First Baptist Church, Ridgecrest, California © 2017 email@example.com
First Baptist Church, Ridgecrest, California © 2017 firstname.lastname@example.org
April 20, 2019 - Ridgecrest Dailey Independent
Do You Believe in the Resurrection?
Adapted from sermon, “Did Jesus Rise Again?” by Dane Acker of CenterPoint Church, Colton, Ca.
He is risen!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the greatest miracle ever performed, authenticates His divine role as the Son of God and Messiah. However, out of all the stories about Jesus, the story of the resurrection is the most attacked due to its apparent unfathomable validity. Numerous evidences have been proposed by skeptics to refute this miracle and thus refute Christianity. However, counter-arguments, which have been traditionally handed down by Christian scholars irrefutably present adequate evidence to the contrary. If the story of the resurrection has peeked your interest, but the so-called “evidence” proposed by skeptics has instilled doubt in your mind, then maybe consider the following counter-arguments regarding the truth of the resurrection.
Before I present the evidences, I want to make a statement to the reader: Easter is not about Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, or cliched religious phenomena. It is about the resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ who was sent to earth to die on a cross for your sins, and He rose again on the third day, therefore, accomplishing God’s will of redemption for mankind. If you are struggling with skepticism about this holiday, know that God loves you more than you can fathom, and the sacrifice of His son at Calvary demonstrated the fullest measure of His love for you!
Skeptical Arguments Against the Resurrection
Of all the arguments against the resurrection, this one is the most plausible. However, proponents of this argument omit vital historical evidences, which prove otherwise. After Jesus was laid in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, Roman Governor, Pilot gave the order for the tomb to be guarded by heavily armed Roman soldiers (Matt. 27:65). Think about it: for the followers of Jesus to steal His body, they would be forced to fight off a heavy security force! In ancient times, Roman soldiers were sent to guard a site. Then 4 men were placed immediately in front of what they were protecting. The other 12 slept in a semi-circle with their heads pointing inward. Every 4 hours another unit of 4 soldiers were awakened, and those who had been awake took a turn at sleeping (Joshua McDowell’s “Don’t Check Your Brains in at the Door”).
Traditionally, Roman soldiers wore armor and carried three weapons: First, soldiers used a Roman Pike, which is a spear-like weapon about 6 feet long. Second, a soldier wore a sword on his right side, which was 3 feet long. Third, a soldier wore a dagger on his left leg (T.G. Tucker, “Life in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul about Roman Soldiers”). If you think about it, the Bible portrays the disciples as scared bunny rabbits, not tomb raiders! Therefore, it is impossible to fathom them fighting off such a brutal task force and roll a 2-ton stone guarding the tomb’s entrance to get to Jesus’ body.
Christianity was the prominent religion of the Greco-Roman world from the 1st through 16th century and beyond. Therefore, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity would have been laughed out of existence in the 1st century. Acts 2:32 (NIV) records, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.” This speech was given just 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, and Peter is appealing to the people’s common knowledge. He says, “You saw it with your own eyes!”
Furthermore, the leading followers of Jesus (except for John who was exiled to Patmos) experienced brutal deaths because of their faith. Matthew was killed with a sword. Mark was dragged through the streets in Egypt until dead. Luke was hanged. John was boiled in a huge pot of oil and then miraculously was delivered to die as an old man of natural causes. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. James was beheaded. James the Less was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and then beaten with a club. Bartholomew was skinned alive with a whip. Andrew was crucified. Thomas was stabbed. Jude was shot with arrows (Grant R Jeffrey, “The Signature of God”). Ask yourself, “Of all the tortures these followers faced, don’t I think maybe just one of them would have fessed up and admitted that their faith was a lie?” No one in human history has ever gone through such lengths over something they consciously knew or suspected was a lie.
This is known as the “Swoon Theory” - the idea that Jesus basically fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. However, everyone thought He was dead, so they buried Him. The theory continues that later Jesus recovered, and the disciples thought He rose from the dead. First, we must note that Jesus was killed by professional executioners, Roman soldiers. If their task of execution was botched in any way, that would have cost them their lives. Second, how does Jesus who was beaten with a flesh tearing whip to the point where He was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14) - who was nailed to a cross – who was bound in a grave with cloths packed in a 100 pounds of spices going to get up, unwrap himself, move a 2-ton stone, fight off a Roman security force, and then travel on foot to see his disciples? This theory is impossible.
