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…