal of love and affection, but she would do the same thing if another owner came along and took her for a walk in the morning. Puppy love, at its core, is shallow and immature. Yes, it can be a blessing in some ways, but God deserves so much more than just puppy love.
God is our “great King” (Malachi 1:14), and He is worthy of all of our praise and devotion. He does not share that honor and glory with another, as He is the only One who is worthy of such honor.
Dogs are great at honoring and showing love, but their honor and love can be misguided, not to mention pluralistic. We can learn something from dogs about unconditionally loving people, but we ought not model our love for God after our dogs’ love for us.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Dogs are good at loving their neighbors (i.e. their masters) as themselves. Let us do better at loving one another and loving those around us. God, though, deserves much more love and much more honor. Let us love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds. Otherwise, we dishonor Him.
DISHONOR IS DEVASTATING
As God made clear in Malachi 1:6-14, anything less than complete devotion to God is equal to despising God. Then, as you can read in chapter 2 – from where I will preach, Lord willing, Sunday morning – the result of that dishonor and despising is devastating.
“If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says the Lord of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart” (Malachi 2:2).
What is more devastating than being cursed by God? If you only love your God as much as your puppy loves you, God’s curse is your promise. Do not settle for puppy love. Give God and God alone your everything.
EXAMINE YOUR HEART
We would all do well to sincerely ask ourselves, “Am I honoring God with my life? Is He truly glorified through my attitude, words and actions?” Where is the honor?
If you lack the desire to honor God above all, perhaps you have yet to fully surrender your life to Him. He sent His Son Jesus to make a way for you to be right with Him now and for eternity.
If you have truly turned from your sins and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, still continue to challenge yourself each day to consider if you are truly honoring Him. Make sure you have a church family and some reliable Christian friends holding you accountable.
Puppies are cute, and puppy love can be adorable, but puppies and puppy love do not save us from sin or enable us to endure. Seek God through His Word, be committed to His church, and be faithful to His mission.