The Cross

iPad“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

[John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (London, 1968), 179.]

As a pastor, I tailor my instruction to the audience.

Sometimes, I’m talking to people who are broken and desperate. They need to be built up, as Jesus did for the woman caught in adultery. Continue reading

Our Next Baptism Tank Will Be A Triple-Wide


Baptism tank is in the upper left corner...

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41, NAS95).

Okay, so maybe we didn’t baptize 3,000 souls, but we’re still buzzing about 174. Hopefully, God is setting us up for 3,000 some time in the future… that would be our prayer!  In yesterday’s post, I shared about our Surprise Baptism Service at Neighborhood Church. Today, I’d like to share some memorable stories… vignettes that capture a little bit of what God was doing.

I’d also love it if you could leave some of your own stories in the comment section… a kind of “stone pillar” for future readers of this blog.

  • dunkfest1A young guy named Garrett approached me in the crowded hallway. He said, “I need help.” I asked why. He said, “I’ve never received Jesus and I need to!” I shared the gospel with him, and right there he prayed to receive Jesus… and a few minutes later was baptized.
  • A newly engaged couple, going through the line to change and get baptized said something like, “This completes our engagement.”
  • A 77 year old gentleman sat with Ken Jones during the commotion to get changed and Ken led him to the Lord. He was the last person baptized at the 5:00 (Sat) service. The next day, he flew home to Wisconsin.
  • Jim Botts, our Community Life Pastor, baptized people for 4 services. Dave Hall joined him for the 10:45 service.  The rough counts looks  like this (these figures may change as we process baptismal certificates).
    • dunkfest2Saturday, 5 pm: 44 people
    • Sunday, 8:00 Classic: 1 person (baptized at 9)
    • Sunday, 9:00: 38 people
    • Sunday, 10:45: 70 people
    • Sunday 12:30: 21 people
  • Jennifer and Darrin Beaver spent their date night on Saturday shopping for extra shorts and clothing.
  • Teams of volunteers helped sign in and process happy, nervous people at every service.
  • A young woman told me she wasn’t sure she was saved and wanted to make sure. I asked her what she was counting on to connect her with God and get her to heaven. She said, “Because I love him.” We talked about the difference between pointing to our own works (“I love God”) and pointing to Jesus and his finished work on the Cross (“He loved me enough to die for me”).  Who are you going to point to? She prayed to receive Jesus and went public a few moments later.
  • dunkfest3We know of four people who received Jesus in preparation for baptism. Any more stories of this?
  • The bathrooms and back stairway quickly became slippery. Dedicated volunteers kept mopping and towel-drying (by hand) the stairways and floors all through the services!
  • We ran out of shorts!  So we had to recycle them.  People got baptized, returned to change, and handed off their wet shorts to someone else. Go church!
  • At the 10:45 service, we did “double-double” baptisms.  Four at once. I don’t have pictures yet, but I will post them soon. A husband stands behind his wife and holds onto her.  The both get laid backwards into the water together.  Two couples do this, side by side, at once.  A double-double, four people at once.  It was the only way we could get through 70 people… Jim and Dave had a tough time keeping their heads above water for this!  Great job, guys!
  • The energy in the hallways and changing areas was ELECTRIC. People were high-fiving, excited, happy, nervous.
  • The water was warm, about 80 degrees, and we floated a pool chlorinator in it. It still turned greenish and ugly, because of the dye from the unwashed shirts and shorts.  Jim Botts started shivering uncontrollably at 12:30… way to take one for the team! (80 degrees is still lower than his core temperature…)
  • dunkfest4When you are baptized, we have to shove you under the water, because you float.
  • A number of veteran Christians was baptized… for whatever reasons they never got around to it before, and told us how grateful they were for this opportunity. I was so proud of these guys for standing up strong and proud for Jesus!

ALL THE PICTURES WILL BE POSTED FLICKR… THIS ALLOWS YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT AS MANY AS YOU WANT!!! As of this moment, only 5:00 and 9:00 have been uploaded. We hope to have the rest uploaded by Thursday.  Here’s the link:  Neighborhood Church Photostream.

I’m only scratching the surface of an amazing work of God. Thank you, Lord, for letting me witness your mighty hand with my own eyes, and for letting me be a part of it.

What stories have you heard?

dunkfest7Some links:

Our sermons at Neighborhood Church

Pictures of each person getting baptized… find your own & make a t-shirt!

A Christmastime article I wrote about not letting your Inner Grinch steal another Christmas (please share this with friends via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc)

Surprise! 174 Baptized

Dunkfest411 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11, 12, NKJV).

Last weekend, our church baptized 174 people. They didn’t see it coming. (Neither did we, not in those numbers.) We sprung it on them. Here are some comments from Facebook:

  • I was at the Saturday evening service and it was so incredible. Thank you Jesus!
  • Thank you Bill. What a wonderful surprise and something that I have wanted to do for quite some time. To do it at your offering in front of my own church while holding my wife and in the hands of Dave Hall and Jimmy Botts was something that I will always remember.
  • We got the sneak preview on Sat. night. It was AWESOME! Way to to to all of you that stepped up and got baptized this weekend. Praise the Lord! What great leadership we have!
  • Thank you Bill. It was a fantastic experience for me and my wife. To be baptized together and to have it witnessed by Neighborhood church was an honor and privelage that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Yeah Bill. Yeah Neighborhood Church. And especially, Yeah Jesus!
  • Dude, Praise God! What an awesome celebration of faith!
  • Loved the double dunkers. it was pretty awesome! worth waiting for the surprise

Dunkfest2It’s impossible to convey the electricity in the room (but thankfully not in the baptismal tank). Last weekend,we played “Baptism Catch-up.” We invited followers of Jesus to stand up and say so the way Jesus told us to say so: through water baptism.  We’re “dunkers” so this was pretty inconvenient.

