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!


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.


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.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 @ 12:56 PM


Our study of Genesis this week takes us to Genesis 22, where God tells Abraham to go to Mount Moriah, and sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering.  Many people can't get beyond the cruelty of God's command, asking Abraham to sacrifice his child, the child of the promise made to him, that he would become the father of a great nation.  It is a cruel command and I can't imagine what's going on in Abraham's heart and mind as he gathers up all the things needed to sacrifice his son and then had to think about what he was doing on the three day journey to Mount Moriah.  But when we dig a little deeper, there are three reasons for God's command.

First, God was testing the faith of Abraham.  Most people, no matter how much faith they have, if they received a message from God to sacrifice their own child, would not be willing to do what God commanded.  God had to see if Abraham had enough faith to be the father of the Israelite nation.  By faithfully following God, Abraham would become an example of a man of faith for all generations.  God tests our faith by asking us to make sacrifices for him.  It may be the sacrifice of giving our tithe (10% of our income) or beyond.  It may be a call to sacrifice time and energy to serve him.  When God calls, will we respond in faith to do whatever he asks?

Second, God wants to teach Abraham about grace.  Grace is God's undeserved gift for our lives.  God has no intention of allowing Abraham to harm Isaac.  When they get to the place for the sacrifice, and everything is ready, God stops Abram from killing his son, and provides a lamb (ram) for the sacrifice.  God provides a way of salvation for all of us, to save us from death and punishment for our sins, if we believe in him.  As God spared Isaac, God will spare us the punishment we deserve.

Third, God uses this event to point to the ultimate working of his plan of salvation.  About 2,000 years later God will have his only Son, Jesus Christ, walk up Mount Calvary, just a stone's throw from Mount Moriah, to die on a cross for the sins of the world.  John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to his followers by saying, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).  What Abraham prepared to do to his son, is exactly what God did to his Son to save us.

This Sunday in worship we'll take a closer look at God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son, reflect on the lessons we can learn from this story, and remember Jesus who was the sacrifice for all time, for people everywhere, who will put their faith in him.  I hope you can worship with us  to discover the depth of God's grace and the love he has for you.  We meet for worship on Sundays in Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 2:33 PM

The words from the opening jingle for the old TV comedy "Cheers" are, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you got."  Those words describe what life is like for people who are trying to follow Jesus.  In this world there are so many competing loyalties and temptations to lead us astray that it's really hard to live a life that honors God.  The truth is, it's been hard for every generation to live life faithfully for the Lord.

This Sunday we go all the way back to Lot, whose life is described in Genesis 12-19.  Lot shows his faith in God by travelling with his uncle Abram from Harran to Canaan.  God blessed Abram and Lot and their families so much, the land could not support their herds and flocks.  Lot chose to go east, to the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were located.  That's where things started to go bad.  Lot moved from the country to the city of Sodom.  When Sodom was attacked and defeated by enemy kings, Lot, his family and all their belongings were taken as part of the booty.  Abram had to rescue him.

Upon Lot's return to Sodom, things got worse.  Sodom was an evil place.  Even though it was hard to live as a believer,  Lot didn't leave.  One day two angels (messengers from God) came to investigate the evil reports they'd received about Sodom.  Lot invites the angels to stay at his house to protect them from the townsfolk, but to no avail.  A mob gathers outside Lot's home demanding he produce his guests so they could homosexually gang rape them (thus the word sodomy).  When Lot refuses, the mob threatens violence.  The only thing that saves Lot is the intervention of the angels who strike the townspeople blind.  At that point the angels decide to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroy them.  Lot and his family have to flee, but Lot's wife, finding it hard to leave her life and friends behind,  turns back, and is turned into a pillar of salt.

The story of Lot reminds us of the seriousness of evil.  God is a holy, just, perfect and pure God.  He cannot tolerate evil.  Therefore evil has to be judged.  As Christians, it's important for us to resist temptation, to flee evil, and to seek to live lives of purity that honor God.  As humans, we all have times when we become selfish, fail and sin.  For those times we have Jesus, and, "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).  If we believe in Jesus we must not make evil our way of life.  That's why "making your way in the world today takes everything you got" to resist the temptations all around us and to choose to please him.

