WALKING IN THE LIGHT

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 4:16 PM

This Sunday is the beginning of a new sermon series I'll preach on 1 John, an amazing letter from the disciple Jesus loved.  John's letter is built on the premise that "God is Love" (1 John 4:7-21).  This is an awesome letter and teaches us about the grace and goodness of God and the importance of loving God and loving one another.

This Sunday's sermon is "Walking in the Light."  John begins his letter with the bold statement, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all"     (1 John 1:5).  Darkness symbolizes evil because evil blinds us from God and keeps us from seeing the truth.  The darkness of sin disqualifies us from having a healthy relationship with God.  That's why we choose to put our faith in Jesus, who "purifies us from all sin"  (1 John 1:7).  Only by believing in Jesus and accepting his sacrifice on the cross for our sins allows us to walk in the light.

If we know and love God, then we will choose to walk in the light.  Walking in the light means obeying God, following the example of Jesus, avoiding selfish and sinful choices that dishonor God.  We love God so much for what he has done for us that we choose to serve God and live a life that is pleasing to him.  Giving up our sinful ways is no sacrifice, because we know that walking in the light will lead to a happy, satisfying and purpose-filled life.

I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday and the next four weeks as we learn from 1 John about the love and grace of God.  This Sunday we'll discover what we must do to "Walk in the Light" and please God.  Our worship schedule is Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

GET IN THE GAME

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 @ 12:56 PM

This Sunday is the second part of a two-week sermon series called, "Christianity is a Team Sport."   The Christian faith was not designed for Lone Rangers.  We need each other.  Last week we invited anyone who'd like to "Be On Our Team" to join us.  All are welcome.  But it's not enough to just be on the team.  God expects us to "Get in the Game."  There's no reason to be on the team if we don't get in the game.

Every person who professes faith in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit.  God takes up residence in our lives.  He gives each of us spiritual gifts, talents and abilities we need to be able to play our position and serve him.  In football, every player on offense and defense has a specific assignment on every play.  They must have the God-given ability, as well as master the the skills necessary to do what is expected of them.  So it is in the church.  We are to serve the Lord together, each of us using our unique God-given ability and the skills we have learned to share our faith with others, to teach a class or lead a small group, to be a leader, to serve in a ministry, whatever God wants us to do.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul gives a similar example of the church being the body of Christ.  Every part that makes up a human body has a role, a job that it is to perform.  When all the parts of the body are carrying out their task, the body works like a well-oiled machine.  But if one part of the body doesn't do it's job, the whole body is handicapped, or the body may even die.  Likewise, the church, when everyone is doing their job, is able to do great things for God.  But if some parts are not working, then the body is handicapped and unable to do what God asks of it.  

That's why we every Christian who is on God's team needs to get into the game.  If someone doesn't play their role, not only are they letting down the coach (God), but they're letting down their teammates as well.  When one person doesn't do their job, all the other members of the team try to compensate by doing more than is expected of them, but that leads to burnout and discouragement.  

Serving God in the church or in the community takes time and energy, it may require sacrifices and we may endure opposition.  That's why many people refuse to serve.  They say they're too busy, they don't have time, they can't do what's asked of them.  We need to remember the sacrifice Jesus made to save us and think about what our fate would be if Jesus didn't suffer and die for our sins.  What would our future look like if Jesus didn't come to save us because he was too busy, didn't have time, it was too hard or because he had to endure opposition.  We are called to be a contributing member of the team because we owe our lives to Jesus. 

We also need to remember that others are counting on us.  If we're unwilling to serve God and others, there are people who may never hear the gospel message and be saved.  A ministry that might touch another person's life might never happen.  A believer may not grow in their faith and be able to serve others because we did not teach them or mentor them.  If we don't get in the game it will affect the lives of many people.

Join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside and learn how to "Get in the Game."  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We hope to see you here!

KICKOFF SUNDAY - BE ON OUR TEAM!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Life is at it's best when we live it with people who will love, encourage and support us.  Jesus envisions the church to be a spiritual family with God our Father and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Apostle Paul tells us that the church is to be a place where we encourage one another and build each other up.  In the church we enjoy fellowship with others, pray for each other and work together.  These relationships are precious, but rare in our hectic, individualistic culture.

