Make 2015 A Great Year!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, January 1, 2015 @ 2:34 PM

One of our traditions on New Year's Day is the make resolutions for what we would like to accomplish in the year ahead.  Some of our resolutions deal with practical issues like losing weight or eliminating debt.  Other resolutions may be aspirational, we might resolve to take the trip we always wanted to take.

Let me suggest you make a spiritual resolution for 2015 to take your relationship with God to a whole new level.  A great way to do that is to commit to study The Story at First Baptist Riverside.  Buy The Story for each member of your family if you don't already have it.  This week read chapter 14.  Attend worship on Sundays at 9:00 and 10:45 a.m. to hear a message based on your reading.  Join a small group or Bible class to go deeper each week.  If you have to miss a Sunday, go online at to listen to the sermon.  Invite your family to join you in studying The Story and use the readings as the basis for your family devotions.

This week we'll learn how the kingdom of Israel was divided into a northern kingdom (Israel) and southern kingdom (Judah) after Solomon's death.  One of the reasons for the division was because Solomon and Rehoboam listened to some really bad advice.  The practical application: "Who Do You Listen To?"  We all need advice sometimes.  Are we listening to people who will give us good advice so that we can make good decisions?  Or do we listen to people who may not have our best interests at heart or may mislead us?  Listening to the wrong people can mess up God's plans for our lives.  Listening to the right people can enhance our relationship with God and help us serve God more effectively.

I wish you much joy and happiness in the new year!  May God richly bless your life.

Merry Christmas

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 @ 5:43 PM

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May Jesus be at the center of your Christmas celebration and may He guide you through 2015.

If you're looking for a way to include Jesus in your Christmas and you're in Riverside, join us at First Baptist Church for our Christmas Eve Worship on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.  It's called "First Christmas Stories of Christ's Birth."  We'll hear the Christmas story from the perspective of some of the people who were there as well as sing some of our favorite Christmas carols and light the Christmas candles.  Bring your friends and family to church on Christmas Eve.  Childcare is provided for children preschool and younger.

On Sunday December 28th we'll worship with our regular schedule of Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  The sermon is "The Have to's vs. the Want to's."  Our goal is to live out our Christian faith because we want to, not because we have to.  In fact, that's a great resolution for 2015.  We at First Baptist are wishing you God's very best in 2015.

A Real Christmas

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, December 19, 2014 @ 1:22 PM

For many people Christmas is the same old, same old routine, going through the motions once again.  We put up the same decorations year after year.  We make a list to buy presents for the same people we always do.  We bake the same cookies and have the same Christmas dinner menu.  We go to church and sing the same Christmas carols and listen to the same stories hoping that this year they'll speak to us in a way they haven't in the past.  It's Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Something has to change if this Christmas is going to be any different than the ones in the past.

The carols and the Christmas story aren't going to change.  The decorations, the food and the family members aren't going to change significantly.  We have to be the ones who change.  We have to take a deeper look at the Christmas story and think about what it means that God became a human being and lived among us.  God hasn't given up on us, He wants us to know Him and be His friends.  Though our sins separate us from God, through Jesus God provides a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be saved.  Jesus was born to give us hope, love, peace and joy.  When we take time to think about who Jesus and what He's done for us, Christmas will take on a whole new life.

We'll have a "real Christmas" when we accept the invitation to enter into God's presence.  We'll stand in awe of who God is and what He's done.  We'll have a sense of wonder at how God brought His Son to us - how He fulfilled the ancient prophecies and used a star, wise men, shepherds and a couple named Mary and Joseph to bring Jesus to us.  We'll respond to the Christmas story by wanting to join the angels singing the praises of God.  A real Christmas is when accept God's invitation to seek Jesus and find Him.

We want to help you have a real Christmas this year, one with new meaning and a fresh experience of the presence of God.  My sermon Sunday morning ( 9:00 and 10:45 a.m.) is titled, "A Real Christmas" and my goal is that we'll see the Christmas story in a new light.  Our Christmas Eve worship (Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.) is called "First Christmas Stories from the Birth of Christ."  We'll experience Christmas from the perspective of some of the people who were there that night when Jesus was born.

I hope this Christmas will not be like every other, but that God will do something in your heart that will make Christmas come alive with fresh meaning and a new experience of God's presence with you.

Finishing Well

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, December 12, 2014 @ 2:33 PM

In The Story, chapter 13 we read about King Solomon.  Solomon started out as king of Israel with everything in his favor.  His father David had defeated all of Israel's enemies and brought peace and stability to the nation.  Solomon made a good choice when God offered to give him whatever he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom to govern.  The work of building the Temple for God in Jerusalem was left to Solomon and he did a beautiful job.  It seemed that Solomon's reign was going to be a lifetime of achievements.  Solomon taught wisdom to the people in his books called Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and wrote other literature like the Song of Solomon.

