Hunger for Freedom

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, October 31, 2014 @ 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 Friday, October 24, 2014 @ 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 Wednesday, October 15, 2014 @ 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 Friday, October 10, 2014 @ 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 Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 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 Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 1:50 PM

We’ve made a significant upgrade to our website for the First Baptist Church of Riverside (www.fbriv.org). 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 Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 1:48 PM

(Originally posted September 26th)

Next week our website (www.fbriv.org) 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.

Character Building

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 1:46 PM

(Originally posted September 26th)

The Story continues at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday. We are embarking on a 31-week journey through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In Week 3 we learn about Joseph and how God used the events of his life to build his character so he could do what God called him to do. Think about everything Joseph went through: abused and left in a cistern by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt (all alone, no on there he knew), unjustly thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit). God used those events so that Joseph would be in the right place at the right time to save the fledgling nation of Israel (and Egypt) from one of the worst droughts and famines in history. God’s plan to establish a nation from the descendants of Abraham would have been derailed without Joseph.

How God used Joseph should cause us to look at our lives and see how God uses the events of our lives to develop our character so that He can use us to do some great things for Him in the future. We might look at events in our lives and say, “Why did that thing happen to me?” “That was hard, I don’t ever want to go through that again.” But God may be using those very events to prepare you for what He wants you to do for Him.

So ask yourself some questions: “What am I doing to develop my character so God can use me?” Some examples might be, getting an education, studying the Bible, praying, growing in my faith, serving God, and learning lessons from my job and from life. Then ask, “What is God doing in my life to build the character I need to have in order to serve Him? How can I learn from my successes and failures? How can I learn from the good times and bad times of life?”

God has a purpose and a plan for your life. Before He can accomplish His purposes in us He may need to develop our character so that we’re ready when the time is right. Embrace the lessons you need to learn. Learn from the events of your life. God has a plan for you.

The Story Week 2 - God Builds a Nation

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 1:45 PM

(Originally posted September 18th)

The story of Abraham and Sarah reminds us of their faith and obedience. God told them to leave their extended family and go to a new land that they had never seen before. There was tremendous danger in being an alien in ancient days, but they obeyed God and moved to the land of Canaan. Later in their old age, God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. That was a little harder for them to believe, but ultimately they were obedient and God did as He promised.

I think many Christians today find it easy to talk about faith and consider themselves obedient. But are we obedient? God has challenged us to tithe as a measure of our faith. Will we give 10% or more of our income to God, trusting that God will meet our needs and bless us as the Bible promises (Malachi 3:6-12). If we have faith we will do as God commands us and tithe. Yet study after study shows that only 10-15% of Christians actually tithe. We can’t claim to have faith and be obedient if we don’t tithe.

God also calls us as Christians, if we have faith, to identify our spiritual gifts and use them to serve God. And yet many Christians are unemployed or underemployed when it comes to the kingdom. The reason 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church is because 80% of the people are not fully invested in using their gifts and serving the Lord.

It’s not easy to have faith and it’s not easy to be obedient. Abraham and Sarah risked danger, loss, ridicule and hardship in doing what God asked them to do. If we think it’s easy to have faith, then we probably have a faulty definition of what faith is (and probably haven’t read the Bible). Faith is hard. Faith requires sacrifice. Faith demands the total commitment of our lives to Christ. So evaluate your faith. Is your faith like that of Abraham and Sarah? Are you willing to go wherever God wants you to go? Are you willing to do whatever God wants you to do? Jesus says discipleship means to take up your cross daily and risk your life for the sake of the gospel. Is that our definition of faith and discipleship?

Lets’ follow the example of Abraham and Sarah, two people who were not perfect, who made some mistakes along the way, but ultimately they were faithful, they were obedient, and God was able to use them in an amazing way. If we practice faith and obedience like Abraham and Sarah, God can use us in great ways as well.

Beginnings

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 1:41 PM

(Originally posted September 12th)

This Sunday we begin The Story, a 31-week journey through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This Sunday’s focus is on “The Beginnings” in Genesis 1-9. We see the wonder of God in creation, the beauty and majesty of all he made. The goal of creation is to provide a place for God to be with the people he created as his children, where we could live forever in relationship with Him.

But God gave the people he created free choice. God would not force them to love him. They could eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But once they rebelled against God and tasted evil, their relationship with God was broken. They could no longer dwell in his presence. They were cast out of the garden and forced to live by the sweat of their brow.

Evil continued to grow in the world. Cain killed Abel. Each generation became more evil than the one before until there was only one man left on earth who was deemed righteous by God, and that was Noah. God decided to destroy those who had chosen the way of evil and only Noah’s family and the animals on the ark survived. With Noah God gave humankind a chance for a “do over” but nothing changed. Noah and his descendants sinned as had every person before him.

The human condition is such that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. As a result we’re separated from God. Because of our sins we cannot have a Father/child relationship with God. We will not be able to live with Him in His heaven. Our only hope is that God will intervene to provide a way of salvation for his people. We know that way is Jesus.

The beginnings in Genesis 1-9 show us God’s purpose in creation and the human condition that’s the result of the fall. It reminds us that we need a Savior. Praise God because He has provided our Savior in Jesus Christ His Son.

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