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Invite and Invest

What an amazing Vision Sunday!  Thank you for helping make it a special day in the life of our church.  It was exciting to look back at all God has done here at ABC, but also to look forward at the many ways He could shine through this church family for years to come.  I especially want to thank all the amazing volunteers who made our first ever BFGBFG a huge success.  The food was delicious, but the fellowship was even better.  I loved seeing all our classes together in one room enjoying each other’s company, and it was exciting to see new folks explore our class options and finding groups to plug into.  This week, I encourage each of us to take the application from last Sunday’s message to heart: invite and invest

If you believe in the vision of our church, invite people to be your personal guests this weekend.  We believe God is building something special here at ABC, and there is room for more at this city on a hill.  Churches have become very creative in their outreach strategies, but it is amazing to me that the #1 catalyst for church growth remains the same: the personal invitation.  Preaching matters, music matters, Bible study classes and big events matter, but none of those things are strong enough to grow a church by themselves.  People grow churches.  People who catch the vision and then want to share that vision with others.  I encourage you to prayerfully consider who you can invite this week to be a part of what God is doing at ABC.

Secondly, I encourage you to invest in our church.  If you believe in the vision of Austin Baptist Church, do not just attend our church.  Belong to this church.  Plant roots in this church and invest in this community.  If you have been visiting our church, then join the church.  If you’ve joined the church, join a Bible Fellowship Group.  If you’ve already joined a BFG, have you committed to serve anywhere in the church?  If you’re already serving, have you committed to worship through giving?  If you are already giving your tithe, have you committed to going?  We have some amazing mission trips on the horizon and perhaps that is your next step.  I don’t know what your next step is, but I do know God wants you to take that leap of faith in your journey.  The church was never meant to be a product to be consumed.  The church was designed to be a family that we belong to.  We are the body of Christ, and He is the head.  And as unique parts of His body, we each have unique roles to play.

This weekend we will begin a new study in the book of Nehemiah titled, “Difference Maker.”  We’re going to see that God called Nehemiah to rise up and a be a difference maker for his generation, but we are also going to see that God has called each of us to do the same.  Our roles may be different than Nehemiah’s, but God wants each of us to be difference makers in our own spheres of influence as well.  Paul reminds us, “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).   God has set us apart to walk in good works for Him.  My good works are not your good works, and your good works are not my good works.  God has carefully crafted out plans for each of our lives, and no one else can carry out those plans that He has for you.  Only you can make that difference, and by God’s grace you will.

I look forward to worshipping with you this weekend, and may there be more light in my life and your life this week.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message: Vision Sunday 2022
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Let There Be Light

“In the same way, 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).

One year ago, I stood before you to lead us in our first ever “Vision Sunday.”  We celebrated what God has done through our church family as He led us in that first campaign to go “up the mountain” and build this amazing church home.  In fact, last week marked the 10-year anniversary of God opening our church doors at this beautiful facility.  The establishment of our church truly is a testimony of God’s grace.  But we also know that God did not send us up this mountain to get complacent, but rather to get to work.  I believe God has uniquely blessed us to be a blessing to others in Austin and all around the world.  We’ve gone up this mountain, but what are we to do now?  Jesus answered that question for us in Matthew 5.  He told us that we are called to shine as a “city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).

This Sunday, we’re going to refocus our attention on that same Vision Sunday message in Matthew 5:14-16.  I will preach the text once again, exactly one year later.  Why would I do that?  Solomon tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).  Vision is not a one-time message.  Vision is the high calling of where we are going and what we must become.  Vision must stay in front of us, and we must always keep our eyes focused on who Jesus is calling us to be.  This is in part why we display that message, “let there be light,” on our website, signage, and various print pieces.  Our prayer is that there would indeed be more light shining in Austin and around the world.  The truth is the world is a dark place, but our prayer is that Jesus will use ABC to shine brightly for Him.

Last year we focused on four ways Jesus is calling us to shine: Light up your life, your home, your neighborhood, and the world.  This Sunday we’re going to celebrate some ways that God has shined through us in those four strategic areas this past year.  But we’re also going to look forward to some exciting ways that He could shine through our church family for the years to come.  I encourage you to make it a priority to join us this Sunday.  I believe you will leave church encouraged and filled with excitement, but also filled up with delicious food!

In conjunction with Vision Sunday, we’re offering our first ever BFGFBG during our regularly scheduled Bible Fellowship Group hour.  Church is a family, so we’re going to have a big family breakfast together this weekend.  All adult BFG groups will come together in Heritage Hall and Great Hall for a special time of fellowship and food.  Each BFG class will sponsor a table filled with delicious breakfast foods made by their very own volunteers.  It will be a big church-wide breakfast buffet, and I encourage you to drop by the tables to sample some food but also to meet some people you do not know.  All 20 of our adult BFGs will be on display, and you will have an opportunity to vote for your favorite breakfast table.  The winner of our friendly competition will be announced Sept 25th.

The BFGBFG will also be the perfect opportunity for people who are not plugged into a class.  A good number in our congregation have not found a class home, and this will be the perfect opportunity for them to meet leaders and see all the wonderful groups our church has to offer.  I also want to note that our ABC Kids and ABC Student ministries will still have their regularly scheduled BFG classes in their designated spaces.  However, they will also have some special breakfast foods for the kiddos, so make sure your entire family comes hungry this Sunday.

It’s going to be a great weekend at ABC.  I hope you plan to be there, and I encourage you to bring a friend to hear the vision of our church.  Never forget the power of the personal invitation as it is still the #1 reason why people walk through a church’s doors.  Keep shining this week and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

This Weekend at ABC
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Light Up Your Home

Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” 

Here at ABC, we are committed to communicating the truth of God’s Word with the coming generation.  Jesus tells us that a lamp in a house is not meant to be hidden (Matt 5:15), so we lift up the lamp of God every week so our children may see it (Psalm 119:105).  We teach kids the Word of God in age-appropriate ways through our BFG’s, worship services, and midweek classes each week.  We do so prayerfully with the goal in mind that our children may begin to understand it, apply it, and by the grace of God, live it out the rest of their days.

This Sunday is a special weekend as we are theming it, “ABC Kids Sunday.”  If you cannot already tell, you will learn quickly that ABC loves kids!  Our children are going to have an opportunity this weekend to gain valuable leadership experience by leading our church through greeting, ushering, video announcements, and prayers on stage.  Additionally, this weekend will feature a special time of Parent Child Dedication, and I’m looking forward to celebrating these families who are publicly committing to raise their children in Christ-centered homes. 

This Sunday we will also be concluding our Homebuilders sermon series with a special message from Dr. Jimmy Myers.  I’m excited to sit under Jimmy’s teaching alongside you as he delivers a special message from Ephesians chapter 6.  If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Myers, he was a founding member of ABC and instrumental in the early days of our church’s development.  He is also the founder, owner, and CEO of The Timothy Center.  The Timothy Center is one of the leading Christian counseling centers in the city of Austin, as they offer a unique blend of solid Biblical insights coupled with the finest current psychotherapeutic methods.

Jimmy and Beth recently rejoined the ABC family, and we are blessed to have them back in our congregation.  Jimmy is an expert in the arenas of marriage and parenting, and we are also looking forward to him blessing our church with a four-week parenting class on Wednesday nights in the month of October (registration coming soon).  This free class will be based off his published book, co-written with George Barna titled, “Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture.”  Parents, I hope you are saving the dates and making plans to join us next month. Find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Fearless-Parenting-Faithful-Secular-Culture/dp/0801000645/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=fearless+parenting&qid=1662564439&sr=8-2

I know you will be blessed this weekend by Dr. Myers special message and our ABC Kids celebration.  I encourage you to come early and invite a family to join you.  We want to be a city on a hill that continues to serve as a place of refuge for families who are seeking to build homes together for Jesus Christ.  Have a great week, and I look forward to seeing you at 9am or 11:11am.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: “Homebuilders – Home Design Pt 3 – Parents” – Ephesians 6:1-4
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Don’t Labor Alone

I know many of us are looking forward to our upcoming three-day weekend.  Labor Day weekend is a special time for family and friends to get together each year.  I likewise know many of us are excited to cheer on our favorite teams as college football returns in full swing this Saturday.  Others are beginning to count down the days to Fall, and some early birds will even pull out the pumpkins and Fall décor this weekend.  But I hope amidst all of these things, each of us will take some time to slow down and find rest. Backyard BBQs and good company certainly can aid in that process, but Jesus reminds us that he alone is the source of our rest. 

