Friday, September 28, 2007


With four children under ten, there’s a lot of pretending in our family. Whenever we hike or drive through the woods, we pretend to be on the lookout for “Hopenots.”

Hopenots are characters in the wonderful children’s book by Max Lucado, The Song of the King. They lurk in the woods, hoping to distract and defeat the noble knights who are striving to reach the king’s castle.

The knights travel through the forest and listen for the sound of the king’s ivory flute to guide them. But the Hopenots have learned to imitate the sound of the king’s flute. They confuse the knights – except for Cassidon, a knight who chooses the prince to be his traveling companion. The prince has an ivory flute to match the king’s, and plays the same song. Because Cassidon has the standard for truth at his disposal, and the prince as his companion, he doesn’t get confused in his journey to reach the king. He stays on the noble path, and prevails!

It's a simple fact we often miss: staying on the path is a good part of the journey, or race, that we call life. But we can't do it alone. We need people alongside us who are playing the King's song.

In UpStreet we say, "It takes 'uncommon sense' to make the wise choice." We are surrounded by "hopenots" who seek to distract us from the journey to know God, and we need to be sure we're listening to the right flute, and the right song.

Are you developing relationships with people who will help you stay on the path?

Making noble choices. Making use of the standard of truth that we have. Watching for Hopenots. Why not start a Community Group this fall?

Then, we can be useful to the King, and prepared to do any good work!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mission, Part 2

I recently was asked to write a letter to my friend, Drew, who I've known for 21 years. He's going on a retreat, and the idea is that family and friends write letters that tell of his influence in their lives.

Why would this matter, I wonder? I mean, really—why would he care if he's made any difference in my life? As long as he's making a living, raising good kids, faithful to his wife... what difference does it make that his life has changed my life?

I'll tell you—because we were made in the image of God. And God needs relationships. His very existence is as a three-person Godhead (way beyond my understanding!). He created the angels and us to relate to him as Creator. So, as image-bearers, we need relationships, too. We need to know that we are impacting the people around us, and we need to be impacted by them.

This is why the second part of our mission at Access Church is to develop community with insiders. Church should be a place where we can be honest, open, and vulnerable, where we can learn from each other. We should be confident that those around us "have our backs." I need some good friends who can encourage me to make the wise choice, even when it's hard. I need a group of people who will celebrate life's joys with me, and with whom I can grieve life's sorrows. I need community. I'll bet you do, too.

At Access Church, that happens in Community Groups. Community Groups are six couples (or a dozen singles) in safe, authentic relationships where we can discuss our faith, God's Word, and how it relates to the world in which we live.

If you aren't in a Community Group, you need to get into one, soon! On November 4 we're going to host GroupLink, an opportunity for you to meet others that live near you, share your stage of life, and also desire community. It's a two-hour event, and by the time you leave you'll be in a group! There's no better way to jump into these kinds of relationships!

Drew and I became friends 21 years ago because we joined a community of like-minded individuals called a "dorm." It was then I discovered it was possible to talk about spiritual matters with other men, and it literally changed my life. GroupLink could be that kind of defining moment for you!

Think about these chapters from the Bible as you consider joining us on November 4:
  • Acts 2, "All the believers were together...with glad and sincere hearts."
  • Heb 10, "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
  • Phil 2, "Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."
See you November 4, at 4:00pm!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baptisms This Sunday

Baptism is an incredible step in the life of a believer. It's a symbolic time to identify with Jesus Christ and publicly proclaim that we place all of our hope in him alone.

Some are intimidated by the idea. Maybe it's the thought of being in front of a group of people dripping wet. Maybe it's the public confession of faith. Some hesitate because they aren't sure what they will say.

Objections aside, it's a clear commandment from our Lord to be aligned with him in this way, and something we strongly urge you to consider as a Christ-follower.

Our first baptism service will be tomorrow evening at Sawgrass Beach Club. It's going to be a beautiful setting to invite family and friends to hear stories of God's great love.

Join us at 6:30pm. Directions are here. See you then!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mission, Part 1

What is the goal of Access Church? Well, we exist to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ. But, what is a growing relationship?

We believe that a person who is growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ is someone who is pursuing intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

Intimacy with God
includes regular private and corporate worship experiences as well as allowing the truth of the Bible to change how you live.

There are other ways to talk about these vital relationships. In our family, we make it very simple for our children—"Love God. Love People." And in some of my emails I use the signature, "to know Him and to make Him known," which was emblazoned on the walls of my college chapel.

No matter how you say it, it begins with intimacy with God. We believe God designed us with an innate desire to know and worship him, and that we are not fulfilled as human beings until we're doing that.

But don't think that worshipping God is just about singing songs. It's acknowledging who God is and what he has done for us. That acknowledgment takes the form of prayer, singing, and reading the Bible that he inspired. It's also serving Him, giving back from our financial resources, and telling others about him. This is all part of what we mean when we talk about being a 24/7 worshipper. It's a mindset that involves being constantly aware of his goodness toward us, and having an ongoing dialog with his Spirit that resides in us.

