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Taste and See

Last week, I was scrolling through my social media feed and saw a familiar sight.  A parent had posted a video of their baby’s first bite of cake.  As is customary for many households, this little birthday boy was put in a highchair and presented a small cake made just for him.  Friends and family gathered around the table, pulled out their phones to record, and then cheered him on as happy spectators.  Right on cue, the inquisitive child stuck his hand in the cake, felt the sticky icing, and brought it to his lips.  A smile came across his face as he looked to his parents with eyes of excitement and perhaps even disbelief over how good it tasted, and then he jumped right back in for another big handful.  Most of us have been in that kind of room.  We have watched our children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews experience their first taste of sugar.  While I’m sure every child’s reaction was unique, I would also dare say every reaction shared common ground.  I would guess none of your kids spit out their first dessert and gave up on sugar for the rest of their lives.  Instead, I would suspect they tasted and saw that it was good, and that goodness led them to a lifetime of coming back for more.

David tells us, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV).  The verb for “taste” was commonly used in the Old Testament in a literal sense, but here David beautifully applies that same word as a metaphor.  When he says “taste” the Lord, he is instructing his readers to come and have their own personal experience with Him.  A child can watch other people eat cake all day, but he will only experience its goodness if he exercises the faith to try it for himself.  In the same way, you will never know the goodness of the Lord until you take that step of faith to personally encounter Him.  We can certainly learn about God and observe His beauty from a far, but David says blessed is the man who personally takes refuge in Him. 

As we journey through these New Testament encounters with Jesus Christ, I hope you do not miss out on having your own personal encounter with Him.  I would never advise someone to watch baking shows and never actually try cake.  Nor would I advise someone to go to church, but never experience Jesus in their own life.  God wants us to experience His presence in a personal way, and the good news is He wants us to keep coming back for more each day.  When a child eats cake for the first time, that bite is not meant to be his last.  It is meant to be the first bite of many more to come over the course of his lifetime.  In the same way, God wants His children to keep coming back for more grace each day.  Perhaps you encountered Jesus in the past, but are you still taking refuge in Him?  If not, today would be a great day to taste and see that the Lord is still good.  Worship Him this week.  Speak to Him as a friend because He is (Cf. John 15:15).  Share your heart and concerns, hear His voice through the Word, and receive the peace and joy that can only come from walking with Him (Cf. Philippians 4:6-7)

As we continue in our series, I encourage you to invite others to join you on Sundays.  As we saw in last week’s sermon, lives can truly be changed when burdened friends commit to bring their loved ones to Jesus.  Many assume that their friends and peers would never go to church.  Some of this is for good reason, as George Barna discovered in his research that sadly only 30% of millennials and Gen Z are active in any form of faith.  But he also discovered that about 80% of those polled said they would be open to attending a church if they were personally invited.  The truth is many of our friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even family members have never tasted and seen that the Lord is good, but data also says they are willing to giving it a try.  Worshipping with the body of Christ is great way for them to receive that first taste.  I encourage you to prayerfully consider who you can bring with you and boldly invite them to be your personal guest. Additionally, our Savior Oratorio concert will be an amazing opportunity to bring friends with you this weekend.  The 6pm concert will feature our choir, orchestra, and special musical guests, Veritas and Lindsey Graham. We will also be blessed to have Lindsey singing with us this weekend in our Sunday morning worship services.

Take some time to taste and see that the Lord is good this week, and come ready to worship on our special Senior Recognition Sunday.  Let there be light in your life this week, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Changed – “Holding the Rope” – Luke 5:17-24
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The Power of a Story

Thank you for helping us making Mother’s Day a special weekend at ABC.  I hope all our mothers felt loved and honored, and I’m grateful for the many folks who worked behind the scenes to make it a wonderful day.  I’d like to thank Christina Mendoza for organizing our beautiful photo loop, Carlos Jordan for filming and editing our video tribute with ABC kids, and of course thank you to Jennifer Wilcoxson for making hundreds of delicious chocolate truffles to send home with our moms.  I also want to thank Emily Ross for decorating our photo spot to commemorate the day, and I especially want to thank Kara Kopecky for sharing her inspiring adoption story.  We are grateful to have Tom, Kara, Abigail, and Andrew in our church family, and I hope you were encouraged by their testimony of faith like I was.

I believe it is important for us to find opportunities to share our stories of faith.  In part, this is because the Bible says that God has given each of us a story to tell.  Paul explains, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).  Every Christian has a story of life change.  Some Christians experience radical life change through surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ as adults.  Many others receive Christ at a young age and are changed by being saved from what could have been many difficult years apart from Him.  And all Christians are still experiencing life change as Jesus is actively at work in each of our lives, striving to make us look more like Him (Cf. Philippians 1:6).  God has written a story in your life, and it is good to testify to that work.

David tells us, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1 ESV).  David took time to look back and consider the Lord’s work in his life.  He gave thanks for the victories that God brought him, and he gave thanks for the losses where God sustained him.  David constantly testified to God’s hand on His life.  For the next several weeks, we are going to give opportunities for people to likewise share their own stories of faith.  As you know, we are currently in a sermon series called “Changed,” and it has been encouraging to hear how God is still changing lives in our church.  On ABC Student Weekend, we got to hear how Jesus has changed the lives of some of our youngest members.  On Mother’s Day, we got to hear how Jesus changed the Kopecky home by answering their prayers to become parents.  And now for the next several weeks, we are going to invite individuals to share their stories of faith on our Citizen ATX podcast (https://citizenatx.buzzsprout.com ).

If you’re unfamiliar the podcast, Dr. Matt Gillum and I began this show a little over a year ago.  The purpose was to provide a digital platform for our church to extend spiritual conversations outside of our church walls.  Each week, Matt and I take time to address various cultural topics and challenges through the lens of God’s Word.  We do this with the goal of helping the body of Christ learn how to live as citizens of heaven while walking as citizens of Austin (Cf. Philippians 3:20).  In our new podcast series, we are welcoming guests on to the show each week to talk about their own encounters with Jesus Christ.  Our guests’ stories will each be unique, but they will all have the same theme of change.  I encourage you to tune in with us and be encouraged by their stories of walking with Jesus through the ups and downs of life.  But I also encourage you to look for opportunities to share your own story with others as well.  You could share it over dinner at your home, over coffee with a friend, or even through a social media post online.  God has given each of us platforms and opportunities, we just need to be ready and available to share the story that He has written in our lives. 

Romans 1:16 reminds us, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” May none of us ever be ashamed of God’s work in our lives.  Take time this week to give thanks and recount the deeds of the Lord.  Testify to others, even if you aren’t a natural communicator.  The good news is it is your story.  You cannot mess up that story, nor can anyone argue against your own personal experience.  So may we all speak boldly to God’s work in our lives this week, for the glory of God and for the good of others.  I look forward to seeing you this weekend at 9am or 11:11am.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message: Mother’s Day 2022
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Mother’s Day at ABC

I was so proud of how our students led us at church last Sunday.  ABC Student Weekend was a huge success, as we saw so many teenagers step up to lead us across all our ministry areas.  We had teenagers greeting, ushering, and serving an amazing lunch.  Students shared testimonies in adult BFG classes, and dozens of students helped lead us in worship at both of our services.  I especially want to thank Ashley Benedict and Ava Reddoch for boldly sharing their testimonies on stage.  I also want to thank Nathan Wood, Josh Wright, and our entire student ministry adult leadership team for serving behind the scenes to help make it all happen.  Lastly, I want to thank you church family.  Thank you for encouraging and loving our students, and thank you for generously supporting our church’s ministries for them.  Your continued faithfulness to our general fund helps resource these ministries, and your gifts at last Sunday’s luncheon will help make Beach Week accessible to any teenager that wants to experience a life changing week in Alabama.

The excitement will continue this Sunday as we celebrate Mother’s Day at ABC.  The book of Proverbs tells us, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:28-30 ESV).  I thank God that ABC is filled with Proverbs 31 mothers who truly fear the Lord, and this weekend is an opportunity for our church family to rise up and give them praise.  We’re going to do this through a special time of recognition and prayer, a Mother’s Day photo spot to commemorate the morning, and through a special sweet treat that will be handed out to mothers following our services.  Additionally, both worship services will feature a photo slide show of our ABC moms, a video tribute from some of our ABC kids, and a special live testimony from a mother on stage.  You will not want to miss this weekend, so bring all the mothers in your life, and invite other moms around you to join us for a memorable day of worship.

This Sunday we are also going to rise up to serve mothers in need in the Austin area.  Austin Baptist Church has been a long-time supporter of the Trotter House.  This Christian ministry offers services and resources for mothers who are walking through a pregnancy crisis.  The Trotter House has saved countless lives of babies as they have guided mothers who are in desperate need through their pregnancies and through the raising up of their children.  But most importantly, Trotter House has also seen God save many souls of mothers in their ministry through the process.  As a proud supporter of their ministry, ABC is rolling out our annual “baby bottle campaign” this Sunday.  You will have an opportunity to give above and beyond your tithes to help this vital ministry continue in their mission in Austin, Texas.

Their mission is especially important considering this week’s news.  As you have likely heard, a leaked draft opinion made its way into the news headlines.  The opinion suggests that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  While I was troubled to see a confidential document wrongfully publicized for political purposes, I was also thrilled to see the content of that document.  For nearly 50 years, countless believers have labored, prayed, and worked towards this defining and critical moment in our nation’s history.  I thank God that this evil decision may finally be overturned, and I encourage you to join me in prayer for our Supreme Court.  Pray for courage for our justices, pray for our lawmakers, and most of all pray that justice will roll down like waters.  Overturning Roe v. Wade will undoubtedly save millions of lives, and the church must continue its work in protecting the unborn because the unborn matters to God. 

David reminds us, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 ESV).  We must continue to advocate for the sanctity of life, as the Scriptures are clear that every human, born or unborn, has intrinsic value in God’s eyes.  I encourage you to give towards the Trotter House and their mission in the coming weeks.  But I also encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can serve mothers and children in need.  By the grace of God, abortion numbers will indeed go down if this decision is official.  However, that also means needs will go up for desperate mothers and young children.  May the church rise up in these critical days to serve and to shine the light of Jesus Christ into dark places.   Come prayed up and expectant as we worship Christ together this weekend.  I look forward to seeing you at 9am or 11:11am.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

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Why Student Ministry Matters

I hope you are getting excited for ABC Student Weekend!  This Sunday, the student ministry is “taking over” all our ministry areas.  You will see teenagers greeting, ushering, and helping with the offering.  You will also see students lead us in worship through music, prayer, platform assignments, and through sharing their testimonies on stage.  Following the BFG hour and our 11:11 worship services, you will see students serving our church family lunch at our Super Summer Spaghetti Spectacular.  It’s going to be an amazing morning of worship as we watch these students step up and step out in faith.  I encourage you to come ready to worship, but also come ready to learn from their examples of servant leadership.  Jesus reminds us, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4).

It is so critical for our church to continue to invest in our youth.  They are the future leaders of our country, but we must also remember that they are the future leaders of the church.  It is imperative for us to continue to teach them Scripture and give them opportunities to live out the Scriptures through service.  We do all of this in hopes that “the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:6-7).  We pray that our students will grow to live long and fruitful lives for Jesus Christ, and then pass on their faith to the generation after them.  We all must do our part in passing on the legacy of faith.

This is why we offer Bible study every weekend for 6th to 12th grade students.  This is why every student has trained adult leaders who know their names and strive to learn their stories.  This is why we offer a midweek worship service for students, so they have a place to connect with others and connect with God.  Likewise, we offer camp, Disciple Now, and special events to disciple students and help them build Christian community.  But we also give our students opportunities to learn how to serve others through service projects, mission trips, our children’s worship team (Elevate), and through special opportunities like this Sunday’s worship services.  If you have students, I hope you have them engaged in our student ministry because they are doing amazing work.

I’m proud to pastor a church that truly does love kids and provides the necessary resources and support to reach them.  Thank you for your continued generosity to the general fund budget, as your tithes and offerings make this ministry possible.  This Sunday, I encourage you to do two things.  First, come ready.  Pray for our students and come expectant to see God work through them.  When you see a student serving in a t-shirt, encourage him or her.  Cheer them on as they boldly lead us this weekend.  Second, come hungry.  We are offering a free spaghetti lunch at 11:15am for those who attend the early service, and a second lunch at 12:15pm for those who attend our second service.  We will have plenty of food, and it is ok if you did not RSVP.  Please plan to stick around to eat with us as it will be a great time of community and fellowship for our church family.  But it will also be the perfect time for you to make a contribution to our student ministry’s camp fund.  All proceeds of this lunch go towards camp expenses and help ensure that every teenager that wants to go to camp can go to camp.  Thank you in advance for your generosity and support for our teenagers.

Have a great rest of your week, and I look forward to hearing about how our students’ lives have been forever changed by encountering Jesus.  Join me in praying that this will be the story for many more in the years to come.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sundays Sermon: Changed – “The New Birth” – John 3:1-8
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New Series This Sunday

He is risen indeed!  What an amazing Easter weekend at ABC.  I am so grateful for how God moved through our worship services, and it was a joy to see so many new faces walk through our doors.  In total, we welcomed 489 people to our Good Friday service, and we saw 1,431 people worship with us on Easter Sunday.  We distributed 4,000 filled eggs to children in our community, and I believe the name of Jesus Christ was lifted up and exalted all weekend long.  A lot of unseen hard work went in behind the scenes to make the weekend such a success.  I want to thank Derek Tackett, Daulton Halliburton, and our facilities team for building our beautiful Good Friday cross and keeping our facilities pristine.  Also thank you to Janis Loukas, Joy Nail, and the entire hospitality committee for beautifully decorating our stage with all those vibrant flowers.  Thanks to Dr. Todd Stearns, the choir, orchestra, and entire worship/AV team for tirelessly rehearsing to make the music incredible.  And thank you to the ABC Kids staff and volunteers for doing a fantastic job with the egg hunt, all while managing a huge wave of babies in the preschool hallway!  There are countless other volunteers that I could mention as the list does go on and on.  But thank you to everyone who served, prayed, invited, and worshipped with us.  To God be the glory for great things He has done.

This weekend I am kicking off a new sermon series titled, “Changed.”  Each week we will examine a famous encounter with Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  While the characters encountering Christ will vary week to week, we will notice that there is a common thread in all their stories: meeting with Jesus changes everything.   The apostle Paul explained that this principle is still true for those who meet Jesus Christ today, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Jesus Christ gives us new life.  In fact, He went as far as to promise that He will give us life to the full: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

But the truth is sometimes our lives don’t feel very “abundant.”  Sometimes we are just running on fumes, and we feel like we are on the verge of hitting empty.  Everyday people, events, and circumstances have the propensity to drain us.  Consequently, it’s easy to find yourself walking through this life filled with anger and cynicism, anxiety and stress, or even depressed and full of regret.  Then the question is how can we be filled back up?  The Bible tells us that we need to continue to have encounters with Christ.  The author of Hebrews explains, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  Meeting with Jesus isn’t a one-time transaction to be solely conducted at the moment of your salvation.  Rather, He invites us to meet with Him daily so He can continue to transform our hearts and minds.

My question for you to consider in this series is, “what needs to change in your life?”  Maybe it’s your attitude, maybe it’s your marriage, maybe it’s your finances.  Perhaps it’s an addiction or a sin that no one knows of.  I can assure you that we all have our own lists because the Bible explains that each of us in Christ are still a work in progress (Philippians 1:6).  But the good news of the Gospel is that we have an agent of change in Jesus Christ who is readily available to help us look more like Him.  You and I can experience life change if we commit to continue our pursuit of Him.  I look forward to getting into God’s word with you this Sunday, and I encourage you to invite a friend to join you who may need an encounter with Christ.  Easter Sunday reminds us of the power that a personal invitation to church can make.  Don’t exercise that power once a year, but instead continue to invite your peers to sit with you so they can also experience another resurrection Sunday this weekend.  Have a great week and I look forward to worshipping with you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Easter Sunday Message: “Remember the Gospel” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
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Our living hope

Christ is risen!  This profound proclamation is the reason for our worship this weekend.  The significance of the resurrection cannot be overstated as Paul explained it best: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV).  Simply put, if Jesus has not received new life, we cannot receive it either.  But praise be to God that the tomb is empty, our debt is paid, and together we can boldly proclaim this Easter, “He is risen indeed!”

Peter tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).  Easter is all about hope.  In our culture, hope casually comes and goes.  A new opportunity may pop up, but then it may fade away.  A new relationship may form, but then it may fizzle.  A new investment may thrive, but then it may sink.  We have all gotten our hopes up only to be let down shortly thereafter.  However, Jesus Christ offers us a better hope.  Jesus IS our living hope, and walking in faith with Him will lead you to life, even life to the full (cf John 10:10). 

This week I encourage you to celebrate that hope.  If you have Jesus, you truly do have everything.  Paul put it best, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 ESV).  Every day we face battles in our lives, but Easter reminds us that the greatest battle has already been won.  Take time this week to celebrate our Savior.  Don’t let the celebration begin on Sunday, but rather let that be the crescendo to a week filled with worship.  Spend extra time privately praying, singing, and reading God’s Word.  Journal, reflect, and give thanks for what Christ has done in your life.  Easter reminds us that He is alive, so be sure to spend time communicating with Him today.

Secondly, I encourage you to share that hope.  Easter weekend presents a unique opportunity to invite visitors.  Certainly, you can always invite a friend to church, but Easter is a special moment where people will be more receptive to that invitation than usual.  I encourage you to call, text, email, and even post on social media.  A personal invitation has always been, and always will be, the number one-way people find their way inside a church building.  Make it your goal to have a guest sitting right beside you.  Pray over names, invite, and see what God may do through simple intentionality.

I hope you plan to start your weekend off right by worshipping with us at 6pm on Good Friday.  We will have a beautiful reflective service featuring our choir and orchestra.  It will be a meaningful time of worship as we remember the high price that was paid for us at Calvary.  I will lead us in a brief word, and we will conclude our service by observing the Lord’s Supper.  Don’t miss this opportunity to remember the cross and prepare your heart for our 9am and 10:30am celebration services Sunday morning.  It’s going to be an amazing weekend at ABC!  I encourage you to pray, invite, and come expectant to hear from the Lord as we lift up the name of Jesus together. 

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message : Palm Sunday 2022 – Luke 19:28-40
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Preparing our hearts

I hope you enjoyed last Sunday as much as I did!  The Masters at ABC was a big hit, and I do want to thank everyone who helped make it happen.  Derek Tackett and our facilities team did an outstanding job building and setting up our golf attractions, Nathan Wood gave great vision for the event, and Jennifer Wilcoxson and her food service team helped put together our memorable donut wall.  It was fun watching people of all ages laugh and fellowship together all morning long in God’s house.  I’m also so proud of the 100+ volunteers who gave up their Saturday to serve as the hands and feet of Christ last weekend.  Our missions committee did an outstanding job organizing our ABC Serves event, and I loved seeing our yellow shirts scattered throughout Austin to serve our community.  Thank you to everyone who participated and to all who helped organize this impactful day of ministry.

This weekend marks the kickoff to Holy Week at ABC.  This Sunday we will have special Palm Sunday worship services featuring beautiful music, a performance from our children’s choir, and a message centered around Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem.  It’s important for us to prepare our hearts for this coming week as we celebrate the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I’d recommend we follow the example of David in the coming days, as he tells us, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!  I will sing and make melody!” (Psalm 57:7).  David said his heart was steadfast, or fixed, on the Lord.  His heart’s focus was not wavering or moving in various directions.  He chose to give God his full attention and his full devotion, regardless of what was happening around him.