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).  All of us are laboring in some capacity right now.  Yes, some of us are laboring at work and carrying heavy burdens in our careers.  But many of us are also laboring in the home.  We are carrying relational burdens within our marriages.  Many of us are also burdened for our children and grandchildren.  And lots of us feel exhausted because those are heavy loads to carry by ourselves.

This is why we have been focusing on Ephesians chapters 4 to 6 these past several weeks in our sermon series.  Jesus wants you to find peace in your home, but as we have seen, that is only possible if we build our homes his way.  This weekend we’re going to shift our focus to Ephesians chapter 6 and tackle the important topic of parenting.  I’m confident every parent and grandparent could use some more rest in their lives.  Parenting is indeed hard work, but fortunately we don’t have to toil all by ourselves.  Jesus wants to guide you in your home and equip you to lead the next generation in a way that will bring you joy. 

But I also want you to know that ABC desires to come alongside you in this parenting journey.  That is why we invest so heavily into our ABC Kids and Student ministries.  We have wonderful staff, volunteers, and resources that are devoted to helping you bring up your children in Christian nurture.  This is why we have adult BFG classes that meet every Sunday.  We want parents to lock arms with one another and begin to do life together.  It is much easier to labor when you have other parents laboring beside you.  This is also why we emphasize multi-generational ministry at ABC.  We have devoted church members in all seasons of life, and many have walked the paths of parenthood and want to come alongside you in your journey.

My question for you to consider is, “are you parenting all alone?”  As we have already seen in Genesis 2, “it is not good for man to be alone.”  God wants to give you all the strength you need, and having a church family is a critical piece of that solution.  We want to be a resource to you, and that is why for instance we are providing a free parenting seminar this Wednesday at 6:30pm.  We’re hosting a licensed family counselor from the Timothy Center to lead an important seminar focused on parenting kids in a world filled with technology.  I hope you are blessed and encouraged by this special ministry opportunity this week.

Above all, I do hope you find rest today.  This coming weekend may be focused on rest, but Jesus can give that to you right now.  If you are in town this weekend, I encourage you to join us at 9am or 11:11am.  Invite a family to come with you as we look to this sacred calling of parenting.  Don’t forget to wear your favorite college jersey or team colors to church, and come prayed up for a special Labor Day weekend at ABC. 

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Homebuilders – “Home Design Pt 2 – Husbands” – Ephesians 5:25-31
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Dedicate Your Home

Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  For the past several weeks, our church family has been laboring to build a home for the Quintana family in Penitas, Texas.  We are partnering with Buckner Missions for our first ever “Project Homebuild” at ABC.  It has been an exciting missions project, and 100+ volunteers have gotten in the game to help with the construction process.  I’m proud to say that the building phase is now complete and beginning next week our volunteers will transition to disassemble the structure into strategic sections that we can ship.  Later this fall, ABC will send a mission team to Penitas to help assemble the home for the Quintana family.  But before we begin that load-out process, I would like to invite you to partner with us for a special time of dedication this weekend.

Solomon reminds us in Psalm 127 that our building efforts are in vain without the Lord’s blessing, so this Sunday, I’d like you to join me in asking for God’s special blessing over this home.  Before and after our worship services and BFG’s, you will have an opportunity to write a favorite scripture and/or prayer on the home.  We will write scripture on the floors, and we will pray that God’s Word will serve as the foundation for this family for years to come.  We will write verses and prayers on the walls, and we will pray that God will protect this family and always be their source of strength and place of refuge.  Our staff will have lots of sharpies available for you in the Great Hall, so please come ready to help us dedicate this home to the Lord.  I do believe this house will serve as a great blessing to the Quintana family, but I also believe God’s presence and love is the greatest blessing they could have inside their home. 

While we have been diligently working on the Quintanas’ home, we have also been working on our own homes these past few weeks.  Last Sunday in our “Homebuilders” series, we studied God’s instructions for wives in Ephesians chapter five.  This week, we will transition to God’s instructions for husbands, and I pray that each of us will receive these instructions and then get to work.  The reality is each of our homes has work that needs to be done. This is why Paul tells us that we need to constantly take off the old and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24).  I encourage you to remember Solomon’s words for your own house today: “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  We cannot build Christ-centered homes without the enabling grace of Jesus Christ Himself every day.  So I encourage you to also dedicate your own home to Him today.  Commit to let God’s Word serve as your foundation and guide.  When you do, you will discover that you are building a house on solid ground.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend in worship.  Invite a friend to join you because you never know how one simple invitation could change someone’s life.  Have a great week, I’ll see you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Homebuilders – “Home Design Pt 1 – Wives” – Ephesians 5:22-24
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Church is a People, Not a Product

School is officially back in session!  Kids have now found their way back to the classrooms, including right here at ABC with our Little Lights Preschool.  New school years always bring new beginnings, and I’m excited to see how God will begin a fresh new work in our ABC kids this year.  I hope you are still wearing your prayer bracelet from last weekend, and I encourage you to take some time to pray for that child by name today.

I firmly believe it is impossible to raise children to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ without belonging to a healthy local church.  Here at ABC, we strive to shine as that “city on a hill” that Jesus describes in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Healthy local churches cannot be hidden because their light always offers hope for the lost and refuge for the saved.  I truly believe the local church is the hope for the world because we have been entrusted with the solution for the world, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

My question for you to consider today is, “have you gone all in at ABC?” Many Christians attend church, but not all truly belong to a church.  They may consume the product of a worship service regularly, but they may also never be fully immersed into a community of faith.  I encourage you to war against that western consumer mindset and remind yourself that church is supposed to be a people, not a product.  Church is not something we “do,” it is who we are.  I would encourage you to go “all in” at ABC by committing to do three things: Grow, Give and Go.

Grow.  We teach the word of God in our worship services, Sunday morning BFG classes, and Midweek discipleship classes.  We do this purposefully because we believe the word of God is inerrant (2 Tim 3:16), it is our authority (Ps 119:105), and it has the power to transform our lives (Heb 4:12, Rom 12:2).  Commit to worship each week, and come expectant to hear from the Lord through His word.  Commit to belong to a BFG class, so you can deepen your understanding of Scripture, ask questions, and begin to build Gospel-centered relationships with peers.

Give.  All things were made by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ (Colossians 1:16).  We are called to live generous lives because He has already been generous with us.  Yes, this does mean worshipping the Lord through our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:10, Prov 3:9-10). But it also means worshipping Him through our time and talent.  I’m so proud of the hundreds of volunteers who serve our church faithfully each week. I’m proud of the dozens of adults who have been working hard these past few weeks in the Great Hall to bless a family in need with a new home.  I have found that the best way to find friendships and community in a church is by serving together.

Go.  Jesus did not call the church to stay, He called it to “go” (Matthew 28:19).  The church is meant to press on far beyond our physical walls.  This means we must learn to live intentional lives, on mission in our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods.  Additionally, we must learn to do life with one another Monday through Saturday.  I love hearing how many of our BFG classes go out together, vacation together, and invest in each other’s lives.  I love hearing how our people minister to each other through prayer, checking in, visiting the hospital, or coming alongside one another in time of need. 