But then things started to change.  Solomon gained world-wide fame for his wisdom as people came from far away to listen to his teaching.  Solomon also became the richest man on earth because of the tribute paid by surrounding nations.  Kings wanted alliances with Solomon, sealed with the marriage of their daughters to him.  Solomon eventually had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  

Over time Solomon became complacent, his power, fame and fortune went to his head.  He became arrogant and put a heavy burden of labor and taxes on the people.  Solomon wanted to please his wives so he began to build temples for their gods and worshipped false gods with them.  David warned Solomon not to worship false gods.  The Lord also warned him not to go down that path.  But Solomon didn't listen to God.  Eventually God decreed that because of Solomon's sin his kingdom would be divided when he died.

Solomon started well but finished poorly.  That's a warning for all of us.  We must never become complacent.  We must never think that we have it made.  We can't live for power, money or fame.  We need to be faithful to God, obey him, and serve Him for our entire lifetime.

Solomon could have been such a great king.  He could have left a great legacy and honored the Lord through all of his accomplishments.  But Solomon finished poorly and his life ended in defeat rather than victory.  Let's make sure that we live our lives so that we finish well.

This Christmas We Need Jesus To Be Our Savior

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 2:22 PM

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll be studying Chapter 12 of The Story - the account of David and Bathsheba's sin.  Sin is ugly business.  David had been a great king, a man after God's own heart.  Then in a moment of weakness David went where he shouldn't have been, was tempted by the sight of a beautiful woman taking a bath, used his authority as king to send for her and committed adultery.  Bathsheba became pregnant, leading David to try to deceive her husband Uriah, then when that didn't work, to have him killed.  David was unapologetic for his actions until he was confronted by Nathan and forced to face up to the terrible mistake he had made.

Even though David repented of his sin, he had to face the consequences.  The baby born out of adultery died.  His family was thrown into turmoil.   David's relationship with his other wives soured.  One of his sons raped his half-sister.  Another son launched a rebellion to seize the kingdom from his father.  The consequences of sin are terrible. 

The good news for those of us who follow Jesus is that He was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior.  Jesus would grow up, teach us God's truth and show us what God is like, and then He died on the cross for our sins, offering forgiveness for every evil act we've done, if we believe in Him.  God forgave David's sin and God will forgive our sins through Jesus Christ.  But more than that, Jesus gives us power to overcome our sin and to keep from sinning.

It's important for us to change our ways and avoid sinning because like David, if we sin, we will have to live with the consequences of our actions.  We may carry around feelings of guilt.  We may harm the people we love by our sinful actions.  Our sin may damage our ability to witness to others and even disqualify us from serving the Lord in certain ways. 

So this Christmas I celebrate that Jesus was born to be my Savior, to forgive my sins and enable me to defeat sin and have a new life in Christ.  This Christmas He wants to be your Savior too.  Don't let sin and poor choices ruin your life.  Put your faith in Jesus!

Hunger of the Heart

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, November 28, 2014 @ 3:45 PM

This Sunday in The Story we'll learn about David's early life and his selection as King of Israel.  What set David apart from others who would be king is that the Lord looked at his heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  Saul, the king before David, seemed to be perfect king material.  Saul was tall, handsome, charismatic, smart, brave and a mighty warrior.  But Saul's failed tenure as king was because his heart was not right - he was self-centered and disobeyed God.

As a result of Saul's failure, God decreed that the kingdom would be taken from Saul and his descendants would never be kings.   A search must be conducted for a new king.  This time however, instead at looking at the outward characteristics of the man who would be king, God would look at the heart.

What is God looking for in a person's heart?  God looked for a king who knew Him, David knew God from an early age.  God wanted a king with great faith, David showed his faith when he volunteered to fight Goliath.  God wanted a king who would obey Him, David had a history of obeying God.  God wanted a king who had a deep personal relationship with Him, we see David's relationship with God in the many psalms he penned.

God needs men and women today to serve Him in important positions in the church, in community ministries, in mission, and to be His witnesses to people who need to be saved.   To fill these positions God is looking for people with the right heart - people who know Him, love Him, who will obey Him and have the faith to attempt great things for God.

Today God is looking at your heart to see if you're a person who can help Him accomplish His kingdom purposes.  When He looks at your heart, what does God see?  Does He see the heart of someone who is ready to serve Him?  Does He see someone who is developing their heart so they'll be ready to serve Him soon?  What God wants to see in us is a hunger of the heart - a person who wants God to use him or her to serve Him in a meaningful way.

I hope you'll come worship with us this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m. as we learn how to develop a heart God can use.

Give Thanks!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, November 21, 2014 @ 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 Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 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 Thursday, November 6, 2014 @ 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 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.

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