Listen Up!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 4:28 PM

James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."  Those words contain amazing wisdom when it comes to our relationships with family and friends.  How many relationships between husband and wife and parents and children have blown up because we speak too quickly?  We may get angry and say something we regret.  We may say something and the other person is hurt or becomes angry at us.  How many times in the heat of a disagreement do we not listen to what the other person is saying because we're thinking about our comeback?  Many of these problems  might be avoided if we learn to really listen to others and are sensitive to their feelings.

Our summer sermons series on the "Letter of James" is called "Real Faith / Real Life."  Nothing could be more relevant or practical for our human relationships than what James tells us at the end of chapter 1.  We all struggle with communication to some extent.  The problem seldom is in expressing ourselves, it's in listening.  I hope you'll join us in worship this Sunday to learn how to become a better listener.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

We'll also discover this Sunday that listening is important in our relationship with God.  We listen to God by reading the Bible.  We listen to God in worship, because he says that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is with us.  We listen to God when we pray, if in addition to telling God the things we want to tell him, we meditate and take time to listen to what he is saying to us.  We listen to God in our small groups of believers, become God can speak to us through the words of other spiritually mature people.

James tells us it's not enough just to listen to God, when we hear from him, we've got to do what he says.  If we don't do what God says, what good is that?  On Sunday I'll have more to say about how we can listen to God and then take what we hear and put it into action.  That's the secret to having a great friendship with God.  I hope we'll see you at worship this Sunday.   

Deceived!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 3:46 PM

In this week's study of the New Testament Letter of James, we learn that Satan's goal is to deceive God's people.  He tells us that if some-thing bad happens, it's God's fault.  When we're tempted and we make bad choices, blame God because he is the one who tempted us.  Neither of those things is true, but Satan is the master liar.  He is the Deceiver!

God doesn't tempt us because there is nothing evil about God.  God is good.  If we're tempted, it's Satan who tempts us or our own evil desire (our human nature) at work within us.  God can use our times of temptation to test us, to see if we're growing in our faith and getting strong.  But he doesn't need to tempt us because there is plenty of temptation in our lives already.

Often times when bad things happen to us, we blame God.  Again, this is the work of Satan the deceiver.  He wants to convince us that God is bad and that we should not follow him.  Insurance companies call tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes "acts of God."  When a  loved one dies we say, "Why did God take that person away from me?"  If we get sick, we might blame God for that too, "How could God let this happen to me?"  Bad things are not from God.  Bad things happen because we live in an evil world.  God didn't create an evil world.  He created a world where everything was good.  It's our sin that brought evil, sickness and death into the world.  Don't blame God for the bad things in your life.  Sometimes God uses the bad things in life to help us grow, but that doesn't mean he makes bad things happen.

If we don't buy into Satan's deceptions, we'll discover that God gives us good things.  In James 1:17 we read, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...."  We need to give God credit for all the good things he does for us.  All good gifts come from him (James 1:17a), God is always reliable (James 1:17b), and he saves us (James 1:18).  Give God the honor due his name!

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn how to overcome Satan's deceptions and recognize God for the loving and good God he is.  I hope you'll join us for a great time of worship at either 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).  Don't let Satan trick you.  He is our adversary, not our friend.

REAL FAITH / REAL WEALTH

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 @ 3:28 PM

We continue our summer sermon series on the New Testament Letter of James.  James uses more of his letter to address wealth and how we treat the rich and the poor than any other topic.  We'll cover three different passages related to wealth in James 1:9-11, 2:1-12, and 5:1-6.  We spend a lot of time thinking about money and wealth.  Will we ever have enough to be secure?  Can I buy the things I want?  If I buy those things, will they make me happy?  Should I expect people to treat me differently if I'm wealthy?  If I have money, what responsibility do I have to God and his church?  How should I relate to the poor?

We can easily pay too much attention to money.  Money can be an idol to us.  Paul told Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10).  Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

James teaches us that wealth, even among Christians, can make us proud and cause us to treat the less fortunate as second class citizens.  He challenges the leaders of the church to evaluate themselves, are they showing favoritism over the poor?  He tells us that we should treat all people with equality.  Finally James condemns the rich who oppress the poor and do not pay their employees the wages they deserve.

