Give Thanks!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:16 PM

Psalm 96 tells us to "declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people."  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to "count our blessings, name them one by one, and it will amaze us what the Lord has done."  Let me encourage you to make a list, you might make several categories: family blessings; financial and material blessings; health blessings; and work, career, and school blessings.  You might even make a category to list some of the hardships and challenges you've faced in the past year and think about how God has helped you through those times.  If you take the time to make the list I guarantee you'll be inspired to praise God.

Paul tells us that as witnesses we should pray for God to open a door for our message to be heard by others.  Thanksgiving is the ultimate door-opener.  It's very easy to engage family and friends in a conversation about what we're thankful for.  We can then go the next step and tell them about the God to whom we give thanks.  Be in prayer about who you can talk to this week.

Join me in praying this week for those in our church who are opening their homes on Thanksgiving to International students.  What a great opportunity to share about this important American custom and to talk to them about our faith.  Pray for our witness to others.  Also, remember to pray for the homeless that we ministry to through our GUMBO ministry, for many of them Thanksgiving is just another day on the street.

Join us for worship this Sunday as we give thanks to God for what He has done for us.  We will also continue in our study of The Story, our journey through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  This week we're on Chapter 10, learning about 1 Samuel 1-15 and Saul's "Hunger for Power." We'll be challenged to answer the question, "Who is in charge in my life?"  Is someone else trying to control your life?  Are you in control?  Or have you discovered the wisdom of letting God be king in your life?  I hope to see you Sunday for a great day of worship!

Hunger to Serve

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:04 PM

Jesus says in Mark 10:45 that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."  If anybody should have been on the receiving end of serving, it would have been Jesus, the Son of God, who came from heaven to earth to save us.  But Jesus' life on earth was about serving others, not being served.  Don't you think that should give us a clue?

As humans we want to be served.  When we go to a nice restaurant, if we stay in a nice hotel or go on a cruise, we want to be served.  If we don't feel like we're getting the service we deserve, we'll complain to anyone who will listen.  We want to be served because it makes us feel important and our lives more pleasant. 

However, as followers of Jesus, our purpose for being here on earth are not about being served.  We are here (we exist) to serve God and serve others.  A Christian who is not devoting time and energy to serving God and serving others hasn't got a clue what the Christian life is about.  That's why part of our church's vision statement challenges our congregation to "Carry Out the Mission."  We exist to carry out the mission Jesus started, and Jesus' mission was to serve others, so our calling in life is to serve.

This Sunday we're giving our congregation a perfect opportunity to serve others.  It's Reach Out Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  We'll gather at 9:00 a.m. for a combined worship service for our church family and friends that will include a baptism service, great music and an inspiring message about developing a "Hunger to Serve."  At 10:00 a.m. we'll break into groups to go out into our community to bless our city and serve the people of Riverside.  For those with mobility issues we'll have projects here at First Baptist.  The rest of us will go out into the city to serve.  We still have space available in many of our projects, so come and worship with us, join a group, and serve others.  I think if you give service a try, you'll be blessed.




Carry Out the Mission

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP8er @ 8:44 PM

Our church's vision statement spells out four things Christ expects of those who would be His disciples.  He wants us to Connect with God (worship), Care for One Another (small groups), Carry Out the Mission (service) and Communicate Our Faith (evangelism).  On Sunday, November 16 we'll all have an opportunity to Carry Out the Mission by serving on Reach Out Sunday.  We'll gather for a time of celebration and a combined worship service (including baptism) from 9:00-10:00 a.m. 

After worship we'll go out in groups to serve others.  Some groups will stay at the church to assemble Thanksgiving baskets, make cards for the military, sort clothing for GUMBO, or doing cleaning at the church's preschool.  Other groups will go to senior facilities to sing, play games or visit residents.  Several other groups will go perform work projects at Mount Rubidoux Manor and cleaning up around town with "Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful."

The reason we're taking a week away from our regular church activities and The Story is because Jesus calls us to humbly serve others.  In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  If Jesus, the Son of God, was willing to humble Himself to serve us, it makes sense that we would follow His example and humble ourselves to serve others.  And yet, many Christians never serve others.  So on November 16th we're giving you an opportunity to go out in groups and serve for 90 minutes doing something that will bless others and honor Christ.  We hope to wet your appetite so that you can't wait for the next time you can go out and serve Jesus.

