In the Heart of the Earth

We often race from Christ’s death on Good Friday directly to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. But in between these two events was another key moment — the burial of Jesus Christ.

The burial of Jesus is so central to our Christian hope that Paul includes it in his summary of the gospel: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Why is the burial of Jesus so significant? And what relevance does it have for us today? This morning, we looked at Mark 15 and its parallel in John 19 to answer these questions.

You can download the sermon from our church podcast, or stream from the media player below…

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A Shelter in the Storm

Where do you run in times of trouble? Psalm 71 invites us to flee to God, who is a very present help in time of need.

This psalm is unique because it mixes elements of both praise and lament. It captures the heart cry of a man who is growing old. His enemies swarm like vultures, waiting in mockery to make their move.

But what begins as a plea to never be ashamed, closes with a confident prayer that the author’s enemies (and God’s enemies) will be put to shame. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

You can download the message from our church podcast, or stream it using the media player below.

Let’s Reach California

We have several critical board openings in our California SBC state convention. These include:

  • Committee on Convention Operations (program committee). This committee wins the prize for coolest nickname — COCO.
  • Committee on Board Nominations (nominates people to serve on the boards of California Baptist University, California Baptist Foundation, and the CSBC Executive Board)
  • Committee on Resolutions, Credentials and Membership (which deals with resolutions and reviews church applications for membership)

While these committees may sound “bureaucratic” in nature, think of it as democracy at work.

Congregationalism (local church autonomy with some level of authority vested in the individual members) is a long-standing distinctive of Baptist life. But the only way congregational churches can partner together on mission is if the churches themselves send delegates to make decisions on behalf of the whole.

Functionally, our convention is divided into nine geographic areas (see map).

All nine of these regions must be represented on every committee. Just like our country’s electoral college, this ensures that both high and low population areas will have representation. But it creates a problem when we can’t find enough qualified individuals to serve, especially from our more rural areas.

The CSBC has immediate vacancies in regions 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9. It won’t be long before the other regions have vacancies too.

If you are a member of a Southern Baptist Church in California, and have a heart to spread the gospel and establish more healthy churches in California, you should consider serving on a board.

Pastors fill many of these positions, but the committees are not made up exclusively of pastors. In fact, at least three members of each committee must be laypersons.

I’d be happy to get some of you started on the nomination process. Just email or Facebook me with the following info:

Your full name
Name of church
Your role/title at church
Why you want to serve
Skills and experience that would qualify you to serve

Please note, not everyone who is nominated will be asked to serve. That’s up to the Committee on Committees. But your nomination form will be held for at least three years for future consideration, and can always be submitted later.

Please let me know if I can be of any help.

The Mystery of God’s Love

God is love, and he shows this love in so many ways. To bask in the love of God, you could meditate on his generous nature, his nurturing power, his daily presence, or his supreme sacrifice at Calvary.

But one of the greatest ways to experience God’s love is to study the doctrine of adoption. Simply put, God has taken a people clothed in filthy rags of sin and adopted and seated us with him at the royal table. So precious is this doctrine that J.I. Packer writes, “Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.”

This Valentines Sunday, we took an in-depth look at God’s adoption, and what it means for us today. You can listen on our church podcast, or stream using the media player below.

Six Hours that Changed the World

Back in high school, I had the chance to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia. Rain or shine, the tomb has been under constant watch by our military for over 75 years.

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, sentinels guard the sacred tomb, honoring those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The changing of the guard is itself a spectacle to behold. Standing near the tomb, you can’t help but feel a mix of gratitude, humility, and patriotism.

Similar emotions fill my heart as I come to Mark 15. Like visiting a warrior’s tomb, Golgotha is a somber place.  But more than anything I see the courage, love, and sacrifice of my savior who purchased my freedom by his own blood.

For six hours, Jesus hung upon a cross in Jerusalem suffering the worst pain imaginable both physically and spiritually. Those hours altered the course of human history. You can learn more about Christ’s great sacrifice in this Sunday’s sermon, which is now available on our church podcast, or you can listen using the media player below.