We live in a materialistic culture.  If we want to please God, we should not attribute more value to money than it deserves.  One day we will die and leave behind all the wealth we've accumulated on earth.  When we get to heaven, the money we have here will be of no value.  May we not earn condemnation because we overvalued money or wealth in this lifetime.  We should also remember that the sin of injustice and mistreating the poor is the most common sin condemned in Scripture.  Let us make sure, in a paraphrase of Dr. Martin Luther King, that we "not judge others by the color of their skin or the wealth they possess, but by the content of their character."

This Sunday, come learn what James teaches about "Real Faith / Real Wealth" at First Baptist Riverside.  Our Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

RECIPE FOR JOY

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 @ 6:44 PM

This Sunday marks the start of our summer sermon series on "James: Real Faith. Real Life."  James is filled with wisdom for living a successful life and honoring God in the process.  Join us for worship every Sunday from now through Labor Day to unlock the wisdom of God's word for your life.

This  Sunday's message starts with James promising his readers "pure joy."  We all long for joy.  We want our lives to be happy and fulfilled and we want to have a good relationship with God.  But the "Recipe for Joy" reminds us that joy is not just a feeling, it's an attitude and way of life.  We all face challenges in life, and if we're not careful those struggles will steal our joy.  However, by having faith in God and the right attitude, we can have joy even during life's most challenging times.

I've experienced many difficult times in my life, times of illness and surgeries, depression, the loss of loved ones.  None of us are immune from these events.  However, these events haven't caused me to lose my joy or the hope I have in the Lord.  It's because I have faith in Jesus that I'm able to get through tough times.  My faith has grown stronger through the tough times.  In fact, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship I have with other believers that makes my joy complete.  If God can give us joy with all the challenges we face on this earth, imagine what our joy in heaven will be like.

This Sunday, we'll learn some things about joy you may not have thought about before.  God is full of surprises and new things we need to learn.  I hope to see you Sunday when we'll discover what joy is really like as we add the ingredients that make up the "Recipe for Joy."  You're invited to our Traditional Worship Service at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship Service at 10:45 a.m.

WHEN WE DO WRONG - JESUS RESCUES!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 3:38 PM

We've been having a wonderful time this week at Vacation Bible School.  The theme is "Shipwrecked" and the lesson each night is that when we're lonely... when we worry... when we struggle... when we do wrong... - Jesus rescues!  These are all very practical issues young people wrestle with and it's good to know that Jesus cares about us and rescues us.  He's always there in our times of need.

This Sunday in worship , you'll see some of what happened this week in Vacation Bible School.  In my sermon I will tell the story of Dismas, the thief on cross next to Jesus.  Dismas did a lot of things in his life that were very wrong.  He found himself hung to a cross to pay for his mistakes.  But in Jesus he found a man who claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, who was loving and compassionate.  Dismas asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom.  Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise."  In the last minutes of his life, Dismas turned to Jesus in faith, and found his sins forgiven and he was saved.

All of us have done a lot of wrong things in this life. We rebel against God, doing things we know we shouldn't do and not doing things God has clearly told us to do.  We've hurt other people, maybe even those we love the most.  We're selfish and do what we want even when we know it isn't right.  None of us deserve forgiveness.  None of us are good enough in this lifetime to deserve to be saved.  However, at any point in our lives, if we turn to Jesus, confess our sins, and put our faith in Jesus, he forgives us and saves us.  What a wonderful promise!

Even Christians do wrong things.  We feel guilty and unworthy to receive God's grace.  When that happens we need to hear once again the message of hope and salvation.  if Jesus could forgive Dismas for the things he did wrong, he can and will forgive us.  If you're looking for hope and encouragement, you'll find it this Sunday when we worship at First Baptist Riverside.  Join us at our Traditional Worship (hymns and choir) at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship (worship team and praise music) at 10:45 a.m. 

