Shootings, elections, weather threats, illnesses, cancer, the unknown, the known…many events of the past year have been a cause for fear in the lives of many people. Yet, is this how we are to live life, in fear? The phrase, “fear not” is used over a dozen times in the New Testament, usually as the first words spoken by an angel when he appears with a message from God. Mary was told to fear not; Joseph was told to fear not, and the shepherds were told to fear not. All of these instances center around the conception and birth of Jesus, God the Son, come in the flesh—what we celebrate as Christmas. If we will place our faith and trust alone in Jesus as God’s provision for salvation, come what may, we do not have to live in fear.
The last mention of the words “fear not” are in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Jesus says, “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen…” (Rev. 1:17-18). Jesus expands on this reason not to fear later in the book when He says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Rev. 22:13) It sounds like Jesus is what life is to be all about.
This Christmas season we are reflecting on the significance of some “firsts and lasts” of the past year and choosing to focus on the Lord Jesus—The First and Last. Rather than live in fear, we are seeking to grow in faith that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Here are some of our firsts and lasts (and things in between)—highlights for the year:
We did several of our traditional family events: camping, Bible Club, Peach Festival homemade ice cream, and Big Sandy home school conference. We had some new family firsts too: John-Clay & Caleb moved into a duplex; the family sang for a couple of churches—we led the congregational singing and provided the special music for my parents’ church, for their Fall Revival Services, and then sang for the entire Sunday Evening Worship Service at Oak Grove Baptist Church, where Cheryl’s parents attend. Not the least of new things for our family was a new roof on our house provided by Gene Dornink and his family, the significance of which is told below…not of the new roof, but the Dornink family.
I never tire of expressing the blessing of the Lord through my “first” (and only) wife. How a woman can give so sacrificially, so much of the time, can only be explained by Jesus being her first and last. We love because God first loved us, and the care, concern, service, and sacrifice that she shows to me, her children, our parents, extended family and others, is Jesus. I am blessed as I have seen Cheryl’s sincere heart this past year.
I know one of her big highlights was the trip to Maine (and the Northeast) to see the fall foliage with her mom and sisters. What stories they have to tell! But, I sure enjoyed spending eight days ministering and touring with her in Guatemala. She even got to see and hear a real volcano “burp”.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in November, since then, there has been a daily need for care and concern. Cheryl has ministered as if it were her own mother. I praise the Lord that we (Cheryl, my children, my sisters, my brother, their families, Aunt Anna and so many others) are able to care for and tend to mom and dad during this time. Isn’t that what families and the family of God are for?
For the sake of time and space, I will simply bullet point what the children have listed as first, lasts, or highlights.
~ This year has been full of “God-sized” opportunities that I never could have imagined.
~ I was extremely blessed to attend “World Changers Summit” in CO earlier this year.
~ Moving out of the house and renting a place with Caleb has been a stretching experience with many “firsts” and new responsibilities.
~ Due to encouragement from friends and family, I added a “Filmmaking Workshop” service to my business, and have had several occasions to teach around the nation. Most notable was being invited to teach a breakout class in New York at the “Lamplighter Guild for Creative Arts.”
~ Another “first” was being a group leader/teacher at a two week ministry event helping train young people to share the gospel with children.
~ Later this year I was excited to be a camera operator for two months during the filming of the upcoming film, “Beyond the Mask.”
~ Overall it has been an amazing year full of surprises and lessons from God!
(I am blessed as I have seen John-Clay’s wise heart this last year)
~ Coordinated 5 COMMIT conferences this year – new challenges, blessings, and growing experiences once again
~ Her number of piano students increased to 8 with the addition of 3 beginners
~ Served as communications coordinator with In the Gap (ITG) through the Fall
~ Other highlights: Bible Club-seeing it grow and God using it; duck hunting (a 1st!); spending a week in Florida on the ITG staff retreat—prayer times at sunrise, by the ocean, are pretty amazing.
~ BUT MOST OF ALL!…watching the Lord unfold a beautiful love story in my life with an amazing, godly, man, Dustin Dornink. It is worth it to wait on the Lord! When He does something, He does it well. On November 26th at sunset, Dustin asked me to marry him, and I was so honored and thrilled to say, yes! We plan to be married this Spring/Summer, Lord-willing.
