Sunday Reflections: August 23, 2015

Today was another great day at Compass! The worship team did a fantastic job, especially with the last song, No Longer Slaves, which was a moving combination of beautifully blended harmonies with hand-drawn illustrations that added meaning to the lyrics as the song progressed. I continue to be impressed at the creativity and attention to detail and excellence that our team exhibits.

It’s also awesome to see so many new and “newer” people at Compass. I feel like we’re on this journey together of both discovering repentance and celebrating redemption. The Gospel is the great equalizer, as it tells us all that we’re in deep need of forgiveness but yet assures us all of our high standing with God once we’ve been redeemed.

One of the most frustrating things about being a Christian, to me at least, is how easily misunderstood we are as Christians. We are mostly to blame for that, I suppose, but as we showed this video of Penn Jillette, I couldn’t help but be reminded of why its so hard to tell people about Jesus without coming off judgmental or condemning or whatever.

The fact is, I’m not a Christian because of birthright, race, culture, or even personal choice. I am a Christian because of grace. My being a Christian does not make me a better person than an atheist or a Bhuddist or anyone else – it just means I believe my sin has been atoned for and yours can be too. The point is, its not about what “team” you’re on – it’s all about grace. Grace is not present in any other belief, at least in any recognizable way. So my “proselytizing” is more like, “Hey, I found something really awesome and I want you to try it too.”

But, of course, that requires Christians making authentic friendships with people and not merely trying to “close the deal” the way others do who are only interested in your beliefs and not interested in you. People don’t want to feel like a “customer” – they want to feel like you care.

So, those are just some random thoughts. Apparently Summer Slam is on in the other room, so I’ll have to go catch that for a little while. Construction is starting this week at Compass (was supposed to be Monday, got moved to Wednesday), and for the Jacobs’ family tonight will be prepping for another week of school and homework and gymnastics and singing lessons and whatever else comes our way.

Judi is recovering well from her foot surgery, although she is probably up on it more than she should be. But hopefully she’ll be back at church soon. Thank God for the live stream!

I just got baptized… now what?

This past Sunday at Compass Church we baptized 45 people in what we called a “Spontaneous Com-Baptism” (kind of like “spontaneous combustion” except you don’t blow up). During each one of our services people were invited to come up, on the spot, without any advance planning, and get baptized. It was pretty amazing!

You can watch it here. All of the baptisms from each service are compiled at the end of the video.

I was surprised at how many “newer” Christians came forward. Many of them have been coming to Compass for six months, a year, two months, and a few even said it was their first day! Baptism doesn’t save us, of course. That happens as a work of God expressed through faith. But is a huge step of obedience and is a landmark in the life of a Christian.

So what now? What is a Christian, especially a new one, supposed to do after such a dramatic event? Here are a few thoughts:

1) Baptism, like a wedding, is only the beginning of a journey. For a married couple there is no more dramatic and life-changing day than the one where they get all dressed up, invite their family and friends, and promise to live together for the rest of their lives. Everyone knows that those moments are among the most powerful in our lives.

But those who have been married for a while know that the wedding day is just the beginning. The hope is that the marriage will deepen over the years as the couple lives together and experiences the various stages of life.

The same is true with baptism. It is a symbol of our love and commitment to Christ – a public testimony that we are laying our old lives down and choosing to follow Jesus from here on out.

But baptism is really only the beginning. It is expected that as a follower of Jesus, I will go through ups and downs, successes and failures, high points and hard times. But over time my commitment to Christ will deepen in ways I couldn’t have anticipated as a new Christian.

Judi and I look back on our wedding day as an amazing event, but we both agree our marriage is way better than it was when it all began back on June 13, 1998. We couldn’t have anticipated the dimensions of love and connection that the years of faithful commitment to each other would bring us. Similarly, the day you get baptized may be a great spiritual “high,” but the plan is that you would experience far greater things as a follower of Jesus in the years to come. Expect to look back on your baptism as a great day, but one that you will mature beyond as your faith strengthens. That leads me to my next thought:

2) The journey of following Jesus is often three steps forward and two steps back. They don’t tell you in church most of the time, but its the truth. In fact, you will often feel like you’re right back where you started. You’ll question whether you were really serious on the day you got baptized. You may even feel like an imposter.

But don’t. I believe that we have an enemy, called Satan, who wants you to believe you’re not really forgiven, that you’re a failure, and nothing more than a pretender.