This is worth noting because David is hiding from Saul in a cave. As you may remember in this passage, Samuel privately anointed David as a King, yet he was still far removed from the comfort and luxury of a throne.  The present king, Saul, was hunting David as he recognized the threat to his own kingship.  This led David to run and spend many nights hiding in the darkness of caves.  Nonetheless, he chose to keep his heart fixed on the Lord amidst his trials.  He would not allow the present darkness and distractions to rob him of worshiping the Lord.  While none of us are physically hiding in a cave, I think it’s fair to say that we are all facing our own battles and threats this week.  Some are facing threats of sickness and disease, while others are grieving the loss of loved ones.  Some of us are in the battlefield of fractured relationships, while others are experiencing financial loss.  All of us have concern over the affairs of our country, and of course our hearts are burdened over what is transpiring in Ukraine.  Nonetheless, it’s important that our hearts stay focused and remain steadfast on the Lord this coming Holy Week.

Holy Week provides an opportunity for you to worship and remember Jesus Christ for who He is and what He’s done.  Don’t step into this next week lightly, but instead, be intentional in fixing your heart on Christ.  First, take time to prepare your heart.  Spend extra time in His Word next week.  I encourage you to read through the passion week accounts in all the Gospels.  Also, turn to 1 Corinthians 15, and spend time reading and meditating on perhaps the greatest resurrection chapter in the Bible.  Let your mind by renewed by the truth of the passion account and prepare yourself for Easter.  Secondly, pray from your heart.  Commit to pray more often this coming week.  Set reminders on your phone if you need to.  Pray prayers of confession and thank Jesus for His constant grace.  Pray prayers of petition for the things that are heavy on your heart.   But most of all, pray prayers of thanksgiving for Christ giving you a new heart to pray from.

Third and finally, I encourage you to invite people on your heart.  Each of us are ambassadors for Christ, and I have no doubt that God wants to use you to reach those who are around you.  Invite people to join you at Palm Sunday, Good Friday, or Easter.  God puts people on our hearts for a reason, and you never know what God may do through one simple invitation.  Easter is the perfect opportunity to engage those who are not regulars in the church.  Let others know that you love them, and that you’d like to bring them with you as your guest for this special celebration.

God is going to do a great work this coming Holy Week.  Set your heart on Him and may we all come into His house ready to “sing and make melody” just like David.  Have a great week and I’ll see you in worship this Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “Better Living” – Hebrews 13
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There is joy in the house of the Lord

We had another wonderful Sunday at ABC.  It was encouraging to watch several of our young families step up on stage so they could step out in their faith through our parent child dedication.  There is no greater commitment that a parent can make other than to raise their child in a Christ-centered home.  I’m so proud of these families for inviting Jesus to come and light up their home, and I’m proud of you, church family, for your steadfast commitment to invest in them.  It is pivotal that we continue to do anything and everything we can to shine God’s light into the next generation of Austin, Texas.  Thank you for your consistent prayers, your volunteer efforts with our kids, your encouragement to our parents, and your continued faithfulness in giving so we can continue to provide ministries that make an eternal impact on the home.

This weekend will feature an exciting golf-themed Sunday called “The Masters at ABC.”  As you might have gathered, we’re playing off the upcoming Masters tournament in Augusta by having our very own golf fun right here at ABC.  This Sunday will feature a nine-hole putt putt course in the Great Hall, a driving range and closest to the pin challenge on the field, and an amazing donut wall in “the clubhouse” at the café.  We encourage you to wear your golf clothes as we are having a best-dressed competition, and I hope you’re planning to invite your golf buddies and neighbors who you know love the game.

This Sunday will certainly be a fun and memorable morning in the life of our church, and I think it’s important for us to have fun together.  After all, if anyone in the world should be smiling and filled with hope, it should be the body of Christ.  As Peter reminds us, we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  Jesus Christ has united us with a hope that is unwavering, and He has filled us with the joy of His eternal presence in our lives (Psalm 16:11).  That joy should be evident to those who are around us, and that joy should lead us to enter His house each week with high expectations.  I’ve always loved David’s sentiments when he said,  “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).  To put it in modern day terms, David was ecstatic when someone invited him to church!  Why would be he be so thrilled?  I believe it’s because he knew there was joy in the house of the Lord.

I do believe there is joy in this house every Sunday.  I hope you sense the same thing, and I hope that joy leads you to come to church every weekend with high expectations.  Yes, this particular weekend will offer some special attractions that we will enjoy together.  But every weekend provides the same opportunity for us to be renewed through the joy of worship and through the joy of spending time with His people.   I believe many who are outside of our church walls are looking for that kind of joy, so I encourage you to think outwardly this week.  There will be a lot of joy in this house this Sunday so don’t miss the opportunity to share it with others. 

I hope you enjoy this beautiful weather outside, and I look forward to worshipping (and golfing) with you this Sunday. 

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

THIS SUNDAY AT ABC
Last Sunday’s Sermon: Hebrews 12:1-2
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Ministry is supposed to be hard

If you were blessed to have a spring break, I hope you enjoyed it and are now settling back into your regular routine.  Bethany and I loved spending some time away with family and friends, and I was grateful for the outstanding message that our Student Minister, Nathan Wood, delivered in my absence.  As you all know, I was out last weekend along with our Executive Pastor, Matt Gillum, who was celebrating the newest addition to his family, baby Tag.  And while we were both out, I was so encouraged to see that the ship kept on sailing just fine.  I believe it should be the goal for every leader to have things go off without a hitch when he or she is not there, however, that’s only possible if you have an outstanding team standing beside you.  I’m grateful for our A+ staff and lay leaders who lead so well week in and week out.  Thank you for your diligence and your pursuit of excellence in all things.  You truly do make a difference.

This Sunday is the beginning of our spring sprint here at ABC.  This weekend is our parent child dedication, and we’re so proud of the six young families that are publicly committing to raise their children in Christ-centered homes.  The following weekend will feature ABC Serves, our church-wide local service day.  Over 100 volunteers will be deployed to serve as the hands and feet of Christ all across Austin.  The next day is the “Masters at ABC,” which will be a fun golf-themed morning that will offer special attractions for our church family and their guests to enjoy.  We’ll have a nine-hole putt-putt course, a closest to the pin challenge, and a “birdie ball” driving range with prizes.  In between worship and BFG, you’ll even be able to drop by “the clubhouse” to get a donut off our donut wall.  The following weekend is Palm Sunday, which will present our children’s choir in both services.  Later that week, we’ll have our first ever Good Friday service with beautiful music from our orchestra and choir, and the climactic moment of the weekend will be our celebration Easter worship services, which will also include a family egg hunt after the second service.

As you can see there are many things on the horizon, and that’s not even including the month of May which will showcase our ABC Student Ministry Weekend, our Mother’s Day celebration, and our Savior’s Oratorio concert featuring our own choir/orchestra and special musical guests, Veritas.  Our church is not short on ministries and it’s safe to say that ABC is well and alive.  But the question might be asked, “why do we do all these things?”  After all, each of these endeavors demands staff, volunteers, and costly resources.  There are certainly easier paths to travel in church ministry, but I believe the apostle Paul explains why we should work hard within the church.  He writes, Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (Colossians 1:28-29). 

Paul says everything he did in ministry was “toil.”  In other words, he’s saying ministry was hard work!  Paul labored to reach the lost and disciple the saved, but he shared that the Lord provided the necessary energy for him to do so. And today in 2022, I would argue things haven’t changed much in modern church ministry. Ministry is still hard, and the good news is God still provides the grace we need to do it. If ministry feels easy all the time, I would contend that you might not actually be ministering. Because it is not easy to reach the lost, nor is it easy to disciple the saved.  Ministry by its very nature demands personal sacrifice, but the good news is our sacrifice isn’t in vain.  When ministry is done effectively, we see progress in our goal of presenting “everyone mature in Christ.”  We work hard so that others may grow up in the likeness of Jesus Christ.  We fill up a calendar to provide opportunities for people to worship Jesus, to learn how to serve Him, to build Christian community, to be discipled through His Word, and for the lost to be saved through the proclamation the Gospel.  So we don’t work hard just to stay busy, we work hard for the purpose of seeing God change lives. That’s why it’s so important that we do not “grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Many people give up in ministry because it is hard. The harvest often doesn’t come quickly enough and frustration sets in. This usually leads to us working outside of His strength, and burnout then awaits for us right around the corner. But this spring, I encourage you to abide in Christ and not grow weary of doing good, but instead commit to do two simple things.  First, be a part of this amazing work.  We all give our time and money to something, but I would argue that nothing provides a greater return on our investment than serving the Lord.  Each of our ministries need more volunteers right now that will sacrificially serve as co-laborers.  It’s one thing to attend a ministry, but you receive an entirely different level of joy when you partner with others in that ministry.  Each of us has an opportunity to serve as partners in ministry through sharing our time and talent, but also through sharing our treasure.  Every ministry in the church is only possible through the faithful tithes and offerings of God’s people.  So thank you for being a generous church, and I encourage to continue to partner with us through both your spiritual and financial gifts. Your faithfulness shines the light of Jesus Christ all across the city of Austin.

But secondly, I would encourage you to not only be a part of the ministry, but also invite someone else to come experience it with you.  Perhaps for the first time in two years, almost everyone is re-engaging with culture like they did before the pandemic.  With such amazing things happening in our church, it would be a shame for you to enjoy them all alone.  All of our ministries have open doors to those who are not here yet, as we truly do want to present “everyone as mature in Christ.” God has given you a sphere of influence, and I encourage you to prayerfully consider who you can bring alongside you starting this Sunday.  I’ve witnessed the power of a personal invitation more times than I can count.  Your personal intentionality with friends and neighbors can truly change their lives. It’s easier to just be the beneficiary of ministries, but it’s much more rewarding to watch God bless others through those same ministries.

God is doing a great work at ABC, and I hope that you plan to be a part of it this spring.  Don’t grow weary in doing good, and I look forward to worshipping with you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

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Take a break this spring break

Growing up I loved playing basketball.  Whether it was playing in the driveway, starting a pick-up game at the recreation center, or competing on an organized team, I always loved being in the game.  I loved basketball because it was a competitive and physical sport, but I also loved it because of its fast pace.  The game of basketball always has action going on, and I loved being in the middle of it.  So naturally, I hated being taken out of the game.  In every game, the coach would eventually sub me out and make me take a breather, but I never really wanted to step back.  However, the truth is while I didn’t want to take the break, I’m fairly confident now that I needed it each time.

For many of us, life is a fast-paced game.  There is always something going on.  Many of us have demanding jobs and countless obligations at home.  Our calendars fill up quickly with kids’ activities, various hobbies, and social commitments.  Things unexpectedly rob us of the little extra time that we do have, such as home projects, pressing chores, and unwanted repairs.  All of these things make our days fly by and most of us spend our lives constantly running out of breath.  That is why God wants to pull us out of the game from time to time to give us the rest that we need.

David explains, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).  David beautifully depicts our God as a loving shepherd who cares for His sheep.  David of course knew plenty about shepherding as he spent countless hours watching over his own flock in green pastures.  David contends that just as any good shepherd tends to the needs of his sheep, our great chief shepherd, Jesus Christ, personally cares for every one of His sheep (cf. John 10, 1 Peter 5:4).  Part of that care is guiding us to places of rest.

Shepherds would lead their flocks to green pastures and still waters to find nourishment and peace, and our shepherd likewise desires to lead us to places of rest for our souls.  For some of us, those green pastures are places of solitude.  Many of us recharge by getting away from people and quietly sitting in the presence of God with His Word.  Others are revived through the fellowship of other believers, as we leave those times together with our cups overflowing.  Some of us find rest in our prayer walks, our journaling, or our time spent in nature.  Others are revived through private worship and joyful singing to our Lord.  Our shepherd leads each of us down various pathways, but all of them lead us to that same place of rest.

My question for you this week is, “are you finding rest?”  Sleep is a necessary part of that rest, but it is not sufficient.  I know this because there are countless people who sleep 7-8 hours a night yet still feel restless.  The rest I’m speaking of is soul-care.  Sometimes we don’t take good care of our souls because we don’t want to be pulled out of the game.  But our shepherd says we all need a break sometimes.  Even Jesus himself would often break apart from the busyness of His own life and ministry to seek out rest from His Father.  And I can assure you if Jesus needed rest, you and I would be fools to think we are exempt.

Some of you are fortunate enough to have a spring break this week.  If you are on break, I encourage you to maximize it.  Don’t just take a break from your normal life to get busy all over again with something else.  Instead, be intentional in finding those green pastures and still waters.  If you don’t have a vacation this week, the good news is rest is still on the table for you.  You may not have as much free time at your disposal, but you can still carve out time to be renewed by Him daily.  Identify that pathway that the Holy Spirit is leading you to walk on, and then take some time this week to find those still waters. 

Does your soul need a break?  If so, I encourage you to pull yourself out of the game for a breather this week.  I look forward to experiencing rest with you this Sunday as we sabbath together at ABC.  Have a wonderful week, and we will see you in worship this weekend.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message – Jesus is Better: “Better Together” Hebrews 10:19-25
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Waiting on the Lord

As I was driving to work today, I noticed a few encouraging things outside.  The sun was shining brightly, the cold air felt like it was beginning to move out, and I even saw a few plants that were trying to bloom.  It reminded me that winter is almost behind us, and spring is just around the corner.  I love all of God’s seasons, but perhaps spring is the most refreshing of them all.  Especially as Texans, we are always counting down the days to spring after a few winter months filled with cold temperatures and brown landscapes.

I think our nation is looking for brighter days in general as well.  The war in Ukraine has left a dark cloud of fear and heartache over what is going to come next.  Rising gas prices and inflation as a whole has all of us frustrated and anxious.  Two years in a pandemic has left our country tired, and I think everyone is ready for more than just a spring season.  We are ready for a new season in life.  The good news is while we may be exhausted, our God is not tired.  Isaiah reminds us, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might he increases strength (Isaiah 40:28-29).  Our God does not grow weary.  All of creation may groan (Romans 8:22), but our God never does.  Instead He is steadfast in His sovereignty and resilient in His purposes.  And fortunately for us, He is willing to share His strength with us.  Isaiah continues, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31). 

God can bring a spring season into your life spiritually.  The grass will turn green outside and the flowers will begin to bloom here shortly.  But the Son could also shine into your heart this week if you let Him.  Isaiah says all of us will grow weary at some point, but the Lord will renew our strength.  He said the secret is we must wait on the Lord to receive that strength.  Personally, I hate waiting.  I don’t like waiting in lines at the store, I don’t like waiting for the oven to preheat, and I especially don’t like sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office.  Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t like waiting on the Lord either.  This often leads us to search out quicker and lesser sources of strength.  We look for renewal through our phones and televisions, and while they may distract us, they also drain us even further.  We seek relief through food or substances, but we still feel empty even though we are filled up.  We search for relief through money or experiences, but we still feel tired when the excitement wears down.  That’s why Isaiah says we’d be much better suited to simply wait on the Lord.

When we patiently and intentionally pursue Jesus Christ, we discover that He’s always true to His promises.  He does reward those who wait on Him.  God wants each of us to mount up with wings like eagles, but the ticket to get us there is steadfast faith.  It’s reading your Bible even on the days you don’t feel like it.  It’s fighting to pray even when your mind is full of to-do lists.  It’s serving in the church even when you think someone else could or should do it themselves.  It’s going to church and worshipping even when it’d be easy to just stay in bed.  It’s so important for each of us to worship Him in our wait because God can, and will, reward our faithful hearts with the spring that we all desire.

How can you be faithful to Him this week?  Have you been searching for strength in all the wrong places?  Rest assured that God wants to give power to the faint, but you have to plug into Him to receive it.  My prayer for you this week is the same as the Apostle Paul’s: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Have a great week, spring your clock forward on Saturday night, and I look forward to worshipping with you on this Lord’s Supper Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “A Better Sacrifice” – Hebrews 9:11-14
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Thoughts on Ukraine

A lot has changed in our world this past week. All eyes have been on Ukraine, as people from all nations are watching Russia lead an unjust and unprovoked invasion on their neighboring country. It has been heartbreaking to watch so many families be broken apart. The UN reports that more than 800,000 civilians have fled Ukraine to Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova. The EU is also now estimating that up to 4 million Ukrainians may end up trying to leave the country because of the Russian invasion. Tragically, many of these families will never be reunited as the same because the death counts for both soldiers and civilians continues to rise daily. Continuously watching this news coverage can quickly become overwhelming. We all carry a heavy burden for those who are suffering, but many of us also carry a heavy anxiety over the impact this war could make on our own nation. Unfortunately, moments of crisis like this seem to be inevitable in our broken world. That’s why it’s important for the church to learn how to navigate through these storms with a Biblical worldview. Considering that, I’d encourage each of you to do three things this week.

First, look outward. The Ukrainian people are suffering deeply, and you and I should strive to bring them comfort. Paul reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I believe we can bring comfort to the Ukrainians in two primary ways. The first is through prayer. Commit to pray for God’s peace and comfort to reign in the hearts of those who are suffering. Pray for God to make Himself known in this situation, and for the Gospel to shine brightly into dark places. But also consider bringing them comfort through your generosity. I’m proud of our church for sending $25,000 this week to provide aid for refugees, and I’d encourage you to prayerfully consider making an individual contribution to one of our partnering organizations.

Secondly, look upward. The author of Hebrews tells us to “look to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). Our great high priest is our anchor in the storm (Hebrews 6:19), and through Him we can receive the grace of God that we need (Hebrews 4:16). God reminded Isaiah during his own tumultuous times that “I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen” (Isaiah 44:6-7). No one is like our God. He alone is before all things and He alone is ahead of them. He was not caught off guard by the invasion, and He is no less sovereign than He was before this war. Evil cannot thwart God’s purposes or His promises (Genesis 50:20), and the kingdom will continue to expand through this (Matthew 16:18). So fear not, nor be afraid, but instead cast all of your anxiety on Him this week because He cares for you (Isaiah 44:8, 1 Peter 5:7).

Finally, look forward. War is a horrible thing to endure, but we must not forget that one day all wars will finally cease. Isaiah tells us, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6,9). One day death shall be no more (Revelation 21:4), and all nations will know that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11). Earthly kingdoms always come and go, but the kingdom of God lives forever. And the good news is Jesus has promised to make room for us to live with Him forever. That’s why He tells us “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2). So I encourage you this week, don’t let your heart be troubled like the rest of the world, because your hope goes far beyond this world. Look forward to heaven, and let the comfort of its certainty transform your heart and mind this week. Keep your eyes on Jesus this week, and I look forward to worshipping with you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “A Better Covenant” – Hebrews 8
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What is a church’s goal?

Our church’s mission statement is “to make believers out of unbelievers and disciples out of believers.” That statement was on my mind last week as I was preparing for last Sunday’s sermon in Hebrews chapter 6. The author of Hebrews seemed to be on a similar mission when he wrote his famous warning passages. His piercing words call for the lost to receive salvation through Jesus Christ, but they also call for the saved to press on to maturity in Jesus Christ. He reminds unbelievers that it’s possible to know a lot about Jesus but not actually know Him, but he also reminds believers that it’s possible to know Jesus but never grow up in Him. These verses are a call to action regardless of where you are at on your spiritual journey. And while his words were cutting, I’m confident his goal was not to cut you and me down. I believe his goal was to see lives changed.

Changed lives should always be the goal of the church. Our mission statement guides us, but life change is what drives us. It should be our motivation, and it is the profit we will reap when we are effective in our mission. We want to see the lost have their lives changed by Jesus. Our church must always think of those who are not here yet and aim to introduce them to Jesus Christ. People are the only thing we will take with us to heaven, so evangelism must always drive us in our mission. But we also want to see believers have their lives changed as they take their next step in discipleship. We want to see people grow up to understand the Word of God and apply it into their lives. Our goal is to see homes strengthened, communities built, addictions broken, and believers begin to experience the fullness of life (John 10:10).

The last couple weeks we have seen life change here at ABC. We have seen some surrender their lives to Jesus Christ for the first time. I’m proud of the church members who were a part of the journeys that got them there. I’m proud of those who are right now praying for their lost neighbors, friends, and colleagues. I’m proud of those who are building relationships with folks outside of our church, and I’m thrilled to see some of our church members are beginning to bring their lost friends to church. The church is not a country club for the saints, it is a hospital for sinners. The church will only come alive when each of us understands that truth, and we all begin to view the world outside our church walls with Gospel-centered eyes.