Scripture records that there were hundreds of eyewitnesses of Jesus after he appeared to different people at different places at different times after His resurrection. Hallucinations are not group events. One psychiatrist said that to get 500 people to all hallucinate the same thing at the same time would be a bigger miracle than the resurrection itself.
True, when people get emotionally worked, it is possible to believe a lot of things. For instance, there were people who believed the world was going to end in 2012, and they sold their property to prepare for it. Does this reasoning work to argue against Christianity? First, consider the “30-Day Rule.” The rule goes like this: In the 1st century when you became a Christian, you didn’t get to experience the comforts and luxuries of an indoor church. Instead, in the next 30 days, you lost your job, were imprisoned, lost your family, or you lost your life. There were harsh consequences to becoming a Christian! Early Christians gave their lives for what they saw and experienced. Despite the 30-Day Rule, Christianity expanded rapidly amidst a hostile culture because people knew the resurrection was real! There was no doubt this event occurred because they saw it with their own eyes!
Citizens off Ridgecrest, Easter is a celebration of the greatest miracle ever performed, and it validates the essence of the Gospel that Jesus died for our sins, rose again on third day, presently sits on the right hand of God, and will return to gather His church. Let the meaning of Easter be transformative to your lives!
“How Good Is Your Prayer Reception with God? Part 1”
Prayer is the most essential instrument in our Christian toolbox, which permits us to directly access the throne room of God at any time. Therefore, it is the tool, which the enemy will attack the most to thwart us from seeking intimate communication with God. Part one of this article will examine the common distractions, which Satan often utilizes to interrupt a believer’s communication “signal” with God, and part two will provide a series of biblical steps, which will assist them in fighting off these obstacles.
If you are reading this article and have direct access to your cellphone, take it out and count how many bars of service you have. Are you getting good reception? In a technologically advanced world, having good signal is one of the most cherished values we have. For instance, we cherish good cell phone signal, efficient WIFI, clear television reception, clean radio waves, and good Bluetooth connection. How good is your prayer reception with God? When you pray, are you constantly getting low bars, busy signals, and static because there are too many distractions or obstacles keeping you from making good connection with God? Maybe these interruptions make you feel that God is not responding or listening. Prayer is the most essential instrument in our Christian toolbox, which permits us to directly access the throne room of God. However, it is a practice that we, unfortunately, overlook, misuse, or omit because we fail to identify its purpose and power. Prayer is simply defined as personal communication with God (Wayne Grudem, “Systematic theology,” 376). It is, metaphorically, picking up the phone and just having a personal chat with God. If talking to God is so simple, then why do we get so discouraged when we don’t get the desired responses we expect from Him? Have you attempted to contemplate what hindrances might be blocking your “Heavenly Signal?”
Common Disruptions that Block Our Heavenly Signal
The first disruption, which could block our communication with God is getting sidetracked with daily distractions, which prohibit productivity. Did you know that, statistically, employees waste 759 hours each year due to workplace distractions (Susanna Huth, The Telegraph, June 2015)? From chatty colleagues, cell-phone distractions, online shopping, social media, personal emailing, the temperature, and sitting in an uncomfortable chair led to the average worker wasting 60 hours every month (3 hours a day, which totals 750 hours a year) on workplace distractions. Do similar habits infringe upon your prayer life? For example, is poor time management, daily busyness, and fear/anxiety keeping you distracted from prayer? Gospel Coalition contributor, Gavin Ortlund provides 7 methods to fight distractions in prayer. First, Christians should pray with Scripture (allow God to speak through His Word). Second, Christians should pray with a pen (write out a personal prayer). Third, Christian should pray with fasting (fast from some foods, social media, television and filling those voids with prayer). Fourth, Christians should pray with people (Matthew 18:20). Fifth, Christians should pray with a purpose (having structured prayers). Sixth, Christians should pray with emotion (notice David’s yearning appetite for God’s intervention in his emotional prayers – Ps. 42:5, Ps. 103, Ps. 27). Lastly, Christians should pray the Gospel (thanking Jesus for rescuing us from our sin, death, eternal ruin and adopting us into the family of God by our faith).
