OUR HOPE

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 12:27 PM

This Memorial Day weekend we remember those who fought and died for our freedom.  It is because of these heroes and the sacrifice they made that we are able to enjoy the benefits of living in this wonderful country.

On Memorial Day many of us will pause to remember loved ones who have passed away.  Many of us have experienced the sting of death when someone we cared deeply about died.  Others of us have looked death square in the eye because of a health emergency or a diagnosis of cancer or some other life threatening disease.  The truth is death is a reality we all have to face, whether we're grieving for a loved one or facing our own mortality.  Each of us will one day die unless Jesus returns before then.

There's a depressing thought.  None of us wants to think about death, and yet it's essential we be prepared for it.  The good news is that we can be prepared and there is hope for all of us.  This Sunday I will preach about "Our Hope," the hope we have for salvation and eternal life if we believe in Jesus.  We'll look at the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and remember that Jesus has power over death.  He is, as he said, "I am the resurrection an the life."  If we put our hope in Jesus, then we need not fear death.  In fact, in Jesus we will not know death because the moment we close our eyes in death on this earth we will find ourselves in the presence of Jesus in heaven.

In Jesus Christ we have hope.  We activate that hope by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a man.  After a three year teaching ministry Jesus died on a cross and there paid the price for our sins.  Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he reigns at the right hand of God the Father.  Because of his sacrifice, Jesus has the power to forgive our sins, save us, and give us eternal life.  But you must choose to put your hope in Jesus.  We are saved by grace, salvation is God's gift to us, but that gift is activated by our faith in Jesus Christ.  Believe in Jesus and follow him today.

As a pastor who has performed hundreds of funerals, I want to tell you about an incredible hope you can give to your lived ones before you die.  I talk to so many family members, who when planning a funeral, say, "I don't know if my loved one ever accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior."  Forever they will wonder what happened to their loved one or if they have any hope of seeing that person again in eternity.  Make the decision to put your faith in Jesus today.  Tell your family and friends about your decision.  When you die your celebration of life (your funeral) can be a celebration that is filled with hope that the loss they feel is temporary and that they will see you again in heaven.

If you have questions about life and death and want to know more about "Our Hope," come join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday.  Our Traditional Worship with hymns, organ and choir begins at 9:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Worship led by our worship band is at 10:45.  Discover hope for yourself and for your loved ones this Sunday at First Baptist.

A HEALTHY RHYTHM FOR WORK AND REST

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

In the Biblical account of creation, after making the universe and everything in it the first six days of the week, on the seventh day God rested.  That's a pattern people have followed ever since.   However, in our busy world, we fill all of our days with activity.  We work hard five or six days a week and then play hard on the seventh day.  Eventually that schedule is destined to wear us down.  If we don't get regular Sabbath (weekly) rest, it will take a physical, emotional and spiritual toll.  I think much of the depression and discouragement people deal with is the result of being exhausted.

In Mark 2:27 Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  God's original plan for us includes a regular, weekly time of rest.  But the Sabbath (one day a week) is also set aside to be a day of spiritual enrichment, a time to worship God, study his word, reflect on the meaning of life and see what God has planned for us.  A life spent without reflection often ends up with us busily going nowhere.  A day of Sabbath Rest is as important for our spiritual well-being as a good night's sleep is necessary for our physical well-being.

I hope you'll join us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside as we learn about "The Importance of Sabbath Rest."  We'll have one combined worship service at 9:00 a.m. in Riverside this Sunday, as part of our congregation will be in San Diego at our church's annual Camping Weekend.  Find out how you were designed for Sabbath Rest and what a refreshing Sabbath Rest might look like for you!

Hope for Our Familes

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 @ 12:27 PM

This Sunday we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day and honor mothers in our worship service. Being a mother today is filled with many challenges, balancing the requirements of a job and career with raising kids. Some moms find themselves in the “sandwich generation,” caring for aging parents while also raising their children. Many single moms bear the sole responsibility of parenting.

The family itself is changing in our modern culture. There are traditional husband and wife with children families. Single parent families. Blended families. Cohabiting with children families. Children have access to influences like social media and the internet and in some ways seem to be growing up faster than ever before. I read in a book recently that said in some ways 15 is the new 25 and yet in other ways, 25 is the new 15.