Here are some chapters from the Bible you may want to read to inspire your worship this week:

Ps 100, "Worship the LORD with gladness...we are his people."
Is 26, "LORD...your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."
Ps 33, "In him our hearts rejoice."

Have a great week, and enjoy the privilege you have to approach the throne of the Almighty God!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Be The Church

A few months ago we had some tornadoes tear through Florida not too far from here. Among other structures destroyed was Lady Lake Church of God. A TV reporter asked one of the church members where he would worship on Sunday, "since your church has been demolished."

The man cocked his head sideways and gave the reporter a puzzled look. "Our church wasn't destroyed," he explained patiently. "Our church isn't a building, it's these people." He gestured to the crowd of people organizing the debris as he continued, "I imagine we'll be right here on Sunday, worshipping like we do every week."

It was a great response, and I wanted to shake that man's hand.

Sometimes people ask me about the fact that we only "have church" twice a month. Is it biblical? Then there's the fact that we don't own a building or land. Someone even asked me, after visiting Access one Sunday evening, "Do you attend a local church?"

"Yes!" I replied, "This one!"

You see, there's a huge difference between attending church and being the church. And as much as there is a lot that is good and healthy and necessary about attending, it's much more important to be.

Am I making sense?

Access is young. As churches go, we're just a baby. But already so many of you get it. You understand that being the church is about being the hands and feet of Jesus in your neighborhood, at your school, in the workplace, and with your family. Being the church means practicing the "one anothers" of the New Testament (love one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, etc.).

In fact, when Jesus prayed for us, the Church, he prayed that we would practice these "one anothers" so effectively that it would be our unity that would speak loudest about our faith. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

Isn't that crazy? Maybe it's especially hard for me to grasp because I was taught that as Christians we should influence the world through politics, through public preaching, through hard-core evangelism. But Jesus prayed that we would simply "be one" so that the world would know.

You know I'm headed somewhere, right? And you know I'm going to challenge you to do something. Something hard. Something really out-of-the-comfort-zone difficult. Well, relax.

I'm not going to ask you to go door-to-door.

I'm not going to ask you to make a stand for one of the 16 presidential candidates.

I'm not going to ask you to speak in front of people.

I'm only going to suggest you join a Community Group this fall.

You see, to be effective as a representative of Jesus Christ, you have to be part of a community of believers. Not just attending church, but being the church. And we believe that happens best when a group of people sit in a circle and look each other in the eye. The same group of people, week after week, month after month. Pretty soon you get to know each other, you do life together, and you practice the one-anothers. Strangers become friends become family. And, because of your common goal to be more like Jesus, something amazing happens. Your group becomes a picture of Jesus Christ to other people.

Imagine dozens of groups around Jacksonville this fall. Imagine each one practicing the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17. And imagine others around you being stirred to ask about this unique connection you share.

What was it Jesus said in his prayer? Oh yeah, "So that the world may know..."

GroupLink is November 4! Contact Ben now to get on the list!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Starting Point

Growing up, I was one of those kids in church every time the doors were open. I went to Sunday School and learned about David and Goliath and Jonah and the whale, and even memorized a silly little song about Father Abraham that I still remember today!

Some of you reading this are thinking, "I know exactly what you are talking about!" and others of you are thinking, "I'm glad I didn't have to endure that!"

When I look back now, I appreciate many things I learned about the Bible. But I wish I had known what to do with my questions. In the church where I grew up, we really didn't ask questions. We were encouraged to simply trust and believe. At times this left me wondering, "What am I supposed to do with my questions?"

Maybe you have been experiencing Access Church for a while now and you are like I was. Maybe your questions are more "how to" questions, such as, "How do I make sense of the Bible?" Or, maybe they're like the questions we've all had to deal with—those tensions we experience when we begin to approach things from a spiritual perspective.

Questions like:

  • Does God really exist?
  • Why should I trust what the Bible says?
  • If God is good, why does he allow bad things to happen?
  • Don't all religions, in the end, lead to God?
At Access Church, many of us have faced or will face questions like these when we are considering a relationship with God. In fact, we believe that God wants us to ask questions. That is why we created an environment called Starting Point.

Starting Point is a 10-week conversational environment where people can explore faith and experience community with a dozen or so other people who are also seeking answers. It's a place to consider the questions that keep us from a growing relationship with God. It's for the curious, the skeptical, and those who just want to connect with other like-minded people. In Starting Point, questions are not only encouraged—they form the basis of our conversations.

If you would like to find out more, we invite you to attend one of our orientations this Sunday, September 16th, immediately after each worship service. No commitment is necessary! However, you will have the opportunity to register for one of our upcoming Starting Point groups. The orientations are held at the top of the stairs and will only last about 15 minutes.