My question for you to consider is, “have you experienced church like that?”  If not, what is your next step?  For some, maybe you need to focus on growing by committing to worship and BFG’s each week.  Others may need to focus on giving.  Maybe you need to establish the discipline of tithing, or sign up to serve on one of our wonderful volunteer teams.  Others maybe need to start going.  You can get on mission this week by beginning to invest in the lives of others around you. I don’t what your next step is, but I do know that God will bless your obedience if you take that step of faith.  God wants to use each of our homes to help build His house.  And I’ve found that when you go “all in,” your home will also be blessed in the process.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we focus on “God’s Home Design” in Ephesians chapter 5.  We will also be honoring our 1st graders in both services for our annual “First Grade Bible Presentation.”  I hope you plan to join me to celebrate that special milestone moment this weekend.  Invite a friend and I’ll see you at 9am or 11:11am.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Homebuilders – “Cleaning House” – Ephesians 4:25-32

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Pray For Our Schools

It was great to be back with you last Sunday to kick off our Homebuilders series.  I’m looking forward to what God is going to do in the next several weeks as we learn how to Biblically build Christ-centered homes.  Last Sunday, we learned that our homes will only look different when we begin to look different ourselves.  So I encourage you to focus on some home renovations this week.  Spend time with the Lord to take off your old self, renew your mind, and put on your new self (Ephesians 4 22-24).  This will prepare you for this weekend where we will shift our focus to “cleaning house,” by examining Ephesians 4:25-32.  I encourage you to invite another family to join you for this special series as we strive to build together homes that will last.

This Sunday is also themed as “Back to School Sunday.”  Most of our local schools are beginning classes next week for the 2022-2023 school year.  In light of that, we are going to have a special prayer emphasis for all our returning students, educators, and administrators.  We will have some special guests worshipping with us this weekend including Leander ISD Superintendent, Dr. Bruce Gearing and Hyde Park School’s Head of School, Dr. Chris Coy.  I’m looking forward to encouraging and praying for these men and all the servant leaders and students at our local schools.  1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” The church is called to pray for all people, and I cannot think of a better place to start than praying for our schools in this season.

Our children are constantly attacked by various worldly ideologies, sinful peer pressure, and the constant comparison of self to others.  Teachers and administrators are so often underappreciated, overworked, and underpaid.  I hope that you plan to join me in praying for God’s protection and favor over this coming school year.  You can do that by joining us in worship this weekend, but you can also do that individually next week by picking up a prayer bracelet at church.  Each bracelet will have the first name and grade level listed for a child in our church.  We’re going to encourage adults to pick one up after our worship services and put it on your wrist this week.  This will remind you to pause each day and pray for that child specifically by name. 

Thank you for being a prayerful church, and I do look forward to praying over this coming school year with you.  I’m also proud to say that “Project Homebuild” is officially underway!  If you haven’t heard, we are building a house at ABC!  While we are focusing on spiritually building up our homes in Austin, we will also be physically building up a home in our Great Hall.  This home is being constructed for a family of 12, the Quintana family, who are living in Penitas, Texas.  We are partnering with Buckner Missions to bless them with a much needed home in south Texas.  After we finish our part of the construction here in Austin, we will ship these assembled materials to Penitas and an ABC missions team will help assemble the pieces there on site.  If you would like to volunteer, please go online to austinbaptistchurch.com to be a part of this exciting special effort.

I pray that you will let there be light in your life and in your home this week.  Invite a friend to church this weekend, and I look forward to worshipping with you at 9am or 11:11am.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Homebuilders – “Home Improvements” – Ephesians 4:17-24
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Be A Homebuilder

This Sunday we’re kicking off a new sermon series titled, “Homebuilders.”  I’m excited to walk us through Ephesians chapters 4 to 6, as we seek God’s instruction on how to build homes that will last.  I believe this series will be challenging and practical for every person in every season of life, regardless of what your home life may presently look like.  The truth is we all want to live in healthy homes, and the good news is God wants that same thing for you too.  So as we study these chapters in the coming weeks, I believe God will help us do demo in the areas of our homes that have become spiritually unhealthy.  My prayer is that we will let the Holy Spirit spiritually renovate our homes and bring a renewed sense of peace and joy into our lives.

As we journey through this series together, I’m excited to announce that we will also have a missions component coincide with the sermon series.  While we are spiritually building up our homes here in Austin, Texas, our church will also be physically building up a home for a family in Penitas, Texas.  ABC is partnering with Buckner Missions for “Project Homebuild.”  Over the next several weeks, we will be working on a home for the Quintana family.  This family of 12 is in dire need of a permanent home, and we’re excited to partner with Buckner Missions to bless them with this gift.  The best part of Project Homebuild is we will get to do lots of the construction right here in Austin!  During this series, our team will begin the construction work in our Great Hall.  After the work is complete, these assembled materials will be shipped to south Texas, and we will send an ABC missions team this Fall to help build the home on site.

I believe this project provides a unique opportunity for our church to partner together on mission.  I encourage you to join us in the effort in several ways.  First of all, please pray for the Quintana family.  Pray that God will bless their family with this home and use this gift to shine His light into each of their hearts.  We pray that this physical gift will be received as a gift of God’s perfect grace.  Second, consider helping us build this home.  We will have time slots available, and we need volunteers!  This will be a great opportunity for our church family to serve together as a family on mission.  Training will be provided on site, and the good news is you will be working in the air conditioning! Third, I encourage you to continue to worship through giving.  This project is only possible because of the generosity of our people.  Thank you for your faithfulness in your tithes and offerings because your stewardship blesses many homes, including this specific home for the Quintana family.

I’m looking forward to joining you all this Sunday in worship.  I want to thank Nathan Wood for doing an outstanding job last weekend and helping us wrap up our summer sermon series.  I can’t wait to see you this weekend, and I’m praying that God will build us up, as we strive to build up the kingdom of God together.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Quintana Family
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Serve One Another Through Love

VBS has come and gone, but we are still celebrating what God did last week! As you have likely heard, we saw 511 children and volunteers join us for an exciting week of Vacation Bible School. But most importantly, we are celebrating the 85 children who came forward during the invitation, and especially the 62 children who made first time decisions to follow Christ. Thank you for helping make it a powerful week. VBS is only possible because of the shared time, talent, and treasure of God’s people. 150 volunteers sacrificed their time and utilized their talent to impact the next generation. And so many gave their treasure, through their faithful tithes and offerings, to help fund this ministry and make it possible. Thank you for praying, serving, giving, and leading these children to know Jesus Christ. I believe heaven was rejoicing over the work that was done last week and so should we.

As I visited with parents last week at VBS, there were two primary themes that consistently came up in our conversations.  First, many parents could not stop commenting on the quality of our volunteers.  As they walked in, they were immediately blown away by the intentionality that was put into the decorations.  I explained that we had teams of volunteers who worked for many weeks to creatively design and decorate those spaces.  Many were also surprised by the sheer number of volunteers.  They were thrilled to see so many adults from all generations, as well as the large number of youth volunteers.  One mom who does not attend church regularly explained that it blew her mind that people would give up that much time and energy for something like this.

The second thing that came up in our conversations was a theme of community.  Many could sense the family atmosphere in our congregation.  They loved being genuinely greeted as they walked through the doors, and several told me how friendly our church truly was.  One mom commented that she loved to see how quickly the teachers learned her child’s name, as well as her own name.  So many moms, dads, boys, and girls genuinely felt loved and welcomed in our church.  I believe that is because God has blessed our church with a genuine affection for one another.  I explained to many parents that community is a vital part of our Austin Baptist Church’s DNA.

I’m so thankful that these two observations came up consistently in conversation because these two themes come up consistently in scripture.  Paul writes, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).  Christians are called to lives of love and service.  Jesus says love is in fact the best evidence of your discipleship: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  People should sense a difference in our community when they walk through our church doors because we are united by the same spirit of love (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7).  But people should also see a difference in us through our service and efforts.  Peter instructs 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 born-again believer has been given gifts by God, to use for the glory of God, and for the good of others.