But I’m also proud of the lives we’ve seen changed from inside our church. We have seen marriages strengthened, friendships forged, and iron sharpen iron each week. I’ve seen new people step up to serve in ministries for the first time, committing to use their gifts for the glory of God. Many church members are caring for one another and carrying each other’s burdens in times of turmoil (Galatians 6:2). Some are growing to understand God’s Word for the first time through personal reading plans and commitments to BFGs. Midweek discipleship is growing, and we’ve had successful Christian enrichment events including our marriage conference and women’s ministry Twilight Tea and Testimonies event. Some have started to establish the spiritual discipline to worship through giving their tithes and offerings, and because of that, they are now partners in all these wonderful ministries that are bringing life change.

My question this week is “what is your next step?” Stagnation has no place in the Christian calling. We are told to, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1). How is God calling you to continue to mature this week? Ask Him how you can help us fulfill our mission to make believers out of unbelievers and disciples out of believers. Is He calling you to pray and minister to a lost acquaintance or loved one? Maybe He’s calling you to serve, give, or grow in a Bible Fellowship Group. I do not know what He is calling you to do, I just know that He is calling. I’m praying that you and I will simply be faithful enough to answer. Have a great rest of your week and I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “A Better Warning” Hebrews 5:11-6:9
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Africa Recap

It was great to be back with you last Sunday!  I missed you the previous week, but my time away in Africa truly was a blessing.  Our adventure to Kenya was billed as a “band of brothers” trip, as the primary goal of this trip was to unite young pastors from around the country with the common goals of being devoted husbands, fathers, and ministers that are committed to making an impact for Christ.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” I was certainly sharpened last week as I spent time with these great men of God.

The Pastors met every night to talk life and ministry

Our group shared some amazing experiences together in Kenya.  We were exposed to significant ministry needs as we visited impoverished villages without water, orphanages and schools that are under-resourced, and saw firsthand some of the most difficult slums.  But we also got to see some of the most beautiful parts of Africa.  We spent a few days in the Maasai Mara going on safaris to observe every animal that you can think of.  It truly felt like walking through a zoo with no walls.  We even got to ride a hot air balloon over The Mara one morning and watch the wildlife wake up as the sun was rising. 

But the most powerful experiences we shared were hearing the stories of what God is doing in Africa. One evening we heard from a Kenyan named Maureen.  Maureen was raised in the slums of Nairobi but was blessed to become a graduate of Compassion International.  At a young age, she was selected to receive sponsorship through an American family who committed to support her every month.   Their generosity funded physical nourishment and formal education, but it also gave her the hope of Jesus Christ.  She explained that she came to know Christ through her time with Compassion, and then her entire family likewise came to saving faith in Jesus.  She is now married and has a family of her own, but she also launched a women’s ministry that focuses on at-risk pregnant teens.  She devotes her life to serving 12 to 14 year old girls who are pregnant from rape, incest, or prostitution.  By God’s grace, she has saved the lives of many babies, but she has also seen God save the souls of many desperate mothers.

Our group of pastors praying over Maureen

On another day we went into a Maasai village where families still live in huts with no running water.  For years, ladies in the village would walk 3 kilometers to the river to gather water alongside the hippos and crocodiles.  This all changed 4 years ago when Christians were motivated to sponsor a well in their village, so they now have clean water that is accessible just yards away from their homes.  We also visited a remarkable church in an impoverished neighborhood, and it was amazing to see over 2,000 people in attendance that day.  This particular church has become a beacon of hope for the area as they are the city’s hub for clean water.  People in the community come to the church to draw water, but many more have received the living water of Jesus Christ.  I was so encouraged to see hundreds of Kenyans waiting with anticipation for the doors of the church to open so they could come in and worship.

David reminds us in Psalm 86:8-10, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,  nor are there any works like yours.  All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.  For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.”  Trips like this always remind us that God is doing a mighty work around the globe.  And the good news is He has invited each of us to join Him in that work.  I encourage you to consider how you can make an impact in missions this year.  Perhaps you need to participate in one of our 2022 ABC mission trips, or maybe God is leading you to give generously to our missions offerings.  I also encourage you to pray for me and our church’s leadership as we continue to seek God’s vision for our church’s role in international missions in the days to come.  There is more work to be done, and I believe God has bigger plans for ABC in the days ahead.  I encourage you join us on mission so that others “may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.  Consider now who you can invite to join you because you never know how one simple invitation can change a life.  Have a great week, and I’ll see you this weekend.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “Better High Priest” Hebrews 4:14-16
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What’s your mission?

Last weekend was a long but rewarding weekend in the life of our church.  As many of you know, we hosted ABC’s first ever marriage conference on Friday and Saturday.  Pastor and best-selling author, Gary Thomas, did a wonderful job teaching us how marriage can become a doorway to a closer walk with God and with each other.  I was encouraged to see the Great Hall packed with multi-generational couples who were committed to strengthening their marriages.  It has been refreshing to hear positive reports and testimonies come back from several of the attending couples.  Some spouses told me that the conference led them to talk through some important things they had never discussed before.  Others told me the most impactful moment was them praying together as husband and wife, as they had not established that routine into their homes.  I have no doubt that God sharpened many marriages and homes were strengthened because of the ministry that took place here at ABC.

I believe the momentum of the conference carried over to Sunday morning.  Dr. Stearns, Noah Hartwell, and our worship teams led us beautifully in both services, and I was encouraged by the response from many in attendance.  We once again had several new members added to the family, and we also had one gentleman surrender his life to Jesus Christ.  He explained to us that he attended the 9am service and sensed God calling him to salvation.  However, he left church following the service telling himself that he would consider it further.  But he said that he then remembered the entire sermon was focused on the idea that, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7b-8a).  He said he knew the Holy Spirit wasn’t calling him to surrender tomorrow, He was calling him to respond today.  So he turned around, came back to church, and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

I share these stories because I want you to be encouraged by what God is doing in our church.  There is a reason why we do what we do.  It’s to fulfill our church’s mission, “to make believers out of unbelievers and disciples out of believers.”  I believe we met both of those objectives last weekend.  The name of Jesus was lifted up, marriages were strengthened, and believers were discipled as we were all challenged to continue to seek His rest daily.  But unbelievers were also called to repentance and faith, and thankfully one gentleman entered into His rest for the first time (cf. Matt 11:28).  Our church’s mission statement is rooted in the great commission that Jesus gave His church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

When we “go” and obey Jesus’ directive on our lives, I believe the church begins to see a profit its efforts: changed lives.  Life change is the motivation that should drive our church.  We want to see God continue to progressively change our own lives to look more like Jesus (Philippians 1:6).  But we also want to see God light up the lives of those who are still walking in darkness.  Gospel transformation is our motivation, and my prayer is that you will help us carry out that mission.  How can you help make believers out of unbelievers, and disciples out of believers this week?  How can you share the hope of Jesus Christ with those who are currently trapped in darkness?  And how can you help spur on other believers in our church “to love and good works”? (Hebrews 10:24).  When we each answer those questions well, the church begins to truly shine as that city on a hill.

Thank you in advance for your prayers as I head out to Africa at the end of this week.  Please pray for our group of Pastors traveling together, and pray for Bethany and the kids as they hold down the fort without me.  I look forward to joining you online from Kenya, as Dr. O.S. Hawkins delivers a powerful message from God’s Word this Sunday.  Please help he and Susie feel right at home here at ABC.  God bless you and your home, and I hope you have a great week.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “Better Rest” – Hebrews 3:7-4:3
This Sunday at ABC – Special Guest Speaker: Dr. O.S. Hawkins
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Marriage is a team sport

Football seasons are quite the roller coaster ride.  Every team and every fan begin the season with high expectations and great hope.  All our teams start the season undefeated, but as we know, that does not last very long.  The season eventually kicks off and wins and losses begin to accumulate.  Some teams secure early wins but then start to underperform.  Other teams struggle out the gates, but then somehow find a way to right the ship.  All teams experience unexpected obstacles such as player and coaching mistakes, injuries, and bad calls by the refs.  However, some teams find a way to succeed amidst those ups and downs.  Consequently, not all teams remain standing at this point in the season.  That privilege goes to the handful of teams that learned how to persevere and get better amidst their low points.

In many ways, I think marriage could be compared to a football season.  In part, this is because marriage truly is a team sport.  Through marriage, God brings two individuals together and unites them as one team on their wedding day.  And every married team begins their season of marriage with very high hopes.  I’ve never known a bride and groom that wasn’t optimistic about their future and expecting many wins.  However, when you fast forward a little bit into their seasons, many husbands and wives are surprised to discover challenging obstacles in their home and they experience a few losses.  Nonetheless, some marriages still manage to find a way to persevere and get better, even amidst their low points.  The question is, what makes a marriage a winning team? 

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says every home is built on one of two foundations.  Some build their houses on sand, and when the storms begin to rage, their houses begin to crumble.  Their foundation is not solid, so the wind and the floods easily sweep their homes away.  But Jesus says that wise men build their houses on the rock.  “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds below and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25).  In the same way, your home is built on some form of a foundation.  Your homebuilder built that physical foundation for you, but you get to choose the spiritual foundation on which you will build your lives together.  Jesus tells us that He is our rock, and if we choose to build our homes on the foundation of following Him, our marriages will find solid ground.  The storms of life will still come to our homes, but Jesus Christ will give our marriages the strength that is needed to endure.

I hope you have chosen to build your home on the rock.  Working with many couples over the years, I have been constantly reminded that all other ground is indeed sinking sand.  And if you have not laid down the right foundation for your home, you can certainly change that today.  However, even if you have laid down the right foundation, it is important to note that every home still needs maintenance.  This is why we are hosting our first ever marriage conference at ABC with best-selling author, Gary Thomas.  The Sacred Marriage Conference will be a life-giving event to help couples further strengthen their marriages, so they can finish their seasons as champions for the glory of Jesus Christ.  Whether your team has been winning as of late, or perhaps you have been experiencing many losses, this conference will strengthen your home and will be a worthy investment of your time.

I hope you plan to join us this Friday and Saturday.  Online registration will remain open through Thursday (register HERE).  If you know a couple that would enjoy this with you, I also encourage you to invite them as your guests.  It will be a special weekend filled with fellowship, inspiring teaching, and lots of laughter.  I hope to see you there and in our worship services this Sunday, as we discover how we can find “better rest” in and through Jesus Christ.  Continue to stand strong on the rock this week, and I’ll see you at church this weekend.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better: “Better Than Moses” – Hebrews 3:1-16
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Why Christians Need The Good News Too

Over the past year, Matt Gillum and I have enjoyed launching a new digital ministry here at ABC.  For a little over 12 months, we have consistently uploaded new content to our church’s podcast channel titled, “Citizen ATX” (you can find it HERE).  The purpose of this podcast is to further extend Gospel-centered conversations outside of our church walls.  Each episode features practical conversations about what it means to live as a “dual-citizen” in Austin, Texas.  We discuss cultural topics and issues with the aim of helping believers understand how to engage our city as good citizens of Austin, while still living for our true citizenship which is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  

We have covered a myriad of topics this past year, so we chose to start out 2022 by inviting local ministry partners into the conversation with us.  Last week, we kicked off a new series called, “ATX Neighbors.”  In each episode, we are welcoming men and women in ministry from across our city to join us in the studio for conversations focused on their area of expertise.  We’ve been talking with our guests about what God is doing in their ministry areas, but we have also focused on what we can do to make a better impact alongside them.  As we have been recording these episodes, it has been encouraging to hear how God is indeed moving in their spheres of influence.  Whether it is in the lives of teenagers, college students, parents, or in home life, we have consistently been reminded that God is indeed at work in our city.

I think it’s important for us to hear that for two primary reasons.  The first reason is hearing about God’s work will show us where we need to get to work.  Henry Blackaby famously taught this principle in his discipleship curriculum, “Experiencing God.”  Christians should aim to see where God is at work and then commit to join Him in that effort for His glory.  But we also need to hear what God is doing because these stories will undoubtedly minister to our own hearts and encourage us to press on.  We live in a world where the enemy’s work gets more headlines than God’s work.  Bad news hits us from all angles ranging from our friends, our neighbors, and even our families.  We read disheartening headlines in the news, we hear painful stories from others, and the enemy’s work seems to steal the limelight almost every day.   This naturally leaves many of us discouraged, cynical, and anxious about the future.

However, I want to remind you today that God is still at work, the kingdom is still expanding, and He is still inviting you to join Him in the effort.  The apostle Paul gave this same reminder to his young protégé Timothy.  Paul famously wrote two letters to the young pastor while he was imprisoned and awaiting his own execution in Rome.  Paul tells Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:8-9).  Paul tells Timothy to remember Jesus, not because he thought Timothy may have forgotten who He is.  Rather, I believe he’s telling Timothy to not forget the good news of Jesus amidst the constant bad news of their suffering. 

This is why we are being reminded through our sermon series that Jesus is better.  He’s better than any leader this world has to offer, He is bigger than any problem we may face, and He gives a better peace to anyone who seeks after Him.  We must not forget that even amidst the darkness of the world, “the word of God is not bound.”  Covid still exists, political tension continues to rise, inflation has us nervous, and people are bound by anxiety every single day.  But we must not forget that God’s word is still on the move.  I encourage you this week to open your eyes to see where God is at work in your life and in the life of our church.  Be encouraged by that good news, and then commit to join Him in the good work.  Sometimes we can get stuck, but God’s word never sits idle.  Jesus has good works for you to walk in this year (Ephesians 2:10), but you will only find them if you “remember Jesus Christ” and press on in His purposes for your life.

God bless you all, and I look forward to lifting up the name of Jesus with you this Sunday as the author of Hebrews helps us recognize the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  I’ll see you in worship at 9am or 11:11am. 

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better – “Better Than Angels” – Hebrews 1:4-8
New Citizen ATX Podcast Series
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Don’t make 2022 like 2021

It feels good to finally be back at ABC!  I’ve missed you these past couple weeks, and I appreciate your patience in my delayed return.  We did enjoy our time away on vacation, but as you know we unfortunately had to deal with Covid upon our arrival back to Austin.  But the good news is the symptoms were mild and we are now fully recovered and back to school and work.  Thank you for your prayers, and I’d especially like to thank Dr. Matt Gillum for stepping up to fill in during my absence.

It is indeed a new year, but I know for some it may feel like the same old story.  We are still dealing with the virus, many are stuck in fear regarding the future, and our country is seemingly as polarized as ever before.  Nonetheless, it is important for us to remember that 2022 does not have to look the same as 2021.  While we cannot control the external challenges in our world, we can control our internal responses to them.  My prayer is that each of us will choose to be steadfast in our commitment to Jesus Christ.  This year, each of us can indeed grow to be more holy, we can grow to know Him more deeply, and we can experience Jesus more fully through the fellowship of His people.  2022 absolutely can be a better year if we choose to pursue our Savior in a better way.

Jesus is better than anything, on anyone, this world has to offer.  He is bigger than any problem you or I face, and His grace is more sufficient than any solution we could create.  Hebrews 6:19 reminds us that “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” Jesus Christ is our anchor and He is committed to give you the strength you need to weather any storm.  My prayer is that you and I will cling to our anchor more tightly this year than we did last year. I pray that you will read more of His word, spend more time in prayer, find more opportunities to serve and give, and get more connected in Christian community through His local church. I’m excited about our new study in the book of Hebrews because we’re going to see that Jesus is indeed better, but we will also discover that following Him more closely will lead us to a better life in 2022.

In a couple weeks, you and I will have an opportunity to get better in a practical way.  I’m looking forward to welcoming bestselling author and international speaker, Gary Thomas, to ABC for the Sacred Marriage Conference on January 28-29th.  The conference will be based on his bestselling book, and Gary will offer practical wisdom and encouragement that will make any marriage better, whether you are newlyweds or have been married for 50+ years.  I encourage you to not miss out on this special opportunity. 

The conference will feature 4 dynamic sessions filled with great teaching, fun giveaways, delicious food, and lots of laughter.  Participants will be seated at round tables, and you’ll have an opportunity to fellowship with other couples at ABC.  This conference will also offer the unique opportunity for multi-generational ministry, as couples of all ages will get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company at the event.  For our younger couples, we are offering free childcare at the church if needed.  If you haven’t done so already, please take the time to register today and join us for what will surely be a life-giving weekend at ABC.  Register here: https://www.shelbygiving.com/App/Form/08a2dc7e-5405-4303-868a-73367db3cffb

Make plans to join us this Sunday.  We are going to be welcoming our new Minister of Senior Adults and Pastoral Care, Bill McGinnis, along with his wife, Anita.  They will be introduced in both services, and you’ll have an opportunity to officially welcome them to Austin.  I’ll also be leading us in the Lord’s Supper, and we’ll be offering our new members class, Starting Point, after each service for those who are exploring membership at ABC.  Invite a friend and make plans to be there this Sunday.  If you need a new start to this new year, you can begin afresh this weekend at ABC.  I look forward to seeing you at 9am or 11:11am.

This Sunday’s Sermon: Jesus is Better Than Angels – Hebrews 1:4-14
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Where are you running in 2022?

Happy new year!  I hope you had a blessed holiday break, and I’m praying that 2022 is off to a great start for you and yours.  Bethany and I enjoyed our time away with family, but I’m excited to be back and hit the ground running in this new year.  We have lots of big things on the horizon, including several items this month.  In a few weeks, we’ll welcome bestselling author and speaker Gary Thomas to ABC for our first ever marriage conference.  The Sacred Marriage Conference will be an impactful event for all ages, whether you are recently engaged or have been married 50+ years (register HERE). I’m also excited that we will soon welcome our new Senior Adult Minister, Bill McGinnis, along with his wife Anita.  They will be wonderful additions to our church family, and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact that they will make as they move here to Austin.  Our midweek ministries are coming back full force next week, and this weekend is a Lord’s Supper Sunday as I kick off our new sermon series in the book of Hebrews titled, “Jesus is Better.”

2022 is going to be a big year, so I believe it is important for our church family to keep our eyes focused on what lies ahead.  After a year like 2021, it could be natural for us to look back and become content with all that God has recently done in our church.  God blessed us with many new members, record baptisms, and several great staff additions.  Our church faithfully gave, our BFG’s continued to grow, and our children’s and youth ministries were further strengthened.  Our church ministered well to each other’s needs, but we also ministered effectively to our community through new outreach ministries and efforts from our members.  God indeed did a mighty work last year, but Paul reminds us to not become complacent: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:12-13).

As Christians, each of us are in the business of running.  While not all of us may be in the business of jogging on a treadmill, all of us do indeed have a spiritual race to run.  It does not matter your age or stage of life, if you are in Christ Jesus and you still have breath in your lungs, that means God has more track ahead of you.  I believe 2022 will be an even more impactful year for ABC, but it will only happen if we each keep our eyes looking forward.  When you watch a track meet, occasionally a runner will make a fundamental mistake during his race.  He will be off to a great start, but then he will get comfortable and look over his shoulder to see who is behind him.  However, this is a fatal flaw that coaches will always correct in their runners.  Why is it a bad thing?  Because when you look backwards, you always slow down.

I don’t believe God wants ABC to slow down in 2022.  I believe He wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask for or think of (Ephesians 3:20).  But this will only happen if we keep our eyes forward on Him and His high calling on our lives.  Where is God calling you to run in 2022?  God may be calling you to commit to a new Bible reading plan or to get plugged into one of our BFGs.  He may be calling you to step up and serve in one of our many volunteer ministries or go on a mission trip.  Maybe He’s leading you to invest into the next generation through our children’s and youth ministries.  Perhaps He’s calling you to maximize your passion and talent through our choir, music, and AV ministries.  He could be calling you to make tithing a regular discipline for the first time in your home this year.  Maybe He’s calling you to be an encourager and to invest time into those who are hurting or homebound.  Or perhaps He’s calling you to find someone to run alongside you.  Maybe he’s put a neighbor or friend on your heart, and God is leading you to invite them to come and run with our church family here at ABC.

