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.
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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!

We can’t do anything we put our minds to.

Silas (above) and Zoe (below) are playing Upward Basketball at a local church this winter and learning a lot about teamwork, fundamentals, discipline, and faith, thanks to great coaches like my wife, Marsha.

Now, when kids play sports, especially if they enjoy playing and hope to be great, people tend to say things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Is that wise counsel, though? I do not believe it is because the truth is that you cannot do anything you put your mind to, and I cannot either. In fact, we can do absolutely nothing apart from the grace and help of God.

If there was any man who seemed like he could do anything he put his mind to, King Saul was surely that man, was he not? But, as is clearly recorded in 1 Samuel 13 and following, King Saul had a tragic downfall. In fact, he became the villain – the enemy of God.

King David, on the other hand, was not someone you would think of, at least at first, as someone who could do anything he put his mind to. And, the reality was, he too could not do anything he put his mind to. Sure, he did amazing things, but how? Well, by the grace and help of God. Not until after the Spirit of God took control of David did he do the incredible things people still talk about today.

The story of King David is not a story to inspire us to think we can do great things. Rather, the story of King David ought to remind us that we serve a great God.

God can do anything He puts His mind to, including use ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. Do not believe in yourself. Believe in Him.

Start by making sure you have a genuine, born-again relationship with Him, and continue by trusting and surrendering to Him each day. Only He is sufficient to enable you to reach your full potential in Him.

Will Silas and Zoe be basketball superstars some day. It is possible but statistically unlikely. Who cares, though? More importantly, they are learning about a super God – the One who can do all things, the One who never fails, and the One who loves us so much that He sent His One and only Son to die for our sins.

We cannot do anything we put our minds to, but we serve a God who can. He, not our abilities or accomplishments, holds our eternal destiny in His hands.

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.

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.

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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