Jesus describes His church as a “city on a hill,” and this city should indeed have a light that stands out to the world that is watching (cf. Matt 5:14-16). I pass on these words to encourage you to keep shining that light. VBS is over, but you still have an opportunity to love one another and build up our community this week. Send a text, make a phone call, or write a note. Encourage those who are around you and spur them on to continue in love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). You also have a chance to serve someone this week. VBS has concluded, but the work has not. Our church continually needs more volunteers, more sons and daughters of God to rise up and use their gifts for His glory. How are you going to serve the church this week? While events are important, our spiritual gifts are not designed to be limited to annual outreaches. There are still needs today, and God has given you time, talent, and treasure to meet them. So how will you let your light shine this week?

Thank you for your continued love and support.  Have a wonderful week and we look forward to seeing you in worship this weekend.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: “Making Today Count” – Psalm 90
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The Best Long-Term Investment

VBS is finally here!  We are having an amazing week at Austin Baptist Church, as we have welcomed nearly 500 children and leaders for our annual Vacation Bible School.  I’m so thankful for our church’s steadfast commitment to VBS, because I believe this week has the power to transform a young child’s life, and the future

I think back to my time in Houston at Second Baptist Church, and I remember my former Pastor, Dr. Ed Young, would often share about his childhood experience at VBS.  He would recall how a friend invited him as a 7-year-old boy to attend a VBS at a small-town church in Mississippi.  Ed agreed to attend due to the advertised crafts and fun, but little did he know that he would end up making the most important decision of his life that week.  He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and was baptized at that small church, and it is incredible to now consider what God has done through him since that day.  Dr. Young has impacted millions of lives around the globe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But we must not forget that those 60+ years of fruitful ministry were only possible because a few nameless leaders at a small-town church chose to invest in his life.

Because of this, I always approach VBS weeks praying for God to raise up a few more Ed Youngs from our midst.  You just never know what could possibly come from a week of ministry like VBS.  The reality is Children’s Ministry is a long-term investment, and we will not see the full return while we are on this earth.  But I do believe investing in a child’s life is the best kingdom investment you can make because God uses our efforts to help impact an entire generation that is yet to come.  So, I don’t just pray for the salvation of the kids who walk through our doors.  I also pray for God to call some of them to be world changers for Him.  I pray that God will capture their hearts, and then use them to capture the hearts of others for Christ in their own generation.  The theme verse this week is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  God has mapped out good works for each of these young children to walk in, just as He has mapped out good works for me and you to walk in today.

I’m thankful for the good work that our church does week in and week out for the next generation.  The truth is many churches have scaled back their efforts in children’s and youth ministries these days.  Some don’t offer on-campus Bible studies, special events and outreaches, or provide staff who are devoted to children and youth.  But I’m proud that ABC has always looked for ways to improve and expand our impact on the next generation.  It has been a banner summer for our ABC Kids and Student Ministries.  They have offered Pre-Teen Camp, Beach Camp, Creative Arts Camp, Pre-school Camp, and now VBS.  In addition to this, we have continued to invest in kids’ lives through our weekly BFG classes, and we even launched a brand-new Preschool worship service this summer called, “Uplift.”  Here in a few weeks, our kids will be back in school and we’ll start back up our Wednesday night discipleship classes called, “Kids Encounter” and “Axis.”  I hope your children and grandchildren have gotten to experience it all, but if not, I encourage you to get them plugged in this week.  I believe they will discover what I already know to be true: ABC loves kids!

I look forward to reporting more this Sunday as we worship together.  Be praying for our decision service this Thursday, and come prepared to give glory to God for all He has done and all that He will continue to do.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Psalm 51
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Why Children’s Ministry Matters

VBS is finally here at Austin Baptist Church!  We are just days away from the official kick-off, and our ABC Kids team is doing a great job getting things ready for the hundreds of children who will walk through our doors.  Decorations are going up, leaders are being trained, and rooms are getting set for an incredible week of ministry.  Enrollment has already exceeded last year’s numbers, and we’re looking forward to adding even more kids into the mix in these final days before the event.

Why does VBS matter so much to our church family?  This is an appropriate question to ask considering the vast amount of time, money, staff, and volunteers that are committed to this event each year.  VBS is one of those “all hands on deck” events at ABC, so why do we feel it is important to put so much effort into it?  For starters, it is because children are a blessing from the Lord.  Psalm 127:3 tells us, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  We believe every life is a precious gift from God, so we rejoice when God brings His children through our church doors.  Children must never be viewed as a burden for a church because they are a gift given to the church for us to steward well.

Secondly, children are a mission fieldPsalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”  The church should carry a burden to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the next generation.  The Great Commission calls us to go and make disciples of all ages, but research shows us that children and youth should be a central focus of that mission.  NAMB reports that 77% of Christians in America were saved before the age of 18.  Further, nearly 95% of Christians in our country came to know Jesus as Lord by the age of 30.  This means it would be wise and fruitful for any church to place a strong emphasis on reaching children, youth, and young parents.  We are biblically called to pass on the baton of faith to the next generation, and VBS is just one of those great opportunities for us to do so.

Third, children are vital members of the church.  As our children and youth come to know Jesus, it’s important for us to remember that they are not the future of the church.  They are the church right NOW.  1 Corinthians 12:14 says, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”  If a child or teenager has accepted Christ, that means they are filled with the same Holy Spirit who lives in me and who lives in you.  This means they also have spiritual gifts and callings given by God, and for God (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).  And this also means they are vital parts of our church membership, so we must disciple them and empower them into Christian service.  This is why we do an ABC student weekend, Beach Camp, Bible studies, mission trips, and service projects.  This is why we do events like ABC Serves and White Christmas, where even young children can serve with their parents.  This coming week, teenagers will be serving our kids at VBS, and many of them do that every week at Elevate.  We will continue to seek ways to empower and train the next generation because they are called to help us build up this house (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-5).

Please join me in praying for a great week at VBS.  Pray for our ABC Kids staff and volunteers.  Pray for our teachers as well as those who will be serving in positions behind the scenes.  Most of all, pray for our children.  Pray that many will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord for the first time, and pray that many others will come to better understand Jesus and His love for them.  Pray that parents will come to know Christ and find their place in the church, as a result of their own children doing so first.  Also, take time to consider any neighbors, friends, or colleagues with kids in their homes, and I encourage you to invite them to VBS.  It isn’t too late to sign up, and registration is still open at www.austinbaptistchurch.com.  One simple invitation always has the power to potentially change a life.  Have a great week, and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message: Psalm 46
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Difference Makers

I hope you enjoyed our special 4th of July weekend at ABC! I’m still thanking God for an amazing weekend of worship as we celebrated our nation’s freedom, and most importantly, our spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for Derek Tackett, our facilities team, and all of our volunteers who worked hard to make Freedom over Austin an overwhelming success. And I’m proud of Carlos Jordan for putting in many hours behind the scenes to create the video testimony from Beach Week that we showed in worship. But I’m especially proud of those 5 individuals who chose to stand up and raise their flags for Jesus Christ through believer’s baptism during our services last Sunday. It has been encouraging to see our “Let There Be Light” sign continue to light up, as Christ continues to light up more lives that walk through our church doors.

One gentleman who came forward last Sunday to be baptized was attending for only his second week. He was invited by a friend in our church to worship with him two weeks ago, and God began to speak to his heart through our worship services. When I offered the invitation, he came forward immediately to be baptized. As encouraging as that was, I was even more encouraged by what he shared with me afterwards. He told me that he had already brought swim trunks with him to church that morning because God had put baptism on his heart. So when the invitation to be baptized was offered, it was simple confirmation from the Lord that He was at work and calling him to make this important decision.

Last week I was also honored to sit down with a gentleman and got to pray with him as he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He has been attending our church for some time, and after many years of consideration, he chose to invite Jesus Christ into his life. He was led to this moment in part by watching his own daughter make that same decision at our Kids Camp this summer. It’s amazing how God so often speaks into our hearts through the witness of others who are around us. So may I remind you, your personal witness matters every single day. You CAN make a difference in the lives of those around you. Your intentionality to invite others to church matters, and it also can make an eternal difference in someone’s life. God is doing a great work in our church, and each of us have an opportunity to join Him in that effort.