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn about Lot's life and what he can teach us about evil and how we can overcome the temptation to sin.  I hope you can join us at our Traditional Service at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 9:04 AM

This is the word of the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  God creates us to be unique and special people.  He gives us different gifts and abilities to fulfill the plans he has for our lives.  God has a good plan for us.  God's plans should always be Plan A for our lives.  But at times, and for various reasons, we choose not to pursue God's plan, instead settling for our own Plan B, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

We see that exemplified this week in our study of "Genesis: In the Beginning" in Genesis 16.  God has an amazing plan for Abram's and Sarai's, lives.  He's promised to give them many descendants and make them into a great nation.  But years go by and they still have no children.  They begin to give up hope.  Instead of trusting God, Sarai offers her slave Hagar to Abram, that he might have children through her.  Without telling the whole story, that decision leads to turmoil in all of their lives when Hagar becomes pregnant and has a son named Ishmael.  Hagar despises Sarai.  And the child Ishmael becomes the father of the Arab nations, leading to an ongoing dispute with his half-brother Isaac's descendants to this day.

There are many reasons why we choose Plan B instead of sticking with God's Plan A.  We may grow impatient waiting for God's plan to unfold, like Abram and Sarai were.  It may be rebelliousness on our part, thinking that we know better than God does.  We may mess of God's Plan A because of some impulsive, sinful decision.  In every case, instead of pursuing God's Plan A, which is always the best outcome for our lives, we settle for Plan B and have to live with the consequences.

This Sunday we'll learn that God's Plan A for our lives is always best.  We'll identify some of the reasons we too often settle for Plan B and what the consequences of Plan B are.  We'll also discover the wisdom of sticking with Plan A and the wonder of forgiveness as we learn to repent of our mistakes, turn around and follow God's plan for our us.  If you want to find God's Plan A for your life, I hope you'll come worship with us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 8, 2018 @ 9:34 AM

When Abram was 75-years-old, God told him to leave the land where he lived and go to a place that God would give to him.  75-years-old is pretty old to pull up stakes, move, and begin a whole new life.  Yet, Abram had the faith to do exactly as the Lord instructed, made his way to Canaan, with God guiding him, protecting him, and directing him all the way.

As human beings, as we age, we tend to become set in our ways.  We like our routine and what's comfortable and become less inclined to make changes in our lives.  And yet, God likes new things.  When God created in Genesis 1 it was a whole new world.  In Revelation 21, at the end of time, God will make all things new.  The word "new" is found more than 280 times in the Bible.  God asks us to do new things, to not grow too comfortable, so that we can show our faith by following him, like Abram did.

I would go so far as to suggest that right now God may be asking you to do something new.  He may be asking you to serve him in a new way, and if you do, he'll give you the strength and ability to serve him well.  He may be asking you to learn new things about him by joining a small group or Bible class or by spending more intentional times in personal Bible study and prayer.  God may want you to do something new with your finances,  if you don't tithe, show your faith by giving God 10% of your income, as he instructs in the Bible.  God may be asking you to talk to a friend or family member about you're faith.  If you've never shared your faith with another person before, it can feel intimidating, but God will help us.  What new thing might God be asking you to do?

I believe Genesis 12 speaks powerfully to the First Baptist Church of Riverside.  We've served God in this community for 144 years.  That's a long time.  Sometimes churches, like people, grow comfortable, fear change, and when God calls them to mount a new campaign, to serve Christ in a new way, they hesitate.  Well, the world is changing.  If we want to continue to serve God in Riverside and have a relevant witness to the people in our community, we must be willing to change.  I'm not talking about changing our beliefs or what the Bible teaches.  God's word is eternal and never changes.  But the way we do ministry has to change.  We don't show our faith by continuing to do what's comfortable, we show our faith by being willing to follow God and do what he asks.

Maybe God is speaking to you right now, challenging you to do something new.  If you want to know more about what that might look like for your life, join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  We have a Traditional Worship Service at 9:00 a.m. and a Contemporary Service at 10:45 a.m.  This Sunday is Scout Sunday, the Scouts from Troop 2 will participate in our services and they'll have a Pancake Breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. to raise money for their activities.  Come to church early enough to have breakfast and support the scouts.  Hope to see you here!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, February 2, 2018 @ 9:54 AM

God is just.  God is also holy, and because God is holy he must judge evil.  As a result of the evil in the days of Noah, God sent a great flood to destroy the world, saving one righteous man and his family to start the human race over again.  After the flood God made a covenant with Noah, promising he would never again destroy the world with a flood.  Forever the rainbow stands as a sign of the covenant, reminding people of God's promise.  While God judges evil, he also offers a promise of grace, a plan of forgiveness and salvation so that we will not have to face judgment.

On this Communion Sunday, we remember another covenant, a New Covenant, a promise of grace God made with his people when Jesus was on this earth.  In this covenant Jesus would die on a cross to pay the penalty of sin, offering forgiveness and salvation to all who believe in him.  Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 2:8, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  The sign of this New Covenant is Jesus' blood, which we remember every time we drink from the cup during the service of communion.

