Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, December 27, 2018 @ 10:29 AM

Life is such that we are often around people who are hard to love.  It may be a member of your family that you had to spend time with this Christmas.  It might be the person at work or school who is rude or a bully, you try to avoid them, but there they are every day.  It could be someone at church who is a little to sanctimonious for your taste.  Face it, there are people in our lives we don't like to be around, but we don't have a choice.

Jesus tells us that a measure of our love is how we love those who are unlovable.  Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, about a Samaritan who helped a Jew who was robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of the road.  Jews and Samaritans generally hated one another, were prejudiced toward each other, and yet Jesus holds this Good Samaritan up as an example of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We need to learn to love the unlovable people in our lives.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us "How to Love the Unlovable."  I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside for insights into how to love the hard to love people in your life and be a witness for Jesus in the process.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Hope to see you here!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 @ 4:09 PM

Our theme for December is "Come to the Manger," an invitation to come meet Jesus and investigate the claims that he is the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We've learned "The Humble Come" and thought about the humility of Mary and Joseph, and Jesus leaving heaven and coming to earth as a baby.  If we want a relationship with Jesus we must come to him humbly.  We also learned "The Wise Come" as the Magi did because they have examined the evidence and decided that God was doing something special in the world.  Last Sunday "The Evil Come" led by King Herod who rejected Christ, didn't want him in this world and was ready to kill him.  There are some today who want nothing to do with Jesus

On Christmas Sunday (December 23) at First Baptist we will celebrate because "The Child Comes!"  Jesus the Living Word (John 1), the pre-existent God, the creator of all things, the one the prophets wrote about hundred's of years before his birth, has arrived.  He is born to Mary and Joseph in a stable, with a manger for his bed.  His praises sung by the angels, worshiped first by the shepherds and later by the Magi.  The miracle of the Incarnation, God has become a human being to identify with us, reveal himself to us, and die to save us from our sins.

Before Christmas Day arrives take time to Come to the Manger and spend time with Jesus.  Think about what it means that the creator has become the creation in order to save us.  Jesus was born to die, and in so doing he is able to forgive our sins and give us eternal life.  If a star announced his birth and the angels sang his praises, Jesus is unlike anyone who ever lived before.  Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  Has his presence changed your life?  Instead of fearing the future, are you willing to trust him for your future?

I hope you'll come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside on Christmas Sunday.  We will have one big combined worship service at 9:00 a.m. so our whole church family can worship together on this special day.  We have room for you to join us.  We will celebrate because the news that Jesus Christ is born is the best news the world has ever heard.  My prayer for you is that the message of Christmas will take root in your life and that faith in Jesus will come alive in you.  Have a very happy and Blessed Christmas!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 @ 3:01 PM

The story of Jesus' birth is so wonderful we tend to focus on only the best parts: the faith of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus in a manger, the star God uses to announce our Savior's birth, the Magi and Shepherds who come to worship him.  Everything about our modern day celebration of Christmas is remarkable, the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, lights and candles, packages brightly wrapped under the tree.  Even the food is good.

However, in the Christmas story evil is always lurking in the background.   Mary and Joseph's families are shamed by the pregnancy because they aren't yet married.  The young couple is slandered by the gossip of neighbors.  And then there's King Herod.  When the Magi stop in Jerusalem to ask directions, Herod is "disturbed" by the news that a new king, the Messiah, has been born.  He deceives the Magi, telling them to go search for the child and return and tell him where the baby is so he too can worship him.  Herod's plan is to kill the child and eliminate the threat.  When the Magi are warned by God not to return to Herod, in a rage he massacres all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem.

Whenever God is at work - the evil come.  Those who are evil pay attention to their own desires.  Like Herod they don't want God to interrupt their evil pursuits.  They'd rather live with their vices, satisfy their impulses, pursue pleasure, get what they can, and nurse their prejudices and hate.  Some will do everything they can to oppose the work of Christ in the world and the church.  If we Christians seek to follow Jesus - we can expect to face opposition from those who are evil, just like Jesus did.

But when the evil come to the manger, willing to consider a better way and seeking God - they will find him.  Jesus came to save those who are evil.  All of us have sinned and fall short of what God desires for us.  Jesus' goal is to save sinners if they'll believe in him.  He wants to change their lives and values so they  become like him.  When the evil come to Jesus they'll find forgiveness, salvation, hope for the future and the unconditional love God has for them.  This Christmas, if you struggle with evil, and we all do, come to Jesus and he can help you to become the person God created you to be.  Come to the Manger this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  Worship is at 9:00 and 10:45.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 @ 5:38 PM

In the story of Jesus' birth we meet Magi (wise men) from the east, probably Persia.  They were adherents of Zoroastrianism along with being well educated astrologers, religious philosophers and in some cases magicians.  They saw a star in the sky, attributed it to the long-awaited prophecies of a Jewish Messiah, and traveled to Israel to investigate.

