The Bible knows nothing of…
a selfish Christian.
an absent parent.
an undisciplined child.
an unforgiving believer.
a fearful church leader.
a prayerless disciple.
a neglectful husband.
a critical wife.
a church for insiders.
a faith without sacrifice.
a Christ-less gospel.
a sexless marriage.
a churchless Christian.
That's how many times this phrase appears in the Old Testament.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
That phrase is found once in 1 Chronicles, once in 2 Chronicles, five times in Psalms, and once in Jeremiah.
Whenever the Bible repeats something, we'd better take notice because God is really trying to get our attention.
Eight times, God reminds us that He is good. Your situation might be good, or it might not be good. But in any circumstance, your God is good. And that leads us to hope because his love endures forever.
If God is good and God's love for us is inextinguishable, then our perspective shifts from despair to hope. We trust that God is working on our behalf, even if we can't see what He's doing. Which leads us to give thanks.
For the believer, thanksgiving is a lifestyle. Not a Thursday in November. In all circumstances, good and bad, we give thanks because our God is good and His love endures forever.
Mark Batterson wrote the following. It's so good that I'm shamelessly ripping it off.
All four gospels record the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fish. And all four gospels say that Jesus gave thanks! Read the story. It doesn’t say that Jesus asked for what he wanted. It says that Jesus gave thanks for what he had.
Scripture is kaleidoscopic.
On one level, this is a story about the mathematics of faith.
When you have faith, 5 + 2 = 5000.
But it is also a story about thanksgiving.
Jesus gave thanks for what little he had and the Father multipled what little he had so it was more than enough. A little thanksgiving was the difference between being 4,993 meals short and having 12 baskets of leftovers!
I think there is a profound spiritual truth in this story: if you keep giving thanks, God will keep multiplying blessings! I think the natural tendency is to focus on what we don’t have. And if we focus on the 5000, we won’t be grateful for the 5 loaves and 2 fish. But if we keep giving thanks for the 5 loaves and 2 fish, God will keep feeding the 5000! The key to multiplication is thanksgiving!
If we keep giving thanks for the little stuff then God will keep doing the big stuff.
Some thoughts on yet another amazing day at ACC…
- There is a sense of anticipation every time our church gets together. And that is exactly how it should be. Come expecting!
- I'm having a hard time keeping up with the number of decisions lately. I love seeing people give their lives to Jesus. It never gets old! I get chills every time I see a lost person become a found person!
- I also love seeing people unite their lives with the ACC family. Our church really is something special. Am I biased? Heck yes I am! But I've also been in more churches than I could ever remember. Trust me when I say that God is doing something special here.
- Our worship service was off the chart today! Thanks to Josh Young and our band for knocking it out of the park. I've said it before and I'll say it again…our band could play on any stage anywhere, yet they choose to play on our stage for the glory of God instead of the glory of self. I think sometimes we don't realize how rare that is. We're truly spoiled at ACC.
- It's been a long time since I've preached a message that was this tense! But as the tension rose, so did the Holy Spirit's work. He was at work all over the place this morning. Bitterness has NO PLACE in our lives! It has NO PLACE in the Body of Christ! It's time to eradicate this cancer from our lives! If you missed the message, the podcast should be up in the next day or two.
- I receive so much encouragement from our church family. Every email, every note, every word of encouragement means so much to me. I really can't express what the encouragement of my church family does for me. It is the fuel in my tank!
- This day included a wonderful surprise for me and my family. Thanks to the people who were so generous to us. It is appreciated more than you know.
- As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel so much gratitude that I really can't put it into words. I have been so blessed. I'm so undeserving. I don't know why God has blessed me like He has. But I will not take those blessings for granted. Instead, those blessings motivate me to push harder. Go further. Take more ground in the battle. God is good! Let's live like it!
Mark Batterson posted the following on his blog. It's so good that I wanted to share this short post in its entirety.
Johann Sebastian Bach was to classical music what Shakespeare was to literature or Newton was to physics.
256 Cantatas. Enough said.
When Bach completed his cantatas, he was careful to glorify God by inscribing the initials SDG. It stood for the Latin phrase: Soli Deo Gloria. To the Glory of God Alone. Love that so much. What a way to live! The only way to live!
In the words of the first tenet of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: The chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
This past Saturday marked a milestone in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The most well-known brand of the sport is known as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). This past Saturday, a live UFC fight was shown on FOX instead of Pay-Per-View. That is a groundbreaking shift for the sport, and it really shows how the sport has gone mainstream.
The ratings for this fight (that lasted all of 64 seconds!) were very high. But this is the stat that blew me away: Among men 18-34, UFC on Fox out-rated every college football game this season other than LSU-Alabama.
And in case you're wondering, that is also the exact demographic that the church is losing. So there is obviously something to learn here.
MMA is the epitome of a masculine sport. Everything about this sport just screams "dude." The church, on the other hand, has often presented Jesus as effeminate and weak, when in reality He was a man's man. Blue collar. Hard working. Not afraid to throw a table or a chair (See Matthew 21:12-13). But unfortunately, that's not the Jesus that most men meet in the modern-day church.
As Mark Driscoll said, "Their picture of Jesus is basically a guy in a dress with fabulous long hair, drinking decaf and in touch with his feelings, who would never hurt anyone. The problem is that Jesus probably had short hair, was in good shape from a labor job and lots of walking across rugged terrain, and upon his return will come again not in humility but rather in glory."
In other words, the real Jesus is probably more akin to a UFC fighter than the watered down, feminized version that many churches present.
That is problematic for a lot of believers because they dislike MMA. They view it as too violent. Too raucous. Too anti-Christian.