A GREAT FATHER

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 3:07 PM

This Sunday we honor our fathers and give thanks for their love and the things they taught us.  No human father is perfect.  We try to be the best husband and father as possible, and then we rely on the grace of God and the forgiveness of our wife and kids when we fall short.  Fathers who love their children and stay involved in their lives are worthy of respect and honor.  Father's Day is a great time to honor our dads and or to remember our dads if they're no longer with us.

The Bible has some examples of great fathers.  This Sunday we'll look at three fathers in the  New Testament that can be held up as role models of what a good father looks like.  If you're a father or grandfather, in the message this Sunday, you'll learn about some of the qualities a great father figure can aspire to develop.  I hope you'll worship with us as we gather in a combined worship service for Father's Day at 9:00 a.m. and then go out and spend the day honoring your father and loving on your family.

Fatherhood is a high calling because we're taught in the Bible that God is our Father.  God is a perfect father, the only perfect dad who has ever existed.  So as fathers, we follow his example.  We make it a high priority to honor God on this Father's Day because he has been a good Father to us.  He is gracious, loving, and forgiving.  God is a Father who is always there for his children when we need him and we can talk to him anytime we want to.   He encourages us and gives us hope.  He is patient with us.  God provides every good gift to his children.  God is a Father that we should devote our lives to loving and serving.  So this Sunday, honor your dads, and worship God your Father and acknowledge him as your Savior and Lord.

A MESSAGE FOR GRADUATES (and anyone else who wants to succeed in life)

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, June 7, 2018 @ 2:29 PM

This Sunday is Graduation Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  We'll celebrate with those in our families and church family who've accomplished an important goal and graduated from 6th grade, middle school, high school or college.  There's a lot of wisdom in Scripture for how to succeed in life, and these young people need to know what God says to them before they move on to whatever the next goal is they'll try to achieve.

All of us want to have successful lives.  God wants that for us too!  When Jesus came to this world, he came so, "That you might have life and have it to the full."  We all want a full life.  Other Bible translations translate a full life as "abundant life."  We want abundant life.  Unfortunately abundant life doesn't come naturally.  There are things God gives us that enable our lives to be full.  Other words for "full" might be meaningful, purposeful, and significant.  That's life!

This Sunday in my sermon I'll talk about three things God tells us we need to do if we want to live full and happy lives.  These the lessons not only apply to graduates, but to all of us who want to succeed in life.  That includes all of us, right?  So join us at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship) to find out how you can be happy and succeed in life.

WHAT'S YOUR PLAN?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 @ 6:50 AM

We all have plans for our lives, things we want to do and the places we want to go. Unfortunately our plans are always fallible and shortsighted.  We make plans based on what we want in the moment and the best information we have right now.  We don't know what the future holds.  And truth be told, we don't know what possibilities could be ours if we could only take the right steps today.  Our plans may be good, but God's plans are better.

When I was a teenager a friend told me, "God has a wonderful plan for your life."  I believed him, and 40 years later I'm more convinced than ever he was right.  God has opened doors, done things, and made things possible for me that I never would have imagined all those years ago.  In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  This promise God made to the Israelite exiles in Babylon is still his promise for  us today. 

God has a plan for your life and mine.  The question is, "How to do we know what God's plan for us?"  There are certain parts of God's plan that we can be absolutely confident in.  God wants us to believe in him and make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives.  God wants us to grow in our faith and live a life that pleases him.  God wants us to serve him and show mercy to others.  These are things we're certain of, and if we don't do them, then we'll never experience the wonder of God's plan for our lives.

In addition to these things, God has much more specific plans for our lives, and this Sunday at First Baptist I'll talk about how we can know his plans.  Many of his plans for our lives can be found in Scripture.  As believers, the Holy Spirit lives in us and reveals more of God's unique and specific plans to us.  Decisions we make every day will affect God's plans for our future, so we pray about them and seek his will.  I hope you'll join us in worship this Sunday at our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m. where I'll talk about things we can do to determine God's plans for our lives.