That’s why you must remind yourself daily of the truth that is spoken about you in Scripture. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old life of sin, guilt, shame, and darkness is gone. You have been “raised up” to a new life! I’ve always thought about it as a the transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I’ve never seen a butterfly turn back into a caterpillar. How in the world would that ever happen? It’s impossible, because everything has irreversibly changed! That’s the way it is with Jesus.

I’ve heard it said that Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good – he came to make dead people live. You still might look at feel like your old self, but you have to know that you’re not.

3) The best way to grow is to simply obey God. The brilliant philosopher and author Dallas Willard once wrote that its not about believing in Jesus; everyone does that (the Bible says even demons do). It’s about believing Jesus. So when he tells us to forgive others, we forgive, even if we don’t want to. When he tells us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, we don’t store up for ourselves treasures on earth. We just go through our lives relentlessly believing that his way is the right way.

4) Whatever you do, don’t give up. The Bible is full of people, especially in the Old Testament, who had spectacular failures in their respective pasts: guys like Abraham, David, Solomon… even Moses!  Somehow God’s grace is able to overcome our sin. One of my favorite verses is Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

If you got baptized last Sunday, I’m so proud of you and excited about what God is doing in your life! Let that moment serve as a landmark in your life, and never forget that God is at work, and he has the most amazing journey in store for you. I can’t promise it will be all roses. In fact, for many Christians, life can be hard, because you’re in the game now. You’ve got a jersey with a number on it, a goal to aim for, and an opponent who wants to take you out at the knees. But get ready for the ride of your life. And don’t forget to dive in at Compass each and every week!

Thoughts From Pastor Tim – H2O Edition

Note: “Thoughts From Pastor Tim” is a (nearly) once a week series of articles written specifically to the men and women of Compass Church.

This week our family took a little mini-vacay down to Tucson. We stayed at the Westin La Paloma, a place we’ve been going about every other summer for the last twelve years. We set a goal to ride the waterslide 100 times, but a massive lightning storm came in on Tuesday afternoon, so we only made it to 60. There’s no denying the fact that I turn into a little kid on waterslides. A few years ago they had a contest to see who could go down the fastest. I came in at exactly 10.4875 seconds. The record is 9.5 seconds, but apparently it was set by a teenager with no body fat who wore Speedo’s.

If it takes wearing Speedo’s to win, then I guess I’m a loser. I’m completely at peace with that.

I still think I’m pretty fast, however. And every time I would hit the water at the bottom, I couldn’t help but try to splash the waterslide life guard – in a subtle way, of course.

But overall we had a great time. When we’re all together on a road trip it becomes painfully clear how much of our communication revolves around Napoleon Dynamite quotes, with a token Nacho Libre reference thrown in here and there.

We also realized that we’re somewhat of a competitive family, and that meant when we went bowling (because it was raining and we could no longer ride the waterslide due to the whole “standing on an elevated metal structure” thing), we all had to put our hands in the middle and say out loud, in unison, “It doesn’t matter who wins.”

Yeah, that worked.

It actually did, until Judi won the first game. Then both the males in the family (who will remain anonymous) went south fast. That “doesn’t matter who wins” business is a crock. Ryan made a stellar comeback, however, and won the second game. I didn’t win didley. I hate bowling.

On another note, you’re not going to want to miss this Sunday at Compass. We’re going to do something we’ve never done before, but I can’t tell you what it is, because it would defeat the purpose. You’ll just have to trust me on this. Let’s just say it’s very biblical…

I Started a New Radio Program…

Yes, I did. And I am fired up.

It’s on 1280 KXEG, a Christian radio station that was recently purchased out of bankruptcy. The new owner is getting it up and running and has a big vision for what it can be.

I’ve always loved talk radio. I’ve been listening to it since I was 13 years old. My dad introduced me to Dennis Prager, and since then I’ve been pretty much junkie. While I don’t expect to compete with the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world anytime soon, I am enjoying the fact that my show is LIVE, and for now, LOCAL, and I’m trying to carve out a little niche for myself.

The purpose of my show, Life360 with Tim Jacobs, is to demonstrate how Christianity and more specifically the Gospel is the only hope the world has, and that it redeems everything it touches. So I want to show how the gospel not only stands up to, but provides the solution for, the great challenges that we as humans are facing.

On another note, I am unashamedly an entrepreneur at heart. I love starting and building stuff. So it excites me to be a part of a station that is under new ownership and is “building the airplane in the air” – something I’ve grown very accustomed to doing over the last 18 years of my career as a full-time pastor.