The second disruption, which could block our communication with God is praying empty words with out meaning (Dane Acker, CenterPoint Church). There are certain clichés we can implement in our prayers without meaning. Don’t get me wrong, they are charitable words, but only so if we understand what they mean and say them sincerely (i.e. “Praise the Lord,” “Hallelujah,” “Amen,” “I’m covered in the blood”). These words can become thoughtless repetition with the absence of sincerity. Our dinner prayers have become equivalent to “rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.” It is easy to fall into a pattern of praying for the same thing using the same words. At least you are praying when you do this, but it can become very meaningless. Jesus, in Matthew 6:7, provided an exceptional template for prayer. We know this as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Notice that Jesus never told his disciples to recite this prayer. He said, “Pray like this” (v. 9). We must communicate with God no different than we would with our best friend. John Bunyan once said, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
The third disruption, which could block our communication with God is fighting against spiritual warfare (Dane Acker, CenterPoint Church). The existence of spiritual warfare is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood topics in Scripture (Eph. 6:12). We normally don’t feel comfortable admitting it, but spiritual warfare is not a popular theological subject. However, we recognize its presence. Satan’s positional authority over the earth is described in numerous places in the Bible (“The god of this world” - 2 Cor. 4:4; “Ruler of the world’s kingdoms” – Matt. 4:8; “Ruler of this world” – Jn. 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; “Commander of the powers in the unseen world” – Eph. 2:2). The Bible also provides numerous descriptions of Satan’s character (“A murderer and liar” – Jn. 8:44; “Angel of light – deceiver” – 2 Cor. 11; “The evil one” – Jn. 17:5, 2 Thess. 3:3. 1 Jn. 5:18; “A serpent – ‘crafty one’” – Gen. 3:4-5; “Tempter” – Gen. 3, Matt. 4, Mk. 4:1-11). Lastly, the Bible offers a key description of Satan’s wrath. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “(he) prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (parenthesis mine). Satan is very active in this world, and it is his sole mission to thwart our efforts away from following Christ and destroy us. How can we fight against spiritual warfare? The answers are putting on the Armor of God and walking with a lit beacon. Paul provides an elaborate discourse in Ephesians 6:13-18 on putting on the Armor of God, and each component serves an essential purpose for Christians to protect themselves against and combat spiritual warfare. Psalm 119:105 describes how believers can walk with a lit beacon, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light unto my path.” In effect, Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Can you hide a city that is sitting on top of a hill? Its light can be seen for miles. If we live for Christ, we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. We (the church) is a beacon of truth (Life Application Study Bible, 1537). The fourth disruption, which could block our communication with God is getting stuck behind steep mountains. We usually get good signal when we are talking to someone on Bluetooth driving down the highway until we drive in front of a steep mountain and, suddenly, the connection is lost. It’s like driving to Mammoth or Big Bear – you better be sure you are prepared for any mishaps because your phone will not work until you reach the top. Life is filled with tough obstacles, which appear to be too big for us to handle. As Christians, everything appears to be going well for a season until we reach an unfortunate circumstance and we become distanced from God to the point where we no longer feel connected with Him. Zechariah experienced this with his with his dream to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple after the Israelites returned from Babylonian exile (see Zachariah 4:1-10). How can we veer around the mountains in our lives? The answer is simple - we tell the mountains to move! Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing is impossible for you.” The power of God will give us the strength we need to tell our mountains to move! (Next week, I will provide the remedy for overcoming these four distractions. They are methods for linking our prayers with God’s data plan!)
If you are looking for a home church, you are welcome to visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs Street) at 10:30 on Sundays.
Pastor Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
Together a Family - Witnesses of Truth
First Baptist Church Ridgecrest
Together a family, Witnesses of truth. This is who we are. This is the essence of our mission in serving the city of Ridgecrest. Welcome to First Baptist Church! We are a small, yet vibrant family-based church located at 1350 S. Down’s Street, and we are in the process of seeking immense growth. Since 1958, we have served Ridgecrest through the substantial teaching of biblical doctrine, building positive and long-lasting relationships, and building the body of Christ through disciple-making. Our mission, in compliance with “the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), is to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ with coherence, reverence, and admiration.
We believe the Gospel to be the following: God created all human beings to have an upstanding and moral relationship with Him. However, because man chose to rebel against God, this relationship was severed, and, justly, humans were cast from His presence and subject to eternal death of which no man of his own efforts could mend or satisfy. However, because of God’s love, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus to the world to pay the penance of our sins by His death on the cross. On the third day, He resurrected from the grave thus satisfying God’s judicial wrath over sinners and victoriously providing all those who believe in Him an inheritance in His glorious kingdom.
Overall, we believe in, what is called, the Four Pillars of the Faith. First, we believe that salvation is acquired by faith in alone in Jesus Christ. Second, we believe that the Holy scriptures (Bible) is infallible and thus without error and stands as sole proprietor for instruction and truth. Third, we believe in the Holy Trinity, which means there is one God who is manifest in three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Each person is completely God but is diverse in function, purpose, and role. Fourthly, we believe in the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus.