I do not know what God is leading you to do in 2022, but I do know He’s calling you to action.  God has purpose for my life and your life, and if we answer that high calling, I believe 2022 will indeed be a happy new year.  I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.  Bring a friend and bring your Bible, and I’ll see you at 9am or 11:11am. 

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Blessed to be a blessing

I hope you had as much fun as I did at “Merry Christmas Y’all!”  Last Sunday was a spectacular night for our church and for our entire community.  It was so exciting to see our entire campus come alive as it was flooded with people of all ages.  There truly was something for everyone, from the train rides and inflatables for the kids, to the snow slide and food trucks, to the live music and hot chocolate for all, it was encouraging to see the building come alive during the festival. It’s hard to admit it as an Aggie, but it was even exciting to see Bevo live and in person at ABC.  But of course, the most exciting part of the night was the amazing Christmas concert presented by our worship ministry.  We had a packed house in the worship center with a full choir and orchestra that led us beautifully all evening long with both great talent and great enthusiasm.

Nights like last Sunday are only possible though faithful servants in our church family.  So many sacrificially served and gave to make the event possible.  I’m grateful for the choir and orchestra members who faithfully rehearsed and gave of their time for months leading up to Sunday.  I’m thankful for the dozens of volunteers that helped greet and register our many first-time guests that night.  We were honored to see so many new faces, and our volunteer teams made them feel right at home.  Many more served by decorating the building, running various stations, driving golf carts in the parking lot, and helping us with the set up and tear down.  The staff did an incredible job serving by administrating the event, thinking through all the necessary details these past few weeks.  Church members served their neighbors, by bringing them with them to come hear about the hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.  And many continue to serve the Lord each week by faithfully giving their tithes and offerings, which makes ministry like this even possible.

It was appropriate for our church to serve well at this event because the Christmas season is all about service.  Paul explains, ”Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philipppians 2:5-7).  The Christmas story is about the greatest servant to ever walk this earth. Jesus Christ came into this world to serve, not to be served.  He stepped off His throne, and came down to our level to serve us by giving His life as a ransom for us.  In celebration of that truth, each of us should likewise set aside our own interests this holiday season and take on the interests of others in the coming days.

Sunday morning will be another opportunity for you to do so.  This Sunday is our annual White Christmas.  I hope you have been able to partner with a BFG class to bring a gift to bless a family in need.  This Sunday, we will present those gifts in our worship services, and then we will organize and deliver those gifts immediately following the 11:11 worship service.  Make plans to be a part of this special tradition at ABC.  It will be a memorable worship service, and I believe it will be an impactful day especially for our ABC Kids.  They will be joining us in the services so they can also present their gifts and serve with their parents (Nursery is still open for 3 and under).  They will also have a chance for the Christmas story to come alive to them in a unique way at our Bethlehem Village during the BFG hour. 

I hope you plan to join us this Sunday for a meaningful day of worship this Christmas season.  Continue to invite your friends, as many may be open to trying church during this special time of year. We are blessed to be a blessing, and I pray that many families will indeed be blessed through our continued generosity this weekend.  Have a great rest of your week and I look forward to seeing you at 9am or 11:11. 

Last Sunday’s Sermon: The Perfect Christmas: Imperfect Circumstances – Luke 2:1-7

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Go Tell It On the Mountain

In the Spencer house we have a special piece of Christmas décor that sits on our kitchen counter.  It is a small Christmas countdown display, and every day we update that number as we draw closer to the big day.  As the number of days goes down, the amount of excitement always goes up.  Christmas is almost here, and anticipation is beginning to build in my family and in our church family.  Last Sunday, our ABC Kids ministry helped us build up that excitement through our children’s choir.  They looked fantastic in their Christmas pajamas, and they led us beautifully in both of our worship services.  After the services, we all got to enjoy hot chocolate at the café, and we were left with an important reminder from our children to “go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!”

This Sunday we have an opportunity to tell that truth on this mountain.  Jesus calls His church a city on a hill, and I believe ABC will indeed shine brightly from this hill this weekend.  This Sunday, we are hosting a brand-new Christmas celebration called, “Merry Christmas Y’all.”  This spectacular event will truly offer something for all ages.  The fun will begin at 4pm with a free Christmas festival featuring a snow slide and snowballs, inflatables, train rides, a live ice sculpting display, cookie decorating, Live music, food trucks, and even a photo opportunity with Bevo!  Then at 6pm, our worship ministry will lead us in an amazing Christmas concert inside our worship center featuring a full choir, 20+ piece orchestra, and special musical guests from Nashville called, “Evidence.”

Don’t miss this opportunity.  Make plans to join us that afternoon and evening, but also make plans to bring someone with you.  When the angel of the Lord found the shepherds in the field, he said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10 ESV).  The angel reminds us that the good news of Christmas is for all people.  We have an opportunity this weekend to invite outsiders, just as that angel invited those outsider shepherds to come hear the good news of great joy.  Begin considering who you can bring with you.  I’ve been encouraged to track the analytics for our “Bless Every Home” app.  Since our church partnered with this evangelistic tool two months ago, our church members have prayed for 916 households around them.  I encourage you to continue to pray for them, but also seize this opportunity to invite them to be your guest this weekend.

Your first invitation opportunity will come this Sunday morning as we continue our Christmas sermon series, “The Perfect Christmas.”  Our Nashville guests, Evidence, will be singing in both of our morning worship services, so be here to give them a warm ABC welcome and to get a taste of what is to come later that evening.  Our ABC Kids ministry will also have some fun that morning with a big snowball fight during Elevate (don’t worry, these are fake snowballs).  ABC Students is also getting in on the fun with a tacky Christmas sweater party for everyone in attendance at our Bible Fellowship Groups.  It will be a big Christmas-celebration morning, so be sure to share it with a friend or neighbor.

I want to thank you for your continued generosity in our year end giving.  Your faithful tithes and offerings this time of year make all this ministry possible.  I am so grateful to pastor a generous church that truly worships through giving.  Join me in prayer for God to use all these financial gifts to help others come to receive the greatest gift this Christmas season.  Have a great week, and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.

MERRY CHRISTMAS Y’ALL COMMERCIAL:

Last Sunday’s Sermon: The Perfect Christmas: An Imperfect Family – Matthew 1:18-25

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A Season Of Generosity

The Christmas season is officially in full swing at ABC.  The church is beautifully decorated, we observed our first Advent Sunday, and excitement is beginning to build as we look forward to all that God has for us this month.  When we think about the Christmas season, different words usually come to mind.  For some of us, Christmas is all about family.  We cherish the special time that we get to spend with loved ones this time of year.  For others, the word “busy” comes to mind.  We get stressed as we wrap our minds around long to-do lists and countless events popping up on our calendars.  Some of you may also think about the amazing food, music, and traditions that this season brings unlike any other. 

But when I think about Christmas, the word “generosity” quickly comes to mind.  People tend to open up their hearts this time of year.  As we humbly count our blessings, we often find ourselves trying to be a blessing to others who need it.  Many in our church express generosity this time of year through gifts.  We packed over 300 shoeboxes full of gifts to go to children in need all around the world through Operation Christmas Child.  Angel tree gifts are now starting to pour in as well, and we will soon see hundreds of white bags filled with gifts for our White Christmas on December 19th.  Some are expressing their generosity through their time.  Choir and orchestra members have been generous with their time through many weeks of rehearsals for our upcoming Christmas concert at, “Merry Christmas Y’all.”  An army of volunteers was generous with their time as they set up all of our beautiful Christmas decorations.  We will soon see hundreds more joyfully serve with us at White Christmas and our special events this month.  And of course, many in our church are expressing their generosity right now through their finances.  Many will generously give to our Lottie Moon missions offering, and so many will faithfully give their tithes and offerings as we approach year end giving.  In fact, nearly 25% of all general fund contributions typically come in the month of December.

I want to thank you for being such a generous church.  It’s my joy to pastor a generous people because I know your generosity is glorifying to our generous Savior in heaven.  We must not forget Christmas truly is a celebration of the generosity of God.  Paul tells us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).  On that first Christmas, Jesus humbly stepped away from His throne and glory, and instead, He generously entered the very world that He created.  And our Father generously gave His only son to make room for us to be adopted into His family through Him.  God has richly blessed each of us in Jesus Christ, so it is appropriate that we respond in worship with grateful hearts this Christmas season.  I encourage you to be generous this month with your time, talent, and treasure, and I’m confident that God will continue to bless you as you are a blessing to others.

Be sure to pick up one of our “Christmas at ABC” booklets this Sunday so you can stay up to date on all the amazing things that are happening this month at ABC.  I look forward to continuing our Christmas series with you this Sunday, and I can’t wait to hear from our Children’s Choir as they help lead us in worship this weekend.  Invite a friend to be your guest in worship, and I will see you Sunday at 9am or 11:11.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: The Perfect Christmas: “An Imperfect Lineage” – Matthew 1:1-16

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The Perfect Christmas

I hope you enjoyed Missions Sunday last weekend.  I’m thankful for John and the continued efforts of the IMB.  It was great to hear how God is working through His people all around the world, and it was encouraging to hear that we can partner with God and His mission from right here at ABC.  I encourage you to continue to pray for God’s guidance on how He wants to use you in 2022.  There is much work to do here in Austin and around the world, and I know God has given each of us time, talent, and treasure to be used for His glory.  I’m confident that God will do a mighty work in and through you as you answer His calling on your life.

Last Sunday was a great way to lead us into this Thanksgiving week.  Our hearts can’t help but be filled with gratitude as we reflect on the Gospel’s impact on our own lives, as well as the lives of so many others around the world.  The Gospel gives us reason to always give thanks.  This is why Paul instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).   Our circumstances do change day to day and even hour to hour, and the truth is, it can be hard to give thanks as we navigate through the storms of this life.  But we can always give thanks that we do not have to navigate through those storms alone.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore, and He stands ready to give us strength, comfort, and peace in all seasons of our lives.

In the book of James, the apostle opens his letter by talking about the challenges and trials in a believer’s life.  He acknowledges that all of us will have to face valleys at different times, but he also gives us a great reminder that will help us maintain a proper perspective: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:16-18).  Anything good in your life is not there by accident.  It is a good gift that came from a good Father who never changes.  We change, culture changes, but He is a steadfast rock.  For that reason, I encourage you to give thanks this week at the Thanksgiving table.

Every believer should rejoice that God has “brought us forth by the word of truth.”  My salvation and your salvation is a miracle produced solely by the grace of God.  That’s why James says it was “of his own will.”  God saw the original sin in the garden, and He did not give up on humanity.  Instead, of his own will, He sent His only son into this world on a rescue mission.  Of his own will, Jesus Christ lived the perfect life we could not live, and He died the death that we deserved.  Jesus explained that this was indeed of his own will, as he said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).  For the joy set before Him, Jesus Christ willingly came into this world on a rescue mission, so He could set you and me free from the bondage of sin and death.

That truth alone should give each of us an attitude of gratitude this week.  But my prayer is that we will carry that same spirit of thanksgiving throughout the entire holiday season.  This weekend, we will begin advent at ABC as we anticipate the coming of our King.  I’ll also be kicking off a new Christmas series this weekend titled, “The Perfect Christmas.”  We all aim for perfection this time of year.  We seek out the perfect gift, we put up the perfect decorations, we work hard to prepare a perfect meal, and we all want to make the perfect Christmas memories.  However, when you look at the Christmas story itself, you’ll find that it is centered around a perfect Savior who came into this world amidst very imperfect circumstances.  This was designed purposefully by our God to communicate that Jesus came to this world to rescue imperfect people like you and like me.  I pray that you’ll be encouraged throughout this series, as we discover there is room for each of us to be a part of His perfect story.

Make plans to join us this Sunday.  And may God continue to prepare your heart and my heart with a spirit of thanksgiving and wonder as we enter this special Christmas season.  Bring a friend with you, come prayed up and expectant, and come ready to worship our perfect Savior together.

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Missions at ABC

Last Sunday, we set an encouraging milestone as a church family.  We were honored to baptize three more individuals during our two worship services, which brought us to a new record for the most baptisms we’ve seen in a year at ABC!  I hope you’re as encouraged as I am to see more light bulbs go into our “Let There Be Light” sign, as more people proudly raise their flags for Jesus Christ through believer’s baptism each week.  I’m excited to watch that sign continue to light up, as our God continues to light up the lives of those around us.

The Great Commission will always be the heartbeat of our church.  Before ascending to heaven, the resurrected Christ told all of His followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  ABC is firmly committed to walking in obedience to Jesus’ words.  We want to see God light up our homes, our neighborhoods, and the world around us.  I pray that God will continue to use ABC to raise up more disciples here in Austin, but I also pray that He will use our church to make an impact all around the world.

This Sunday is an important weekend as it’s themed around this critical mission.  I hope you make plans to join us for “Missions Sunday,” as it will be a unique opportunity to get informed and mobilized in God’s mission through ABC.  This Sunday we’re going to have a special guest speaker from the International Mission Board.  You will be formally introduced to Brother John during our services, but he has decades of leadership experience in the IMB, and we’re thrilled to have him come share a special word about what God is doing all around the world through the faithful efforts of the IMB.

Additionally, this Sunday we will spotlight many great ministry opportunities for you to partner in.  We will have a ministry fair in our Great Hall showcasing some of the key local ministries that ABC supports.  These organizations receive both funds and volunteers from our church, and we want to give you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with their work.  They will be able to answer questions and help you get mobilized in the kingdom efforts they are leading in.  You will also receive a missions brochure in our worship services, and it will spotlight some of ABC’s upcoming missions opportunities for 2022. 

As you know, COVID put a wrench into all of our travel plans these past 18 months, and it unfortunately made a negative impact on mission trips as well.  However, we are working hard right now to offer several great opportunities for you to go on mission with ABC here in our country, and around the world.  Pick up a brochure this weekend and begin praying for wisdom on whether God is calling you to go this coming year.  This Sunday will also be the official kick off to our annual Lottie Moon offering.  We have set a church goal to raise $50,000 above our regular tithes and offerings to go directly to missions during this Christmas season.  Please begin praying now on how God is calling you to partner through this special offering.

We’ve got lots to be thankful for at ABC.  I pray that Missions Sunday will prepare your heart for Thanksgiving as our church “give thanks” for changed lives at ABC, but also for changed lives all around the world.  I pray that God will continue to light up your life this week, and we look forward to you joining us for this special Missions Sunday at ABC.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Sent: a study of Jonah – “Heart Problems” Jonah 4
New Christmas Series Kicks Off – Sunday November 28th
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The Power of an Invitation

Last Sunday was a special Veteran’s Day celebration at ABC.  We had a wonderful time worshipping the Lord and honoring our brave service men and women.  I hope you had the chance to drop by the “Wall of Honor” to pay tribute to our local ABC heroes.  If you didn’t, please make sure to do so this Sunday as we are leaving the wall up for one final weekend.  I especially want to thank Christina Mendoza for all her hard work in coordinating this meaningful display.  Be sure to pass on your gratitude to her as well for a job well done.

Last week, we celebrated a big night at Midweek.  Our ABC Student Ministry hosted a special evangelistic event called, “Impact.”  Our Student Minister, Nathan Wood, and his team did a fantastic job organizing an exciting new event for our students.  They offered lots of attractions including golf games outside, inflatables, 9 square, and of course, plenty of free food.  Most importantly, all student in attendance participated in a powerful worship service that evening.  In total, nine students made decisions for Jesus Christ in that service, and several are looking to be baptized in the coming weeks. See the recap video here:

I was so proud of how our students stepped up to invite their friends that night.  In fact, our volunteer team registered 30 new guests that evening, and 20 of our regular students brought at least one of their friends with them.  I loved hearing that one student even borrowed his mother’s minivan so he could fit more friends in the car!  That kind of outward focus made an eternal impact, as 8 of those 9 decisions were made by first time guests that evening.  It’s always amazing to see how one simple invitation can have the power to change someone’s life. 

This makes me think of Jesus’ famous encounter with the paralytic man in Mark chapter 2.  As you may recall, Jesus was preaching in a home, and we’re told the house was packed.  There wasn’t room for anyone else, not even at the door.  But four friends were determined to introduce their friend to Jesus that day.  In their case, they didn’t use a minivan to get him there, but instead they took him up to the roof.   They famously made an opening and lowered the man on a bed.  From there, Mark 2:5 tells us “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’.”  Jesus recognized the extraordinary faith of these friends, and He rewarded it by not only healing their friend physically, but He more importantly healed him spiritually as well.

God rewards the faithful hearts of His followers.  James tells us that “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15).  The prayer of a righteous person has great power.  Yes, prayers can lead to physical healing, but they can also lead to spiritual healing.  In fact, I would argue that most salvation stories began with unseen prayers from loved ones.  Whether it is parents praying for the salvation of their children, students praying for the salvation of their classmates, or adults praying for their co-workers and neighbors, prayer is always that first critical step in evangelism.  God hears those prayers, and I believe He then opens up doors for us to lead others to Him.  He prompts us through the Holy Spirit when we are to testify to the hope that is in us.  And I believe He also prompts us through the Holy Spirit to invite others to experience the life of our church.  I would contend that one of the most powerful testimonies of Jesus Christ in this world is the authentic worship of His people.  I’ve personally seen that testimony be used by God to draw people to Himself time and time again.

My question is, “who do you need to bring to the feet of Jesus?”  I encourage you to begin praying for that person by name this week.  And I encourage you to follow our students’ example and invite them to worship with you this Sunday.  You never know, one simple invitation could change the trajectory of their life.  I look forward to worshipping with you this weekend on a special Lord’s Supper Sunday.  If you happen to bring a friend, please take a moment to introduce me to them.  I’d be honored to meet them.  Have a blessed week and I’ll see you Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Sent: a study of Jonah – “Second Chances” Jonah 3

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Slow Down to Give Thanks

Temperatures are dropping and leaves are beginning to fall.  It’s hard to believe it, but November is already here.  We are just a few short weeks away from Thanksgiving, and from there it will be a full court sprint to Christmas.  I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year.  Yes, our calendars are beginning to fill up, and yes, lots of planning and stress is undoubtedly commencing.  Nonetheless, I’ve found this season can also bring a refreshing new perspective.  As our schedules get more crowded, our minds also tend to see things more clearly.  The holiday season slows us down to focus on the people that matter the most, and on our God who is the source of all our blessings.

Psalm 77:11-13 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is great like our God?”  I encourage you to slow down this week and remember the deeds of the Lord.  Here at ABC, we have a lot of great things to remember.  Today I’m remembering the 47 lights that have gone into our “Let There Be Light” sign in the Great Hall.  Each light represents an individual who was baptized this year, and each baptism represents a life that has been forever changed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I remember the 130+ new members that have joined our church in 2021.  I remember our new staff members, and the wonderful lay-leaders who have risen up to serve our church.  I remember all the deeds that God has done through our ABC Kids and Student ministries this year.  And I remember the impact that God has made through our church as we’ve seen Him light up our homes, neighborhoods, and the world around us.  As we ponder His work, we should all come to the same conclusion as the psalmist: “What god is great like our God?”

I encourage you to slow down this season and give thanks to our great God.  Give thanks for what He’s doing in our church, but also give thanks for what He’s doing in your life.  If gratitude is not a natural discipline in your life, I encourage you to journal this November and December.  Every day, as you spend time with the Lord, I challenge you to write down three specific things that you are thankful for.  Your list can include specific family, friends, leaders, circumstances, resources, or anything else that you consider a blessing in your life.  James reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).  Anything that you consider “good” in your life is not there by chance.  It’s there because a good Father purposefully blessed you with that gift.  I pray that we all may remember that truth this coming season and give thanks to the Father of lights.

