The God Who Knows Us

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, August 20, 2015 @ 7:32 AM

Psalm 139 describes God in an amazing way.  God knows us - everything about us.  We have no secrets from God.  He knew us before we were made.  He was there when we were conceived.  He knit us together in our mother's womb, arraigning our strands of DNA to make each of us the unique person He wants us to be.  God knows where we are every moment of the day and what's going on in our lives. There is nowhere we can hide from God's presence. 

God's knowledge of us might sound a little creepy if we didn't trust God.  What is the reason behind God's knowledge and interest in our lives?  God loves us.  He wants to have a deep and personal relationship with us without any secrets.  Isn't to great to know that we can be completely real with God.  We can rejoice with Him in the good times of life.  We can ask for His help in times of trouble.  We can cry out to Him in our pain.  God will never stop loving us and He'll be with us to help us in every situation.

This relationship with God is a two way street.  God wants us to know Him.  He reveals Himself to us through His Word (the Bible).  He also reveals Himself to us as we worship and pray and in the context of our relationship with Him.  We'll never know God completely - God is so great that we would be totally overwhelmed by the knowledge of Him.  However we know what's most important about God so we can have a deep relationship with Him.  Our Christian hope is that we will live in God's presence in heaven forever where we'll get to know Him better every day.

God's knowledge of us is transformative.  Psalm 139 begins and ends with the awareness that God "searches us."  He knows our thoughts, our feelings, the temptations we face and our sins.  Because God knows us He's able to help us change.  He forgives our sins and helps us overcome our temptations and the destructive tendencies we have.  He comes alongside us and enables us become the people He wants us to be.

This Sunday I hope you'll come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside as we continue our sermon series "Meeting God in the Psalms" as we look at Psalm 139 and "The God Who Knows Us."  We have Traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.

Check God Out

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, August 13, 2015 @ 4:42 PM

This Sunday I'll be preaching on Psalm 34 that David wrote after God helped him through a difficult and dangerous time in his life.  David praises God for deliverance and then challenges his readers to "Check God Out."  David says in verse 8, "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."

One of the blessings of our faith is that we can "Check God Out."  We can read the promises God makes about what He will do in our lives if we trust Him and then we can actually see how God is keeping those promises in our lives.  God wanted David to trust Him in the difficult times of his life, David did trust Him, and David wanted the world to know that God came through.  God did exactly as He promised.

If you're wondering about following God or whether or not you can trust God with your life, then "Check God Out."  I believe that God is trustworthy and the best decision any of us can make is to follow Him.  So give God a chance and you'll be able to "taste and see that the Lord is good."

Meeting God in the Psalms

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

I enjoy listening to people share their testimonies about what God is doing in their lives.  I think that's why I like the Psalms in the Old Testament.  Many of the Psalms are written by people who are giving their testimony about encounters they've had with God.  Some are stories of people who faced great danger and hardship and how God rescued them.  Others are songs of praise because God has blessed them.   Several of the psalms reveal the depths of God's mercy, grace and forgiveness.  The next four Sundays in August I'll be preaching a series of sermons called "Meeting God in the Psalms."

The Psalm we'll look at this Sunday is Psalm 103, King David's poem of awe and wonder about how great God is.  David makes the case that anyone who really gets to know God will have to praise Him.  David would argue that if anyone doesn't praise the Lord, it must be because they don't know Him.  I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday to find out why you should praise the Lord.

I Started Living When I Started Giving

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, July 30, 2015 @ 6:26 PM

Our culture tells us that we'll be happy when we receive - when we accumulate money and many things.  But in most cases that's not true.  The author of "The Happiness Hypothesis" discovered that more people are happy when they give than when they receive.  God's word has been telling us the same thing for 4,000 years.  Abraham was the first to give a tithe to Melchizedek.  Instructions for giving tithes and offerings were included in the Law of Moses.   The promise of blessing for those who give is found throughout the Bible, especially in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.

I have personally experienced the joy of giving.  I was taught to tithe by my parents and I began by giving 10% of my allowance to God every week.  I was happy to feel that I was contributing to what God was doing in our church even as a child and a teen.  When Diane and I were in college and seminary we lived far below the poverty line, but we still gave 10% to the Lord.  Sometimes I look back and wonder how we survived.  I'm convinced we survived because God was faithful to His word and poured out blessings into our lives.  We were always able to pay our bills.

We had modest resources as we began our careers and had our children.  Now there were many bills to pay, and yet we continued to tithe.  And God continued to bless.  We didn't get rich, but we lived within our means, and every month we were able to pay our bills.  Now God's blessings were more than financial.  Our kids were healthy and prospered.  Our careers got off to a good start.  We were happy.

As the kids went off to college, tuition and housing payments challenged us.  We didn't want our kids to have to take out massive debt for their education.  They went to public universities, got good educations, each of them went on the graduate school.  They all have followed their chosen career path with modest loans.  We continued to tithe and God continued to bless.  And now as empty nesters saving for retirement God continues to bless as we give beyond the tithe.

