July was a fun month!

August is already here, and it feels like July never even existed. Busy as usual, July was a fun month with a lot of family events and church activities. Praise God for His kindness toward our family and our church!

COX FAMILY VACATION

We had a great time, as always, with Marsha’s family during the first week of July. For the third straight year, we spent our extended family vacation at Windermere Christian Camp outside Roach, Missouri. With 17 kids and 10 adults, this vacation is never dull. We love spending time with Marsha’s family – swimming, playing basketball, cliff jumping, hiking, playing games, doing the ropes course, playing archery tag, visiting, and just hanging out.

Below are some highlights via pictures, and you can see more by clicking HERE. The pictures below can be seen in full by clicking on them.

CHURCH AND DAILY LIFE

Below are some more pictures, but to see some more highlights from Vacation Bible School, click HERE.

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Guatemala Highlights

Noah and Levi had the great privilege of going on a mission trip to Guatemala earlier this month with Marsha’s parents and eleven other members of our church family. Below are some of their highlights.

NOAH’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

You can also listen to Noah’s quick testimony about the trip that he shared with our church family by clicking HERE.

LEVI’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

PICTURE MEMORIES

NOTE: Some of the pictures are cropped below but can be seen fully by clicking on the image.

THANK YOU

A huge thank you to our church family and others who supported Noah and Levi through prayer, encouragement and financial assistance! This mission trip was obviously a life-changing experience of which they are beyond grateful to have been a part. Thanks be to God!

The Impact of Knowledge on Trust

No, Pack, No

If you were to walk up to my house one day and find one of my children outside wearing a cheesehead and an Aaron Rodgers jersey and chanting “Go, Pack, Go!,” you would be extremely surprised, if not shocked. Why? Well, because you know the Drake family better than that, right?

What if, though, said child proceeded to tell you, “My dad told me to do this. I’m cheering for the Packers because my dad said I had to.”? Surely, you would not believe what you just heard. You know I am a Minnesota Vikings fan and would never cheer for the Packers (unless a Packers’ victory somehow helped the Vikings), let alone ask or require my children to cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions).

You see, your knowledge of me would lead you to believe something just is not right with this scenario. Because you know about my unfortunate loyalty to the Vikings, you trust that I would not allow my children to chant and cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions) while still under my authority. Such horrendous things are forbidden in my house.

Understanding Required

Knowledge impacts trust. The more you know someone, the more you are able to trust him (or, the less you trust him if he proves unworthy of your trust). In fact, there are obviously many situations in which wisdom requires knowledge before trust. For example, you would never trust people to care for your children without knowing who they are. Trusting a random person with your children would not be wise.

While there are exceptions, many a fool has been made because of “blind faith.” Would you trust just any person with your money and investments? Of course not. “I don’t know you and realize that you don’t work for a bank or investment company, but here’s my life savings. Would you please do what you think is best with it?” said no one ever.

Understanding is required for proper trust. You cannot possibly trust with sincerity what you do not know in truth.

Knowing God

God is no exception, as He does not ask us to trust Him without understanding who He is. No, we cannot possibly understand Him fully, but we must understand Him some. He gave us His Word, so that we can gain a better understanding of who He is and who He created us to be.

He sent us His Son to reveal Himself to the world, so that we could truly know Him and have a right relationship with Him.

He gives His Spirit to all who know Him, so that we can experience His presence and continue to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Trusting God

And, the more we understand who He is, the more we naturally trust in Him. If you do not know who He is, though, according to the Truth of His Word, then your trust in Him will fail you. Your trust will be without a foundation. Your trust will prove to be illegitimate.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now” (1 John 4:2-3).

Do you know and believe the right things about Jesus Christ? Only then can you sincerely trust and follow Him.

Victory

And, only those who sincerely trust and follow Jesus have eternal victory, and that victory begins the moment you turn away from your sins and surrender your life to Him.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Are you seeking to grow in the knowledge of Him while sincerely surrendering to Him every day? Only then will your faith continue to grow.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels
Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels

Keep up with my Sunday morning sermon series through 1 John, including this coming Sunday’s message, by clicking HERE.

Love doesn’t always feel good.

If you love someone, showing that love is easy, right? Not necessarily. If you love someone, showing that love feels good, right? Not necessarily. Love is all about how you feel, right? Not really.