This Sunday, I’ll be giving thanks for two specific things.  First, I’m be giving thanks for an extra hour of sleep!  Don’t forget to “fall back” and move your clock back one hour when you go to sleep on Saturday night.  We should all come to church rested and ready to worship.  But I will also be giving thanks on Sunday for our veterans.  As you know, Veteran’s Day is November 11th, so we’ll be paying honor to all of our local heroes in church this Sunday, November 7th.  We will recognize our veterans in our both of our worship services, pray for our country, and we will have a beautiful Wall of Honor display in the Great Hall.  Take some time to drop by this wall, which will pay tribute to ABC’s military heroes.  I encourage you to wear red, white and blue to church this Sunday, and give thanks to the men and women who have served, and are serving, to protect the freedom that we enjoy.  But above all, give thanks to God for giving us the great privilege to live in such an amazing country, and pray that God will continue to bless America in the days to come.

I encourage you to invite a friend to join you this Sunday.  One simple invitation can make a life-changing impact on someone who is around you.  Stay warm, give thanks, and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Message: Sent: a study of Jonah – “Hitting Rock Bottom” Jonah 2
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Church is a team effort

Last Sunday’s Trunk or Treat was a hit!  I hope you were able to participate in all the festivities last weekend.  God blessed us with a huge crowd, and it was an exciting event as we welcomed hundreds of new faces. I was especially proud of our church family for inviting their friends.  I was stopped by many families who wanted to introduce me to their personal guests.  The greatest way to grow a church will always be the personal invitation.  Thank you for being proud of your church and for taking the opportunity to introduce your friends and family to the life of ABC.  I encourage you to invite them back this Sunday to join you in worship.

I especially want to thank everyone behind the scenes who made Trunk or Treat possible. Kati Dobbs and Rachel Tovar did an excellent job spearheading the event with our ABC Kids ministry. Derek Tackett and his facilities team led well through every step of the set up and tear down, and our amazing volunteers truly made it a party!  Thank you to the 39 car owners for setting up amazing displays and going all out on the decorations.  Thank you to our student ministry for stepping up to lead games on the field, and we of course appreciate all of the generous folks who donated candy this past month.  Thank you to our registration teams, inflatable volunteers, parking team, and all of the logistics positions that made the event go off without a hitch.  Trunk or Treat truly is an ABC team effort, and I’m proud of how our church represented itself to our community.

This week we’ve been following up with our registered visitors at the event.  All guests received an email from me and a personal phone call from one of our staff members, and it has been encouraging to hear stories come back from those contacts.  One guest wrote me a note explaining that her family was hesitant to go as they haven’t been to church much.  However, she said her son “walked into the blow up area (inflatables) and was blown away.  He said that he thinks that this is his church.  They all had a fabulous time.  The cars were all fantastic, and yes, everyone was more than friendly.  My son went home and said he wants to come and wants to do Sunday School.”

Stories like these are why we do events like Trunk or Treat.  I know you will not always get to see an immediate return on your act of service or generosity, but I do believe God plants countless seeds into the hearts of our community through events like this.  We will have new first-time guests as a direct result of this event, and I pray that God will continue to light up more homes for Jesus Christ through the intentional outreach of our church.  Thank you for your continued generosity in giving to our general budget, as ministry like this is only possible through your faithful stewardship.  And thank you for showing up big to roll up your sleeves and help make our community feel welcomed at ABC.  Pray for our student ministry as they are up next and preparing for their new outreach event on November 3rd, “Impact.”  We are praying that God will continue to touch lives and reach the next generation for Jesus Christ through Austin Baptist Church.

As we learned last week from Jonah, we do serve a “sending” God.  My hope is that we will continue to go when he tells us to go, because if we do, I believe our church will continue to make an eternal impact on the lives of those around us.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen” (Romans 11:36).  I look forward to giving him glory alongside you in worship this Sunday.  Have a great rest of your week.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Sent: a study of Jonah – “Running From God” – Jonah 1
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Churches need on-ramps

It was encouraging to watch our church light up the world last weekend.  Nearly 80 volunteers spent their Saturday morning packing 20,000 meals for Haitian children who are in desperate need.  Then on Sunday, we saw dozens of ABC members get out of the bleachers and into the game at our church-wide ministry fair.  It was encouraging to watch folks commit to walk in the good works that God has planned for them, and I’m excited to see the ministry impact each of these individuals will make in the coming days.  Although we have now wrapped up our City on a Hill sermon series, the work of shining His light truly has just begun.  As we continue to let God light up our lives through His Word, I’m confident He will continue to light up our homes, our neighborhoods, and the world around us.

A few months ago, I was on the road for Dallas when I decided to make a stop at a gas station somewhere north of Waco.  It began as a typical road trip stop, as I filled up the gas tank, grabbed a drink, and quickly tried to get back on the road.  However, I learned that getting back on the road was going to be anything but typical.  As I left the gas station and turned onto the feeder road, I realized I wasn’t going to be getting back on the highway anytime soon.  I could see down the road that the next on-ramp was closed due to construction.  This of course led to bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I began to crawl forward towards the next on-ramp.  Unfortunately, when I finally got there, I discovered that it too was closed.  This pattern repeated itself as on-ramp after on-ramp was closed down, and it led all of us on the road to a growing sense of frustration.  We wanted to get on the highway and get moving, but all we could find was closed doors.

I believe many people who visit churches feel the same way that I felt on that frontage road.  They go to church in search of an on-ramp, as they want to merge into the life and fellowship of a church family.  However, many get frustrated when they realize it isn’t easy to move from the outside to the inside.  The truth is some churches set up blockades in front of their on-ramps.  Some churches have closed-off small groups that don’t want new people.  Some churches do not offer community events for the public and lack opportunities for new people to serve.  Some churches can have new people walk in on a Sunday morning, and no one takes the time to welcome them or learn their names. Consequently, visitors at those churches become frustrated as they cannot find a way to merge in.  I’m proud to Pastor at ABC because I truly believe this isn’t the case here.  Our church family wants new people to get engaged into the life of our church, so consequently, we offer a lot of on-ramps.  We provide on-ramps through our BFG classes.  Every week, classes for all ages warmly welcome new faces into their fellowships with open arms.  We offer open on-ramps through our volunteer ministries.  We want people to walk in their giftedness and serve in our community, so we work hard to merge new people into our volunteer teams.  And we consistently provide on-ramps through our intentional community-wide events.

This Sunday is our annual Trunk or Treat event.  This fall tradition is a great on-ramp for new people, as they get to come and experience the excitement and fellowship of ABC in a casual setting.  We will have nearly 100 volunteers ready to welcome people this Sunday afternoon with over 40 cars that will be decorated by our faithful church members.  We’ll have tons of candy for kids, train rides, inflatables, a petting zoo, and food on site to provide a great atmosphere for community fellowship.  I encourage you to not miss this opportunity and be sure to invite someone to be a part of the festivities.  If you bring a guest, stop me on Sunday as I’d love to have the chance to meet them and thank them for their visit.  If you see someone new, take the time to introduce yourself as well and let them know how glad you are that they are there. Check out our Trunk or Treat promotional video and pass it on to a friend:

It’s essential that we continue to maintain our healthy on-ramps, as we must always “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).  This Sunday in worship we will be kicking off a new study in the book of Jonah.  We’ll be looking at the famous prophet who was sent by God to serve on mission for Him, and I believe we’ll walk away with great practical application for our own mission that Jesus given us.  Be sure to welcome others this weekend at church, and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.

New Sermon Series This Sunday – “Sent: a study of Jonah”
Last Sunday’s Message: City on a Hill – “Light Up The World”
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Rushing The Field

Thank you for making last weekend’s “Go Blue Sunday” so special at ABC.  It was exciting to have the Austin Police Department’s new chief, Joseph Chacon, join us in worship along with several officers from our local law enforcement agencies.  I know they were encouraged to witness a sea of blue in our worship center, and they were so grateful for your kindness, hospitality, and prayers.  I was encouraged to hear our chief make a bold profession of faith from stage, and I encourage you to join me in continued prayers for him as he steps into this important position of leadership.  Every day, our officers need our prayers and support, as they are called to one of the most challenging, yet also most vital, positions of service in our city.  May we each continue to express our gratitude when we see them serving in our neighborhoods this week

While Go Blue Sunday was a big success, last weekend was memorable for another reason.  As you all heard, there was a big football game that took place in College Station.  Over 12 million people around the country tuned in from their homes to watch my beloved Texas A&M Aggies shock the world (and me) by upsetting the #1 ranked team in the nation.  I normally go to bed early, especially on Saturdays, but I of course stayed up to watch the Ags take down Alabama.  It was thrilling to watch the game winning field goal go through the uprights, but it was equally exciting to watch what happened afterwards.  Soon as the game clock ticked to zero, thousands of Aggies came flying down the bleachers to rush the field in celebration.  This spontaneous act did come at the cost of a hefty $100k fine, but I’m pretty sure no one in College Station cared. 

Why do fans do this after every big win?  This is a fair question to ask because the Ags weren’t the first to rush the field, and they certainly won’t be the last.  Anytime a team experiences a big victory, people can’t seem to keep themselves from exiting their chairs.  It seems that when we see big things happening, we naturally desire to be a part of the moment.  I believe this should be the same in our spiritual lives as well.  When we see God doing big things in our midst, we should all be rushing to the field to be a part of it.  I do believe God is doing big things at ABC.  Every week, we are seeing new people come through our doors, new members joining the church, and we are continually seeing more light bulbs go into our sign.  In fact, by the grace of God, we could have the best baptism year in church history by year’s end.  Our kids and student ministries are growing, people are getting connected in our BFG’s, and lives are being touched through our prayer and cares ministries.  We’re packing 20,000 meals for Haiti this Saturday, we’ve got a big community event coming up with Trunk or Treat, and lots more is on the horizon.  God is blessing our church with many victories, and this weekend we’re going to give you an opportunity to “rush the field.”

Following each of our services, we’re going to offer a church-wide ministry fair in the Great Hall.  The purpose of this event is to showcase the many ways you can get out of the bleachers and into the game.  All our major ministry areas will have tables with staff and volunteers ready to answer your questions and help you find the right place to use your spiritual gifts.  Paul explains, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5).  If you are in Christ Jesus, God has empowered you with at least one spiritual gift, and that gift was given to you for the glory of God and the good of others.  God wants to mobilize His people to build up His church and expand the Kingdom here in Austin, Texas.  My question is, are you willing to answer His call, or are you going to stay put in the bleachers?  It’s so much more exciting to get on the field and play.  And as our church continues to grow, so do our ministry needs so we need everyone to prayerfully consider how they can help build up this City on a Hill.  I encourage you to begin praying in anticipation for this Sunday, and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do as more and more people transition from spectators to participants on the field.  God bless you and your home, and I look forward to worshipping with you Sunday.

This Sunday’s Sermon: Light Up The World
Last Sunday’s Sermon: City on a Hill – “Light Up Your Neighborhood”

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Light Up Your Neighborhood

I hope you would agree that last Sunday was an incredible day in the life of our church!  Our first ever ABC Kids Sunday was a huge success, and I’m so proud of how our children shined the light of Jesus Christ last weekend.  Our ABC kids did a wonderful job leading the way as our ushers and greeters, our prayer leaders on stage, and of course we loved hearing from our children’s choir as they led us in worship.  We also got to celebrate nine amazing young families who boldly committed to raise their little ones in Christ-centered homes.  It was exciting to add four more light bulbs to our new “let there be light” sign, as we also saw four individuals proudly raise their flags for Jesus Christ through believer’s baptism.  Thank you church family for your continued prayers, service, and generosity that make all of this ministry possible.  May we always continue to help families light up their homes for Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday, we announced the launch of a new technological resource for our homes.  Every Monday, we are now sending out a “Light Up Your Home Devotional” to anyone who chooses to subscribe to our free service.  Each devotional will highlight the main idea from the previous Sunday’s sermon, and it will equip you with corresponding scriptures, discussions questions, and prayer points to take to you home.  Our prayer is that this resource will help you light up your home through meaningful spiritual conversations each week.  I encourage you to pull it up on your phone at your dinner table or living room once a week.  Read the scriptures, discuss them with your family, and pray for one another’s needs.  I’m confident that God will bless your efforts, and I’m praying that He will spiritually unite your home together.  If you would like to receive these weekly devotionals, simply text “ABCHOME” to 81411.

Technology is an amazing tool in this world.  As we all know, it can certainly bring a lot of darkness into one’s life, but by the grace of God, technology also has the power to shine a whole lot of light.  This week are launching another technological resource as we shift our focus from “lighting up our homes” to “lighting up our neighborhoods.”  Jesus says a city on a hill is not meant to be hidden, so this means we cannot stop shining when we walk outside ABC’s church walls.  Rather, we must remember that our Gospel mission truly begins the moment we leave the church parking lot.  Paul explains, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  As ambassadors for Christ, we must not forget the mission field is always around us.  This Sunday we’re going to talk about this high calling, and we’ll highlight another piece of technology that will hopefully equip you to shine in your neighborhoods.

ABC will continue to maximize technology for the glory of God in the years to come.  Paul explained that we should always aim to find new methods and means to reach people for Jesus Christ.  He explained, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Embracing technological advancements will equip us to meet people on the platforms they already live on.  By God’s grace we’ve built an online broadcast platform and launched a brand new website in recent days (www.austinbaptistchurch.com).  We’ve also taken the church to all the major social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube) and we’ve hired a fantastic communications director to keep us organized.  If you do not follow us or subscribe to those channels, I encourage you to do so today by finding us on all platforms with the @austinbaptistchurch username (social media links are at the bottom of our new website).  In addition to Youtube, we also now upload Sunday’s sermons through our new Austin Baptist Church podcast channel.  This is another great resource for you to pass on the sermon audio to others who may benefit from hearing that week’s message.  I also encourage you to subscribe to our “Citizen ATX” podcast channel and share it with others in your sphere of influence (https://citizenatx.buzzsprout.com/).  I co-host this podcast show with Dr. Matt Gillum, and we discuss various cultural topics and issues through a Biblical lens to help people better understand what it means to live in this city as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).  In fact, we’re about to launch a new series where we are fielding as many questions as possible from our audience through our new “Asking for a Friend” podcast series.  More details to come this Sunday.

Don’t forget to wear blue this Sunday to support our local law enforcement officers.  We’ve invited constables and APD officers to join us as we celebrate these brave men and women and pray over them in our services.  Of course you are welcome to invite any officers you know to join us as well.  Our law enforcement men and women are a great picture of what it means to “light up our neighborhoods.”  Each week, they serve us by pushing back darkness from our neighborhoods, and I pray that we may follow their example in the spiritual realm by shining the light of Jesus in the dark places that surround us.  Invite a friend this Sunday, wear blue, and I look forward to worshipping with you at ABC.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: City on a Hill: “Light Up Your Home”

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Light Up Your Home

I hope you have found some time to plug into God’s Word this week.  As we learned last Sunday, the Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and I’m certain that God wants to light up your life through His Word today.  Last Sunday was a great day of worship, and we once again were honored to welcome many brand-new visitors and several new members.  This coming weekend, we’re looking forward to adding a few more light bulbs to our new “Let There Be Light” sign, as several folks are scheduled to raise their flags for Jesus Christ through believer’s baptism.  I do want to thank Derek Tackett, Ken Porter, and Daulton Halliburton for diligently constructing that beautiful new sign in our worship center.  I believe it will continue to encourage us as we watch God light up more lives and more bulbs are added to the room.  However, I also pray that the empty slots will constantly remind us that we have much more work to do on this hill.

This coming Sunday we are shifting our focus from lighting up our lives, to lighting up our homes.  God wants to light up your home and make an eternal impact in the lives of all who are under your roof.  For parents with kids in the home, we especially have an amazing opportunity and responsibility to pass the light down to the next generation.  ABC is committed  as a church to partnering with parents and equipping them to raise champions for Jesus Christ.  We are blessed to have amazing kids flood through our doors every Sunday, and because of that, we’re going to have a special “ABC Kids Sunday” to celebrate them this weekend.  You won’t want to miss this Sunday as we will have kids greeting, serving, praying, and singing in the children’s choir.  We will also encourage and pray for nine young families as they dedicate their children to the Lord in our worship services.  It will be a weekend that you will not want to miss, and I encourage you to invite a family to come and see all that God is doing through our family ministries.

I’m proud to serve at a church that loves kids.  It’s essential that we continue to give our kids our best efforts and resources, as they are the future of our church and our country.  I remember a couple months ago when we were hosting our annual Vacation Bible School, I had the chance to visit with a father in our lobby.  He was brand-new to our church and just finished dropping off his kids when we approached me.  He asked me several questions, but the main thing he wanted to know was how we were able to pay for everything while not charging the participating families?  I was thrilled to explain that our church loves kids and it was our honor to minister to them, and their parents, through the faithful tithes and offerings of our people.   He was blown away by our church’s generosity, and in fact, he was then inspired to make a donation that day himself. 

Always remember that your light stands out to those who are watching.  So I want to thank you for shining your light into the next generation.  Your faithful stewardship and volunteer service makes our kids’ ministry possible.  I love that our BFG classes pray through our children’s class rosters by name.  I love that our volunteers send birthday cards and notes of encouragement to our children and their parents.  I’m amazed to see our teachers faithfully prepare and teach God’s Word to our kids each week in a thoughtful and engaging way.  I’m encouraged to watch our volunteers show up in full force for our outreach children’s events, including our upcoming Trunk or Treat event.  And I’m grateful for your continued generosity to our general budget to fund all of this ministry.  As your Pastor, but also as a father of 3 young children, I want to thank you for loving ABC’s kids.  Through your service and generosity, you  are modeling the heart of Jesus as we must not forget he said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

I look forward to celebrating all that God is doing through our children and their families this weekend.  Don’t miss what I’m sure will be a powerful Sunday of multi-generational worship as we learn what it means to “light up our homes.”  God bless you and your home, and I’ll see you at church this weekend.

This Sunday’s Sermon (October 3rd) : Light Up Your Home
Last Sunday’s Sermon: City on a Hill – “Light Up Your Life”

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Light Up Your Life

What an amazing Vision Sunday!  It was thrilling to see our church family come together to celebrate all that God has done through Austin Baptist Church, and all that He will continue to do through this local body of Christ for years to come.  I especially want to thank a few people who helped make it such a special day in the life of our church.  Thank you to Wayne McDonald, Demetrius and Janis Loukas, and Russell Walters for helping share ABC’s story through our amazing testimony video last Sunday.  I’d also like to thank Lauren Ortiz, Carlos Jordan, and Christina Mendoza for putting in countless hours to get us transitioned to our new state of the art website.  Derek Tackett and his facilities team worked hard as well to get all the new signage properly installed, and Jennifer Wilcoxson did a fabulous job feeding all of us at the celebration breakfast.  Thank you BFG leaders for showcasing your classes and thank you to our hospitality team for making everyone feel welcomed in our Heritage Hall.  It truly was a great day in the life of our church, and I appreciate every person who helped make it happen.

Of all the exciting things that transpired last Sunday, perhaps the 10am breakfast was my personal favorite.  While the food was indeed fantastic, I wouldn’t say that specifically was the reason why I enjoyed the event so much.  What made it great was the people.  I loved seeing both of our worship services come together as one united church during that hour.  The building was electric, and it was encouraging to watch our people give hugs, laugh, and sincerely enjoy one another’s company as the body of Christ.  That kind of love and fellowship is so needed in this world right now.  Our city is filled with far too many people who are isolated, frightened, and disconnected from others.  As we talked about last Sunday, this city on a hill must always be a place of refuge for people to run to.  We must always be a safe place that people can find the community and support their soul’s need.  The author of Hebrews instructs us to be a church “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).  The gathering of God’s people is vital for our hearts, but sadly many across our city have forgotten that and are in the habit of neglecting it.  I hope you were reminded like I was last Sunday that we truly do need each other.