This Sunday is Kickoff Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  This week marks the restart of all of our small groups and classes for the fall.  It's in our small groups and classes that we do life with people we can know well and be known by.  Together we learn about our faith, provide spiritual support and serve God together.  We also build strong friendships.  In these smaller groupings we truly are a spiritual family, encouraging one another and praying for one another.

This weekend the NFL season kicks off, it's Kickoff Sunday at FBR and my message is "Be On Our Team."   We all had those awkward moments in school when teams were chosen and we were left out.  God selects each of us to be important members of his team.  He wants you on his team and at First Baptist we want you on our team.  You matter and have an important role to play.  On God's team you'll never be cut or traded, you're on his team for life.  As teammates we work together and have each other's back.  On Sunday I'll talk about how God wants his team (the church) to operate and what our role is on the team.

If you're looking for a place where you can investigate the Christian faith, connect with people who'll care for you and grow in your faith, you can experience that at First Baptist.  I hope you'll join us for worship on Kickoff Sunday.  We'll have a combined worship celebration for our entire congregation at 9:00 a.m. followed by Brunch in the Fellowship Hall at 10:30.  It's fun to be on a team and we want you to be on our team, so come and check out First Baptist.

STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, August 30, 2018 @ 2:27 PM

There are times when people feel the need for power beyond themselves to help them faces challenges in their lives.  I have a friend who is an unbeliever, yet when he was recently facing surgery, he asked me to pray for him.  I don't think he believes in the power of prayer, he just felt better knowing someone was praying for him.  I have a family member living in Maui.  She isn't a Christian.  The recent hurricane was bearing down on Maui, ready to hit her side of the island.  She texted that she was praying for the hurricane would weaken.  I didn't know she believed in prayer and who she might be praying too.  But in times of trouble we know we need divine help.

If unbelievers pray in their times of need, how much more should we Christians, who know God and have experienced answers to our prayers, turn to God when we face challenges.  That's the message in James 5.  If we're in trouble, we should pray.  When we're sick, we should pray.  When we sin, we should pray.  But there's more.  James says we should pray for one another.  Prayer is something we do in community.  There's power when we join to pray for each other.

The question for worship this Sunday, as we wrap up our summer study of James, is, "How do we go about creating a community of prayer where we pray for one another?"  James says that if someone is sick, to call the elders (the leaders and spiritually mature people in the church) and they will pray for the one who is sick.  How do we go about providing that ministry to every person who is part of our church family?

I have a dream for First Baptist, that we would have a prayer ministry where everyone in our church family would know they're prayed for and that they would have the opportunity to pray for others.  When someone is sick we'll gather around and lay hands on them, anoint them with oil and pray.  My dream is of a church where we pray individually and gather together in groups to pray for God to guide, bless and transform our church to serve him in powerful ways in our community.

I believe in the power of prayer to help people in need, to empower churches to do amazing ministry, and to change the world.  Let us commit ourselves as believers to pray and see how God answers our prayers and works in our lives and church.  If you'd like to know more about the power of prayer and how you can be part of a praying community, come to worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship)  or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).  We'll discover how all of us are standing in the need of prayer.

GOD HAS A PLAN!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 @ 1:43 PM

I'm a planner.  I have plans for my life, for improvements I want to do around the house, for what I'd like to accomplish this week, this month, this year.  We all make plans, but we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.  Something could happen that will change all my plans in a second.  The recent scare I had with cancer could have changed everything I had planned.  We learn in James 4:13-17 to be humble and to hold on to our plans lightly.  In fact, it will be better for me if I seek God's will and attempt to follow his plans.

"God Has a Plan!"  God has a plan for my life and for yours.  He has a plan for the church and the world and for eternity beyond this world.  The good news is that God's plan is good.  His plans are better than mine.  God knows the future.  He knows the opportunities that will come my way.  If I'm wise, I'll seek to understand and follow God's plan.