As the One who created us and as the One who is the ultimate example of love, God defines love. His Word has a lot to say about love, and He does not say much about love being easy or feeling good.

When you come to know and follow God, you automatically learn more about love. When you experience His love, you are clearly changed and then desire to show that love to others.

Thankfully, we are seeing this at work in our two oldest sons, Noah and Levi. Recently, Noah had an opportunity to help with disaster relief cleanup in Jefferson City, Missouri. Then, he and Levi were blessed to head to Guatemala with a team from our church to minister to orphans and others in a needy community.

Do these mission tasks feel good? Perhaps at times they do, as there is obviously a great sense of encouragement and satisfaction when we get to serve others. But, there are certainly plenty of times when we just do not feel those things. Love – the love of God – still compels us, though.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching about the “Proof of Love” in the life of a Christian, looking specifically at 1 John 3:10-24. Later that day, you should be able to listen to the message HERE. In the meantime, though, I want to challenge you to consider three reasons love does not always feel good.

1) Love is unconditional.

If you read 1 John 3:10-15, you will not see any conditions on the love we are commanded and expected to have for one another. We are not told to love others if they deserve our love. We are not told to love others if they love us in return. We are not told to love others for what they can do for us. The Bible tells us to love one another. Period.

In fact, this love proves something very important: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

You either have eternal life, or you are headed for eternal death. Unconditional love for others is a defining characteristic for those who have experienced this new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Is your life marked by unconditional love for others?

2) Love is costly.

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Did it “feel good” when Jesus was brutally beaten and crucified? Of course not. Love compelled Him, though. It was His love for sinners like you and me that led Him to the cross, and there was nothing more costly than the cross.

No, this does not imply that in order for you to truly love others, you must die for them, but it certainly does mean you are willing to die. And, it clearly means love is not confined to that which is easy and feels good. Love is costly.

Is your love for others costing you anything?

3) Love is exhausting.

To say, “I love you,” is really not very difficult. To show “I love you” is often exhausting. If love is unconditional and costly, then it is certainly exhausting.

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence” (1 John 3:18-19).

Loving a person who has frustrated you is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who are hurting and unable to do anything for you in return is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who do not reciprocate that love is not easy. It is exhausting.

Yes, I do believe that when our hearts are set on the Lord, we can still experience a great sense of joy and contentment in the midst of this unconditional care, cost and exhaustion. Does that mean it will always feel good and be easy, though? No. Otherwise, the Bible would not have so much to say about the command to love one another and our need to love one another. Doing so takes intentional effort, regardless of how we feel at the time. Love is exhausting.

Do you ever find yourself exhausted because of your unconditional, costly love for others?

Love is transformational.

If you experience God’s love by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, then you will not only experience this kind of transformational love; you will be transformed by this love and show this love to others. This love, after all, is an essential proof for those who have a genuine relationship with God.

Have you been transformed?

Noah and Levi are currently on a mission trip with our church to serve the children of Casa De Mi Padre orphanage in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, as well as others in the community. To God be the glory!

Who do you resemble?

While I honestly never saw it clearly myself, people often said I looked like my dad. Those who knew him, in fact, still say that. Likewise, people often say my son Noah looks like me. You can be the judge of that from the same-age picture layout of the three of us (above) and another picture layout of Noah and me (below).

The reality, though, is that children do tend to resemble their parents. This is the natural result of DNA. As children grow, they take on the physical attributes (and oftentimes the emotional, psychological and intellectual attributes) of their parents. Kids become more and more like their parents. This has always been the case and always will be.

A child resembling his parents is evidence that he belongs to them. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

A Christian resembling His Christ is evidence that he belongs to Him. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

Obedience and Transformation

The one who says he remains in God should walk just as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). What does it mean, though, to walk just as Jesus walked? Quite simply, this means to act like Jesus acted. God the Son obeyed God the Father, and John made the case that if we claim to have a relationship with God, we too will obey God.

While DNA (and the resulting physical transformation) are the reason an earthly son resembles his earthly father, spiritual transformation is the reason a child of God resembles his Heavenly Father. And, obedience is the proof of that transformation.

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands” (1 John 2:3).

Personal Examination

Are you sure you have come to know Him? Is there evidence of transformation and obedience in your life?