I believe that God positioned us on this hill so that we can be used by Him to shine in Austin, Texas.  He has blessed us beyond measure, but we have been blessed to be a blessing to others around us.  For the next four weeks, we’re going to look at ways we must shine as this city on a hill.  This Sunday, we’re going to see that before we can shine into the lives of others, we first must let God shine His light into us.  God’s Word has transformational power.  The more we get into this Book, the more the Book gets into us.  God’s word convicts, guides, empowers, and changes us so that we can become the difference makers He made us to be.  Because of this, we must remain firmly committed to preach and teach the Word of God at ABC.  Scripture reminds us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  This weekend we will see that God’s Word must always remain as the centerpiece of our church, but we must also be sure to make it the centerpiece of our individual lives. I encourage you to invite a friend to join you this Sunday for worship.  This series is a perfect opportunity for you to invite someone to come and experience the fellowship of ABC and hear about what God is doing up on this hill.  Come expectant, and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon – City on a Hill: Let There Be Light
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New Sermon Series: City on a Hill

I hope you have enjoyed these past two months as we’ve studied the “Last Things” recorded in the book of Daniel.  Daniel’s visions can be tedious to study, but I also believe they are incredibly rewarding for any committed Bible student.  As you dig into the depths of God’s Word, you find hope, comfort, and joy through the understanding of Biblical prophecy.  I pray that God has grown you spiritually through this series, and I hope you now apply these truths into your life so you can stand strong like Daniel during our time of exile (1 Peter 2:11). 

This Sunday we are moving away from Daniel’s visions to another.  This weekend is “Vision Sunday,” and I believe it will be an important day in the life of our church.  We are going to celebrate what God has done through ABC these past 14 years, but we’re also going to look forward to what God is going to do in the coming days.  Jesus Christ cast a vision for His church in his famous sermon on the mount.  Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so thatthey may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Jesus paints a picture of the church as a city on a hill.  He says we are designed to shine into places of darkness, so that, others may come to give glory to our Father in heaven.  I do find it interesting that our church happens to be positioned literally on a hill.  We are on this hill because years ago, faithful servants of Christ saw that God was calling them to go “up the mountain” to build a new church for Him.  Through God’s faithfulness, ABC built a beautiful church home on this hill, and I believe we are now positioned to see God do amazing things through this family of faith for years to come.  For the next 5 weeks, we’re going to look at ways we must be committed to shine from this hilltop through our new sermon series, “City on a Hill.”

This Sunday, I will start the series by featuring a 10-minute professional documentary that shares the story of how we got here.  ABC’s story is saturated with God’s grace, and we are going to take some time to celebrate all that God has done to get us here.  From there, we will examine Matthew 5 to see what He’s calling us to do next.  This weekend, we will also unveil a brand-new church logo and a state of the art website.  I’m excited to see how God will use our updated multi-media platforms to tell His story and expand the Kingdom here in Austin, Tx.  We will also have a merchandise “store” open in our lobby during this sermon series.  We will be selling brand-new shirts with the new logo at a low cost.  We hope you plan to purchase a few items so you can wear them proudly in our community to tell your neighbors what God is doing at ABC. 

I must also note that this Sunday will feature a celebration breakfast for all adults at 10AM in our Heritage Hall.  Our Adult BFG classes will not meet this Sunday, but instead, we will come together for a church-wide party to commemorate the day.  The delicious breakfast is free of charge, and our classes will be hosting a BFG Fair in the café area to showcase their individual classes.  We have lots of folks that have not found a bible fellowship group to call their home, so this event should be the perfect opportunity for people to get acquainted with our dynamic small groups that meet on campus every weekend at 10:10am.

I hope you plan to join us this Sunday for an important time of fellowship, celebration, and worship.  If you have been out for a while, this is the perfect time to come and get reconnected.  I also encourage you to invite a neighbor or friend to come hear the vision of ABC and enjoy the fellowship of our people.  Join me in praying for this weekend, and come expectant to meet with the Lord.  I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Daniel 12 – “From Here to Eternity”

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We remember

This Sunday is National Grandparents’ Day, and we are excited to celebrate and honor the wonderful grandparents in our church family.  The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is a wonderful gift from the Lord, and we’re grateful for the impact that our ABC grandparents make every day.  This Sunday, we will display a special photo loop featuring some of our church’s grandparents with their grandchildren.  We will also honor and pray for them during our worship services, and the ABC Kids ministry will be making special crafts for children to give their grandparents.  I encourage you to bring your extended family with you to church this Sunday, and be sure to take a picture at our special photo spot to commemorate the weekend.

While Sunday will be an exciting day, we must not forget that this weekend also marks an important milestone in our country.  This Saturday is the 20-year anniversary of the tragic attacks that transpired on September 11th, 2001.  I’m sure you can remember exactly where you were when you heard the devastating news that America was under attack.  I remember vividly seeing people leave work early that day, schools send their kids home, and many churches being flooded with community members that evening.  September 11th was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, but I will also always remember it as one of our brightest moments.  We watched our courageous first responders run into burning buildings while others were running away from them.  We heard the news of brave civilians on United 93 who sacrificially laid down their own lives to save countless others from another attack.  We witnessed our military heroes step up ready to fight and do whatever was needed to defend our country from wicked enemies.  9/11 was one of our worst moments as a nation, but perhaps it was also one of our best.

The summer following 9/11, I had the opportunity to go to New York City to see Ground Zero firsthand.  I remember looking at the massive wreckage the twin towers left behind, and all who were there began to experience a true sense of loss.  I saw people from all around our country standing together to witness the devastation, and it certainly was a somber moment.  However, I would also contend it was quite the unifying moment.  It didn’t matter what your age or political ideology was, all of us were united with that same sense of loss.  Moments of crisis often tend to unite people together, and I remember how proud I was of our nation rallying for the common good during that tumultuous season.  I think we would all agree that we could use a renewed and unified spirit right now.  We are divided on most things today, and my hope is that September 11th might be a moment to help us remember the powerful unity that our country needs.

As Christians, the Bible calls us to live as a model of unity.  Paul says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV).  We should always aim for restoration and agreement with one another in the family of faith.  We should live in peace with one another because the Prince of Peace has come.   We have experienced His peace, and that peace transcends all circumstances.  Because of that, we should be of the same mind, with the same love, in full accord with one another (Philippians 2:2).  When we model that kind of counter-cultural unity in our family of faith, it will most certainly be noticed by a world stuck in darkness.

God made you to be a difference maker for Him (Ephesians 2:10).  Each of us has an opportunity to demonstrate His peace inside our church walls, but also in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools this week.  Jesus says if we pursue meekness, mercy, and peace with others, we will indeed be blessed (Cf. Matthew 5:5-9).   I encourage you to be a uniter this week and model the love and affection that we have received from Jesus Christ.  This Sunday, we will remember and pray for the nearly 3,000 families who lost loved ones on 9/11, but we will also pray for the unity and peace that our nation desperately needs.  I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as we gather with one mind to glorify Jesus Christ and meet with Him in this place.  Have a great rest of your week and I’ll see you Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Message: Last Things – Comfort In His Sovereignty – Daniel 11
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When love grows cold

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some college football.  Fans have been building up anticipation for a year, teams have been practicing for months, and school spirit has once again come alive across our country.  Because of that, we’re going to have a special “College Colors Day” at ABC.  We are encouraging you to wear a football jersey or your favorite team’s colors at church this Sunday.  It should be a fun morning of fellowship, and friendly banter, as we all showcase our college allegiance to one another.

I am always excited to welcome back college football, but I’m especially grateful for its’ return this year.  As we all know, recent weeks have featured a constant flow of troubling headlines.  From Haiti’s devastating earthquake to Hurricane Ida’s impact on Louisiana, to continued COVID challenges and the gut-wrenching events that transpired in Afghanistan, our world has not been short on bad news.  Because of that, the good news of college football’s return seems to be a little extra refreshing this year.  Nonetheless, college football’s return will not remove today’s cultural challenges.  Saturday’s games will eventually come to end, our welcomed distraction will be over, and we will have to press on to face all of life’s problems next week.

Most Americans are struggling to figure out how to do that.  It seems that most people are walking through today’s problems carrying heavy loads of anxiety, discontentment, and even rage.  These past few weeks, I observed many troubling remarks from people across our country.  I saw some make terrible insults about complete strangers, simply because they either do or do not wear a mask.  I heard people propose the refusal of medical treatment for people who are sick with COVID, if they were not vaccinated.  I read people’s comments wishing death and destruction to politicians they were angry with.  I have personally seen hatred in people’s eyes for those who do not align with their personal political leanings.  One could argue that we live in the most polarizing moment in our nation’s history, and sadly, I would contend love and kindness are in short supply.  Jesus warned that this would happen before His triumphant return as He promised that, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). 

I do believe the love of many has grown cold.  People have tragically gotten comfortable with hatred, and many homes, businesses, classrooms, and neighborhoods have been divided as a devastating result.  Fortunately, as believers we do not have to fall into the pattern of this world though.  Jesus prayed that we would not when he requested from God, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).  Jesus prayed that His future followers would share a spirit of unity that others outside of the faith could see.  He knew that the world would be divided and filled with darkness, but he also knew that our love for one another would stand out to those who are watching (John 13:35). 

Christian love is meant to look different.  Jesus gave us two essential directives that are both centered around this goal of love.  He simply instructed us to love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-39).  Obedience to these commandments is so paramount during these dark times.  The love of many has indeed grown cold, but our love can remain as strong as ever.  This is because Jesus Christ modeled His sacrificial love for us (Romans 5:6), He extended His everlasting love to us (Romans 8:39), and He put a spirit of love inside us to transform our lives.  Paul reminds us, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  I pray that others will see the power of God in you through the self-control of your words, and through the sincere love of your hearts.  Love God and find ways to love others this week, because the world needs it more than ever. 

Last Sunday’s Sermon

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What makes a church great?

If I were to ask you, “What makes a church great?”, I bet I would receive a variety of answers.  Certainly, some would say strong Biblical teaching and a dynamic music ministry.  Others would say discipleship classes and a thriving prayer ministry.  Parents would likely chime in with the need for vibrant children’s and student ministries.  Some would add the importance of strong volunteer teams and exciting special events for the community.  While I would agree that all of those things help make a church great, I would contend that the list is missing one key ingredient: fellowship.  A church can do a lot of great things, but also be missing the one thing that truly makes it come alive.  The list I gave was focused on things that great churches do, but fellowship is the spirit that binds great churches together.

When the early church was first established, we’re told “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV).  Those first 3,000 converts in Jerusalem built a vibrant church with some of the same important marks I just listed above.  However, they also committed themselves to fellowship with one another.  That word “fellowship” comes from that famous Greek word, “koinonia.”  It can also be interpreted as “participation” or “sharing.”  The idea Luke is trying to communicate to us is that the early Christians participated in their family of faith.  Church wasn’t reduced to a worship service they watched or a building they walked into.  Church was a group of people that shared their lives together for the glory of God and for the good of one another.

Last weekend, we hosted our “Discover ABC” dinner on Sunday night.  We welcomed about 40 new members and guests for a special evening of fellowship around dinner tables.  I loved getting to visit with some of our new folks and hear their stories.  I asked people what stood out about ABC when they first visited.  I heard multiple people say the same answer different ways.  Some said, “Y’all just have some of the nicest people.”  Others said, “we felt so welcomed by everyone.”  One told me they were “blown away by the fact that our church followed up with them after their visit because other churches didn’t.”  All of these remarks are encouraging evidence that our church is indeed devoted to fellowship. 

I truly believe we have so many people in our church who sincerely want to share their lives with others.  I watch this unfold every week through people praying for another, checking in with each other, sharing meals together, and helping one another in moments of crisis.  Only the Lord knows how many texts, phone calls, and notes are written every week by our members to encourage, check-in, and love on others in our faith family.  ABC indeed has a sweet fellowship, but the sweetest part is that we make room for others to be a part of it as well.  We will always exist as a church for those who are not here yet.  There are many outside our church walls that are starving for fellowship.  We live in a big world where we all know lots of people, yet ironically, we are known by very few.  The pandemic pushed many onto isolated islands, and I believe there are many Austinites who feel more spiritually and socially alone than ever before. If you are personally in search of fellowship, I want to let you know that ABC has lots of on-ramps for you to find it.

To find fellowship, you will have to “devote” yourself to finding it just like the early church.  They committed their lives to participating in community, and in 2021, it takes commitment in the same way.  We offer a Midweek meal and discipleship classes on Wednesday nights to give you an opportunity to experience fellowship.  Likewise, we offer BFG classes for all ages and stages of life to help people find the community they are looking for.  We host special events every month for people to come together and build healthy relationships.  We offer volunteer opportunities for people to share their lives and spiritual gifts with one another through service.  But in all these things, it takes devotion and initiative to find the fellowship you need.  In other words, you can’t be known until you decide to make yourself available to be known. The good news is, I believe if you simply take a few bold steps, God will start to bless you with the fellowship and community your soul is searching for.

The darker times get, the more important it is to gather as that city on a hill.  I encourage you to come and enjoy the fellowship of our church this weekend.  We always shine brighter when we are together, and I believe you’ll be blessed by sharing your life and participating in the lives of others this Sunday.  This weekend, we will share the Lord’s Supper together as Christ commanded us to do in remembrance of Him.  I look forward to fellowshipping with you this Sunday and pressing on in our study in the book of Daniel.

Last Sunday’s Message: Last Things – 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)

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Call to Prayer

It has been a busy few days at ABC.  This past Monday, we were excited to officially launch our new weekday preschool, “Little Lights Preschool.”  This ministry marks a new milestone in the life of our church, as we now offer a fully licensed preschool operating 4 days a week at ABC.  We were even able to expand the age range for our classrooms, and we are now privileged to minister to children from 6 months to Pre-K through our church’s preschool.  The community’s response has been outstanding, and we were blessed to max out our enrollment and begin wait lists for many more families.  Be sure to thank our Preschool Minister, Rachel Tovar, and our Little Lights Director, Eby Whatley, for their outstanding work.  They have put in countless hours to get us to this point, and I’m excited to see what God is going to do as we shine His light into the lives of these little ones.

As we all know, ABC is not the only ones kicking off a new school year this week.  Some schools started back last week, but several other school districts and private schools returned to the classrooms this week.  Of course, this is all happening during complicated times.  I know many parents, educators, and politicians have been debating how to best proceed with school amidst the current COVID climate.  With that in mind, I think it is important for our church to lift our schools up in prayer this week.  We need to be praying for their safety, but also for peace as parents and educators work together to find a way to press forward together.  This Sunday, we’ll have a time of prayer for our schools, and we’re also going to give you an opportunity to be a prayer partner all next week.  At the conclusion of our services, we will hand out wristbands with an ABC students first name and grade level.  We’re going to encourage our church members to wear a bracelet all next week and pray for that child by name every day.  Our hope and prayer is that our children and youth will have a meaningful year filled with personal growth and development as they press on this school year.

The truth is our world needs a lot of prayer right now.  Every day, there seems to be some sort of new bad news.  Many of us have been tracking Haiti’s situation this week.  Weeks ago, you may remember their president was assassinated, and they have sadly endured lots of political and economic turmoil for many years.  Unfortunately, things got worse as they suffered through a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Saturday.  The nation has confirmed nearly 2,000 deaths at this point, and the country is struggling to figure out how to move forward.  I know many of our hearts have also been with the people of Afghanistan.  It is heartbreaking to watch the Taliban seize control and see the suffering that is coming to the Afghani’s land.  Western allies are frantically trying to find a way out, Christians are being hunted down, and women are being exploited every day.  There are some horrific things happening around our world, and I think it’s important for us to do two things this week.  

First, we should all be counting our blessings.  I know it’s easy to become cynical and angry in our own political climate.  We too have problems here in the United States, but I still do believe we are blessed to live in the greatest nation in the world.  We should thank the Lord for what we have, as our hardships are often very small when compared to the hardships of many of our brothers and sisters around the world.  But secondly, I think we also need to be in prayer.  As we learned from Daniel last week, God does listen to the prayers of his people.  Those prayers are so essential, especially during hard times.  I think about Daniel’s example in chapter 6.  You might remember, Daniel got word that Darius had signed a new decree outlawing men and women to petition any god other than him.  How did Daniel respond?  “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem.  He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10 ESV).  

In a moment of crisis, Daniel did not run from God, he ran to Him.  Our world is in a moment of crisis, and it is important for us to follow Daniel’s example.  I encourage you to also get on your knees this week.  Our physical posture before God is an important thing.  Even at 80+ years old, Daniel understood that there was value in him kneeling before God.  In doing so, he was humbly surrendering himself to His King and His will.  On his knees, Daniel would give thanks for what he had and petition for God’s supernatural help.  This week, I encourage you to find your room to kneel in.  Take time to pray for Afghanistan and Haiti.  Pray for our schools.  Pray for our political leaders, even the ones you don’t agree with.  Give thanks for what God has given you before you petition Him for what He has not given you.  This basic spiritual discipline will renew your mind and realign your heart with God’s purposes for your life.  Prayer sustained Daniel, just as it likewise sustained Jesus Christ during His ministry.  My prayer is that we would follow their examples because it will likewise empower us to live faithfully during trying times.  I look forward to praying with you this weekend and continuing our series, “Last Things.”  I hope to see you there at 9am or 11:11.

Last Sunday’s Message: Last Things – Hope in Turmoil Daniel 9:1-23
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Getting Back to the King’s Business

I hope your week is off to a great start.  I just got back from Dallas, where we held this year’s ABC staff retreat.  Several of our staff members were able to get away to plan, prepare, and pray over all the ministries of our church.  We were honored to partner with Prestonwood Baptist Church for a portion of the retreat, as the church graciously opened their doors to our team.  We were privileged to hear from their executive staff, tour their facilities, and our staff members were able to spend time with their counterparts at PBC.  It was a great moment of iron sharpening iron, and our team left inspired to continue to offer ministry with excellence here in Austin, TX.

This week, there will indeed be a lot of ministry happening here at ABC.  It will all start on Wednesday night at our ABC Kids Open House.  Our staff and volunteer teams will be opening up our classrooms for parents and children to meet their new teachers, all while enjoying some free ice cream and fellowship.  Our Student Ministry will be hosting a 6th Grade promotion party on Saturday to welcome our newest students into the ABC Student Ministry.  This is all leading to our Promotion Sunday, where we will move all our kids and youth up a grade level this weekend for the start of a new school year.  Our BFG classes will get in on the celebration through a fantastic breakfast social in the Great Hall called the “BFG BFG” (Bible Fellowship Group Breakfast Food Gala).  I hope you’re planning to come early and come hungry to enjoy this fantastic breakfast spread provided by our volunteers.  We’ll also be honoring our first graders through a 1st grade Bible presentation during each worship service, and we will have a time of prayer for all of our students and educators heading back to the classrooms .  It will be a big day in the life of our church, so I encourage you to make plans to join us and consider who you can invite to be a part of the excitement.

I’m so grateful that our church continues to press on in ministry and mission.  As we all know, times remain challenging for our city and our nation.  COVID numbers have obviously gone up and many unvaccinated people have flooded our hospitals.  The political divide seemingly continues to widen, inflation keeps rising, and many in our country are left feeling dejected.  In some ways, I think our friend Daniel could resonate with where we are at.  If you remember last week, Daniel received a vision that was largely discouraging about his own nation.  He began to understand that God’s people were going to be persecuted and opposed by foreign nation after nation in the years to come.  The vision in fact even included a terrible disruption to Israel’s worship and the desecration of God’s holy temple.  It was a lot of bad news to soak in, and the Bible tells us Daniel was overwhelmed by what he saw.  Daniel explains, “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days.” (Daniel 8:27a).