When you come to church this Sunday, be sure to sign up for one of the service projects for November 16th.  We'll be joined by teams from our sister church Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Nacimiento that will be helping with several of the projects.  If you can't be at church this Sunday, call the church office and sign up for a project or just show up on November 16th dressed in your workin clothes.

Hunger for Freedom

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:32 PM

I'm calling the sermon series for November and December with The Story, "Hunger Games."  Obviously the blockbuster movie will come out this month, but in the time between the Judges and Solomon Israel faced it's own hunger games as they tried to establish their nation.

This Sunday we'll learn about the Judges who led Israel for 300+ years between Joshua and Solomon.  Under the Judges the people had a "Hunger for Freedom."   The plot of the Book of Judges is that when the people followed God and obeyed Him life was good.  But they would become complacent and begin to worship false gods.  The Lord would withdraw His blessing and protection and Israel's neighbors oppressed them.  Eventually they would come to their senses, cry out for God's help, and God would send a Judge to save them.  But eventually they would grow complacent again, go back to worshiping false gods and be oppressed by their neighbors.  This cycle of sin goes around and around in the book of Judges.

The same thing happens in our lives.  Jesus came to forgive our sins, save us and set us free from sin and death.  But if we're not careful we can become complacent and begin to worship false gods - money, possessions, career, hobbies - whatever pushes God out of first place in our lives is a false god.  Our sin separates us from God.  If we continue in our sin God withdraws his blessing and protection from our lives so we have to face life's challenges on our own.

The good news is that Jesus will forgive our sins if we ask Him to do so.  He'll restore our relationship with God.  He sends the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment so that we won't sin again.  The only way to break the cycle of sin is to commit our lives completely to Jesus.  Come join us for worship this Sunday and find out how you can be set free from sin and death, or listen to "Hunger for Freedom" online on this website.

What Does God Want?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP7er @ 7:46 PM

Many people want an answer to the question, "What do God want from me?"  We know what the most important thing God wants from each person is - He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins so that we can be forgiven and saved and have eternal life.  God cares more than anything else about our relationship with Him and we cannot have a relationship with God without accepting what Jesus did on the cross to save us.

  • God wants us to "Connect with Him" by worshiping Him and growing in our faith so that we'll know Him better.  The better we know Him the more we'll love Him. 
  • God wants us to "Care for One Another." We do that by being part of a church family and developing relationships with people in small groups so that we can support, encourage, serve and pray for one another.
  • God wants us to "Carry Out the Mission" by using our spiritual gifts to serve Him in some meaningful way in the church, community or world. 
  • God wants us to "Communicate the Faith" because there are people in our "oikos," among our family, friends, and neighbors, who need to know who Jesus is and what He did for them

The truth is that while faith in Jesus is all that's required for us to be saved, there's more that God wants from His people and those expectations are found in the Scripture.   This Sunday in The Story we'll study Joshua.  At the beginning and end of the Book of Joshua, he explains to the Israelites what God expects from His people.  If you want to know what God wants from you, come to First Baptist Riverside this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:45 a.m. and find out!

Road Trip

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP4er @ 4:26 PM

I have some great memories of road trips our family has taken all over the western United States.  Some of those trips were great fun, some were tiring and stressful.  I imagine Israel's road trip through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land was pretty stressful.  It was a hot trip through the desert.  They were tired of travelling by foot.  It was crowded with over a million people on their tour.  At times they lacked adequate food and water.

When they finally got close to the Promised Land, Moses sent spies in to get the lay of the land and to find out if it was as good as God told them it would be.  They returned from their reconnaissance mission with evidence of the land's bounty, proclaiming that indeed it was a land flowing with milk and honey.  But there was one problem.  The people they would have to take the land away from were giants and their cities were large and fortified.  Not exactly the news they wanted to hear at the end of a long road trip.

Israel came to a fork in the road.  They had to decide whether they would trust God and go forward in spite of the challenges that lay ahead of them in the Promised Land, or would they would go back to Egypt.  The people grumbled, wondering why God had brought them out of Egypt only to let them die in the desert.  The people refused to take the land.  As a result God condemned them to wander in the desert for the next forty years until every person over 20 years old who refused to go into the Promised Land would die.  What a sad end to their sojourn.