God on Trial

The Bible teaches that Jesus was sinless. How then could he end up dying the worst sort of criminal’s death? History tells us Jesus was adored by the masses. Why then was he publicly executed with such widespread approval?

Mark 15:1-20 answers these questions and more. It traces the Jewish and Roman trials of God the Son, the corrupt eyewitness testimony, and the innocence of the Lamb.

Sunday’s sermon is now available on our podcast or you can stream it using the media player below.

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Watch and Pray

Do you know your own weak spots? Are you relentless in your fight against sin?

Instead of moving into the next section of the crucifixion narrative, we parked last Sunday on Mark 14:38. This verse could easily be overshadowed by Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. But his words to the disciples offer a surefire strategy against sin and temptation.

Sunday’s sermon “Watch and Pray” is now posted on our church podcast, or you can stream it using the media player below.

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The Danger of Delusion

As I studied Mark 14 this past week, I kept wondering how could Peter fall so far, so fast? How could a man who loved his Lord and swore allegiance to him almost immediately deny he even knew the man? In this message, we look at Peter’s courtyard denial, and the problem of self-deception in our world today. You can download the sermon from our church podcast, or stream using the media player below.

A Few Praises from the Past Year

Like the leper in Luke 17, it’s appropriate to stop and say thank you whenever Jesus shows us kindness. God has truly been gracious to our church in 2016, and we have much to be thankful for. Here are some highlights I shared at last Sunday’s business meeting:

  • A marriage workshop in January on How to Improve our Communication
  • A Fall Marriage Retreat on Gospel-Centered Marriages in Beaumont led by Milton Vincent
  • Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsay’s material) Wednesday nights in the summer
  • 10 year anniversary for our family
  • Addition of about twenty new members
  • Launch of several home Bible studies in Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms
  • Started a Youth Bible Study on Sunday Mornings
  • Several professions of faith and baptisms, especially during our Vacation Bible School
  • Ministry opportunities for several young men headed into ministry. Several BAT students and graduates got the chance to preach, as well as recent TMS grad Craig Barnett.
  • A concert by the CBU women’s choir in May
  • A missions team from TMU helped us in October with painting and cleaning projects. You guys were a God-send!
  • Solar panels were installed, as well as new thermostats to reduce electric costs and improve HVAC efficiency
  • We now have a secure stairway for our attic. It may not sound like much, but those of us who had to climb up and down that extension ladder are rejoicing
  • Began preliminary planning for a local church plant
  • Relaunched an all new website as
  • Some great improvements to our nursery
  • A balanced budget.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

My First Hike In Palm Springs

Palm Canyon is said to have the highest concentration of California Fan Palms anywhere in the world.

I’ve done quite a bit of hiking in the Joshua Tree area, but today was my first hike in Palm Springs. I drove down to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation and took a six mile round trip hike along the Palm Canyon Trail/Stone Pools. Weather was cool and overcast, with a slight breeze, making it the perfect day for a desert hike. Here are some favorite shots.

The Fan Palms are huge. As soon as you descend into the river bottom, you’ll find picnic tables, an Indian hut, rocks to climb, a creek bed, and a maze of palms.
Hikers aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the trails. Many are designated for equestrian use too.
Palm trees and snow peaks. You gotta love Southern California.
Far back down the canyon are the Palm Springs windmills.
About three miles up the Palm Canyon Trail are the Stone Pools. There was a moderate amount of water from our recent winter rains. This was a peaceful area and would be a great spot for a picnic.
“Teddy Bear” Cholla dot the landscape high above the canyon. These cacti almost seem to glow in the afternoon sun.

When taking any of the south Indian Canyon hikes, be sure to check out West Fork Falls near the Palm Canyon Trading Post. Here’s a video I took today:

Other Desert Hikes Worth Checking Out:

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