The question is, what does Christianity and the church have to say to and offer for families in today’s world. There are certain values taught in Scripture that have forever been the foundation for healthy and flourishing families. Those values are every bit as important in the 21st century as they have been for the last 20 centuries. If we instill these values into parents and teach them to our children, we will have “Hope for Our Families.”

I hope you’ll choose to come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside on Mother’s Day. This Sunday we will have a special schedule with one combined worship service for everyone at 9:00 a.m. We will have Nursery and classes for preschoolers and younger elementary children at 9:00 a.m., but no classes for adults. After worship, go out and celebrate with your mothers! I’ll be preaching on “Hope for Our Families.” There is hope for your family, no matter what’s going on.

IT'S ALL ABOUT GOD!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 4:25 PM

The people whose lives are described in Scripture are fascinating.  As I read their stories I like to do character studies, to see if I can get inside their heads and understand what they're thinking and what they're feeling in the moment.  This Sunday, as we bring our study of Genesis to a close, I'm going to preach the message as Joseph reflecting back over the stories in Genesis and the events in his life.  What did Joseph learn, and what did he think about God, based on his life experiences?

My sermon title tells you what I think Joseph discovered - "It's All About God!"  It's a lesson we all need to learn.  Our culture tells us that life is all about us.  It tells us to do whatever we want, go for the gusto, live for today because tomorrow we will die.  But when we know God, we know he created us for a reason.  The most important purpose for our lives comes because God created us as individuals to be his precious children, therefore we are here to live in a relationship with God.  We can't understand life and we have no ultimate purpose in living apart from God. 

God also has a specific plan for each of our lives.  It's a good plan, a plan to prosper us and not harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  Many of the things that happen in our lives are not coincidences, they occur to prepare and position us to be able to achieve God's purposes.  If we don't know God's plan, then we won't understand the significance of these events.  So the question is:  how do we know God's plan for us?  His basic plan for every believer is found in Scripture, that's why it's so important for us to read and study the Bible.  But the rest of his plan is unique to us.  We need to learn to apply what we know of God's will to the circumstances of our lives, and with the wisdom and leading the Holy Spirit supplies we can know God's specific plan for us.  And the specific plan for our lives - it's all about God!

I hope your excited and anxious to discover God's plan for your life.  If you worship with us this Sunday you'll hear Joseph reflect on God's plan for his life and how he discovered what it was.  You're welcome to attend our traditional worship service using hymns and a little more formal style at 9:00 a.m. and our contemporary worship featuring our worship band and informal style is at 10:45 a.m.  We would love to see you in church this Sunday!

LIVING RIGHT!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 7:56 AM

The Christian faith isn't just about eternal life and getting us into heaven when we die.  God has a great plan for our lives here on earth right now.  Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)  But if we want to have a "full" life, then it is essential that we learn to live right.  Many Christians are not experiencing the fullness of life because they're living the wrong way.

As we continue our study of Genesis in chapter 45, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  If you know the story, you'll remember Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery as a teenager because they couldn't stand his arrogance and bragging and the fact that their father loved Joseph more than them.  But life in slavery and in an Egyptian prison had taught Joseph some important life lessons.  While Joseph reveals himself to his brother, he is a entirely different man than the one they wanted to get rid of years before.

Joseph was now living right!  He had learned to love the people who were in his life.  He was willing to forgive those who wronged him.  He figured out God's plan for his life and was contentedly living out that plan.  Instead of being entitled, Joseph was thankful for everything God had done for him and he lived his life to bless other people.  So many people are unhappy because they have not learned to love and forgive and value their important relationships.  They have no idea what God's plan is for their life and they're living for themselves instead of seeking to serve God and bless others.

If you'd like to learn more about the joy of "Living Right," I hope you'll worship with us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  I'll be speaking in much more detail about the lessons Joseph learned that allowed him to experience the full life God wants for all his people.  You can attend worship at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Service) or at 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Service).  I hope to see you there.

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 2:44 PM

In our study of Genesis, the last important character we're introduced to is Joseph.  God reveals in dreams that Joseph is destined for greatness, but his life doesn't start out that way.  Because of his arrogance and bragging, his brothers hate him.  They sell him as a slave into Egypt.  He serves in Potiphar's household until he's unjustly accused of attempting to rape Potiphar's wife.  He's thrown into prison for several years and becomes the warden's servant. 