Our lives are a journey.  At various places on our journey we come to forks in the road.  We can choose to go God's way, but sometimes that appears to be the most difficult way to go, with many challenges and obstacles along the way.  Often the direction away from where God is leading seems easier and much more pleasant.  We have to decide if we have the faith and courage to follow God's way.  This Sunday in worship we'll find out how to identify God's way and learn about how to develop the courage necessary to choose the right course.

A New Morality

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP12er @ 12:59 PM

This Sunday is Week 5 of The Story, our journey through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  The people of Israel are in the wilderness and God gives them the 10 Commandments and establishes a covenant with them.  Israel is being established as the nation through which God's plan of salvation will come to the world.

We're all familiar with the 10 Commandments.  If you've been in the church for a long time you may have memorized them in Sunday school.  There's been a lot of controversy over whether they can be posted in courthouses and on public property or if that's a violation of the separation of church and state.  They've been roundly criticized as God's attempt to keep us from having a good time.

The 10 Commandments and other Old Testament laws are actually an attempt by God to establish a new morality by which His people will seek to live.  God is holy and perfect and pure and He wants His followers to live holy lives that reflect His values.  Among the definitions of the "holy" is "different" and "set apart."  God wants us to live differently than unbelievers.  He wants us to be "set apart" by the values we consider to be important.

As our society veers away from Biblical standards and behaviors God's word says are evil are promoted as acceptable lifestyles, it's important for us to re-examine what the Bible says, what God desires for His people, and the witness we share with the world.  God is not trying to squash our fun.  He's telling us that our lives will be better and happier if we live according to His word.  God wants the world to be able to look at the way Christians live and see a better way.

So we need to confess our sins where we've fallen short of the standard God has given us in His word.  George Barna, in his research, has found that the morality of most Christians is not much different than that of the world.  We need to rededicate ourselves to live lives that are pleasing to God and present a distinct alternative to the values of the world.

Set Free

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:52 PM

This Sunday marks the beginning of Week 4 of “The Story,” a 31-week journey our church is taking through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We would love to have you join us as we study “The Story.” It involves buying the guidebook ($5), coming to worship where I’ll preach on one of the themes you read about the preceding week, and joining a small group to learn how it applies to your life. If you want a preview to “The Story” you can listen to the sermons from the previous weeks online at this website.

The theme for Week 4 is “Set Free.” The people of Israel have been in slavery for 400 years in Egypt. God has heard their cries for freedom. He chooses the person He’ll work through to set them free. We see God’s power displayed when the baby Moses is saved after Pharaoh decreed that all Israelite baby boys should be killed. We see God’s power when God speaks to Moses in the burning bush and in the plagues God inflicts on Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go.

As we read the story of Israel’s Exodus, we’re reminded that all of us need to be set free from another kind of slavery, slavery to sin that separates us from God. God has sent a deliverer to save us in the person of His own Son Jesus Christ. When the final plague (judgment) came on Egypt, it was only the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes that saved the lives of the Israelites. It is the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross that saves us from the judgment for sin and set us free to enter into a relationship with God and receive the gift of eternal life.

If you want to be set free from your sins, God’s plan of salvation is as simple as ABC. Admit you’re a sinner who needs a Savior. Believe Jesus is the one God sent to save you from your sins and make you right with Him. Choose to follow Him. As you connect with God’s church and grow in your faith, you’ll discover the joy of being set free.

Welcome to our new website!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:50 PM

We’ve made a significant upgrade to our website for the First Baptist Church of Riverside ( It’s easier to navigate. There’s more information about our ministries. It’ll be easier for us to update so the information is current. You’ll be able to message staff members if you have questions or want more information. If you’re away for a Sunday, you can listen to the sermons online.

The main reason we’ve improved our website is because we care about every person who visits. We want you to see how God is working in our midst here at First Baptist Riverside. We want you to know our God and get connected to our church where you can learn and grow in your faith and find a place to serve God in our church or in the community. So enjoy learning about First Baptist Riverside, and remember, this is a work in progress, we’ll be adding new pages and information in the future, so come back and visit us again.

Our Website is Changing!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:48 PM

(Originally posted September 26th)

Next week our website ( is changing. It will be complete redone with new graphics, updated information and new features. Be sure to stop by toward the end of next week and see what’s going on at First Baptist Riverside.

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