What is it in the story that made the magi "wise?"  They recognized the new star many did not see.  Though foreigners, they knew enough about the Jewish faith and scriptures to recognize it as the fulfillment of prophecy.  They considered this discovery so significant, they took time out of their busy schedules at made an expensive and dangerous trip to Israel to investigate the facts.  When they found the Christ child, they were prepared to worship him and the gifts they brought revealed their understanding of his purpose in coming to earth.

The wise still come to investigate the birth of Jesus.  This Sunday we'll learn why the Magi traveled to see Jesus, investigate the same evidence they discovered, and we'll come to worship the Messiah, the one and only Son of God.  You're invited to join us as we worship Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (traditional worship) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary worship).  This Advent, "Come to the Manger" and discover the meaning and purpose of Christ's birth for your life!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 @ 3:47 PM

I am excited about our Christmas worship theme at First Baptist Riverside: "Come to the Manger."  God invites us to come to the manger and encounter the living Christ.  As far as I am concerned, the Incarnation, that God became a human being, one of us, and lived among us, is the greatest miracle in human history.  Without Jesus coming to earth in a human body, we would be without the best revelation of God there is, there would be no forgiveness of sin, no relationship with a holy God, no salvation, no hope of eternal life.  Nothing Jesus did for us could have happened if he wasn't first born in Bethlehem some 2,020 years ago.

This Sunday I'll be preaching on "The Humble Come." Think about the humility that is present in the Christmas story.  The baby Jesus left heaven to come to the manger.  Joseph and Mary were humble people, they were not nobility, even if they were the parents of the king.  The location was humble, Jesus was born in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem, not in a palace in Jerusalem.  The mode of transportation was humble.  We think of Mary, nine months pregnant riding on a donkey, but it doesn't say she road a donkey anywhere in Scripture.  She most likely walked.  The shepherds were the itinerant farm laborers of the day, a humble profession.

If we want to have an encounter with the living Christ, we must come to the manger humbly.  We don't come arrogantly, making demands of Jesus.  We come humbly to understand who he is, what he did for us, and the hope we have in life because we know him.  Jesus is our Lord and we come to prostrate ourselves before him and worship him.  If you want to encounter the living Christ this Christmas, you must come to the manger humbly.

I invite you to join us this Sunday, and the weeks ahead, for a life-changing series of message challenging you to "Come to the Manger."  This Sunday be one of the humble who come.  We worship Sundays at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).  We hope you'll choose to spend your Christmas with us - but more importantly that you'll spend it at the Manger with Jesus.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Monday, November 19, 2018 @ 9:12 PM

Jonah and the Whale is one of the great stories in the Bible.  It's the only part of Jonah's story most people know.  But it's not the most important part of the story.  The rest of the story tells us how God changed Jonah's life and saved a nation.  It's a story of hope.  

This Sunday, to conclude our sermon series "Find Hope on the Hill," we'll hear from Jonah about how he survived three days in the whale's stomach and how God miraculously saved him.  We'll find out that Jonah finally did what God wanted him to do in the first place and how Jonah's ministry saved many people.  Finally Jonah will explain how God changed his mind, changed his prejudices, changed his attitudes and helped him to understand the miracle of grace.

I hope you'll join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday as we learn the lessons Jonah learned about God and his love.  When you understand the message behind the book of Jonah it will change the way you think about God and others.  We worship every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary).  Hope to see you on The Hill.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 15, 2018 @ 7:53 AM

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite religious holidays.  I endeavor to thank God daily for the good things he does for me, but I know I overlook many things.  For me, thanksgiving is the one time a year when I can reflect on my life and realize God's goodness, how he meets my needs, answers my prayers, forgives my sins and saves me from disaster.  In the busyness of life, I don't always take time to think about all the spiritual blessings that are mine because God is in my life.  How can I remember all that God does and give thanks throughout the year?

God taught Joshua and the people of Israel a great way to remember his goodness.  As Israel was ready to cross from the Wilderness into the Promised Land, God stopped the waters of the Jordan River from flowing so the people could walk over on dry ground.  God instructed Joshua to have a leader from each of the twelve tribes to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan River.  When they reached the other side, Joshua would pile those stones up on the bank of the river.  This pile of stones would serve as a memorial to remind Israel what God had done for them in that place.  When their children asked, "Why are those stones here?" their parents could tell them the story of how God stopped the waters of the Jordan River (during the spring floods) and helped the people enter the land he had promised to give them.