Joseph becomes known as a man with the insight to interpret dreams, and Pharaoh's has a couple of dreams that perplex him.  In one dream Pharaoh is standing on the bank of the Nile River and out of the river comes seven fat cows followed by seven scrawny cows that then eat the fat cows.  In the next dream Pharaoh sees seven heads of grain, full and good, growing from one stalk.  After them seven other heads sprout that are withered and thin and they swallow up the good heads of grain.  No one can explain Pharaoh's dream until his cupbearer remembers Joseph, who interpreted his dream years before when he was in prison.  Joseph is brought to Pharaoh and interprets the dream as a warning that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.  Joseph explains to Pharaoh what he must do to provide for his people.  To make a long story short, Pharaoh appoints Joseph as administrator over his kingdom to collect food in the good times so there will be food during the famine.  Joseph becomes the second most important person in Egypt after Pharaoh.

The lesson in this story that's important for us is that Joseph learns to serve the Lord in all seasons of his life, in the good times and bad times, during the seasons when he's a nobody and when he's a respected leader in Egypt.  The truth is, we all have various seasons in our lives, in our families, in our careers - things are good or bad or something in between - are we ready in all those seasons to be the person God needs us to be?  This Sunday in my message we'll learn how to serve the Lord wherever we find ourselves in the seasons of our lives.  I hope you'll join us in worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.

RESURRECTION: TRUTH OR FICTION

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 2:50 PM

This Sunday is April Fools Day.  It's a day people play tricks on one another and then shout, "April Fools!"  This Sunday is also Easter.  What if the story of Jesus' resurrection is God's April Fools joke on us?   Many people question whether Jesus rose from the dead.  The thought of someone who has been dead for three days rising back to life is beyond our human experience.  They say, "That could never happen."  Even in the early days of the Christian movement, Paul says that Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.

But is the resurrection absurd if Jesus is the Son of God?  Doesn't it seem reasonable that God would have power over life and death?  Jesus told his followers that he would die and rise again (Luke 18:31-33).  Jesus' disciples and the women with them were witnesses who testified to seeing Jesus alive after he had been crucified and buried.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us there were over 500 witnesses who saw the risen Christ.  It's not just that they saw him, their lives were transformed  by the resurrection.  The disciples who were afraid and hid when Jesus was arrested, but after spending time with the risen Christ, they went out on the streets of Jerusalem and preached for everyone to hear.  Thomas who had been fearful and a doubter, preached the gospel all the way to India before he was executed.  You don't die for something you're not sure is true!

So the question for us is, how can we know that Jesus has risen from the dead?  For us it's a matter of faith.  We believe the message we have received, knowing that we will never see the risen Christ again until when he returns to earth at the end of time.  In fact, Jesus gave a blessing to all of those who believe, saying to doubting Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).  We accept that the evidence of the Bible and history as adequate for us to believe in the resurrection.

Why does the resurrection matter to me?  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then he is just another man who died and was buried.  He isn't the Son of God and his death is not sufficient to forgive our sins and save us.  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then there will be no resurrection for anyone.  Without Jesus' resurrection, we have nothing to look forward too, no hope of heaven when we die.  But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then he is who he said he was, the Son of God.  He is able to forgive our sins and make us right with God.  He is able to give us life after death and eternity with him in heaven.

This Sunday I hope you'll come worship with us and think through the evidence and the implications of the resurrection as I'll be preaching on "Resurrection: Truth or Fiction."  It may well be that the hope and meaning for life you're looking for can be unlocked when you put your faith in Jesus.  I hope to see you when we worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.  There will be a special children's program both hours, with a Rock and Roll Easter Egg Hunt during halftime between services - have your children to the Fellowship Hall at 10:15 a.m. for them to participate.

THE BEAUTY OF JESUS

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 2:53 PM

In Isaiah 53 the prophet tells us what to expect from Jesus hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth.  He tells us in verse 2 that Jesus "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."   The paintings we've seen of a beautiful Jesus or the handsome actors who've portrayed him in movies and television miss the point.  Jesus was a man of the people, a common man, one who is able to understand us.  Isaiah goes on to describe the ugliness of Jesus' crucifixion, the rejection, the beatings, the crucifixion, leaving Jesus looking "like one from whom people hide their faces..." 