How do I discover God's plan?  The place to start is to have a clear understanding from Scripture of how God expects me to live and the values he wants me to have.  Prayer plays an important role as we seek God's guidance in the day-to-day choices we make.  We need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit who guides us in the decision-making process.  Understanding our spiritual gifts will help us to know how God wants us to serve him.  All of these spiritual resources help us to know and follow God's plans as we make decisions about marriage, family, career and the things we're going to do.

We also need to remember God's plans for us are eternal.  We cannot limit God by what he gives us to do in this lifetime.  God's plan for us includes having faith in Jesus, our sins forgiven, our relationship with God restored and eternity in a heavenly home.  Jesus is a planner, for he has planned and prepared a place for us in the Father's house forever (John 14:2).

God has a plan and his plans are always good.  His plan is better than any plan we'll make for our lives.  So humble yourself before God and allow him to lead and direct you into the future he has planned.  Our theme in worship this Sunday is "God Has a Plan!" based on James 4:13-17 and 5:7-12.  Join us at First Baptist to learn more about God's plan for your life at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).

GENUINE CHRISTIANITY

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 @ 4:41 PM

My wife may want a string of genuine pearls, but we can't afford them, so she'll have to be content with a cheap imitation.  My favorite painting may be Van Gogh's "The Starry Night," but I'll never be able to buy the original, so instead I'll buy a poster of that great painting to hang in my living room and be happy with that.  Genuine pearls and Van Gogh paintings are incredibly valuable.  So is "Genuine Christianity," which is available to every believer, and yet many people are content with a cheap imitation.

In the fourth chapter of his letter, James addresses Christians whose faith is counterfeit.  As a result their lives are a mess and the church is marked by conflict and neglects the mission God has given it.  James condemns the believers' attitudes and actions.  I think most of us truly desire to experience "Genuine Christianity," so this Sunday I'll take James' instructions and give them a positive spin to describe what authentic Christian faith looks like and how we can attain it.

If you've been turned off to the Christian faith you see in some churches and in some people's lives, I want you to know their faith isn't the real thing, it's fake news.  "Genuine Christianity" is incredibly attractive, enriches our lives, draws people to God and results in a growing and transforming faith.  If that's the kind of faith you're looking for, join us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside (traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.) to learn more about what "Genuine Christianity" looks like and how you can obtain it for your life.

"CHOOSE WISELY"

Posted by Connie Senturier on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 @ 9:36 AM

In the iconic scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indiana finds the Holy Grail, the chalice legend says caught the blood of Christ as he hung on  the cross.  According to the legend, whoever drinks from the Holy Grail will never die.  There are twenty-some chalices on a shelf, one is the Holy Grail, the others are phony.  To drink from a phony chalice means immediate death, to drink from the Grail means life.  Indiana’s adversary, working for the Nazis, shows up, gun drawn.  He chooses the first chalice, drinks, and immediately withers and dies.  John, the last crusader and keeper of the chalice says, “He chose poorly.” Indiana chooses a chalice, it is the true Grail, he drinks and lives.   He chose wisely.

 

We all face hundreds of choices every day.  Wise choices lead to life, but choosing poorly leads to death.  That’s the message of James 3:13-18.  In life, if we choose poorly, following the wisdom and values of the world, our choices lead to spiritual death.  If we choose the values God reveals in his word, our choices will reveal our faith in Christ and result in life as God intends it in this world and ultimately eternal life.  This Sunday we’ll learn what it means to choose poorly and choose wisely.

 

Join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday and learn how to choose wisely and live!  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  Hope to see you there!

Listen Up!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 4:28 PM

James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."  Those words contain amazing wisdom when it comes to our relationships with family and friends.  How many relationships between husband and wife and parents and children have blown up because we speak too quickly?  We may get angry and say something we regret.  We may say something and the other person is hurt or becomes angry at us.  How many times in the heat of a disagreement do we not listen to what the other person is saying because we're thinking about our comeback?  Many of these problems  might be avoided if we learn to really listen to others and are sensitive to their feelings.