(I am blessed as I have seen Hannah’s trusting heart this last year)
~ Moved into a duplex with John-Clay
~ Got hired on full time at Kimray
~ Harvested a couple deer and a hog
(I am blessed as I have seen Caleb’s teachable heart this last year)
~ This summer I was able to pray with two girls as they placed their faith in Jesus for salvation (a 1st)
~ Enjoyed babysitting again, which included a fun trip to Missouri
~ Answered prayer: God provided a way to and from California for a conference J
~ Really enjoyed helping at a kids day camp where Charity and I led a team of 3rd and 4th grade girls
~ Trips to Nashville, Sacramento, Indianapolis (all to help with Children’s Institutes); MN with Hannah to visit the Dorninks; Chicago to serve at IBLP Headquarters for a week; Big Sandy, TX; and Missouri-mentioned earlier
~ Enjoyed having company/friends visit our home
~ Opportunity to spend time with Grandma at the hospital and at home
~ Grateful that the Lord doesn’t just save us, but sanctifies, changes, teaches, and leads us. He is so faithful!
(I am blessed as I have seen Abbie’s faithful heart this last year)
~ Went to Nashville, TN with Hannah and Abbie to teach Children’s Institutes
~ Got wisdom teeth out (a 1st and hopefully a last)
~ Got braces reapplied (hopefully a last)
~ Loved helping teach 3rd & 4th grade girls with Abbie at a day camp this summer
~ Enjoyed taking pictures for the In The Gap newsletter
~ Staying with Grandpa and Grandma has been really special
(I am blessed as I have seen Charity’s peacemaking heart this last year)
~ Been drawing cars for Uncle Darian (and getting paid for it!)
~ Played my mandolin at revival.
~ I always enjoy working with Granddad and had several new and exciting firsts this summer on their farm: got to pregnancy-check a cow, pull calves, vaccinate calves, =)
~ Very excited for Hannah! I’m looking forward to have Dustin as a part of our family! =)
~ Playing volleyball with church group! lots of fun!
~ Started art class…. to get some experience oil painting.
~ 2nd tallest girl
~ Carinna and I got our Lifetime Hunting and Fishing license! Along with that, I shot my first deer, a 100lb, 6 point buck. Also shot a doe and coyote this year. (coyote is probably a last. ;)
(I am blessed as I have seen Maggie’s hungering heart this last year)
~ Helped pull calves at Granny and Granddad’s in the rain. That was a great experience. I’d definitely do it again. : ) We also pregnancy checked a cow.
~ Started art lessons, it has been interesting.
~ Fishing/Hunting/shooting guns
~ Volleyball has been fun!
~ The Dornink’s coming to do the roof was a huge highlight! It was good to have almost their whole family down for several days!!! They were definitely a blessing.
~ I’m so excited for Hannah!!! I know things will be very different which will be hard, but I can’t think of anyone better for Hannah than Dustin. : )
~ While Mom and Dad were gone to Guatemala, Hannah had this grand idea that each day we would draw names and on that day we would do special little things like write notes, give little gifts…it seemed that whole lot of chores were mysteriously done. ; ) It was a fun week.
(I am blessed as I have seen Carinna’s determined heart this last year)
Benjamin (12, the last of having anyone under teenage in the home)
~ First it all started with my brothers moving out which led to the next one…
~ I got my own room!
~ I started running the weed eater when we mow my Grandparents lawns.
~ At our neighborhood Bible club I told the story of the wise man that built his house on the rock and the foolish man that built his house on the sand.
~ We helped at a Day-Camp at Olivet Baptist Church. There, God gave me the opportunity to be an assistant teacher. I helped with the 3-4 grade boys, which led to the next one…
~ I got the opportunity to share my salvation testimony.
~ We also played for a revival at my Grandparents church. I played the guitar which was very fun.
~ My sister is ENGAGED!!!
(I am blessed as I have seen Benjamin’s prayerful heart this past year)
I rejoice to see my family growing in faith that Jesus is the first and the last…but we are all still growing and learning. How about you? Without Jesus as your Lord and Savior, there is reason to fear (read Revelation 22). Jesus is the First and the Last…is He your first and last and everything in between?
Jesus isn’t just the Reason for the season; He is the Reason, period!
Johnny Burnett Family