Starting this Sunday, we will begin our final sprint to Vacation Bible School. As we saw last weekend, next generation ministry does matter because “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). God’s Word does stand forever, and He has promised to pass on His plan of salvation to the next generation. Because of that, I’m praying that many children will come to know Jesus as Lord at VBS. Vacation Bible School is such an important event in the life of our church because it reaches so many families in our community who are unchurched. I’m praying that God will draw many young children to Himself, but then He will use their testimonies to draw their parents to Himself too. I’ve found it to be true so often in church that when you reach the kids, you then have a good chance to reach the parents.

I encourage you to help us extend this invitation out to your community this week. As you walk into our church this Sunday, you will see displays in our common areas with new ABC invite cards. Grab a couple cards and put them in your wallet or purse. As God crosses your path with folks in your own sphere of influence, look for opportunities to invite them into the life of our church. For some, perhaps VBS will be the best opportunity to draw them into our church for the first time. But don’t forget that every Sunday serves as a great opportunity to invite someone into our fellowship. So who can you extend the light to this week? As we saw last Sunday, one simple invite truly can change a life.

Have a great week, and I’ll look forward to worshipping with you Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

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Celebrate Freedom This Sunday

I hope you’re planning to wear red, white, and blue this Sunday and join us for a special day of worship and fellowship at Austin Baptist Church.  We will be celebrating the great freedom that God has given our nation to worship Him openly and without fear of persecution.  This is a freedom we must never take for granted, as 1 out of 7 Christians around the world do not have that same liberty for themselves (Cf. 2021 World Watch List produced by Open Doors).  We know our freedom is only available because God has used countless men and women in our nation to stand up for that freedom and fight for it at all costs.  Because of that, this weekend we will honor our local heroes who have served our nation through our armed services.  The apostle Paul tells the church to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).  I hope you plan to join me this weekend in expressing your gratitude and showing honor to whom honor is due.

But this weekend we are also celebrating an even greater freedom that God has given those of us who are in Christ Jesus.  Paul explains, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).  By grace and through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the penalty of our sin has been removed.  His death became our own, and we can now live freely as sons and daughters of God.  We no longer must fear the penalty of our sin which is death, but we also do not have to be held captive by the power of our sin.  Jesus Christ forgives us of our old life bound to sin, but He also enables us to live new lives free from its bondage.  His enabling grace can set you free each day from addictions and strongholds, so you can walk in the light just as He is in the light.

In light of this truth, Paul instructs us: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13).  Paul says our spiritual freedom should lead us action.  Just as our physical freedom leads us to pledge allegiance to our great nation, our spiritual freedom should lead us to pledge an even higher allegiance to Jesus Christ.  His great mercy and grace should lead us to show our honor to God and devote ourselves to His purposes for our lives.  And I hope you understand, you will begin to experience freedom and joy when you begin to present yourself to Him day after day.

This celebration of freedom will carry over to Sunday evening for our second annual “Freedom Over Austin” event.  I hope you plan to come back at 7pm that evening for a dynamic event with something for everyone.  We will have live music, an all-American carnival, food trucks, inflatables, train rides, and of course, an amazing professional fireworks show soon as it gets dark.  Bring a lawn chair with you and find a comfortable spot to watch the show that evening.  I also encourage you to do two things before this Sunday.  First, consider serving with us.  Great events are only possible through great teams of committed volunteers.  We still need more people to join the effort so please consider signing up to help HERE.  Secondly, consider who you can invite to join you.  We do this event for our church family to enjoy the fellowship, but we also do it so we can extend our fellowship out to the entire community.  Prayerfully consider inviting a neighbor, colleague, or friend to come and be your guest that evening.  Sometimes special events like this are the best opportunity to introduce someone new into the life of our church.

Thank you for your continued faithfulness in worshipping through giving.  This event is only possible because of your stewardship and continued partnership in ministry.  I encourage you even in these economically challenging times to continue to offer God the first fruits of what you receive.  I’m certain that God will continue to bless each of us, as we strive to be a blessing to others for His glory (Cf. Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 3:9-10).  Have a great rest of your week, and I look forward to celebrating freedom with you this Sunday at ABC.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message: A Response to Roe v. Wade – “Seeing Things Clearly” – Psalm 19
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SBC Annual Meeting Debrief

It was great to be back with you last Sunday after spending a week in southern California.  As you know, I was in Anaheim for the SBC Convention and for a few days of family vacation following our meetings.  Many in our church, and around our entire nation, had their eyes focused on Anaheim last week.   Most of the interest was due to last month’s released report from the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force.  As I’ve already discussed with you, this report was saturated with heartbreaking stories of abuse that transpired in Southern Baptist Churches over the last 20 years.  But it was also filled with shocking stories of leadership who mishandled reports of abuse, and even worse, mistreated victims.  Considering these horrifying details, many in our country have been waiting to see if the SBC would be prompted to action.

I’m proud to say that the messengers at the annual meeting did overwhelmingly approve two recommendations presented by the SBC appointed task force.  These two recommendations will not be the final reforms, but they will serve as a place to start.  The messengers approved the creation of a shared SBC database that will keep track of ministers who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.  This database will hopefully help prevent ministers from traveling between churches and then hide behind individual church’s autonomy.  The messengers also commissioned another task force that will study and oversee necessary further reforms this year and report back at the annual meeting in 2023.  I believe these two recommendations were essential first steps for the SBC to repent of sin, seek forgiveness from victims, and prayerfully begin to rebuild credibility in our culture.

While I was pleased that some action was taken on this specific issue, I must admit that the overall feeling of this year’s meeting was rather discouraging.  Across the country, cooperative giving is down, baptisms are down, new members are down, and even the number of messengers this year was down.  Some in the convention are arguing that this is due to a theological “drift” that is happening in the SBC.  While I hear their concerns, I do not agree with their position.  I remember what a real drift looked like in the 1980’s.  At that time churches and seminaries were battling over the inerrancy of Scripture.  Baptist pastors and professors were teaching against the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, some were advocating a pro-choice position, and some were even sympathizing with the emerging LGBTQ movement.  I would call that a theological drift, but I would not call today’s problems the same thing.  This is because I sense that nearly all the 44,000+ SBC churches still adhere to the same confession of faith in the Baptist Faith and Message.  It seems that today’s problems are not rooted in orthodoxy, but rather orthopraxy.  Our denomination’s primary struggle is not in what we believe, it is in what we do. 

As I sat in one of the Pastor’s Conference sessions, I heard one pastor share a sobering illustration. He said his young adult son has a good friend who is not a believer, so this pastor decided to do a little personal research with his son’s friend before he came to the convention. He asked that unchurched 21-year-old young man what he thought about the SBC. The young man was a little perplexed by the question but then responded, “Aren’t they the churches that are always fighting with each other?” Sadly, I believe that young man’s words were piercingly accurate. Many in the SBC live to argue with each other, and I would contend that the tribalism in our denomination has grown to an alarming level. Some look down upon others for being reformed in their theology, while some who are reformed look down upon others for not belonging to their camp. Some pastors see big churches as impersonal and watered down, while some big churches see small churches as lazy and ineffective. Some in the SBC despise churches for being too political, while others cast stones at churches for not being political enough. Some contend that you are only theologically conservative if you join a new network, while others would argue our entire convention is a network of theologically conservative churches. People in the SBC are constantly drawing lines in our own house, and then casting stones at family members who do not step over to their side. And then we as a convention wonder why less and less outsiders are wanting to walk through our doors?