So I hope to inspire, educate, and motivate everyone who listens to my show, whether Christian or non-Christian!

On another note, I’m a big believer in what is called “motivated abilities” – a concept I learned from this book many years ago. In other words, when you’re doing something you love, the energy and enthusiasm will just gush out of you. That’s why all of us who live in this amazingly free society, with all of its options and opportunities, have a God-given responsibility to find what it is that motivates us and go after that with all we’ve got. In my case, there are many things that I love. Radio, however, is something I just was not sure I’d ever be able to do.

But through a very wild turn of events that started less than a month ago, I now find myself taking the microphone every Tuesday, in the incredible time-slot of 4pm, to send out my message to the airwaves. How great is that?

Image Is Everything

Well, the world is changing, and mighty fast:

  • I watched a video today of girls no older than my daughters dropping “F-bombs” to highlight women’s inequality. Watch at your own risk. It’s incredibly ugly, to be honest.
  • A man raised by two lesbians has been repeatedly harassed by a radical gay right’s group for simply sharing his opinion that a child should have both a mother and a father, something legalized same-sex marriage prevents. Even as his wife is giving birth to their child, he is receiving death threats.
  • Not that Sweden is any great shaper of world opinion, but in an effort to not offend anyone, they are popularizing a gender-neutral word in their language so as to blur the lines distinguishing boys and girls. End of the world? No. But it’s part of the goal to eliminate the distinction, so it doesn’t matter; so we can’t tell who’s who or what’s what.

How is this any different than any other day? Two ways: First, they all have to do with children, which is pretty disturbing. Second, they are all gross attacks on the image of God, even if they aren’t intended to be.

What do you mean, you ask?

Well, when I see these things I can’t help but think how important it is to see the beauty, wisdom, and purpose of God for us as human beings that is described in Genesis 1:27:

                  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

The most fundamental truth of who you are is summed up in that one verse. Two foundational thoughts are found in it:

  • You are created in the image of God, which means you have value simply because you are. All of our basic rights as Americans come from this concept.
  • You are either male or female, which means you possess, at your core, a unique expression of the image of God. You carry the image of God either as a man or as a woman.

The essence of who we are is fundamentally male or female. As human beings we find our fulfillment in living out either one of those expressions of God. It is part of our roadmap, our destiny. So much of life is a quest for capturing the essence of our manhood or womanhood.

Both “sides” of the image of God, then, are created equal and have equal value for God’s purposes. As a man, the more like God you become, the more masculine you are. As a woman, the more like God you become, the more feminine you are. Both are wonderful and amazing to behold when we truly find them.

Masculinity and femininity are not ultimately determined by culture, but are achieved when each sex lives out their roles as assigned by God. In the strength of a man we see grace, and in the grace of a woman we see strength.

Do those roles sometimes get confused in either a man or a woman? Yes, sometimes they do. But confusion should not be the reason to create another category, and it should not be the justification for blurring the lines between either men and women or boys and girls.

In light of where things are headed, the truth of Genesis 1:27 will increasingly stand at odds with our culture. But it’s not hard to see how we got here.

When a culture denies God’s existence, it also denies the essence of his expression. What that means is that we know there are men and women but we don’t know why they’re important. We don’t know the fundamental reason why they are the way they are.

That’s why it’s so easy to throw out what humanity has taken for granted for thousands of years: that we are either men or women. Our society has lost its ability to root the idea of male and female in anything transcendent. The distinction is seen only as a relic of the past. So we mock it, insult it, ridicule it, and try to change it. We tell people they can use whatever restroom they choose, and we change language to reflect this new enlightenment.

If we’re ever going to have any clarity in a world with ever-shifting values, we’ve got to let the truth of Genesis 1:27 seep into our souls. I’m challenging each of us to memorize that verse, internalize it, and use it as a compass with which to interpret the times.

Know that the more society drifts from this fundamental concept the more pain, confusion, narcissism, and ugliness it brings upon itself. This is why we see grown women parading their daughters around, celebrating them singing profanity. This is why it makes sense to so many people to rob a child of a mother and a father by affirming same-sex marriage. This is why we wonder why we can’t just erase “he” and “she” and come up with words that make us indistinguishable from one another.

I’m so grateful for the power and clarity of God’s Word. Right out of the gate there is enough to build a culture that can prosper and be a blessing everyone around!