Daniel was so grieved by all the bad news, that he had to stay in bed for a few days to process it.  I would presume he was perhaps frustrated, saddened, and even anxious over what he saw his nation was going to endure in the generations to come.  I believe many Christians in our city feel the same way as Daniel.  So many feel stuck, as they too grieve and fear what will happen to our nation in the years to come.  Like Daniel, consistent bad news has shaken many of us up, and for some, it has even paralyzed them in their spiritual progress.  Sadly, many have been “laying in bed” spiritually for well over a year. Some continue to sulk, worry, and even get angry as they don’t see a way to move forward. And while the bad news of our land is indeed real, just as it was for Daniel, I think it’s important for us to learn from Daniel’s response.  He said, “Then I rose and went about the king’s business” (Daniel 8:27a). Daniel did not stay in isolation and remove himself from the problems of his culture.  Instead, he got out of bed and continued to walk in God’s purposes for his life.

I believe that is a message many in our country need to hear.  Like Daniel’s situation, yes, things are hard, and yes, we seem to receive more discouraging news every day.  Nonetheless, we too are called to get up and get to the business of our King.  Paul tells the church, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  If you are in Christ, God designed you to walk in good works.  If you have breath in your lungs, God has purpose for your life. And the text does not say that we are only supposed to walk in those good purposes when we are walking in good times.  In fact, the book of Daniel shows us that perhaps good works are even more essential during hard times.  We are called to serve God and worship Him in all seasons; we cannot simply choose the convenient ones.  My hope is that all of us will get to our King’s business this week just like Daniel.  May we all worship Him with a community of believers. May we serve His church with our gifts and build up His body. May we be His hands and feet outside of the church walls, and look for opportunities to shine light and hope into dark places. And may we not allow fear and discouragement to rob us from walking in God’s purposes for our lives. God has good works for you to do this week, but you will only walk in them if you get out of bed.

Last Week’s Sermon: Last Things: A Ram and a Goat – Daniel 8

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Why study the end times?

I hope you are having a great week and enjoying these last few days of summer.  The start of school is right around the corner, and so is ABC’s Promotion Sunday.  August 15th will be a special day filled with celebration as our children “move up” a grade, and we are offering all kinds of festivities to commemorate the big day.  We are hosting our first ever First Grade Bible presentation to celebrate an important milestone in our children’s lives, we are having an amazing breakfast spread for all adults at the “BFG BFG,” and our children and student ministries are offering exciting themes and attractions for that big day.  I hope you plan to join us, and I encourage you to bring a friend so they can also experience the life and fellowship of ABC.

Last Sunday we kicked off our new series, “Last Things,” which is focused on Daniel’s end-times prophecies.  I’m looking forward to us continuing to unpack these complex visions that are essential to our eschatological understanding.  You will notice that these visions will change week to week, but you will also notice a common theme in Daniel’s responses.  Daniel consistently has an emotional and physical reaction to what he sees from the Lord.  For example, remember last week when Daniel saw the four beasts, the Ancient of Days, and the son of man.  After receiving those amazing visions, he said, “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me” (Daniel 7:15 ESV).  Daniel saw what God has planned for creation, and how does he respond?  He is worried and frightened.  In future weeks you will see him also lose sleep and even get ill after he receives these divine visions. 

Why does Daniel react this way?  I believe it’s perhaps because he senses the weight of these visions.  As Daniel’s mind began to understand God’s magnificent plan for salvation, the establishment of His kingdom, and the promise of His coming judgment, Daniel couldn’t help but be moved emotionally.  Like other prophets, Daniel carried a burden for his people.  These prophecies not only stirred his mind, but the message behind them also stirred his heart for others .  I believe in some ways this too should be our reaction in the coming weeks.  Faithful study of eschatology should not only engage our minds, but it should also impact our hearts.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  Some Christians study eschatology solely as an academic exercise, and that mindset often leads to a place of pride and arrogance.  This is because they will study the end times to receive higher knowledge and fresh ammunition for debate with others.  They often want to make bold predictions and desire to be seen as a scriptural authority amongst their peers.  But I believe God didn’t give us these visions to puff up our heads.  He gave us these prophecies to fill up our hearts.

My prayer is that each of us will not only grow in our understanding of scripture these next couple months, but I pray that we will grow in godliness as well.  I believe these prophecies have the power to transform our lives.  I pray these visions will humble each of us in the coming days.  Some conclude an end-times study with the belief that they are now an authority on the topic.  But a proper study of the topic leads one to the rightful conclusion that we in fact have no authority at all.  Daniel explains that the Son of Man “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and language should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14 ESV).  Jesus Christ has all authority over creation, and over each of our lives.  May we all leave this study with a better understanding of that truth, and may we learn to follow him more humbly and more closely each week.

But I also pray that this study of Daniel will motivate our hearts.  Daniel’s visions will indeed open our eyes to the dark days that are ahead of creation.  The last days will sadly not go well for many.  Those days will be heavy days filled with pain, remorse, and separation from God’s goodness.  May we all finish this study with a sober understanding that people all around us are separated from God.  We should aim to help others “be ready” for that day, just as Jesus instructs us (Matthew 24:44).   Jesus invites all of our neighbors, friends, and colleagues into His kingdom, and He has given each of us the high calling to serve as His ambassadors to deliver His invitation (2 Corinthians 5:20).  I’m excited to see what God will do through each of us in the coming days as He engages our minds and our hearts through this study. Have a great rest of your week and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Message: Last Things – A King and His Kingdom – Daniel 7
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New Sermon Series Sunday

I hope you enjoyed the last couple months as we’ve navigated through the book of Proverbs.  God’s Word tells us that wisdom does work in our lives, so I pray that you will put wisdom to work in the coming days.  While the sermon series is now wrapped up, it’s important to note that our pursuit of wisdom is far from over.  Experts say the average adult makes roughly 35,000 decisions a day, so we are in constant need of more wisdom and discernment.  This should lead all of us to take Solomon’s advice and “get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth” (Proverbs 4:5 ESV).  If you find yourself needing wisdom this week, Solomon simply tells you to go receive some more.  The pursuit of wisdom is a lifelong journey, and fortunately we serve a generous God that is able and willing to provide wisdom to us in our times of need (James 1:5-6).

This Sunday we are pressing on to a new sermon series titled, “Last Things.”  We will look at a subject that the church has spent centuries both studying and debating: the topic of eschatology.  The word eschatology is derived from the Greek word, eschatos, meaning “last” or “final.”  So eschatology is simply the study of the last things.  We are blessed as Christians because God provided us with an amazing amount of information regarding this important topic.  God’s Word not only tells us where we and this world came from, but the scriptures also share His plans for the world in the coming days.  There will indeed be an end to this world as we currently see it, and God wants us to understand, to a certain level, how those final days will actually transpire.

When you Biblically dive into this topic of eschatology, you cannot help but make your way to the book of Daniel.  God providentially gave Daniel some amazing visions of what is to come in those last days.  I believe you will be encouraged and excited as you see prophecy come alive in God’s Word.  I hope you come ready to dig into chapters 7 to 12 these next couple months, and I believe all of us will leave the series with a greater sense of anticipation and joy as we look to the imminent return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His kingdom.  Jesus Christ will return!  Because of that, we should open our eyes to the things going on around us and look also to the future.  Jesus says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:42-44 ESV).  May we all open our eyes and our hearts to Daniel’s words these coming weeks, and if we do, I believe God will better prepare us for the return of our King.

This Sunday we will indeed start this new series, and I am confident that we will continue to also welcome new guests.  Every weekend we are thrilled to meet new people that are walking through our church doors to worship and experience the fellowship of ABC.  God has blessed us tremendously with many new faces this summer, so we’re also preparing for some special events to help these folks feel welcomed into our church.  Be on the lookout for our first ever “Discover ABC” dinner on Sunday August 22nd.  This dinner is for new visitors and new members to help them meet our staff/leadership, hear more about our church, and learn how they can quickly get involved into the life of ABC.  If you came to ABC this summer, I’d like to invite you to join us, and I only request that you RSVP for this free dinner so we can prepare for you (childcare is available). 

Also, save the date on August 15th for our first ever “BFG BFG” (Bible Fellowship Group Breakfast Food Gala).  All BFG’s will host large breakfast spreads in our Great Hall during the Bible Fellowship Group Hour.  We are having this large-scale fellowship event for classes to rub shoulders with one another, but also to provide an opportunity for new visitors and members to meet our classes and hopefully make a connection.  You may not know it, but we now have 150-200 people join us for worship every Sunday that have not yet found a BFG to attend.  This will be a great opportunity to help them experience the life of our church and get them connected into the community at ABC.

God is continuing to bless our church in this season, and I look forward to seeing what He’s going to do as we seek to understand His plans through this new sermon series.  Have a great week and I’ll see you Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Wisdom Works – Wise Finances Proverbs 3:9-10
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The greatest disciplines

It’s hard to believe, but the month of July is already winding down and the end of summer is on the horizon.  Summer at ABC has been quite the sprint.  From our Summer Kick-off Party to our Beach Camp, to Vacation Bible School and Freedom Over Austin, our summer has been filled with exciting events and impactful ministries.  Combining the church calendar with family vacations and the resurgence of tourism, I think it’s fair to say this summer has been quite the whirlwind for all.  From my perspective, every week has had something different going on, and while it has indeed been exciting, I’m also ready to reestablish some routines in my life.

Whenever I think of routines, I often think of athletes.  Of course, right now all eyes are turning toward Tokyo to watch the world’s greatest athletes compete for gold.  These finely-tuned Olympians are always so fascinating to study.  Viewers get to know them for just a few short days as they have their shining moment on the biggest stage.  However, we must not forget that there were countless unseen moments that got them to that stage.  Virtually every American is familiar with the name, Michael Phelps.  Phelps is of course one of the most famous Olympians of all time, earning 28 Olympic medals and the label as the most dominant swimmer of all time.  But if you have studied Phelps, you know that a lot of work happened behind the scenes to make those achievements possible.  He daily consumed over 10,000 calories to fuel his body with the exact nutrients it needed to compete at the highest level.  For years, he trained every day of the week, and did two-a-days three times a week.  Phelps would swim 80,000 meters weekly in practice and spent the rest of his time taking ice baths, stretching, working with his trainer, getting massages, and getting lots of rest.  In fact, he even slept in an altitude chamber to help his body get adjusted to wherever he was competing.

As you can see, Phelps didn’t win gold simply because he was the fastest.  Phelps was a champion because he sacrificially committed himself to the necessary disciplines to get him there.  It’s interesting how God’s Word frequently uses athletic metaphors.  This is because physical principles so often shed light on the spiritual realm as well.  Paul explains, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8 ESV).  Paul acknowledges that physical disciplines are important.  There indeed is value in eating right and exercising, however, it is even more important to train your body for godliness.  Like physical training, spiritual training is rooted in a steadfast commitment every day.  It is sacrificially saying “no” to the things of this world, and instead saying “yes” to the things of God.  It is pursing God’s will for your life and training your heart and mind to walk in righteousness.  Paul explains that just like athletes, we too train for a purpose: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

Our prize is far greater than anything in this world (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9).  Because of that, we too should establish routines and disciplines into our lives.  We must wake up and pray to our Father, through the Son, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  We must renew our minds in Him and yield ourselves to His will everyday (Romans 12:1-2).  We must read His Word to hear from Him but also to be filled up by Him so we can face the day’s challenges (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We must make church a priority and not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).   My question for you this week is, “What does your spiritual routine look like?”  If you’re like me, summer has been anything but routine, but the good news is you can start fresh today.  If you need some help building those kinds of disciplines into your life, I encourage you to check out our latest Podcast series, “The New Normal.”  Matt Gillum and I have been focusing on various spiritual disciplines in hopes of helping you develop those routines into your life so you can become a champion for Jesus Christ.  You can find that content here:  Apple Podcast Channel or  Spotify Podcast Channel .

Run your race well this week, and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday as we wrap up our Wisdom Works study.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Wisdom Works – “Wise Words”
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His energy in us

It’s great to be back in Austin, Texas!  I missed seeing you all last weekend, but our family did have a wonderful time away on vacation.  Bethany and I were grateful to spend most of the week celebrating our anniversary in Charleston, South Carolina, while our kiddos had an adventure filled week with their grandparents in Houston.  We also had the opportunity to catch up with old friends from our last church, and they were thrilled to hear about all that God is doing here at ABC.  It was an encouraging reminder to me that there are many people in other cities that pray for our church family daily.  I believe God has been answering their prayers, as well as our own, as He continues to bless ABC.

While I did miss seeing you all last week, I was grateful to be able to leave knowing that a fantastic staff would keep the ship sailing just fine.  I especially want to thank our Executive Pastor, Dr. Matt Gillum, for delivering a terrific message from the book of Proverbs last Sunday.  God has truly assembled a great team here at ABC.  Last weekend happened to be my one-year anniversary, and because of that, I’ve spent the last several days reflecting on all that God has done these past 12 months.  The list goes longer than any single article I can share, but one thing I’ve been thanking God for is our staff.   God has brought a dynamic team to serve our church family.  Our staff is filled with individuals who are passionate about Christ and eager to serve our church family.  They have worked incredibly hard this summer to equip our volunteers and to provide leadership in ministries that are making an impact for Jesus. From our facilities and food services teams, to our administrative team that keeps us organized and on track, to the ministerial team that helps shepherd our flock, I’m very proud of each staff member and grateful for their contribution to this church.  I encourage you to thank them when you see them, because the truth is we could not have had the summer we’ve seen without their A+ efforts.

This summer we’ve welcomed 50 new members into our church family and 24 individuals raised their flags for Jesus Christ through believer’s baptism (May – July YTD numbers).  In fact, this Sunday will be our sixth straight weekend with at least one baptism, and we’ve been seeing multiple first-time visitors enter our doors every Sunday morning.  I share those numbers for two reasons.  First, we should all thank the Lord for blessing our church during this summer.  We cast the seed, but we must not forget that He makes it grow (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:15, Matthew 16:18).  But secondly, I share those numbers in hopes of motivating you to join in on that good work.  Reaching people for Christ does not happen by accident.  It happens when church members embrace their individual callings and step up to share their time, treasure, and talent for the glory of God.  Reaching people is indeed hard work.  Paul reminds of this fact when he wrote, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29 ESV). 

Paul toiled for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He worked hard to reach people so that he could “present them mature in Christ” (verse 28).  My hope is that you and I will likewise roll up our own sleeves for the Gospel .  We roll them up when we come to church ready to serve others and not just be served. But we also roll them up during the week when God sends us to our mission fields in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  If we commit to toil for God’s glory, Paul says the good news is “His energy” will work powerfully in and through us.  I pray that you will make an impact for the Kingdom this week, and I look forward to rejoining you in worship this Sunday as we learn how we can speak to each other with “wise words.” 

Wisdom Works – Sermon Series Promo

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Celebrating Life Change

Last Sunday certainly was an exciting day in the life of our church!  By the grace of God, we were privileged to celebrate 12 baptisms in our worship services last weekend.  God has been stirring hearts in our church in recent weeks, as we now have baptized 18 people in three weeks.  Thankfully, we even have several more baptisms scheduled for these upcoming weekends including this Sunday.  But amidst that excitement, it’s important that we do not forget the message each one of these baptisms brings.  These individuals have been raised to life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  That miracle of salvation is worth celebrating, and I’m so proud of these who have boldly raised their flags for Christ through believer’s baptism.  It was a great weekend of worship and thanksgiving for all that God has done.

It’s important to note that last Sunday would not have been the same without the extended efforts of our Director of Media, Carlos Jordan.  Carlos wears many technical hats in our church that most will never know about.  But a few weeks ago, we gave Carlos a challenge by adding one more hat to his full plate.  We sent Carlos to Beach Camp with a vision to bring the beach experience back to Austin, and he did a fantastic job turning that vision into a reality through our reflections video.  We appreciate his talents and the extra hours he put in to edit a meaningful testimony of God’s work in our students’ lives.  Be sure to extend your appreciation to Carlos for all his hard work when you see him.

I believe momentum in our church is going to continue to build this weekend.  As you know, this Sunday is the official first weekend for our new Worship Pastor, Dr. Todd Stearns.  Todd and Sonya are still in the process of selling their home and fully relocating to Austin, so please continue to be patient and pray for them as they navigate through this season of transition.  In the meantime, Todd is going to begin spending a few days in Austin each week to run our rehearsals and lead us in worship on Sundays.  We’re excited to have him lead us especially on this important 4th of July Sunday.  It will be an exciting patriotic day as we worship God with grateful hearts for how He has given us freedom through this amazing country, and even more importantly, how He has given us freedom through His Son.  Wear red, white, and blue and join us for a meaningful morning of worship.

Of course, I must also mention that the celebration truly will begin on Saturday night.  Make sure you don’t miss our Freedom Over Austin event here at ABC.  The festivities will begin at 7pm with an All-American carnival featuring inflatables, train rides, petting zoo, face painting, live music, food trucks, and more.  At 9pm, we’ll have a brief outdoor program with a few songs, a time of prayer, and of course an amazing fireworks show right here on our property.  Please note that parking will be limited so come early to park on-site, or plan to park down the road at Four Points Middle and Vandegrift.  We’ll have parking teams ready to direct you and bus shuttle services ready to assist you.  When you get on site, we will have some tables and chairs available, but folks are welcome to bring a comfortable lawn chair with them as well.

Consider now who you can invite to Freedom Over Austin.  This event provides the perfect opportunity to introduce someone to the ministries at ABC.  We want Freedom Over Austin to be a blessing to our entire community and an opportunity for others to experience the fellowship of our church family.  It’s amazing what one simple invitation can do.  In fact, we had multiple baptisms this past Sunday because their friends simply invited them to our church a few weeks ago.  Their friends got them through the doors, and God ministered to them through our church family in a powerful way.  I believe advertisements certainly have their place in churches, but the most effective tool to get people to church will always be a personal invitation.  So prayerfully consider who God might be leading you to invite and extend that invitation for all the festivities this weekend.

 “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126:3).  God has been very good to ABC, and I believe many more great things are on the horizon.  May we come together this weekend with hearts filled with worship and thanksgiving for who He is and all that He has done.  I look forward to seeing you on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.   May God bless you and your home this week.

Last Sunday’s Message: Wisdom Works – “Wise Choices” – Proverbs 3:5-6
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What makes VBS great

Thank you for your prayers and support these past two weeks.  As you know, it has been a busy season here at ABC.  We just returned from Beach Camp last weekend, and now we are in the middle of hosting a large Vacation Bible School every morning at the church.  But amidst all the busyness, I’ve been proud to watch our church step up and serve so well.  I’m grateful for staff members like Derek Tackett and his facilities team who have gone above and beyond to make sure our facility is pristine and ready to welcome hundreds of children each day.  Jennifer Wilcoxson and her team are here early and stay late to keep us well fed and happy, both on Father’s Day as well as every day at VBS.  Our ministerial team including Nathan Wood, Kati Dobbs and Rachel Tovar have put in countless hours behind the scenes to make these two weeks possible.  And hundreds of volunteers have worked tirelessly to help us reach the next generation of Austin for Jesus Christ.  I’m grateful for every individual who gave up a week of their time to serve on the beach or here at VBS.  They are the true heroes, and my prayer is that these weeks have been just as transformational for them, as I know it has been for the children and youth they served.

A couple days ago I was greeting at the front door for Vacation Bible School when a young mother approached me.  She began to complement our church and said how much she appreciated our VBS program.  She explained that her family does not currently attend our church, however, she admitted she is now considering paying us a visit in the coming weeks.  She said her motivating reason was our volunteers.  She was blown away by seeing the number of youth and adult volunteers that gave up their time to faithfully serve people they didn’t even know.  She explained that she is coming from a church home that is constantly struggling to engage and enlist their people for service.  Their ministries apparently are struggling to recruit volunteers in all of their areas, and consequently, the church has become stagnant and ineffective in many ministries.

I think it’s important for you to hear that story for two reasons.  First, it should encourage every volunteer to continue to press on in their service.  I know sometimes it can feel like your efforts are going unnoticed by the world around you.  I understand that it can be a thankless task to move chairs, greet kids, or prep crafts for classrooms.  But scripture tells us that God sees your good works, and so does a world who is watching.  Jesus knows this so he commands us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).  Your faithful service is a living testimony to the living Savior whom you serve.  God designed us to walk in good works, in part, so that others could see the motivation behind our toil.  So don’t grow weary in doing good, but remain steadfast in God’s calling on your life to serve. 