Why should you choose our church? As a growing community, we pledge the following: to make you feel right at home where every Sunday is a family reunion; to serve you in anyway that is within our means and in accordance with church bylaws; to invite you to be a part of numerous missional opportunities to help grow our church both quantitively and spiritually; and to invite you into the heart of worship through adequate teachings of Scripture manifest through music, fellowship, and messages. Please join us at 10:30 on Sunday mornings! It would be our pleasure for you to become a part of our family. Furthermore, we offer Wednesday night Bible studies for both men and women at 6:00 p.m. Second, our Pastor, Mathew Pope teaches various courses pertinent to comprehending theology, evangelism, and the Bible on Tuesday evenings at 6:00. Beginning mid- March, he will begin a course on Systematic Theology. Our area of focus presently is seeking opportunities for a youth ministry (both children and teens).
For more information, please review our weekly updated website (fbcridgecrest.com). Here, you will find information about our church history and clergy. You also may contact us at (760) 375-2503.
Freedom Comes at a Cost
Freedom comes at a cost. This is the reason we remember the heroes both past and present who have given their lives for this great country. In the United States, we can relish in a plethora of freedoms, such as the prerogatives to democracy, speech, and religion. These freedoms weren’t granted by natural occurrences but were paid for by those who willingly gave their lives for the sake of ours. Sometimes, we take our rights for granted, but this Memorial Day, I want you all to contemplate the truth that freedom is not free. I deeply recommend that you not only honor those who have fallen but those who are still fighting for our freedoms because they make sacrifices every day for our freedoms. Those who serve our country deserve our utmost respect and honor because without them, the freedoms we possess would cease.
I believe the Gospel deeply relates to Memorial Day because it is a story about a man who gave His life for the freedom of another. In fact, He gave His life for the entire universe. Jesus Christ was this man, and He came from down from the prestigious and privileged glory of deity in heaven to be a humble servant to die on the cross for our sins. Without this man’s sacrifice, all of mankind would be imprisoned in their sin for eternity.
Just like our freedoms in America, our freedom from sin required the great sacrifice of another. Remember when I said that your freedoms as an American are not free? Well, as a Christian, grace is not free either. I know I just struck a nerve with some of my fellow Christians but allow me to explain. Grace is defined as unmerited favor from God, and it is described as a gift (Eph. 2:8). Gifts, by virtue, are never free because someone PAID FOR IT. When someone gives you a gift, the weight of its value derives from the fact that that person made some level of sacrifice (either financially or time consumption) to give it to you out of the kindness of his heart. You see, no gift is free because if it were free (in the strict sense of the word), then it would be worthless. It wouldn’t incite gratitude in your heart if the gift were not backed up with sacrifice. Think of money. The monetary paper you posses in your wallets is useless by itself without the backing of government currency. Grace, by itself, means nothing if Christ didn’t pay for it by His blood for your life.
We serve a God who is a God of justness and grace. However, God, by His holy nature, could not bestow one without exercising the other. In other words, when man sinned against God, He could not just give people grace to pardon their insubordination without bestowing His righteous judgment. When God sent His only begotten Son to Earth, He took upon this judgement willingly upon His shoulders so that grace may abound through the atonement of that sacrifice. By faith alone in Christ, we can immerse in that grace and enjoy the pleasures that come with it experiencing a restored fellowship with God.
Christians habitually throw out the phrase, “Free grace” without ever reflecting on the sacrifice involved in making that grace possible. It relates to the Apostle Paul’s rebuttal against his audiences who potentially would take grace and abuse it. He said, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? BY NO MEANS (Rom. 6:1, emphasis mine). Many Christians today believe that just because they have grace, they merely posses a “get out of jail free card.” In part, that is a fallacy. Christians possess the greatest gift ever given in history, and they should receive it with immense joy and gratitude because the integrity of this grace is so valuable that it required the greatest sacrifice ever given.
Folks, when our fallen soldiers gave their lives for the sake of our great freedoms, they were perfectly mirroring the loving character of Jesus. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Therefore, my friends, don’t participate in your weekend festivities with family BBQs, football, etc. without first paying homage to our fallen heroes who, by their sacrifice, gave us the great gifts of liberty, freedom, and justice for all.
Pastor Mathew B. Pope
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Ridgecrest.