These are my thoughts. I welcome yours.

Despicable Me 2 – An Apologetic for Traditional Marriage

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not want to read this yet…

I just got through taking my entire family to see Despicable Me Part 2. It was hilarious, engaging, visually stunning, and the best artistic argument for traditional marriage I’ve seen in a while.

As you probably know, the movie features an over-sized, angry-sounding, Eastern European-esque ex-villain named Gru, who had adopted three girls in the first Despicable Me and has now grown into the quintessential father. He’s a single man who does everything you’d hope a father would: barbecuing at his youngest daughter’s birthday party, dressing like a princess just to make her smile, and becoming charmingly exasperated at his older daughter’s romantic inclinations toward a boy she meets at the mall.

But what the movie makes clear, however intentionally or not, is that there is something glaringly missing in this family: a mother. The youngest of the girls, Agnes, demonstrates this as she practices a poem about mothers in front of Gru to be performed at her school’s Mother’s Day celebration. She is insecure about reciting this poem because she doesn’t have a mother, which makes her sad. Gru tries to console her by saying she can celebrate Veteran’s Day without having served in combat, but that of course doesn’t seem to help.

The movie’s lack-of-mother theme doesn’t stop there, however, and continues to become the sub-plot of the movie. The girls continue to tease and goad their new father on the fact that he needs to go on a date, and even attempt to sign him up for an online dating site without his knowledge.

All of this plays through the plot so normally, naturally, and endearingly, that it’s easy to miss the point: these girls desperately want a family. They want a father and a mother, and they aren’t going to be content until they succeed.

The movie progresses with Gru’s partner in undercover crime-fighting, Lucy, becoming more attracted to him, and he likewise to her. And as all great stories end, the bad guy is captured, the world is saved, and, wait for it… the two protagonists get married. Yep, you heard right. No cohabitation, no “friends with benefits,” and no funky “open relationship” stuff. Just a good old-fashioned heterosexual marriage, like something out of Little House on the Prarie. No kidding!

The wedding scene is hilarious, in fact, with the little yellow minions playing their part as wedding singers, dancers, and spectators and the like, and yet it is completely profound. As soon as the couple kisses, little Agnes’ eyes widen in wonder and she grabs everyone’s attention and, this time, joyfully recites her little poem about mothers again. Why? Because now that Gru has married this woman, she has finally has one. It is as if they save the final victory for last: the victory of a family, one with both a mother and a father.

I wondered as the credits rolled if it would be possible for the movie to have ended any other way. For example, what if Lucy had just moved in with Gru and the girls, as the “live in girlfriend.” Would the girls have been equally as ecstatic? Would Agnes have considered Lucy her mother? Probably not. In fact, had the movie played out that way, it would have come off undoubtedly awkward to the average viewer. We would all sense that something wasn’t quite right – that the story was left unfinished. No wedding. No celebration. No commitment. Just uncertainty.

In addition to that, what if Gru had chosen a same-sex partner with which to fall in love? That is what same-sex marriage advocates want, isn’t it? More stories that contain incidental homosexual relationships, not merely those that feature them, so that at some point same-sex relationships will be indistinguishable from heterosexual ones.

But let’s say Gru had been gay and married a man at the end, rather than a woman. Would Agnes’ eyes still have widened in wonder at the reality of having a mother? Would she have recited her poem that speaks longingly of a mother’s love? Of course not. In fact, what good would another man in her life have been? In fact, had the movie portrayed the girls as being just as excited about Gru getting a “husband” as they would a wife, the audience wouldn’t have bought it. What child doesn’t want a mother? And for that matter, what child wants two fathers?

What lends to the success of Despicable Me is the way that Gru’s character can be so decidedly male, with all the quirks and qualities therein, and yet simultaneously be captivated by and vulnerable to three helpless little girls. It only adds to the completion of the story that he should fall in love with a woman, and subsequently give to his children what they each long for: a father and a mother, in a committed marriage relationship.

As I walked out of this movie I breathed a sigh of relief. Even in these culturally tumultuous times, real truth and real beauty are inescapable to the human conscience. We know it; it is self-evident to us. Certainly there will be attempts to “re-educate” the population about what should be, but that which is really true and really beautiful will eventually win the day.

It’s a good thing when Hollywood makes movies like this. The point certainly wasn’t to be a subliminal apologetic for traditional marriage, but it sure did the job as far as I’m concerned. You should see this movie, because even though it’s an animated, fictitious ninety-eight minutes of children’s entertainment, its core message is inescapably true.