This rising conflict in the SBC is troubling to me for three primary reasons. First of all, the church is not supposed to be famous for its conflict; it is supposed to be famous for its love. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Paul explained it further: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14). Jesus summarized the entire law with two simple commandments: love God and love people (Mark 12:28-30). And the apostle John went on to explain that you cannot separate those two commandments; if you try to love God but hate your brother, the Word of God says you are a liar (Cf. 1 John 4:10). Love is not a recommendation from God, it is a clear mandate for His people. Yes, we are called to guard our doctrine, but we are also called to give each other grace on secondary matters. As Augustine said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”

Secondly, the state of the SBC is troubling because it makes us look like the world.  Our world is filled with division.  In fact, one could argue that our nation has never been as polarized as it is right now.  We live in a culture that cancels and condemns anyone who does not agree with them.   This problem has only been exacerbated by social media.  The world is prone to be careless with words as we are quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to get angry.  But the Bible tells the church to “not be conformed to this world” (Cf Romans 12:2).  God’s people are called to stand out and look different because we have a Spirit that unites us through our shared salvation and coming inheritance.  The church’s unity is so important to Jesus that He actually prayed for it before He went to Calvary: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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 for a radical unity in His followers that would be so strong that it would actually cause the watching world to believe in Him!  But instead, I sadly believe the world oftentimes does not believe because they see more fighting in our religious houses than their own secular homes.

Thirdly, the state of the SBC is troubling because it could compromise our mission. I personally do believe denominations are still helpful. Every church is individually called by Jesus to fulfill the Great Commission, but the truth is we are stronger when we work together than when we work alone. In the SBC, I’m grateful for our cooperative program’s impact on ministries all across the globe. Since the CP’s inception, the SBC has commissioned over 25,000 missionaries around the world through the International Mission Board. The IMB currently has over 3,000 missionaries deployed, and we commissioned 52 more missionaries at the annual meeting last week. They are the true heroes of the SBC, and their ministry would not be possible without the SBC’s cooperative program. Additionally, our SBC seminaries produce over 70% of our nation’s seminary graduates. That is a staggering number because it tells us the vast majority of our nation’s future ministers are trained by the SBC. Many of these seminary students are only able receive that training because SBC churches consistently give $6-10 million a year to these seminaries to help subsidize tuition and make theological education affordable for our future pastors. The list could go on and on with all the good that the SBC does, and my fear is that it will become harder to continue these vital ministries as more churches grow tired of the SBC’s problems and leave. Make no mistake about it, the SBC must continue to address our convention’s cultural issues, or more churches will continue to opt out and our critical missions will lack their critical support.

So what should we do in light of these things?  I’d encourage you to do just two simple things.  First, continue to pray for the SBC.  Pray for healing in our convention and for the new leaders that are rising up into positions.  Many new people were appointed to committees due to folks resigning or turning down previous offers to positions.  Pray especially for this new leadership and for God to give them new vision.  Pray that unity and love would begin to permeate throughout our convention.  Pray for our new president, Bart Barber, and our new Pastor’s Conference president, Daniel Dickard.  Pray for the missionaries, church planters, ministers, and seminarians that continue to press forward in their callings amidst tumultuous times.  And pray that God would help our convention begin to heal and rebuild its unity this year. 

Secondly, commit to be an agent of change in your own church.  One of the defining marks of a Baptist church is its autonomy.  For those who don’t understand, this means every local Baptist church has the freedom to minister as it so chooses.  The SBC may have some cultural problems, but that does not mean their culture has to become a local church’s culture.  I’m grateful for Austin Baptist Church, as I do believe that love is clear and evident in our church family.  Our people do care for one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, and stand by each other in times of need.  And praise God, we do see new people walk through our doors every weekend, we celebrate that people are joining our church, and we’re encouraged when we see the baptismal waters stirred.  God is at work here, and we must remember to give Him the glory.  But we must also continue to stand on the truth of God’s Word and lift up the name of Jesus Christ, because if we do, I believe God will continue to draw more people to Himself here at ABC.  Commit to do your part to build up this family of faith in love and unity.  Exercise your spiritual gifts and use them for the glory of God and the good of others.  The SBC will only make progress as individual churches make progress in their own ministry contexts.  The SBC is not a top-down organization, it operates bottom-up.  If you want change to be evident at the annual meeting in New Orleans next year, I recommend that you let that change begin in your heart and your church’s heart this year.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

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The Church and Pride Month

The month of June was recently declared “LGBTQ+ Pride Month” by President Joe Biden.  His official proclamation is a continuation of the precedent established by two of his predecessors, President Clinton and President Obama.  Even if you did not read Joe Biden’s official proclamation, you most likely have seen some of its effects.  Pride flags are raised on many flag poles just below the American flag, department stores are marketing rainbow merchandise in the front of their stores, and most websites and television channels are broadcasting pride promotions to communicate their full support.  Some of this support has even carried over into professional sports. 

For years, professional teams have hosted “Pride Nights” at their ballparks or arenas.  On these nights, they encourage the LGBTQ+ community to come to the ballpark for a night of support and celebration, and the teams usually communicate that support through rainbow banners, signage, and various messaging.  However, the Tampa Bay Rays took their effort one step further on Saturday.  Following the example of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, they chose to incorporate pride symbols into their official team uniforms.  They added the rainbow colors into the “TB” on their ballcaps and added a colorful sunburst to their jersey sleeves.  But these colorful touches have not been the focus of the headlines this week.  The focus has been on the athletes who refused to wear them.

Pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson were among those who chose to not wear the rainbow flagged uniforms, instead electing to wear their standard gear.  Of course, the media wanted to know why these athletes would go against the grain and not support the LGBTQ+ community as their ballclub’s management recommended.  Jason Adam was chosen to serve as the spokesperson for the group and he explained:

“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision. So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different. It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”

So to sum it up, these five Christians said they had a deeply rooted spiritual objection to wearing the pride symbol.  They said doing so would communicate them taking pride in something that their faith says is sin.  This position of course infuriated many across our country.  NY Times writer Tyler Kepner wrote a response article titled, “An Attempt at Inclusion Proves There Is More Work To Do.”  In his article, he says “By creating special uniforms for Pride Night, the Rays were expressing their beliefs as an organization. As the primary messengers for the franchise, the players should have been expected to reflect that position.”  In his article he also quotes author Andrew Maraniss who said, “When people use their interpretation of religion to justify discrimination against people for the way they were born, it’s really an indictment of them and their faith.  Acknowledging that people are people and all fans are welcome, that’s not something you should be able to opt out of.”

Maraniss said that those five players failed to acknowledge “that people are people and all fans are welcome.”  I find that accusation puzzling because if you re-read the statement from Jason Adam, he actually said the exact opposite.  He said, “we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”  So how could this author, and millions of Americans, view these players as discriminatory when they said that they love the LGBTQ+ community and want them there?  I would argue it’s because the LGBTQ+ community is not seeking our acceptance; they demand our affirmation.  They don’t want Christians to just receive them.  They want Christians to give them the one thing that they cannot give: the celebration of their sin. 

This perspective is exactly why this article was titled with the phrase, “there is more work to do.”  What is the work that needs to be done?  It is the removal of the traditional Biblical worldview from our culture.  For many in our country, it does not matter how nice a Christian may be or how welcoming they may present themselves.  They will no longer accept your acceptance.  They want your ringing endorsement instead.  Anything less is viewed as unacceptable, and their mission will proceed until they have fully shifted the moral fabric of our society.

This puts Bible-believing born again Christians in an increasingly difficult position because the Bible is rather clear on the issue.  The Scriptures speak against the sin of homosexuality pretty straight forward in both the Old and New Testaments (Cf. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10).  The Bible tells us that God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2) and Jesus said marriage was designed for a man and woman to be brought together by God to become one flesh just like our first parents, Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-7).  I realize some will read my words and say, “that’s just one interpretation.”  You are correct, it is one interpretation.  But it is the literal interpretation of God’s Word, and it is based on thousands of years of Judeo-Christian heritage and tradition.  Indeed, there are other modern, progressive interpretations that are littered with tainted presuppositions and personal agendas which drive them.  But the church must not be surprised or swayed by those alternative teachings. 