We need to gather some stones and build memorials in our lives.  We need memorials to trigger our memories and remind us of the goodness of God.  What can we set up to remind us of the significant things God has done for us so that we can give thanks and build up our faith?  We have some observances like Christmas, Easter, the Lord's Supper that help us remember the goodness of God.  But what other reminders can we set up in our lives, in our homes, to remember God's goodness on a daily basis?

This Sunday our congregation at First Baptist Riverside will celebrate Thanksgiving and remember the goodness of God.  We'll build a pile of stones to remind us of the good things God done for us.  Each person will receive their own stone, and on that stone, write one thing of particular importance that they want to give thanks to God for.  They'll take that stone home, to keep on their dining room table (or in some other prominent place) as a "memorial" while they celebrate Thanksgiving.

I hope you'll join us for this meaningful worship service.  This Sunday will be a celebration for our whole church family and guests at 9:00 a.m. (one combined worship service for everyone).  I hope you'll join us and give God the glory for the good things he has done!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 @ 5:25 PM

Church leaders strive to achieve transparency and integrity.  There's a lot going on at First Baptist Riverside right now with plans to change the church's name, make improvements to our property in the next few months, and changes resulting from a strategic planning (StratOps) that is challenging us to proclaim the good news to a new generation.  I'm sure this has left some of you a little confused, wondering what the future will look like.

This Sunday, I've titled my sermon "Let's Talk."  I'll talk to you about what you can expect to experience at First Baptist Riverside (DBA - doing business as) "Church on the Hill," in the months ahead.  I'll explain the choices we face and the consequences of those choices.  I'll also lead a panel discussion with our StratOps team leaders as they describe some of our future plans.  If you care about First Baptist (THE HILL), you will want to be here at our worship services at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).

One of the Scripture texts I'll use Sunday is Psalm 71:17-18.  The psalmist writes, "I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.  Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."  The Christian faith is always one generation away form extinction.  If we fail to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the next generation, the Christian faith will become a relic of the past.

First Baptist Riverside has been serving God in Riverside for 144 years because we've always made it a priority to proclaim God's mighty acts to the next generation.  Now we're faced with the next challenge.  Will we declare God's power to the millennials and Generation Z (the generation after the millennials)?  If we don't, our church will cease to exist in the not too distant future.  It's our choice.  This Sunday find out what the options are and choose to be part of the solution God has set before us.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 @ 7:08 PM

“Our Message of Hope” is one many people today are longing to hear.  We’re living through a time of renewed hate and intolerance in America.  Our economy is volatile, causing anxiety about the future.  Natural disasters, global warming and reports of new diseases stoke fear.  On top of that we have all the normal problems life brings with it.

“Our Message of Hope” is the good news of God who created us for a purpose, he values us, calling us to be his children.  God so loves us, he gave his one and only Son to forgive our sins, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  You matter to God.  He wants you to spend eternity with him in heaven.  He calls you to be part of his work and to make an eternal difference in the lives of the people you know.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

We want others to hear “Our Message of Hope.”  The hope we have in the Lord needs to be at the heart of every ministry of our church.  When people come to worship, attend a class or group, go through youth or children ministry, they should leave with their hope renewed and an increased faith in God.

Jesus tells us to share “Our Message of Hope” with the people in our lives.  We call these people our “oikos,” family, friends, neighbors, and people we know at work, school or in our community.  God has placed us into the lives of these people, so they’ll have someone to tell them about God’s love and what Jesus did to save them.  The question is, are you sharing the message of hope with the people who are depending on you, so they can hear it?

This Sunday we’ll learn more about “Our Message of Hope” and how to share the good news.  Lives hang in the balance of us doing what Jesus has called us to do.  Those lives belong to the people most important to us: parents, children, siblings, friends…  I hope you understand the importance of our message.  Join us for worship Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary) and let’s figure out how to change our world with the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, October 26, 2018 @ 9:55 AM

Halloween has become a major cultural event in America.  "Day of the Dead" is a similarly important event for many Latino's.  Both events occur at the end of October and focus on death and the spirit world.  As Christians we don't have to worry about any of that.  We have the assurance of salvation and our future is secure because of our faith in Jesus Christ.  When we die, our spirit will leave our body, not to haunt anyone, but to immediately go to be with Jesus and experience the joy of heaven and a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Our theme in worship this Sunday is "Light the Night."  We'll take the darkness out of Halloween and celebrate the light of Jesus Christ and the hope we have for the future.  If you want to know more about our Christian hope of eternal life, join us Sunday at First Baptist at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).

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