Absence Makes the Heart Go Mayan


So the world didn’t come to an end after all. Shocker.

Even the Mayans thought the whole thing was ridiculous. But in the midst of all the jokes on Facebook and around the proverbial water cooler, many people did take the whole thing seriously; and that’s no laughing matter. They called NASA, stocked up on food and ammunition, and just generally freaked out. No matter how moronic the rest of us thought it was, these were real people who were really scared.

How do we explain this crazy behavior? One answer might be that without belief in a loving, personal God who has an intentional plan for his creation, otherwise rational and decent people will continue to easily to fall for such delusions as the Mayan calendar doomsday prophecy.

You see, there is the old adage that if you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything. And given the fact that standing for nothing in terms of any serious belief in God seems to be the hot thing these days, it’s pretty easy to see how an increasing number of people will be led astray by strange and fanciful predictions like this one.

Despite all the efforts to convince humanity that there is nothing more in the universe than the cold hard facts of Science, people still hunger for the spiritual. They want the transcendent – which is exactly what Science can’t offer. There is nothing wrong with Science, its just that it isn’t enough. So give them some awareness of the Great Beyond, even if its tragic and scary, and they’ll run after it. Especially in the absence of any other spiritual foundation that would offer some type of truth to counteract it.

More to the point, however, perhaps the fascination with doomsday prophecies such as this erroneous apocalyptic prediction reveals something deeper: in the absence of a Creator, the only thing left to worship is the creation. And what a dangerous and brutal god the creation is!

The apostle Paul warns of this in the book of Romans when he speaks of the human condition: “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Rom. 1:25)

The point is, we have to worship something, and what we worship we usually fear. When there is no God who is in charge of his creation, both in power and purpose, then the creation itself becomes a god – a god with no ear to listen, no heart to love, no eyes to see. It is wild, unpredictable, and ultimately destructive.

St. Patrick noticed a similar fear of creation among the Irish when he arrived there as a missionary in the 4th century AD. He found a people who appeared brave and barbaric, but on the inside they were deeply fearful of the world around them. Thomas Cahill, in is book How the Irish Saved Civilization, describes how the Irish believed in the idea of shape-shifting – that everything in nature could change its form and turn against them. In Irish life there was nothing real you could depend on. Everything was a threat. The creation itself was the enemy. Cahill writes, “[shape-shifting] suggested subconsciously that reality had no predictable pattern, but was arbitrary and insubstantial.” (p. 113).

So when St. Patrick began to convert the Irish to Christianity, one of the results was a belief in the authority of God over nature. And if a good God is in charge of nature, then nature can be “trusted” to serve his purposes. So in Genesis 1:1 it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens the earth.” Right out of the gate the fundamental idea is that nature is not God; God is God. The sun, moon, and stars are inanimate objects created for God’s glory and our good. They are not to be feared because they have been fashioned by God for his purposes.

This same theme is what drives the famous prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which asserts a confidence in God’s created order:

“I arise today

Through the strength of heaven

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon, 

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea, 

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.”

All of these elements are part of God’s world, and while they might still be dangerous, as we live in a fallen world, their threat is mitigated by the opening line of the prayer: “through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of Creation.”

What does this have to do with the Mayan apocalypse of 2012? Everything, really. The fear of a failing, chaotic creation will continue to be repackaged and resold to every generation until the end of time. This latest one just happened to have its basis in the calendar of an ancient civilization. But there will be others. For years we’ve been told to fear the constant threat of man-made global warming and its implications. It is the most sophisticated of the doomsday prophecies – you will always be cool if you let global warming frighten you to the core.

Does Christianity have its own apocalyptic vision? Absolutely. But the difference is that we are told to take comfort in, and not to fear, the second coming of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that the end of the world will come when God’s purpose is accomplished. And with that, the earth is not so much destroyed as it is redeemed. Thus, the end is truly the beginning, and a better life awaits those who have believed.

Until that time comes, however, those who have faith in the God of St. Patrick and St. Paul can sleep peacefully at night and not fear comets, meteors, aliens, unrecycled bottles and cans, and everything else that we’re told is going to wipe us off the earth. As for tomorrow, my money is on the fact that the sun will rise, the Earth will turn, and the laws of physics will remain intact. Our God is good, and the Psalmist says, the earth and everything in it belongs to him.