We had shorts, shirts, unmentionables, hair dryers, changing rooms, towels, bags for everybody’s stuff, photographers… there was no excuse not to get baptized.

Our message was based on the gross but cool story of Joshua 5 (it’s part of a series called BirthRight).  The Jews enter the Promised Land through a great miracle. God parts the Jordan River. Now, they are in hostile territory, and have basically declared war on the Canaanites.  Joshua’s first order of business: CIRCUMCISE EVERY MALE IN THE NATION.  Joshua incapacitates his entire fighting force. Does that make sense?

Only if you see life from the divine viewpoint. God had spoken: there can be no VICTORY until God’s people fully embrace their IDENTITY.  That’s was the idea in Joshua’s day, and it’s the idea today.  BAPTISM is how we go public for Jesus; we tell God, the devil, angels, demons, the church, and a million people on the Internet that we belong to Jesus and he belongs to us. “Identity precedes victory.”

That was the message… it will be online soon. At the end, we prayed, pointed to a door in front of the auditorium, and said “READY SET GO!”

People flooded through the door. It was indescribable to see the power of God made so visible.  Tears. Smiles. Hugs. Laughter. Excitement. You could feel it. Our worship team, led by Jon Lepinski, came up, and continues our worship set (we’d cut it short, moved up [and shortened!] my message, and left time for baptisms and more worship at the end).

Dunkfest3Jim Botts and his team (led by Jennifer, Dave, and Janis) were ready. Get clothes, change, sign in, profess your faith, and go get dunked. It was so cool to see an army of volunteers helping people, encouraging, cheering, loving, serving. Our baptism tank is upstairs (behind one of our projection screens, the screen lifts up, making the tank visible in the auditorium).

In each service, one volunteer kept wiping the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs, so people wouldn’t slip.  Up, down, up, down, all service long. That is a heart of SERVICE and SACRIFICE.

I have some awesome stories… I’ll save those for tomorrow.



Powerful Worship Service

Last night, I attended one of the most moving worship services of my life. At Neighborhood Church. Don’t miss it today at 9:00 and 10:45 if you’re in northern California! Great time of music, praise, prayer, testimonies, and cardboard testimonies. Thanks to Jon, our worship pastor, and the whole team, and especially to those who put their hearts and pain out on the table with such courage and grace. God is doing amazing things among us.

Here are some comments from email I’ve already received:

  • ” I wanted to let you know that tonight’s service led by Jon Lipinski was one of the most amazing services I’ve ever attended at any church—and I’ve seen some amazing services. I use to think it would be hard to top many of yours personally till tonight. The power of testimony in real people, in real life, that others can relate to is absolutely nothing short of astonishing…”
  • “The Lord helped me to get 9 people there tonight – all struggling with something that was testified to –and they have been calling me all night thanking me! A handful of us went to dinner together and two of the non-believers were able to hear more personal testimonies from the other 3 of us, and they were just in awe. There are six more invited to tomorrow’s service, and I’m not sure who will actually show up, but this was just such an amazing praise both to God and to the people of Neighborhood for stepping out in faith to share their stories. WOW and double WOW! I’m still leaking in the eyes off and on as I think about everyone (myself included) that God has worked through at Neighborhood! “
  • “I attended the service earlier tonight. That was one of the most powerful services I have ever attended. My spirit is overflowing. Thanks for your leadership roles at NCR.”

    When the “cardboard testimonies” started, I just felt tears streaming down my face. God’s at work!

    WARNING: The 10:45 service might be jammed; we have overflow seating in the video cafe, but for this service you want to be in the main auditorium. Come early!!!

    Here’s my kind of Labor Day:

    “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13, NKJV).

Monday Morning Quarterback

A worship weekend. All the services seemed to have a great spirit. The 10:45 was full, as usual, and the other services run about 75-90% full.  We really have a wide age-spread… young and old.

I preached sermon 10 in the War of the World’s series. This one was on worldliness… Probably 30 people or more responded to the invitation to receive Jesus. It’s so amazing to see their excited faces when they look at me and smile, or wave, or have tears streaming down their cheeks.

I talked to 1 guy who got out of prison and 1 guy who’s going to prison and 3 guys who I urged to come to Celebrate Recovery. I love these guys! They keep us all real. One of them, a pizza delivery guy who stayed around after delivering pizzas for our worship team, got saved. Very cool.

We had some technical problems with video…and some of our stage monitors died during the 9:00 service. But, God works IN SPITE of technology.

The temperature in the Lassenview Gym during the Classic service never got below 81. My shirt was soaked with sweat. Good thing I bring extra t-shirts to change into!

Today will be a good day to veg out… then I have to prepare 8 talks for my Africa Trip (and powerpoints!), and then it’s run, run, run for the rest of the summer!

Oh… today, I’m putting together my daughter’s doll house.  The directions go up to “Step 28”.  Pray for my sanctification.

““…On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Mt 16:18.