The apostle Paul affirmed the authority of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and then he charged Timothy to preach that Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2) because others would stop preaching it themselves: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Church, those days are already here.  People have accumulated teachers to suit their own passions.  If you have a behavior or vice that you want affirmed, you can certainly find a church somewhere to do exactly that.  Consequently, people have wondered off into myths just as Paul warned.  But that is exactly why we must listen to the same instructions that Paul then gave Timothy: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

We have to be “sober-minded” in this season.  We cannot let our discernment be clouded by cultural influences and competing ideologies.  Instead, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  And we must be prepared to “endure suffering” for doing so.  If you do not fall in line with the cultural pride movement, make no mistake about it, there will be consequences.  This is the general pattern for whenever you stand for God’s Word.  Jesus himself was rejected and cancelled by His own culture, so why should we expect a better treatment?  Do not be surprised for “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  We must endure any form of suffering and continue to “fulfill our ministry.”  We cannot become so fixated on the problems of this world that we fail to move forward with the mission Christ has given us.  Paul is telling Timothy, it isn’t time to cower.  It’s time to get to work.

So what should that work look like?  Traditionally, whenever the church sees evil in the culture, it has felt compelled to respond via boycott.  In fact, some are calling right now for boycotts of the various entertainment companies, amusement parks, sports teams, and retailers that are supporting the pride movement.  And if you have taken that position, I’m not here to tell you that you are right or wrong.  But I am going to encourage you to consider Paul’s words: “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  You have the freedom to boycott anything you may choose, but my question is, “is it helpful?”  I’d encourage you to consider three things to process that question:

First of all, what is the purpose of your boycott?  Usually, the purpose is to financially penalize an organization in hopes that the inflicted pain will force their hand to change.  If that is the driving mission, it seems that most Christian boycotts have historically failed.  Even in my young life, I’ve seen more Christian boycotts than I can count (Disney, Target, Starbucks just to rattle off a few), but I cannot recall any of them making a lasting impact on the company’s bottom line.  The targeted organization tends to continue business as usual, and eventually the opposition begins to fade and grow tired.  I believe the lack of effectiveness is in part because Christians are simply outnumbered.  Jesus told us, “For the gate that is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many (Matthew 7:13).  Christians can try to cancel businesses if they’d like, but it seems that the world will offset their inflicted losses.

Secondly, consider how wide is the scope of your boycott?  For instance, some might say every Christian should start boycotting the MLB right now.  Fair enough, but are you prepared to boycott everyone else?  The truth is virtually every large business, bank, retailer, sports league, university, or professional organization has adopted some form of a LGBTQ+ affirming position and policy.  Even in the last week, I’ve personally seen rainbow flags on my emails, commercials, and ads for Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube, Amazon, the NBA, NFL, and MLB, Old Navy, Target, The Gap, Kendra Scott, NASCAR, Columbia, Petsmart, Yankee Candle, my banking institution, and the US Army.  That list could go a mile long, but those are literally just the first few I can remember interacting with in the last few days.  So if you’re going to champion boycotting, it’s worth considering, “how far will you champion?”  Where do you draw your own personal line of conviction?  That line might end up going way further than you originally intended.

Thirdly, consider how will your boycott align with your mission?  To me personally, boycotts seem to work antithetically to the Gospel mission.  The Bible doesn’t tell us that sinners are the problem and they must be avoided at all cost.  The Bible says they are the mission and they are in fact to be pursued.  If we go live under rocks and wait until Jesus comes back, we will have neglected the sacred mission that Jesus gave His church to go and shine light into dark places.  Jesus didn’t say “Go and make disciples if they are easy to reach and don’t offend you.”  But He did say that He will build His church and the gates of hell won’t stop Him (Cf. Matthew 16:18).  Isolating ourselves away from the world only prevents us from engaging it, and it robs us from seeing the Gospel advance into places of darkness. This is why Paul told Timothy to instead “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5). 

Instead of focusing on boycotts, I’d encourage Christians to focus their energy on three things this month.  First, focus on prayer.  Pray for those in our country who have been swept away by the teaching of the Pride movement.  Pray for Jesus to awaken hearts that are currently trapped in sin and spiritually blind to their ways.  Pray for God to soften hearts and bring conviction and clarity to Christians who have been brought into the confusion.  Pray for our children, that they may not fall into the snares of this ideology, but instead they will be rooted and secure in God’s Word.  Pray for salvation to continue to come to the LGBTQ community and for more lives to be radically transformed by the grace of God. 

Secondly, focus on courage.  Hold the line on your convictions this month.  We don’t need Christians apologizing for God’s Word.  God’s Word stands on its own power.  I’m proud of those five Christian baseball players who were willing to count the cost to live out their Biblical convictions.  It’s one thing to go into a business with a pride flag, but it is another thing to be forced to wear the flag in a business.  I’m proud of their decision, but I’m also proud of how they communicated it.  They did not condemn and cast stones at the LGBTQ community.  They simply spoke the truth with a whole lot of grace.  Our culture needs more men and women to rise up and follow their example.

Thirdly and finally, I encourage you to focus on the coming elections.  President Obama was correct, elections do have consequences.  And there are leaders right now in our country that want to push the Equality Act into our society.  The title is deceptive, and it is not about equality.  They want to legislate a new morality and silence the biblical convictions of business leaders.  There are politicians who want to target states and schools that have chosen to protect young women from having to compete against young men in their own sports.  Be educated in the political realm, and vote for politicians that preserve religious liberty, uphold Biblical values, and advocate for policy that reflects truth and common sense. 

I truly do believe many Christians are floundering right now on this topic because they don’t even know what is right.  Many pastors and churches have avoided speaking to these things due to fear and a lack of urgency.  Some pastors have thought they don’t need to address this because they are “preaching to the choir” on Sundays.  Those days are gone.  Choirs and entire churches are divided and filled with as much confusion as the world, and part of this is due to their own pastor’s silence.  A lack of teaching will always create a vacuum (especially in young lives), and people will seek out teachers to fill those voids.  Pastors and Christians, you must speak truth on these things to combat the many voices that people are already listening to.  Church leaders must be less worried that they may become irrelevant if they speak truth, because I assure you they will become irrelevant if they do not. 

Stories like the Tampa Bay baseball game will only continue in the days ahead.  But even as darkness clouds our world, do not forget that the light of Jesus Christ is still with you.  We are not called to take pride in this month’s movement, but we are called to take pride in our Living Savior. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).  May we all walk on our knees this month and find our power and pride in the cross of our resurrected King.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

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Summer Is Here

School is out, temperatures are rising, and our ABC Kids are gone to camp this week.  It is safe to say that summer has officially arrived.  We have big plans this summer at ABC, and this Sunday you will receive a hard copy of our summer calendar to share all the details.  You will find dates for our upcoming Creative Arts Camp for kids, Beach Camp for teenagers, and of course our annual Vacation Bible School outreach for the whole community.  We’ve got plans for mission trips, Bible studies, and fireworks at our 2nd annual Freedom Over Austin event.  There will be things going on virtually every week all summer long, but the party officially begins this Sunday.

This Sunday is themed as our “Summer Kick Off Party.”  We will be enjoying a day filled with fun and fellowship to commemorate the start to this exciting season.  All children and students will move up to their new grade level classes, and everyone is encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts to get in on the fun.  Following the BFG hour, we will be serving hamburgers and hot dogs for those who attend the first service, and we’ll have a second wave of food served at 12:15pm for those who attend the second service.  There will be snow cones and inflatables for the kids and classic cars for everyone to enjoy.  It will be an exciting day, and I encourage you to join us for all of it.  If you haven’t already done so, please purchase your $5 meal ticket HERE.  I even encourage you to buy a few extra tickets and invite some guests to come join you for church and the party afterwards.