I've often heard people describe a covenant as being like a contract, but it is not.  A contract is an agreement between two parties where both promise to abide by the terms of the contract.  A covenant is one-sided, it is a promise God makes to his people.  We have no say in determining the terms of a covenant.  We can only accept it or reject it.  According to the terms of the New Covenant, we are saved by Jesus' blood, his sacrifice on the cross, through our faith in him.  Our hope is in Christ alone.  We are not saved by living a good life, doing good works, giving money to the poor, or anything else we might do.  We are saved by faith in Christ alone.  That's God's covenant, his promise of grace to us.  We can take it or leave it.

So the question for us is, will be accept the New Covenant that supersedes all other covenants, and believe in Jesus and follow him?  This Sunday we'll seek to understand the concept of "covenant" and God's promise of grace.  If you want to receive grace and avoid judgment, then join us for worship and learn about our faith in Christ and affirm the covenant in the taking of communion.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 3:13 PM

Our study of "Genesis" continues in chapter 4, with the story of Cain and Abel.  Sin, that came into the world by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil progresses to family jealousy, sibling rivalry, violence and murder.  Once we allow evil a foothold in our lives, it takes on a life of it's own and becomes increasingly worse.  If we're honest with ourselves, we've seen this process at work in our lives.

When we become aware of sin and temptation, we've got to repent, turn around and change direction.  If Cain could have admitted his pride and stubbornness in offering a sacrifice that was unacceptable to God, he would not have felt the need to take out his anger and revenge on his brother.  Instead Cain became angry , his anger turned into action, and he killed his brother.

Whatever our sin, if we want to please God, when we become aware that something is wrong, we confess it, change our attitude and move on.  When we dwell on the hurts others have inflicted on us, when feel like life is unfair, we 'll become bitter and angry and strike out.  When we focus our minds on evil, whatever it is, at some point the temptation becomes too great and we make a bad choice and do the wrong thing.  We need to develop self-control.  As Christians, we know that self control is one of the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit that grows in our lives as we mature in our faith.  Our relationship with God changes the way we think.

The interesting part of the story takes place after Cain kills Abel.  God does not condemn him for murder nor treat him as his sin deserves.  Instead he is exiled and he'll endure the consequences of his actions in a harder life, but God gives Cain protection and grace and an opportunity to change his life.  Even in the earliest part of the Bible, God offers us grace and a second chance.  Join us this Sunday to learn about sin and grace in "East of Eden - Where Evil Reigns."  Come worship on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. Traditional Worship or 10:45 a.m. Contemporary Worship.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 3:16 PM

This Sunday we continue our study of "Genesis." In Genesis 1 God created the world.  In Genesis 2 God created human life in the persons of Adam and Eve. They're enjoying their time in the Garden of Eden.  We have no idea how much time has passed, it could have been days, months, or even years.  In chapter 3 a new character enters the story: the serpent.  The serpent represents Satan.  He twists God's words, challenging Adam and Eve to question God's motives.  God has warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Satan seeks to convince them that God's motive is selfish in issuing that command, to keep Adam and Eve subservient, knowing that if they ate the fruit they would become like God.

Eve looks at the fruit and it looks good to eat.  She also thinks it would be good to become like God.  So she eats it and then offers it to Adam and also eats.  Adam is complicit in the sin because he "was with her."  Upon eating the fruit, their innocence is lost.  They realize they're naked and try to cover up.  In one act of eating the fruit God had warned them about, sin and evil came into the world and their innocence was lost.

There are some important "why's" in this story.  Why did God allow the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be in the garden?  God didn't want the humans he made to be slaves or robots, but to have free will.  Would they choose of their own volition to be obedient and faithful to God?  Why did God allow Satan into the garden to tempt Adam and Eve?  Sometimes God tests us to see if we'll be faithful.  This was a test.  Would the people he created be faithful?  They were not.

As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve are removed from the Garden of Eden.  Death enters the world.  From that point on people would possess a sin nature predisposing them to selfishness and sin.  The result is that ever since "the fall," all people have sinned and fallen short of God's ideal for their lives.  The wages of sin is death.  But God still wants people to follow him and be his children.  Did God know that the people he created would sin?  Sure he did.  So he had a plan in mind: to send his own Son to earth to suffer and die in the place of sinners like you and me.  If we believe in him, our sins are forgiven, we are saved and will have eternal life in our Father's house (John 14:1-6).

This Sunday at First Baptist, come learn more about mankind's original sin.  By understanding how Adam and Eve were tempted, we'll learn how Satan works and recognize when he's messing around in our lives.  We can resist Satan, be faithful to God, and know that if (when ) we sin, Jesus will forgive us.  What a wonderful hope.  Join us for worship this Sunday at our Traditional Worship Service at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

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