But there is a beauty in Jesus we need to see anew as we enter into Holy Week.  What Jesus did for us at Calvary is the most beautiful thing God could ever do for us.  God loves us so much that his own Son left heaven and came to earth to live among us and show us what God is like.  If you want to know God, read the gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, every word and every action are the words and actions of God.  And at Calvary the Son of God suffered and died in our place, paying the penalty for sins we've committed, suffering our punishment for the wrong we have done.  Only a God who truly loves us would endure what Jesus endured to save us.  Jesus' death is a beautiful act of love for us, the most wonderful gift we can receive.

It's available to all of us.  Jesus says if we want our sins to be forgiven, and to have a relationship with God and eternal life, all we must do is put our faith in him.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  When we do confess our sins, we're ready for a relationship with God.  All you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you, and he will.

This Sunday we'll see that with Jesus, beauty is not just skin deep.  He was a beautiful man who put us first and willingly died to save us.  I hope you'll join us for worship in our traditional service at 9:00 a.m. or our contemporary service at 10:45 a.m. to discover "The Beauty of Jesus."  Discover how he can be in your life.

However, Jesus' death is not the end of the story.  On Easter Jesus rose victorious from the grave.  We'll celebrate Jesus' resurrection next Sunday.  Jesus was raised, he ascended into heaven and we'll see the glorified Christ when we get there.  And how will he appear?  John, in the Book of Revelation, sees the glorified Jesus and describes him this way, "Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (Revelation 5:6).  We will see Jesus beautiful in all of his glory, bearing the marks of his sacrifice, so that we'll never forget what he did to save us.  This is the God who we worship, the only God who is able to save us.  Isn't he beautiful!

HONESTY AND INTEGRITY

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 6:11 PM

Honesty and integrity seem to be in short supply in America today.  In the last presidential campaign, the average person didn't know who or what to believe.  Each campaign produced misleading advertisements.  In the candidates speeches and debates we discovered they were accomplished liars.  Fact checkers found dozens of statements that we're blatantly and intentionally untrue, or at the very least these statements distorted the truth.  But it's not just a problem in politics.  Businesses use deceptive advertising.  We're told to read the small print, because the large print is misleading.  Unfortunately we've all had experiences where friends and family members lied to us. 

This is not a new problem.  As we continue to learn about Jacob in our "Genesis" sermon series, we find him to be a deceitful man who took pride in tricking others.  This Sunday we'll see he meets his match in Laban.  Laban promises Jacob that he can marry his daughter Rachel if he serves Laban for seven years.  Rachel must have been something because that's a high price!  But on the wedding night Laban sneaks his older daughter Leah into the honeymoon tent and Jacob sleeps with her.  Now Jacob has to work another seven years for Rachel, back in the days when polygamy was practiced.  Jacob didn't learn from his bad experience with a liar, he just doubled down and deceived Laban when Jacob moved his family away.  What's a person to do in a world filled with dishonest people?

We're supposed to be different, that's what we do.  God is truthful.  We can rely on him because he never changes.  He's the same yesterday, today and forever.  Jesus said, "I am the truth."  Jesus embodies the truth.  The Holy Spirit is known as "the Spirit of truth."  As God's people, we are to live by a high standard of honesty and integrity.  Jesus taught that we should be known to be truthful, our "yes" should be "yes," and our "no" should be "no."  You may wonder how can we survive in a dishonest world if we always tell the truth.  Telling the truth may be costly at times, but being people of integrity is worth it.  God wants us to be different from the people in this world.  Besides, we're called to be Jesus' witnesses and Christ's ambassadors.  How can we represent Jesus if we don't have a reputation for honesty?

This Sunday in worship at First Baptist Riverside, I'll teach about the importance of honesty and integrity and how we can choose to have these qualities define our character.  If you'd like to be a "different" person and live a life that's pleasing to God, I hope you'll come worship with us Sunday in either our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

SEEDS OF CONFLICT

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 @ 6:01 PM

Conflict is common in all of our important relationships.  We may experience conflict with our parents, our spouse, our kids, friends, neighbors, people at work or school, and even in the church.  The author of Genesis doesn't mind revealing the shortcomings of the patriarchs, we see them in Scripture warts and all.  The story of Jacob and Esau reveals an ongoing pattern of sibling rivalry and conflict in their relationship.  In  Genesis 25 we can identify "Seeds of Conflict" that are common to all of us.  If we understand the causes of conflict, it may be possible for us to avoid some of the conflict in our relationships, or to deescalate it once it starts.

I want to invite you to join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside as we continue our study of the Book of Genesis and learn about the "Seeds of Conflict."  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

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