Bring your questions, ans let's start a conversation!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Point of Decision

This week at Access Church, Andy Stanley will begin a challenging new three-part series called, "Verdict."

If you have ever doubted the authenticity of the Bible, or wondered if Jesus was a real person, this series is for you!

If you've questioned how much of "real" Christianity has survived the past 2,000 years, you'll resonate with the questions raised in this debate.

We start with a courtroom scene, where the notion that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God is on trial. We will address questions like:
  • Are all religions valid approaches to God?
  • Is it reasonable to hold moral or theological absolutes?
  • Does "Sunday School" faith hold true in a grown-up world?
  • Did Jesus Christ really come from God, speak on God's behalf, and die for the sins of the world?
  • Is Christianity a "crutch"?
  • Is this faith really narrow-minded and divisive?
This series examines the evidence that has led so many to accept the Bible as a credible record of actual events. You are the jury. Come September 16, and decide for yourself!

Services are at 9:30am (concurrent pre-school programming) and 11:15am (concurrent programming through Grade 5).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Stellar Quote

I've been listening to the new Casting Crowns album and there's a great quote in the song, "What This World Needs."
People aren't confused by the gospel. They're confused by us. Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus.
That's powerful. Sometimes we get so hung up on the exclusive truth of the story of Jesus, that we forget about the grace which is his central message.

We (and by we I particularly mean those who work in the church) have been guilty over the decades of defining the way to God pretty narrowly. The Bible says it's enough to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. But then we want to add a bunch of legalism and imperitives. It's just human nature to want to add what we do to what Christ already did for us.

There are people that I love and who I know love Jesus who disagree with me on all kinds of theology. Some of it is even what I consider pretty important theology. But we can agree on one thing: Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus.

Someone once challenged me to make sure that those around me clearly understood what I was for, instead of what I was against. Good advice. For the record, I'm all for Jesus.

Let's work hard today not to confuse those who are watching us.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Part-time Student Ministry Opening

Because we love and are committed to teenagers and their families, Access is taking another big step by launching our student ministry this fall. To do this with excellence, we plan to hire staff dedicated just to middle school and high school students and their leaders.

We are looking for someone who is passionate about students and is a visionary leader to help launch our student ministries. The position will be part-time to begin with and will develop as the church and ministry grows.

If you are interested the Student Ministry Director position, email Adam Flynt. We would also love to hear from you if you have a heart for students and would like to volunteer as a small group leader.

Also, check back soon to find out what's happening for students this fall.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

GroupLife Preview - September 9th at 6:00pm

Because this is our last Group Life Preview, the Beaches Group and the SouthSide group will combine forces. Both groups will meet this Sunday at Ben & Audrey Habeck's home!

For the last few months people have been getting a taste of what GroupLife is all about while meeting new people in their area of town. This Sunday, September 9th, will be our last GroupLife Preview. Whether you've been coming to Access since the beginning or you've only been once, if you haven't had a chance to check these groups out, please come this week! We'll have a social time for you to meet new people in your area of town, we'll watch a short sermon video, then discuss some interesting, thought-provoking questions. It's a very non-threatening, "living room" environment providing a glimpse into the next step—Community Groups. Don't worry, there's no commitment, no guilt and no expectations. It really is just a great way to get to know other people in your area of town. In fact, we'll even reimburse you for your child care expenses. That's how important this is to us!

Sunday, September 9th at 6:00pm

Check out our google map for directions.

Otherwise, here are some general directions...

Ben & Audrey Habeck - 404.906.4975

10898 Birchard Lane
Jacksonville, Fl 32257

From 295, take St. Augustine Road North
Turn Left on Livingston Road (At the church about 1/2 mile north of 295)
Turn Right onto Pine Acres
Make an immediate left onto Burnett Park Road
The Villages of Burnette Park is about 1/4 mile on the right. Please park at Burnett Park, across the street from our neighborhood.
Our home is the first house on the left, once in the neighborhood.

Feel free to call me if you have any questions. 904.647.1220 x. 101 (Office) OR 404.906.4975 (mobile)

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New Partnerships

Know friends or family in cities like Auburn, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, or Toronto?

These are just a few of the cities about to experience killer environments designed to attract "missing persons" (a phrase from Jim Henderson's book, Evangelism Without Additives), courtesy of new North Point partners.

There are now 15 partners either already holding services or getting ready to launch. That's so exciting! And it's encouraging to know we're not in this alone. In fact, we're in this with some of the best, brightest leaders I've ever had the privilege to know. Visit our new North Point Partners web site to see where we're all located and read some interesting FAQs.

Invite a friend to church from across the country!

Here are some of the churches coming online very soon:
Pretty cool, huh? Keep these teams in your prayers in the weeks ahead and pray for their cities, that people would encounter God in a whole new way!