I think it is important for a church to have fun together.  Scripture tells us “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:1-2a).  Every weekend, we should come to church with gladness in our hearts.  Each Sunday offers another opportunity for us to worship and lift up the name of Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters who share that same joy that can only come from the Holy Spirit’s presence.  I believe it is fun to be in the house of the Lord, and it is our joy to worship Him and spend time with His people.  I hope you take advantage of our summer calendar and look for opportunities to connect and build community.  But also look for opportunities to invite others to come experience that joy with you.  It will be a great summer at ABC, so don’t miss the kickoff this weekend.

On a side note, I did want to give an update on something else coming up this summer.  Last week, I was accepted into the Doctor of Ministry program at Gateway Seminary in California, and I will begin pursuing my doctorate on July 5th.  I’m excited to begin this new three-year journey at the SBC’s west coast seminary.  With that in mind, I wanted to hopefully answer a few questions you may have.  First of all, I’m not moving to California 🙂 .  I will have to go to California once or twice a year for a few days, but the majority of my work will be done via correspondence from Austin.  Secondly, I wanted to answer the question, “why Gateway?”.  I studied the Doctor of Ministry programs at all six SBC seminaries, and I was drawn to Gateway’s unique cohort model as I think it will be the best fit for me.  Additionally, Gateway is known by many as the SBC’s leading missions and evangelism seminary.  These ministry areas are near to my heart, and I’m looking forward to learning from their expertise.   As we all know, Austin is becoming increasingly west coast in its culture due to the many businesses and professionals that are constantly relocating to the Austin area.  I think it will benefit me to learn from Gateway’s leaders, as they have been contextualizing the Gospel in that same kind of environment for decades.  Lastly, I chose Gateway because I was honored to be invited into the executive leadership cohort led by the seminary’s President.  I’m looking forward to being sharpened and mentored by one of our convention’s greatest leaders, Dr. Jeff Iorg.

Thank you in advance for praying for me and my family as I begin spinning another big plate, along with all my regular church and family responsibilities.  I know it will be hard work, but I do believe it will be rewarding work.  My prayer is that God will grow and further develop me as a Christian, a husband and father, and as your Pastor and leader for the years to come.  Thank you for your love and support, and I’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend in your finest Hawaiian shirt.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Message: “Where do we go from here?” Psalm 37:1-3
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My thoughts on the SBC report

Last Sunday was an amazing day in the life of our church.  Our worship services were dynamic and filled with wonderful music, a special recognition of our graduating seniors, and a powerful video testimony from one of our own members.  I’d like to thank Nathan Wood and our student ministry team for helping make the day special for our graduates and their families.  Additionally, I want to thank Lisa Ghera for sharing her story and our Director of Media, Carlos Jordan, for doing an amazing job telling that story through film.  Many hours of unseen work went into that 7-minute video, so I do thank all who were involved and went above and beyond.  Additionally, I want to thank Dr. Todd Stearns, our choir and orchestra, media teams, and all who made our Savior Oratorio such a success.  The music was powerful, inspiring, and so well done.  Thank you for leading us with excellence, and I know everyone that attended was blessed by the immense talent that led us in worship that evening.  It truly was an incredible Sunday and I hope you were able to experience every piece of it.

As electrifying as Sunday morning was, I must admit that late Sunday evening became equally disheartening for completely different reasons.  As many of you know, Guidepost Solutions, a third-party investigative firm, released its Sexual Abuse Task Force Report for the Southern Baptist Convention that evening.  I came home from church Sunday night to read the headlines and began delving through the nearly 300-page report.  It was sickening to read so many instances of convention leadership mishandling reports of abuse, and even worse, mistreating and mischaracterizing the actual victims of abuse.  It appears that some in leadership chose to worry more about protecting the shield than protecting the sheep.  Some were more concerned with legal liability than the moral liability to our Gospel witness.  It was heartbreaking to see prominent leaders called out by name for inexcusable sin, lies, and cover ups.  But most of all, the report brought light to the depth of hurt that many victims have carried in Baptist churches for decades.  It is only appropriate for us to now grieve with those victims this week.  Paul explains that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV).  Just as we should honor and celebrate our brothers and sisters for their successes from last Sunday, we should also suffer and lament with our brothers and sisters around the country who have been carrying years of pain from abuse.

As we process the report with other SBC churches, I do want to remind you of a few key things.  First of all, this report is being called a “bombshell” report by the news.  Indeed, the report is filled with shocking and horrible things, but we must not forget that it was also a “requested” report.  Messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting overwhelmingly voted and demanded for this independent investigation to be conducted this year.  I was personally in the room and voted for it myself.  There has been writing on the wall for several years, and messengers knew it was imperative for SBC churches to receive an unbiased and true assessment of what has been going on behind closed doors.  This is why the report was conducted through a third-party and the attorney-client privilege was waived.  Guidepost was directed to dig deeply and they certainly did.  I think it is important for us to remember the origin of this report because it shows the heart of most Southern Baptists.  Virtually everyone at that annual meeting (and I believe in most SBC churches) want transparency from leadership and desire to do anything and everything to ensure the protection of our congregations.  I believe virtually every SBC member agrees that sexual abuse is detestable, unbiblical, and has no place in our churches.  That heart led to this investigation, and consequently, I believe light has now shined into previously dark places.

Secondly, I want to encourage everyone to pray for the SBC in its next steps.  Make no mistake about it, this report will be the talk of the annual meeting next month.  Many are wondering what are the SBC’s next steps?  The report does offer some guidelines to be considered which I know will be discussed further.  However, the bottom line is there must be reform.  Southern Baptists, a report like this demands a response, and I am hopeful that the SBC will respond accordingly.  Acknowledging mistakes is a vital first step, but it is not the only step.  Corrective measures must be put into place in response.  Paul explains, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV).  Worldly grief is simply feeling bad about the consequences of poor decisions.  It is wallowing in regret and shame about a poor course of action that has led to pain.  Paul says that kind of grief never leads to new life, only death.  However, Godly grief leads to repentance without regret.  As Christians, we are called to identify sin, crucify it with Christ, seek forgiveness, and then seek restoration and redemption through His grace.   My hope and prayer is that this will be the course of action for the SBC.  We must learn from this and do better, plain and simple.  I expect reform and so should you.  I am optimistic that reform will indeed come about because I still believe that is the desire for most Southern Baptists around the world.  I will look forward to hearing from leadership in Anaheim and reporting back afterwards.

Thirdly and finally, I do want to speak towards things here at ABC.  The report was correct in saying Baptist churches are autonomous, and consequently, we do have our own child protection policy that we adhere to. Every volunteer that works with kids is background checked every two years, has been interviewed and trained by staff, and has had personal references checked.  Additionally, every child and student volunteer has been certified through Ministry Safe training, which educates adults on best practices with kids and helps them better understand how to identify signs of abuse and potential predators.  Every staff member has likewise gone through each of these measures including the Ministry Safe training.  Additionally, about a year ago, we installed cameras in every classroom in the preschool and nursery area to provide both accountability and the resource of recorded footage if an incident report ever came up in a classroom.  I would like us to extend this technology to the children’s ministry classrooms as well in due time.  I say all of this not to provide a false sense of security.  The reality is no church or organization can 100% guarantee safety.  We do live in a fallen world, and sin will continue until Christ returns.  However, I am proud to say that we have been consulted by professionals and have implemented many commonsense practices that I believe mitigate risk.  As your pastor, and a father of three children, I want you to know we value the safety of every person on campus, especially our children.  I am proud of our church and I hope you are too.

I know it’s been a hard week for the SBC, and we should pray for our convention and for God to lead us in the next steps.  We do serve a God of redemption and my hope and prayer is that beauty will come from these ashes in His timing.  Thank you for your continued support and prayers, and I pray that all Southern Baptists will continue to unite under the authority of God’s Word, by the Great Commission that drives us, and through the Holy Spirit that unites us.   I look forward to seeing you this Memorial weekend for a special Lord’s Supper Sunday.

Onward and upward,

Jonathan Spencer

Last Sunday’s Sermon: Changed – “Living Water” John 4:1-15
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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”