But secondly, I share that story in hopes that it will motivate others who are not serving right now.  You too could be a difference maker for the Kingdom of God, and in fact, that is exactly what God made you to do (Cf Eph 2:10).  Peter tells us, “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” ( 1 Peter 4:10 ESV).  God has given us spiritual gifts so that we can use them to build up His church.  It’s important to understand that churches don’t grow solely because of preachers and facilities.  Yes, preachers and facilities are certainly important, but those things alone do not ensure growth.  There are many empty large church buildings with talented preachers that prove my point.  So how does a church grow?  Churches see dynamic growth when the people of God rise up and allow their great builder, Jesus Christ, to use them as living stones to build up His house (Cf. Matthew 16:18, 1 Peter 2:5). 

My prayer is that you will allow God to use you as one of those stones.  There is still much work to be done, and we need more pieces for this sacred construction project.  Paul instructs us to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).  This Sunday we will be celebrating some of that harvest from these past 2 weeks.  We’ll be showcasing highlight videos from Beach Camp and VBS, including several testimonies from students who gave their hearts to Jesus Christ on the beach.  We’ll also be celebrating changed lives through believer’s baptism in both services.  I believe it will be a powerful weekend that will remind us all why we do what we do.  I hope you plan to join us this Sunday and I encourage you to invite a friend to come and experience the fellowship of God’s people and the testimony of our worship together.  Do not grow weary in doing good, because the best is yet to come.

Last Sunday’s Message: Wise Marriages – Proverbs 31:10-13
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Unity in the Gospel

It has been quite an eventful week at ABC.  Last Sunday we prayed over nearly 100 students and leaders as they loaded up buses for Orange Beach, Alabama.  These students and leaders are currently having a big week at Beach Camp, and God is moving in the hearts of our teenagers.  In fact, I’m thrilled to report that five students have already made decisions for Jesus Christ this week.  Additionally, last Sunday was a milestone in our church family as we welcomed our new Worship Pastor, Dr. Todd Stearns, along with his wonderful wife, Sonya.  We should all celebrate God’s goodness and provision as he has sent us a wonderful shepherd to guide our family to the throne of grace each week.  Right now, our ABC Kids team is dialed in on VBS prep.  We are looking forward to welcoming hundreds of new visitors in the coming days and hosting one of the biggest vacation bible schools we’ve seen in recent years.  It’s our hope and prayer that many children will come to Christ through the ministry that will take place inside our church walls.

While all those big things are happening at ABC, we also have some big things happening in Nashville.   As many of you know, our church is participating in our annual Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee this week.  This meeting is indeed annual, but of course the SBC was not able to come together in person in 2020 due to the pandemic.  That missed year helped make this year’s meeting one of the largest gatherings in recent memory, with over 15,000 messengers registered in Nashville.  I’m currently writing this week’s article from my hotel room before I head off to the final day of our meeting.  There has been much media coverage leading up to this week and I know many in the church, and outside of the church, have been looking to see what would transpire in Nashville.  To put the moment into perspective, this year the SBC issued four to five times more media credentials than they have in recent convention years.

That increase was for a purpose.  Many outside the faith are hoping to find a headline or controversial sound bite that will spread across our nation.  And there has indeed been robust discussion and debate over difficult topics this year, however I am grateful to report that there is also a spirit of unity that is alive and well.  Thousands of southern baptists remain steadfast and committed to the inerrancy of scripture, the autonomy of the local church, and the great commission that binds our hearts together.  While the SBC has indeed experienced numeric decline in recent years, our convention is alive with 45,000 churches that are committed to Gospel ministry around the world.  To put that in context, that is more churches than all Starbucks, McDonalds, and Subways in our country combined.  While that is worth celebrating, I also invite you to pray that God will give us more.  As part of the SBC’s Vision 2025, our cooperating churches are going to begin praying for God to raise up 5,000 new churches to bring us over that 50,000 mark.  Further, we’re praying that God will call 500 new full-time missionaries, giving us 4,200 fully funded missionaries through the IMB.  We’re also praying for the baptism waters to be stirred in our churches by children and teenagers.  As a convention, we are in agreement that we must each sacrificially do our part to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ.

These are ambitious goals but nothing is impossible for our God (Luke 1:37), and God’s Word actually instructs us to dream big and pray big (Ephesians 3:20).  So I ask you to do exactly that.  Pray that God will work through Austin Baptist Church to expand the kingdom, and for our church to unite in mission together.  During our SBC President’s address, Pastor J.D. Greear, gave an illustration that stuck with me.  He mentioned his friend and former SBC President, Pastor Steve Gaines, once told him Baptists are like hunting dogs.  When we have a mission, we all unite together and we are a force to be reckoned with.  But when we don’t have a mission, like those dogs, we always start to fight with each other.  My prayer is that we ABC will be united by one clear mission: to light up our city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

It is both easy and tempting to sniff out things to fight about.  If our mission is to find something to argue about, we will always accomplish that mission in our churches and convention.  But it is so much more profitable and edifying to find a mission that unites us and brings glory to the Father.  Fortunately, we need not look far for that mission because Jesus Christ already gave it to us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV).  May this mission burn on our hearts individually and on the heart of our church collectively.  I pray that God may pour out his grace on your life, so you can be an effective witness to your neighbors, co-workers, and families for glory of God.  Invite a friend to join you this weekend, and I look forward to seeking God’s wisdom with you through worship on Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Wisdom Works – “Wise Living” – Proverbs 1:1-7

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Prayers for the Summer

Last Sunday was a special day in the life of our church.  I think it’s fair to say that the Summer Kick Off party was a blast for all in attendance.  We had over 400 people stick around after church for a fantastic lunch and special event.  I loved seeing folks from both of our worship services come together as one church to enjoy fun and fellowship on a Sunday morning.  I want to thank everyone who participated and helped make it all happen.  Jennifer Wilcoxson knocked it out of the park with her food services team, Derek Tackett led a great team of staff and volunteers that got our Heritage Hall ready for the kids, and Terry Odneal did a wonderful job organizing our classic cars outside.  The BFG’s showed up strong for our chili cook off competition, and I want to congratulate Maranatha for taking home the prize!  Last Sunday truly felt like there was something for everyone, and I’m thankful for all who were a part of it.  I’m also proud of many you for also capitalizing on the big weekend to invite your friends.  We had dozens of visitors last Sunday, which simply reiterated the power of a personal invitation.  Churches grow one person at a time, so I encourage you to continue to invite your friends, families, and co-workers so they can experience what God is doing at ABC.

While last Sunday was a big success, it is important for us to press forward as we have many other big endeavors on the horizon.  It all starts this weekend with the presentation of our Worship Pastor candidate, Dr. Todd Stearns.  I hope you’ve been able to familiarize yourself with Todd this past week, and he and Sonya are looking forward to meeting you this weekend.  The weekend’s schedule is enclosed in this week’s issue of The Bridge, and I hope you plan to join us for another important moment in the life of our church.  Additionally, this Sunday we are sending off about 100 teenagers and leaders for our student ministry’s Beach Camp in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We’ll be recognizing the group in the 9am service and praying for them right before they load the buses and hit the road.  Then one week later, we’ll be celebrating our Vacation Bible School as their big week starts with a rally on Sunday June 20th.  Last but certainly not least, we’re also looking ahead to our “Freedom Over Austin” event on July 3rd.  This event will feature a free All-American carnival, food trucks, and a professional firework show for the entire community here at ABC.  Once again, I encourage you to capitalize on this event as an opportunity to invite someone to come experience what God is doing in our church family.

With so many important things around the corner, I think it’s important for each of us to slow down and not miss what matters the most amidst all of it: prayer.  It’s easy to get busy and forget that all these things mean nothing if God is not in the middle of them all.  Proverbs 15:29 reminds us that, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”  God hears us when we call out to him, so I encourage you to call out in unity for these things:

  • Pray for Dr. Todd Stearns and his family as they prepare for this weekend.  Pray for the future of our worship ministry and that God will be honored in our business meeting.
  • Pray for our students heading to the beach.  Pray that they will each have a divine appointment with God and come back fueled by God’s Word.
  • Pray for our VBS.  Pray that Gospel seeds will be planted into homes.  Pray for salvation in children’s lives.  Pray for parents to be impacted by what God does in their kids’ lives as well.
  • Pray for Freedom Over Austin.  Pray that new people will feel welcomed and encouraged by the unity of our fellowship, our love for our country, and most importantly our love for Christ.
  • Pray for me.  Pray that God will continue to guide me and give me vision and wisdom to lead His church.  Pray for me as we begin a new sermon series this weekend in the book of Proverbs.

God’s Word tells us He can do more than we can ask or dream (Ephesians 3:20).  So dream big and ask big from our great God.  If we unite in prayer as one body, I have no doubt that we will see God do amazing things this Summer.   I look forward to seeing you Sunday.   

Last Sunday’s Sermon: John 15:1-5

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Still the greatest country

It looks like most of the rain is clearing out just in time for a big holiday weekend.  As you know, this coming Monday is Memorial Day, and many families are making plans for a fun filled 3-day weekend.  I hope you get to enjoy some time outdoors at the lake or pool, or perhaps a BBQ with some of your closest friends and family.  But amidst all of the excitement, I also hope you take some time to pause and reflect.  This weekend should remind us that we are blessed beyond measure to live in the United States of America.  Many today have tragically lost sight of that reality, but that does not negate the fact.  Despite all the problems our country currently faces, I still contend that we live in the greatest nation in the world.  Every day, you and I experience a level of prosperity and freedom that most of the world has never seen firsthand.  It’s important for us to humbly acknowledge that truth with great thanksgiving to our God, but we must also remember that our blessings came at a high cost.

Jesus reminds us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).  Thousands of brave men and women have demonstrated this kind of love by willingly laying down their lives on our behalf. Our freedom is not free, and many heroes that we’ll never know paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our liberty.  They must not be forgotten, and that is why Memorial Day is so important.  So I encourage you to remember them by praying for the families that will be missing someone at their family gatherings.  Pray for the spouses and the children that are pressing on with heavy hearts.  Pray for the parents and grandparents that have gone through the pains of burying a child.  And pray for protection over all our current service men and women who are protecting us just like the heroes that walked before them.

This Sunday we will have a special time of prayer together as a church family.  We’ll be praying for all the things I just listed, but we’ll also be praying for others in the world that are not experiencing the freedom we have.  We’ll lift up in prayer our brothers and sisters in Myanmar and in other areas that are experiencing hostility and oppression every day.  We’ll also be praying for Israel as they continue to navigate through unrest in the middle east.  If you’re in town this Sunday, I encourage you to join us for this service.  One of the best ways you can honor the lives of our heroes this weekend is to exercise the freedom they protected for you to gather and worship our savior Jesus Christ.

Lastly, make sure you’ve bought your lunch for Sunday June 6th!  We’re going to have our first ever Summer Kick Off Party at 12pm that day.  We’re treating this as a high attendance day, so I encourage you to find someone that you can invite to church that Sunday.  We’re cooking out burgers/hot dogs, our BFG classes are having a chili cook off, and we’ll have inflatables and tailgate games out for people to enjoy after church.  It will be a great day of fellowship so make sure you wear a Hawaiian shirt and come ready to celebrate the arrival of summer.  You can buy your lunch ticket right now by clicking this link: www.austinbaptistchurch.com/summer.  Come expectant to meet with the Lord this Sunday and I look forward to worshipping with you on this special weekend.

Last Sunday’s Sermon: I Am the Resurrection and the Life – John 11
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Ready for a new season

It’s hard to believe it, but the school year is almost wrapped up and summer is right around the corner.  I think there is fresh sense of excitement leading into this new season, as last summer felt stolen by the pandemic.  But with COVID numbers consistently diminishing and CDC guidelines relaxing, most Austinites are making big plans for the summer.  People are feeling the need to get out, and they are hungry to find fellowship with others.  However, we should note that desire was not caused by this pandemic.  God declared in the garden “it is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).  As image bearers of God, we are made to be relational just like our Creator.  Our desire for fellowship is deeply embedded into our souls, and the pandemic simply starved us from feeding that natural appetite.  So thousands in our city are now looking for ways to nourish that need.

My prayer is that many will find the fellowship they are looking for at ABC.  We want our church family to serve as a place of refuge, for people to connect, be fed, and find encouragement that can only come through community with other believers.  To make that happen, our church is going to offer many extra opportunities for people to find community this summer.  The fun will begin this Friday at our first ever “Homecoming Dinner.”  This event is designed to provide a fellowship opportunity for those who are new, or newly returning, to ABC.  Our hope is that all of our guests that night will feel welcomed and will begin to build new relationships with our staff and with each other.  If you would like to join us for this special event, there is still room to add a few extra folks.  Simply reach out to Christina Mendoza and she’d be happy to assist.

We are also planning a church-wide social on Sunday June 6th.  Save the date and plan to participate in our ABC Summer Kick-off Party.  We encouraging everyone that morning to wear Hawaiian shirts or relaxed summer attire as we celebrate the arrival of summer.  We’re going to have some classic cars and boats on display, the children’s and student ministries are going to have tropical fun-factors, and BFG classes will be having a chili cook-off competition.  The winning class will be awarded an amazing breakfast in their room the following Sunday.  We will have a church-wide luncheon at 12PM, and we’ll be serving hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch and have inflatables for the kids.  I encourage you to register quickly so we can count you in on the food order.  Lunch tickets are available for $5 and you can purchase them here: https://www.austinbaptistchurch.com/summer.  But I also encourage you to consider buying a few extra tickets and inviting your neighbors and friends.  This party will serve as a perfect opportunity to invite a guest to ABC and have them enjoy the fellowship of this exciting church family.  

There will be plenty of opportunities to invite others into the followship of our church this summer.  VBS is coming up, Freedom Over Austin is on the horizon, and there will many amazing events happening all summer long.  But the first opportunity to invite someone is this Sunday in worship.  My prayer is that the fellowship of ABC will stand out to those who walk in, as they see us aim to be the church that God’s Word has called us to be: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV).

May we stand united as one body, with Christ ruling in our hearts, and thankful for all that He’s done.  I look forward to worshipping alongside you this Sunday.

Last Sunday’s Sermon
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Living Stones

I hope you all enjoyed our Mother’s Day celebration.  I thought last Sunday was an amazing weekend of worship from start to finish.   From the pre-service photo loop, to the children’s ministry video tribute, to the delicious chocolate truffles provided after our services, I believe Mother’s Day 2021 was a day that we’ll all remember for a long time.  I am proud of our team and how hard they worked to honor the Lord and our mothers on this big day.  I’m especially thankful for Lori DeVillez and Tabitha Jackson for encouraging our mothers and challenging our congregation through their powerful stories.  I firmly believe that if you are pro-life, you also have to be pro-mom.  As we heard, there are many mothers in our city who are in a pregnancy crisis, so I’m thankful for ministries like the Trotter House that lead the way in ministering to them.  I look forward to continuing, and expanding, our partnership with Trotter House, so we can help share the hope and help that comes through Jesus Christ and His people.

Even aside from the Mother’s Day excitement, last Sunday was worth celebrating for another reason.  It was the first time since August of 2019 that we saw 800+ people attend our regularly scheduled worship services (excluding Easter).  Momentum is continuing to build as every week we welcome new faces, and welcome back many familiar ones.  Last Sunday was a good reminder of why we are hosting our Homecoming Dinner on Friday May 21st.  That evening will provide a great opportunity for our new and newly returning folks to be properly “welcomed home,” but it will also give me an opportunity to share my vision with you and answer any questions that you may have about ABC.  If you have not already RSVP’d for this important dinner, please do so now using this link: www.austinbaptistchurch.com/homecoming.  It will be a be a wonderful night of fellowship, unity, and excitement as we look to all that God has in store for us together in the coming days.

This steady growth indeed brings excitement to our church, but it is important to note that it also brings needs.  As more and more people walk through our doors, more ministry needs likewise start to arise.  Last weekend we had over 100 in our ABC Kids worship services for the first time since the pandemic.  Our student ministry also reached 80 for the first time since the pandemic, and many BFG classes are starting to add chairs.  Food services are continuing to be stretched, as are our greeters, ushers, and AV team members.  We also are looking to expand our music ministry with more choir members and instrumentalists.  I’d encourage you to ask yourself how you can join in on the excitement.  Peter reminds us As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).  Every believer in this church has been given at least one spiritual gift, and we’ve been given those gifts for a purpose: to serve one another. 

That is the beauty of the church.  As the church grows with needs, God already gives the church everything it needs to meet them.  This is because church members are not designed to be spectators, but instead, participants in ministry.  Peter actually tells us that we are “living stones” that God uses to build up His church (1 Peter 2:5).  So my question for you to consider this week is, “How is God using you to build up ABC?”  I have no doubt that God has given you gifts that would be a blessing to this church, and I also have no doubt that we need your help on the team.  So I encourage you to not settle for the bleachers.  It’s so much more fun to get in the game.  If God is tugging on your heart to serve in any of these areas, I encourage you to reach out to one of our ministers and they will gladly help you find the right place to plug in. 

I believe Jesus is building up this local church.  May we all be available to Him to use us however He wants in this kingdom construction project.  I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we press on in our study of the seven “I am” statements of Christ.

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Mother’s Day at ABC

This Sunday will be a special day in the life of our church as we celebrate Mother’s Day at ABC.  I think this year’s Mother’s Day will be especially significant because many did not get to see or celebrate their moms on this day last year.  I believe many will make up for lost time, and our church will be filled with mothers, grandmothers, and even great grandmothers worshipping alongside their loved ones and celebrating God’s blessing of motherhood.  We have big plans this weekend to honor our moms at ABC through a photo tribute, a special video, a poem, and a message from God’s Word about the power of motherhood.  Every mom in attendance will also walk away with a box of delicious chocolate truffles, courtesy of our ABC food services team.

Through all of this, I pray that our moms will be blessed this weekend, and our church will see that ABC loves mothers and values the unique role that God has entrusted to them.  We should do this because Jesus himself treasured his mom.  When Jesus was on the cross and approaching his final breath, the scriptures record seven different statements that he made at Calvary.  I find it interesting that one of these final statements revolved around His devotion to His mother.  Jesus looked at his dear friend, John, and his faithful mother, Mary, and said “’Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, you mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27).  Some commentators believe Joseph likely passed away by this time, so Jesus is clearly concerned about his mother’s welfare after He dies.  So even though He is bearing the weight of all the sin of the world on his shoulders, Jesus still made it a high priority to honor and care for his mom

At ABC we are committed to honor and care for the mothers in our city  We do this through relationships, ministries, and support systems that we have built into this community of faith.  For instance, we are launching a new fully licensed 4-day preschool, “Little Lights Preschool,” this fall to minister to young children, but also to minister to moms.  We are partnering with moms this summer through our on-campus Vacation Bible School, as well as through dozens of activities and events for kids this summer.  We have a dynamic Women’s Ministry, with bible studies, special events, and Godly women that are devoted to love, encourage, and pray for moms in our city.  Our hope is that all mothers will not only feel loved on Mother’s Day, but also feel valued and encouraged all year long at ABC.

One way we also support mothers in our city is through the Trotter House.  Some of you are very familiar with one of church members, Lori DeVillez.  Lori has the honor of serving as the Executive Director and Founder of Trotter House.  She has devoted her lifetime to investing into the lives of moms who are in a pregnancy crisis.  This weekend, I’ve invited Lori to share her heart for mothers and give an update on how God is moving in the lives of moms through her ministry.  We will also have several Trotter House tables in the Great Hall that will display many ways in which you can partner with their ministry, so you can also make an impact on moms who are in desperate need.

I hope you are as excited to worship this weekend as I am!  Take some time to personally invite a mother to be a part of the celebration at ABC.  I look forward to seeing what God is going to do through this special Mother’s Day weekend.