In the same way God has a plan for our lives, he has a plan for our church.  This weekend our pastoral staff, Deacons and some other's in our church family will be engaged in a strategic planning event guided by consultants from Transformation Ministries.  God has a plan for our church and for our lives that are intertwined and complementary.  Please be in prayer for our church leaders as we seek God's will for our church and for the future of the ministry he has for us in Riverside.

OUR HOPE

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 12:27 PM

This Memorial Day weekend we remember those who fought and died for our freedom.  It is because of these heroes and the sacrifice they made that we are able to enjoy the benefits of living in this wonderful country.

On Memorial Day many of us will pause to remember loved ones who have passed away.  Many of us have experienced the sting of death when someone we cared deeply about died.  Others of us have looked death square in the eye because of a health emergency or a diagnosis of cancer or some other life threatening disease.  The truth is death is a reality we all have to face, whether we're grieving for a loved one or facing our own mortality.  Each of us will one day die unless Jesus returns before then.

There's a depressing thought.  None of us wants to think about death, and yet it's essential we be prepared for it.  The good news is that we can be prepared and there is hope for all of us.  This Sunday I will preach about "Our Hope," the hope we have for salvation and eternal life if we believe in Jesus.  We'll look at the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and remember that Jesus has power over death.  He is, as he said, "I am the resurrection an the life."  If we put our hope in Jesus, then we need not fear death.  In fact, in Jesus we will not know death because the moment we close our eyes in death on this earth we will find ourselves in the presence of Jesus in heaven.

In Jesus Christ we have hope.  We activate that hope by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a man.  After a three year teaching ministry Jesus died on a cross and there paid the price for our sins.  Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he reigns at the right hand of God the Father.  Because of his sacrifice, Jesus has the power to forgive our sins, save us, and give us eternal life.  But you must choose to put your hope in Jesus.  We are saved by grace, salvation is God's gift to us, but that gift is activated by our faith in Jesus Christ.  Believe in Jesus and follow him today.

As a pastor who has performed hundreds of funerals, I want to tell you about an incredible hope you can give to your lived ones before you die.  I talk to so many family members, who when planning a funeral, say, "I don't know if my loved one ever accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior."  Forever they will wonder what happened to their loved one or if they have any hope of seeing that person again in eternity.  Make the decision to put your faith in Jesus today.  Tell your family and friends about your decision.  When you die your celebration of life (your funeral) can be a celebration that is filled with hope that the loss they feel is temporary and that they will see you again in heaven.

If you have questions about life and death and want to know more about "Our Hope," come join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday.  Our Traditional Worship with hymns, organ and choir begins at 9:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Worship led by our worship band is at 10:45.  Discover hope for yourself and for your loved ones this Sunday at First Baptist.

A HEALTHY RHYTHM FOR WORK AND REST

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

In the Biblical account of creation, after making the universe and everything in it the first six days of the week, on the seventh day God rested.  That's a pattern people have followed ever since.   However, in our busy world, we fill all of our days with activity.  We work hard five or six days a week and then play hard on the seventh day.  Eventually that schedule is destined to wear us down.  If we don't get regular Sabbath (weekly) rest, it will take a physical, emotional and spiritual toll.  I think much of the depression and discouragement people deal with is the result of being exhausted.

In Mark 2:27 Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  God's original plan for us includes a regular, weekly time of rest.  But the Sabbath (one day a week) is also set aside to be a day of spiritual enrichment, a time to worship God, study his word, reflect on the meaning of life and see what God has planned for us.  A life spent without reflection often ends up with us busily going nowhere.  A day of Sabbath Rest is as important for our spiritual well-being as a good night's sleep is necessary for our physical well-being.

I hope you'll join us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside as we learn about "The Importance of Sabbath Rest."  We'll have one combined worship service at 9:00 a.m. in Riverside this Sunday, as part of our congregation will be in San Diego at our church's annual Camping Weekend.  Find out how you were designed for Sabbath Rest and what a refreshing Sabbath Rest might look like for you!

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