Sunny and I spent the weekend in Fairhope, Alabama, where I was performing a wedding. We had never been there before but we LOVED it! Such a fun little place. We stopped to grab a picture near the water before the wedding. And since we were kind of close, we had to pay a visit to our favorite seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores, DeSoto’s. Thankful for a great weekend with my girl.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken — that is, things that have been made — in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
The writer of Hebrews points us to see Jesus in a variety of ways:
as the One in whom faith originates and matures (12:1);
as One who disciplines us for endurance (12:3, 7);
as the One who heals us through grace (12:12-15).
But toward the end of Hebrews 12, he adds that Jesus is the One who speaks to His people in the present, shaking both the heavens and the earth with His voice. This idea of “shaking” alludes back to the prophet Haggai who foretold of YHWH shaking earth and heaven and all the nations in order to fill His house with glory. The writer of Hebrews seems to understand a present-tense fulfillment of this text in his own time. Whereas the Exodus generation witnessed a “shaking” in their own day as they encamped at Sinai, the Hebrew writer anticipates an even greater shaking — one that is characterized as a shaking of both the earth and the heavens.
We are living in a world that shakes.
A world of school shootings and senseless violence.
A world of abortion and sex trafficking and countless other offenses against the most defenseless among us.
A world of war and rumors of wars.
Evil is called good; good is called evil.
These things cause the world to shake because they will not endure. The new heavens and the new earth is a promise of something unshakeable — an eternal kingdom that is secure, safe, founding upon God’s eternal promises. It is the same kingdom Simon Peter spoke of when he spoke of an inheritance that could never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4).
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Today Joshua and Abby Kate turn eighteen! That is so hard to believe.
They’ve certainly come a long way since they were born seven weeks early. Sunny and I always knew that was a possibility, but I think we were still a bit shocked when we were told to leave the doctor’s office and head straight to the hospital that day! But God watched over them as they grew and after some great care in the NICU, we were able to take our babies home.
And now we look at them and we give thanks for their growth — physical growth, obviously; but more importantly, all the other ways in which they have grown. We are grateful for their relational growth. Our kids have some awesome friends. They’ve chosen to invest in people who are fun and kind and full of laughter. If you’ve ever cared deeply for a teenager, then you know how thankful we are that Abby Kate and Joshua have such a great group of friends. We are also grateful for their emotional growth. Being a teenager has always been difficult, but our present culture creates some really unique challenges. But these challenges also provide growth opportunities and we’re thankful for the ways Joshua and Abby Kate are learning to navigate these difficulties with maturity. And of course, we are most grateful for the growth they’ve experienced in their walks with the Lord. He continues to demonstrate His grace and His favor toward Joshua and Abby Kate and that brings us so much joy.
Joshua, you have always been like a bolt of lightning. You never learned to walk — you just started running! From the very beginning, you have always been quick to laugh, always up for a game of some kind. And you’ve retained that playful spirit to this day. We have so much fun watching you play baseball, the game that you love. You play with passion and fire — and it is contagious. And you bring that same passion to every pursuit. You have always been a people person and we see the ways in which you mediate peace: at home, at school, with your teammates, everywhere. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” And you are truly one of God’s children, Joshua. We are so proud of you.
Abby Kate, they say still water runs deep — and this has always been true of you. Whereas Joshua would run, you were always content to sit and take it all in. You are discerning and careful — and we love you for it. But you are also compassionate. Loyalty is your love language. And you are exceedingly loyal to YOUR people. When you go all in, you really go all in. We love your drive, your commitment to your grades and to your future career in medicine. And we hope this next year is a year of preparation and joy — preparation, as God equips you to walk into the future He has planned for you; but joy that is found by recognizing the tremendous gift of the present, the gift of TODAY. You make us so proud, Abby Kate. We love you greatly.
My boys don’t have grandfathers. As most of you know, my father passed away when I was just a kid. We lost Sunny’s dad nearly ten years ago. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for godly male influences for my boys. Thankfully, they are surrounded by a tremendous cloud of faithful witnesses — coaches, youth ministers, the elders of our church, members of our Baja mission team, etc. God has truly answered my prayers by putting so many good men in the lives of my two sons.
But I’m especially grateful for these two and the unique role they play in Joshua and Jackson’s lives.
Lee and I have worked side-by-side for 20 years now, from my time as Madison Academy’s campus minister through my transition to serve in a variety of roles at Mayfair. I was in my mid-20s when I first started working with Lee, so it’s fair to say that he has mentored me both directly and indirectly. I have learned so much from just being around him on a daily basis for two decades — he truly possesses the heart of a minister.