I can't tell you there haven't been challenges along the way in life - unexpected expenses, health challenges, grief, discouraging circumstances - but God has always been faithful.  I look back on my life and I don't think we'd be where we are today if we hadn't been faithful to give God what belongs to Him.  Life is always better when we follow God's instructions.

Are you following God's instruction to tithe, to give 10% of your income faithfully to God's church month after month.  If we do what God promises He will open up the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessings into our lives (Malachi 3:10).  God's blessings are what we live for.  I hope you'll discover the truth that you'll start living when you start giving.  Join us for church this Sunday as we'll learn more about this important principle.

Extravagant Love

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, July 23, 2015 @ 7:13 PM

God has modeled extravagant love for us.  Life and everything good in this world comes from His hand.  He is good to us in every way.  When we were lost in our sin, God did not give up on us, He gave us the greatest gift in the history of the world, the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  While Jesus was on earth He showed us God's love in everything He did.  Then in order to save us Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, convicted, beaten, mocked and executed for our sins.  Jesus suffered the wrath of God for our sin so we can be saved.  He was the sacrifice by which our debt has been forgiven.  Jesus' love is so giving, so selfless, it is an extravagant love.

As God's children we are able to love extravagantly.  We want to extravagantly love our spouse, children and loved ones, willing to do extraordinary things to let them know that we care.  We want to love people in need with an extravagant love, giving far beyond what others might expect us to give.  And we want to love God extravagantly, giving whatever we have to give Him glory.

A great example of extravagant love is the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet with perfume and then wiping His feet with her hair in  John 12.  This was a generous expression of love, costing her the equivalent of a year's wages.  It was a sacrificial gift as she humbled herself beyond all expectation, washing Jesus' feet with her hair.  What would we have to do today to show an extravagant love like Mary's?

The opposite of extravagant love is selfishness. Instead of thinking of the other person we think only of ourselves, and we do not give freely because we want to keep what we have for ourselves.  Don't let selfishness and Satan take over your life.  Be a Mary and to look for opportunities to share extravagant love with God, with our families and with others.

Generosity

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, July 17, 2015 @ 1:46 PM

Think for a moment about how generous God is.  He created the world and gave it to humans (whom He also created) as a place where we could live and prosper.  God made us to be His children so we could have a forever relationship with Him.  When humankind sinned, God so loved the people of the world that He gave us His one and only Son to die for our sins so that we would not perish but be forgiven and have eternal life.  Today God provides all that we need, He answers our prayers and He's good to us in every way.  God is incredibly generous to us.

As God's people, we are to become more and more like God as we grow in our faith.  As God has been generous and gracious to us, so we are to be generous to Him and to others.  So how is that going for you?  Are you a generous person?  Do you find it easy to give to God and others or do you tend to hold on tightly to what you think is yours?  Are you able to share generously with God?  Are you generous in giving to your family, friends and neighbors?

This Sunday in worship we're going to learn about "Turning Grace Around."  God has given us grace, gifts that we don't deserve, but He gives them to us because He loves us.  Our goal as Christians is to turn those gifts around to be a blessing to God and others.  Join us in worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m. on Sunday to learn how to "Turn Grace Around."

True Patriotism

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, July 3, 2015 @ 1:46 PM

For many people, patriotism consists of putting out a flag on national holidays, standing for the national anthem at sporting events and going to the fireworks show on the Fourth of July. I would suggest that if we truly love America, our patriotism would be evident in more substantive ways.

A true patriot who believes in God will pray for America. The United States was founded as one nation under God. Our currency says, “In God we trust.” Therefore let’s pray for God’s guidance and blessing for America. We are to come humbly before God to confess our sins, repent and return to him (2 Chronicles 7:14). Could it be that some of the difficult challenges we’re experiencing in our country might be God’s way of leading us back to our faith in God and Christian values.

We will also pray for leaders at all levels of government (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Tim. 2:1-4). You may not like or agree with those in elective office who rule over us, but that doesn’t get you off the hook to pray sincerely for them to lead our country well. When our politics become too strident, we need to remember that Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). A patriot will pray for America.

A true patriot believes in righteousness and obeys the commands of Scripture. America would be a better place if we obeyed the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ lessons in the Sermon on the Mount. In Jesus’ sermon he teaches us to love others and live by the Golden Rule, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Wouldn’t America be a better place if we treated others the way we want to be treated?

A true patriot contributes to the greater good. They serve others. If you are a public servant, serve to the best of your ability as unto God. Choose to serve others as a volunteer in Christian ministries or in community organizations. Our goal as citizens is to make life better for all Americans, especially those who are the least fortunate.

On this Fourth of July anyone can put out an American Flag, watch the fireworks and sing “God Bless America.” True patriots will pray for America and its leaders, choose to live by the directives of Scripture, and serve the least among us. Have a great Fourth of July, and may God bless America.