Our summer sermons series on the "Letter of James" is called "Real Faith / Real Life."  Nothing could be more relevant or practical for our human relationships than what James tells us at the end of chapter 1.  We all struggle with communication to some extent.  The problem seldom is in expressing ourselves, it's in listening.  I hope you'll join us in worship this Sunday to learn how to become a better listener.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

We'll also discover this Sunday that listening is important in our relationship with God.  We listen to God by reading the Bible.  We listen to God in worship, because he says that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is with us.  We listen to God when we pray, if in addition to telling God the things we want to tell him, we meditate and take time to listen to what he is saying to us.  We listen to God in our small groups of believers, become God can speak to us through the words of other spiritually mature people.

James tells us it's not enough just to listen to God, when we hear from him, we've got to do what he says.  If we don't do what God says, what good is that?  On Sunday I'll have more to say about how we can listen to God and then take what we hear and put it into action.  That's the secret to having a great friendship with God.  I hope we'll see you at worship this Sunday.   

Deceived!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 3:46 PM

In this week's study of the New Testament Letter of James, we learn that Satan's goal is to deceive God's people.  He tells us that if some-thing bad happens, it's God's fault.  When we're tempted and we make bad choices, blame God because he is the one who tempted us.  Neither of those things is true, but Satan is the master liar.  He is the Deceiver!

God doesn't tempt us because there is nothing evil about God.  God is good.  If we're tempted, it's Satan who tempts us or our own evil desire (our human nature) at work within us.  God can use our times of temptation to test us, to see if we're growing in our faith and getting strong.  But he doesn't need to tempt us because there is plenty of temptation in our lives already.

Often times when bad things happen to us, we blame God.  Again, this is the work of Satan the deceiver.  He wants to convince us that God is bad and that we should not follow him.  Insurance companies call tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes "acts of God."  When a  loved one dies we say, "Why did God take that person away from me?"  If we get sick, we might blame God for that too, "How could God let this happen to me?"  Bad things are not from God.  Bad things happen because we live in an evil world.  God didn't create an evil world.  He created a world where everything was good.  It's our sin that brought evil, sickness and death into the world.  Don't blame God for the bad things in your life.  Sometimes God uses the bad things in life to help us grow, but that doesn't mean he makes bad things happen.

If we don't buy into Satan's deceptions, we'll discover that God gives us good things.  In James 1:17 we read, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...."  We need to give God credit for all the good things he does for us.  All good gifts come from him (James 1:17a), God is always reliable (James 1:17b), and he saves us (James 1:18).  Give God the honor due his name!

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn how to overcome Satan's deceptions and recognize God for the loving and good God he is.  I hope you'll join us for a great time of worship at either 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).  Don't let Satan trick you.  He is our adversary, not our friend.

REAL FAITH / REAL WEALTH

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 @ 3:28 PM

We continue our summer sermon series on the New Testament Letter of James.  James uses more of his letter to address wealth and how we treat the rich and the poor than any other topic.  We'll cover three different passages related to wealth in James 1:9-11, 2:1-12, and 5:1-6.  We spend a lot of time thinking about money and wealth.  Will we ever have enough to be secure?  Can I buy the things I want?  If I buy those things, will they make me happy?  Should I expect people to treat me differently if I'm wealthy?  If I have money, what responsibility do I have to God and his church?  How should I relate to the poor?

We can easily pay too much attention to money.  Money can be an idol to us.  Paul told Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10).  Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

James teaches us that wealth, even among Christians, can make us proud and cause us to treat the less fortunate as second class citizens.  He challenges the leaders of the church to evaluate themselves, are they showing favoritism over the poor?  He tells us that we should treat all people with equality.  Finally James condemns the rich who oppress the poor and do not pay their employees the wages they deserve.

We live in a materialistic culture.  If we want to please God, we should not attribute more value to money than it deserves.  One day we will die and leave behind all the wealth we've accumulated on earth.  When we get to heaven, the money we have here will be of no value.  May we not earn condemnation because we overvalued money or wealth in this lifetime.  We should also remember that the sin of injustice and mistreating the poor is the most common sin condemned in Scripture.  Let us make sure, in a paraphrase of Dr. Martin Luther King, that we "not judge others by the color of their skin or the wealth they possess, but by the content of their character."

This Sunday, come learn what James teaches about "Real Faith / Real Wealth" at First Baptist Riverside.  Our Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

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