This post is not meant to argue for or against MMA. If you do want to explore this more in-depth, Mark Driscoll wrote a long post about it. He is admittedly a huge fan of MMA, so the post does have a bias (but on the other hand, every blog post on the planet has a bias). Still, he raises a lot of great points. Check it out.
Like I said, the ultimate point of this post is not the merits or lack thereof of MMA. The point is that this is the most popular sport in America among men age 18-34. The church needs to understand what is drawing men to this sport. In some interesting ways, MMA is having success that should rightfully belong to the church.
The church should have the market cornered on authentic masculinity. There is nothing more masculine than a man who is following a reckless, wild, untamed God. The problem comes in when our God becomes predictable, subdued, and tame…because when that is the God that is presented, that is how men who claim to follow Him will live.
And that is one of the big reasons why the church is missing an entire generation of men.
I'm still processing everything that happened at ACC today. We had our annual congregational meeting in our worship service this morning. It's not an easy thing to blend a service and meeting together, but our team makes it happen.
Honestly, I can't even keep up with everything God is doing right now, but the following thoughts are my feeble attempt to try.
- Is our staff amazing or what? Each staff member spoke this morning, and each time I remember thinking, "I'm so glad this person is on our team." ACC wouldn't be ACC without them!
- I love our people. I really mean it. I love the people of ACC. Today we celebrated the generosity, passion, and faith of our people. I tell people all the time that our greatest strength is not what happens on stage. It's what happens in the seats. Other than God, our people are our greatest strength.
- Our new Code of Regulations (aka, bylaws) were accepted today. This is a huge step forward for our church. Thank you so much for your support as we made this transition! It's one of the most important moves in our church's history and it sets us up for even greater things in the future.
- We also supported three men as deacons on our Leadership Team. These are godly men who are a huge asset to our team and I'm excited to see the support they got from our church today.
- The opposite of faith isn't necessarily unbelief. Many times in our lives, the antithesis of faith is fear. Fear stops God from working in our lives. We can't let that happen! We reject fear! We choose faith!
- I love our elders. I've worked in a lot of churches and I've seen a lot of different elder teams. Our elders are the best I've ever worked with. Bar none. These guys love ACC so much. They work, sweat, and bleed for our church. And just like I said about our staff, ACC wouldn't be ACC without them!
- Our staff has some weird and wild phobias. Except me, of course. Fear of dentists is perfectly normal. Dentists are evil. There can be no disputing this truth.
- The spirit and energy in our church is something special. Every Sunday I walk out feeling like I drank about 10 Red Bulls. And I love it!
- If we do what God has called us to do for the reason God has called us to do it, we cannot fail!
"With God's help we will do mighty things…" (Psalm 60:12a, NLT)
I ran across this verse when I was reading my Bible early yesterday morning. It stopped me in my tracks. It is such a concise and clear summary of where ACC is right now.
We're pursuing some big vision. We're exploring the possibility of pulling up stakes and moving a new location. It's an audacious vision…one that we clearly cannot accomplish on our own.
I don't know if this move will happen or not. There are any number of reasons why it might not happen. But there is only one reason it could happen…God.
Our church is called to accomplish mighty things for God's Kingdom. But that can only happen if God empowers us to do so.
Join me in praying for God to do mighty things through us!
"As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it." (Job 4:8)
This is something that I've been thinking a lot lately. I want to try to get it out here on my blog, but it's probably going to be a bit more unrefined and raw than most of my other posts. I'm not going to do a lot of editing. Just giving it to you straight.
Here it is…
A lot of people are stupid.
Or, at the very least, they live like they're stupid. They may not actually BE stupid, but they certainly ACT stupid.
Here's what I mean…we all have eyes, ears, and minds. And we can (and should) use those things to observe the lives of others. And if we're really looking at things honestly, we'll see a whole lot of stuff going on in other peoples' lives that we don't want to emulate. One of the greatest classrooms we have is the classroom of observation. And much of what we observe are negative, sinful, destructive behaviors in other peoples' lives.
But here's where the stupid thing comes in…
We end up doing the very same things in our own lives and expect different results!
The verse from Job at the beginning of this post is so simple. "As I have OBSERVED (meaning that he is paying attention; he is observing the lives of others), those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it."
In other words, "I've watched a lot of people. And I've seen firsthand how to royally screw up a marriage. Or a job. Or a family. Or a financial plan. Or a dating relationship. Or a church. Or a life. It didn't work out very well for them…so why would I want to do the same thing?"
Some people would call this common sense. Others would call it street smarts. The Bible calls it wisdom.
We are wise to examine the lives of others. Their victories and their failures. And if we see something that proves destructive in their lives and then we do the same thing in our lives, we are stupid if we think the same thing won't happen to us.
Again, this post is direct and unrefined. But it's true. It drives me out of my mind when I see people perpetuating the same destructive behavior in their lives that they saw in the lives of others. At some point, the chain must be broken. Why not be that chain breaker?
A friend of mine summed it up very well today when he said, "People do what they know."
A woman saw her mother abused by her father, so she marries an abuser.
A man grew up with an alcoholic father, so he became an alcoholic.
These are true, albeit extreme, examples. But it doesn't even have to be this extreme.
Someone grows up in a home with no financial discipline, so they live in a financially foolish way their entire lives.
Someone else grew up in a home where affection was never displayed, so they never hug their own kids.
Someone treated you with disrespect at the grocery store, so later you are disrespectful at the restaurant.
This runs the gamut, from the extreme to the everyday situations.
We need to open our eyes. Be observant. And then be wise in applying what we see. And when we observe destructive behavior in someone else's life, let's not be stupid and apply it in our own lives.
I guess the bottom line of what I'm saying comes down to the title of a Shania Twain song…Don't Be Stupid.