Justice for All

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, June 25, 2015 @ 1:18 PM

God wants everyone to experience justice and be treated fairly by others.  In the Book of Nehemiah we read about how the people of Jerusalem worked hard to rebuild the walls of their city in 52 days.  Many of them missed work, didn't open their businesses, and cut back on their farming in order to devote all their effort to the cause.  As a result some of the poorest members of the community had to borrow money to provide for their families. 

In chapter 5 the walls are finished, and Nehemiah finds out that those who loaned money charged exorbitant interest and took people's land and homes as collateral.  Now they're repossessing the property, the poor are left with nothing, even their children are being sold into slavery to repay their debts.   The was unjust.  Who benefited most from the walls being rebuilt and the city being protected?  The rich did.  Now the rich people are ripping off the people who did the work.  That's not right and Nehemiah got very angry (v. 6).

Injustice isn't anything new.  It's the sin the Old Testament prophets spoke about more than any other.  Injustice exists in many forms today.  Multinational corporations place their factories in places where labor laws are lax and wages are low.  In Thailand girls are kidnapped or sold by their parents into sexual trafficking.  We take advantage of low prices because of the low wages paid to farm laborers, poorly paid wait staff at the restaurants we frequent, and inexpensive housekeepers at the hotel.

God warns us that we are not pleasing him if we take advantage of others and treat them unjustly.  In fact we are to be advocates of justice.  This Sunday when I preach on Nehemiah 5 we'll learn about the causes of injustice and discover how we can be advocates of justice in the choices we make and advocate for those in our community who are treated unjustly.  May our desire be like God's revealed in Amos 5:4, "But let justice roll like a river, righteousness like a never-failing steam."

Making the Bible Come Alive

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, June 19, 2015 @ 10:55 AM

For many people the Bible seems like ancient history.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  When we read the stories in the Bible we have to remember that the people in these stories are normal, everyday people who face the same kind of challenges we face.  With a little bit of research (that can readily be done on the internet) we can learn about them and their historical context.  We can then put ourselves in their shoes and think about how we would think and feel if we were in their situation.  Some of my greatest spiritual growth has come from the character studies I've done of people in the Bible.

This Sunday I will be presenting "Profile in Courage - Nehemiah."  I'll be talking to our congregation as Nehemiah, sharing his testimony and describing God's call for him to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls and the challenges he faced along the way.  In the course of Sunday's message we'll learn a lot about faith and leadership.  We'll also see first hand the courage Nehemiah had when faced with the harsh opposition from the enemies of Israel.  I think today we who are followers of Christ need Nehemiah's courage to publicaly live our faith and serve the Lord.

I find that as I learn more about the faith and humanity of the heroes of the faith found in the Bible, I'm encouraged in my own spiritual journey and inspired to serve the Lord.  Come this Sunday and get to know Nehemiah better.  And let me encourage you to use your devotional times to study the lives and times of your favorite Bible characters.

Holy Discontent

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, June 11, 2015 @ 2:30 PM

This Sunday I'm beginning a four-week series of sermons on the Old Testament character Nehemiah.  I like Nehemiah because he's someone we can all identify with.  He's a layman, not a pastor or priest or prophet - just a normal guy.  There's something God wants Nehemiah to do.  The story of Nehemiah is all about how God uses Nehemiah to accomplish His will and do His work in the world.

I believe God has things He wants us to do that'll make a difference in His kingdom, but too often we don't have any idea what God expects of us.  We haven't fine-tuned our hearing to know what God has in mind for us.  The way God works is to create a sense of Holy Discontent in our hearts.  There's something that needs to be done, and we discover we're the ones He wants to do it.

Discontent is something we all have from time to time.  Discontent motivates us to start a diet and lose some of the pounds that have been growing around our midsection.  Discontent causes us to go to a financial advisor and develop a plan to pay off debt and begin to save.  Discontent with the way things are makes us want to do something to change it.

Holy Discontent is when God is working in our heart and mind to make us realize that something needs to be done or to be changed and somebody needs to step up and do something about it.  Usually we begin by saying, "I wish someone would do something about that!"  But as God stirs Holy Discontent in us, we realize that it's us who need to act.  We're the ones God is calling.  That's what happened to Nehemiah, he sees that something needs to be done about the walls of Jerusalem that had been torn down by the Babylonians, and then realizes that God is calling him to lead the rebuilding campaign.

I would ask if there is some Holy Discontent stirring in your life?  Are you aware of a need in the church, in our community, in a mission that needs to be addressed?  Are you hoping someone else will do something about it so you don't have too?  Or are you beginning to realize that if anything is going to be done, it has to be you?  You may be the one God is calling to lead the next big endeavor.  If you're sensing some Holy Discontent in your life, it may be God calling you to serve Him.

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