If someone wants evidence of being related to someone else, a DNA test can be done to determine if a biological relationship exists. While there is no physical DNA test to determine if someone is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, 1 John does provide a test of sorts. His whole letter points to the evidence of a true relationship with God.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 John 2:3-11 on the “Proof of Salvation,” talking about two ways to be sure you have come to know the Lord.

Would you consider examining your own heart today? God does not need to do a test because He does know your heart. He knows if you have truly surrendered your life to His Only Son for salvation, but do you know?

Again, what do you think? I honestly do not see the resemblance myself, but it seems people often do not notice it when looking at pictures of themselves and/or their children.

How to know you have the Light…

Do you have memories of how excited you were as a child when you were able to get together with cousins and/or friends for nothing more than fun? I sure do. And, I see that same energy and excitement with my children when they get together with their friends and cousins (like in the above picture from Easter Sunday afternoon). Pure joy is evident all over their faces.

Our son Silas said Sunday evening, “This was the best day of my life.” Hard to match that kind of excitement, right?

Light’s Impact on Longings

Naturally, we get excited about things we enjoy. We express excitement when getting to do the things we love doing. Kids love to play and have fun. Most of us adults do, too.

I would argue – and I believe the Apostle John made this argument – that genuine followers of Jesus Christ love spending time with other believers. Fellowship and participation with the local church excite us. This is the result of the light of Jesus consuming our hearts, impacting our lives and affecting our desires.

Light impacts longings, and darkness does, too. John argues (1 John 1) that people who know Jesus walk in the light and thus have and long for fellowship with God and with His church. Those who walk in the darkness, though, no matter what they claim to believe or desire, will only long for God and His church for what they can get out of them.

Signs of Light

Do you long for closer fellowship with God and His church? This past Sunday I started a new sermon series – Prove It – in 1 John, and this letter makes clear that fellowship with God and fellowship with His church are clear signs of the light of Christ in the life of a believer. Those who love and follow Jesus not only have that fellowship; they desire that fellowship.

Do you have a born-again relationship with Jesus? If so, fellowship with God and His church are signs of His light in your life. A longing for that fellowship and a commitment to that fellowship are essential. You cannot want one apart from the other, and you cannot claim one is genuine without the other.

Is there proof of Light in your life? Shine brightly in and for Christ and in and for the world.

Getting pictures taken is NOT something our kids tend to enjoy, but they do a decent job faking it at times. This one was taken before family groups and worship with our church Sunday morning. Certainly easier to smile when an exciting day lies ahead of you.

What’s more fresh than a haircut?

Oh, the joy!

Earlier this week, I gave all four of our boys haircuts, and Marsha gave me a haircut. Are haircuts not one of the simple, great pleasures in life that we take for granted? While I do not particularly enjoy giving my boys their haircuts, I certainly do love getting a haircut and enjoy the feeling of having a clean cut.

Does not everyone enjoy the feeling of a haircut (unless it is just a bad haircut)? Naturally, we like things that are fresh and new. We like, for the most part, cleanness and crispness. We like a revival, and a haircut is like a revival on your head.

Here’s why…

The reason we like revival and freshness and newness is because we were created that way by God. He put within us a desire to experience these things. Is it because, deep down, we all need these things?

When God made the heavens and the earth and all that exists, everything was not only fresh and new but also perfect. Even more perfect than your ideal haircut, God’s creation did not need freshness and newness and revival. But, sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the one tree from which they were forbidden to eat. From that point forward, we have always longed for revival and freshness and newness.

We long for what we can’t have.

Conceived, born and living in sin as fallen human beings, we long for the day, whether we realize it or not, when everything will be perfect. Because of sin, though, we are unable to obtain that perfection, but an answer, only One answer, exists. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can begin to realize that newness now, and more importantly, experience the perfection for all of eternity. This is only possible, though, in and through a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

How can one know if he has that right relationship, though? Simply put, you must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for your salvation. When people ask me about the assurance of salvation, however, I encourage them to read 1 John.

Proof of Resurrection Life…

Easter morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through 1-3 John called Prove It. A Christian’s life should be living proof of a right relationship with God, a right relationship that is only possible in and through Jesus. So, as we begin the series Sunday morning, I want to challenge you to consider if your life is living proof of resurrection life – a life that is fresh, new and everlasting.

Of all four boys, Micah is most like me when getting his hair cut. He loves it!