So I was overjoyed when I learned that Joshua would have the chance to work alongside Lee this summer as an intern for Mayfair’s Baja Mission teams. Lee was at the hospital the night Joshua was born and he’s been a constant source of encouragement throughout his life. And especially now, as Joshua is entering his Senior year, Lee looms as an important example of what Joshua wants to do with his life. His dream is to serve the church as a youth minister, just as Lee did for over 20 years at Mayfair. I attribute this dream to God’s calling on Joshua’s life, but also to the examples of people like Lee who have modeled love for the Lord and love for the church in a way that is both appealing and compelling.
I covertly snapped this picture while we were in Mexico. As we were in between activities one afternoon, Lee pulled Joshua aside and they talked together for a good twenty minutes. I didn’t want to interrupt, but I wanted to capture the moment for posterity. Joshua would later tell me that it was an especially important conversation to him: they talked about Scripture (Ephesians 2, I believe), ministry, life, and the future. When I saw the two of them having this conversation, I immediately thought, “This is what mentoring looks like.” I love how Joshua is just taking it all in. Drink deeply, son. You’re in the presence of a great man.
I also give thanks for Pat, who has taken Jackson under his wing these last few years. The two of them share many of the same interests: music, history, Greek food, archaeology, poetry, space exploration. And more importantly, they share an abiding respect for one another. Pat has been there to cheer Jackson on at his most significant cross country and track moments the past two years. They’ve shared countless hours creating music together — in fact, it says quite a bit that Jackson trusts Pat enough to invite him into the creative process of making music!
Last fall, Jackson told me he was especially excited about going on the Baja mission trip so he could watch Pat in action. Pat, a retired NASA engineer, has taken on a sizable role as the ministry leader for our Baja Missions work, coordinating annual group trips but also providing essential support to the leaders in our church in San Quintin. In addition to teaching on a regular basis at Mayfair, Pat has also served as an adjunct teacher at the Baja Bible Institute. This is a man who knows a lot and loves a lot. So I was ecstatic when I heard Jackson say that he couldn’t wait to see Pat in action on the mission field. And I think those observations have really paid off. I see Jackson following in Pat’s footsteps, quietly assuming more and more leadership as his awareness of God’s calling continues to increase.
This picture was taken at the Old Mill hotel in San Quintin where our group stays each year. I hope it is the first of many more to come. One day, I hope to fill an entire photo album with pictures just like this one, pictures of mentor and disciple serving side by side in the name of Jesus year after year after year. Pat, your investment in my son is making an eternal difference and words would never adequately convey the deep sense of gratitude I feel for you. This, too, is what mentoring looks like. Son, this is what I want you to become.
Today, this father’s heart is overflowing. Thank you, Abba Father. Your love endures forever.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
This part of John’s prologue has always bothered me a bit. To clarify: I love the way John begins his Gospel account, hearkening back to Genesis 1 when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1). Matthew and Luke give us the details of His birth, along with the genealogies; Mark begins with an adult Jesus proclaiming the nearness of the Kingdom. But John’s approach is epic in its sweep. He situates the story of Jesus in the context of the grand story of creation. With his allusion to Genesis 1, John is saying that new creation has come through the Word of God — Jesus Christ.
So in the midst of such a grand opening, I’ve always found these verses about John the Baptist to be somewhat of a distraction, too localized alongside such a cosmic introduction. I mean, we’re talking about creation and new creation; the stakes don’t get much greater. And then John the author zooms in for a couple of verses about John the baptizer? I’ve always found that juxtaposition to be jarring. But after reading it this morning, I’m starting to see this passage in a different light.
I think this passage is a primer for mission. John is presented as one who bears witness, as one who testifies to that which he has seen. He was not the light, merely a reflection of it. And rather than reading this as an incongruous detour, I think John’s point is that all who see this same light — all who hear this same Word — are likewise sent to bear witness. I am to follow in the footsteps of the baptizer, recognizing that I am NOT the light, merely one who reflects it. This is the testimony we bear. When read this way, John 1:6-9 becomes an essential part of the Gospel story John is telling.
To illustrate my point, try applying this text to yourself in this way:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was Jason. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Certainly John the Baptist had a unique calling from God that extends far beyond our ability to fulfill. I get that. And yet, I still find this reading helpful in that it helps me to understand my story in light of the Gospel. Specifically, it gives me a deeper appreciation for my localized role as a witness to the universal light of Jesus.
Fellow believer, you and I have been sent by God to bear witness to the light of the world, Jesus Christ. May we embrace this role, to reflect the light we have seen, the light which illuminates everything else.
I’m so glad Sunny wanted to grab this quick picture of the five of us heading to church on Sunday morning in San Quintin. This boat in the background is iconic for anyone who has stayed at the Old Mill with our group. I am so grateful for this work and the way it is helping all five of us grow in Christ.