Integrity on Display

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:15 PM

Integrity is a rare and precious quality in the world today.  You don't have to look very far into politics and the business world to find leaders who lack basic integrity, who are even downright crooked.  Even among Christians there are people who bring shame to the cause of Christ because of their words and actions.  People are tempted to cheat and cut corners, they're rude or bigoted, because they think everybody is doing it, so it must be okay.

Coach Tony Dungy writes, "Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; its doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage."  Those are very similar to the words of the wise man in Proverbs 11:3, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."  Eventually our deeds will find us out.  That means if we want to have a reputation for integrity, we've got to practice integrity all the time, in public and in private.

In worship this Sunday we will learn about the importance of integrity.  My sermon title is "Integrity on Display," based on Acts 24 where Paul is put on trial before Felix, the Roman governor of Palestine.  All the evidence points to Paul's integrity in his life and ministry, even though we won't find the word "integrity" mentioned anywhere in chapter 24.  Imagine the damage Paul would have done to the early church and to himself if he had ever acted without integrity.

We are Christ's witnesses and ambassadors in the world.  Everything we say or do impacts our message.  If we live with integrity, seeking to honor God and following his directions for our lives, our message is enhanced and has power.  If we lack integrity our witness is destroyed and the cause of Christ suffers.  It is essential that we, as followers of Christ, live with integrity.

I want to invite you to come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday where we'll learn about how to live a life with "Integrity on Display."  Our traditional worship service is at 9:00 a.m. and our contemporary worship service is at 10:45 a.m. 

People of the Resurrection Hope

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:55 PM

Do you have hope?

This Sunday we'll continue our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive" in Acts 23.  The Apostle Paul stands trial before the Sanhedrin and throws the proceedings into turmoil when he says, "I stand on trail because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead." (Acts 23:6b)  Like Paul we are "People of the Resurrection Hope."  As Christians, we believe that when our time on this earth is done Jesus will raise us to eternal life with God in heaven.  What a wonderful hope that is!

This Sunday my sermon will be about the resurrection hope that we anticipate.  In America today there are many ideas about the afterlife.  Some people don't believe in eternal life.  They believe human beings exist as a result of thousands of random evolutionary changes, there is no God and there is no afterlife.  Other people are very concerned about eternal life and how to receive it.  They think they'll go to heaven if they live a good life.  They think their loved ones are looking down on them from heaven.  How does the Christian's resurrection hope differ from these ideas?

Many people are fearful that at the end of life they'll be judged by God.  They're aware of their sins and fear God will be angry with them.  They don't understand the concept of forgiveness and the all-sufficient grace of Jesus Christ.  I'll talk about what we can do to stand before the judgment seat of God with a good conscience.  We want to be confident that when we meet Jesus (God) at the end of life that we will hear him says those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!  Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:23)

If you want to know how you can be among the "People of the Resurrection Hope," come and worship with us this Sunday.  On our website you'll find information about our church and directions to our campus.  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We would love to share with you the confidence we have in the resurrection and eternal life.

What Do You Have to Say?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:05 PM

One of the lessons we've learned from our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive!" is that we are Jesus' witnesses to the people we know and love right here where we live.  The theme verse for the Book of Acts is Acts 1:8, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  We are Jesus' witnesses here in our Jerusalem.

The good news is that we all have something important to say about what we've learned about Jesus and our own personal experience with him.  People you know want to know if your relationship with Jesus is real and what your faith has done for you.  If your faith story is told with enthusiasm and conviction, they may be willing to give Jesus a chance in their lives.

Our Scripture text for this Sunday's message is Acts 21:37-22:16.  Paul was arrested in the temple after being attacked by the crowd.  He asks the commander's permission to speak to the people and receives permission.  Paul tells them about how he encountered Christ and how Jesus called him into a life of faith and service.  This was Paul's story and he was glad to tell it to anyone who would listen.

Paul told his story to a crowd that wanted to kill him.  We have to good fortune to be able to tell our story to people who know us and love us.  We tell it to folks who know how we live, who are familiar with our values and know that our faith is important to us.  It's not scary for us to tell our story of faith if we've prepared to tell it and can do so authenticity and transparency.  This Sunday in worship, we'll use Paul's story as a model for telling our story.  To tell our story is something that we need to be ready to do to fulfill our calling as Jesus' witnesses.

We all have a story that's worth telling.  We have something meaningful to say to people we love about how they can enter into a relationship with Jesus.  So join us for worship this Sunday: Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

How to Give and Receive Advice?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:37 PM

Many people are happy to give us advice , but they may not always give us the best advice.  Their advice may be based on what they want us to do rather than what's best for us.  That's the situation we find in Acts 21.  Paul was on his way to Jerusalem.  It's clear to everyone that it will be a dangerous trip, Paul might be arrested or even killed.  So Paul's friends give him advice: don't go to Jerusalem.  The problem is, Paul knows that it's God's will that he go to Jerusalem and that there he will have to suffer for the gospel.

The point is, the best advice for our lives is advice that conforms to God's will.  So the question becomes, "Who do we go to for advice that would most likely be God's will for our lives?"  "When we receive advice, how do we discern if that advice is in fact God's will?"  "How do we know what the best advice is?"

There will also be times when people will come to us for advice.  How do we give advice that is the best advice is for the person we're talking with?  Do we know if we're suggesting something that is God's will for their life?"  As a pastor, people come to me all the time asking me advice about spiritual matters, marriage and family concerns, financial issues along with many other concerns.  How can I steer them in the right direction?

These are all issues we'll be wrestling with this Sunday in worship as we learn about "How to Give and Receive Advice?"  We'd love to have you join us for worship.  Traditional Worship is at 9;00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

 

"Valentine's Day for the Church"

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP4er @ 4:43 PM

I remember back in elementary school when everyone in the class would give and receive valentines. It was an expression of the love of friendship. Valentine’s Day should remind us that we have something very special in church. As Christian we are brothers and sisters in Christ and have spiritual and familial bonds of love with one another. Let’s be sure to express the love we have in the family of God at First Baptist Riverside. 

There are many people who are starving for the love of friendship.  Studies show that 10% of Americans say they don't have a single close friend - that's 32 million people who are lacking a close personal friend. Many others wish they had more friends they could count on.  One of the reasons we invite people to our church is for them to meet Jesus, the best friend they'll ever know.  Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  In the church we will find friends with integrity and commitment who will be closer than a brother.

This Sunday the sermon from Acts 20 is called “Valentine’s Day for the Church.” In Acts 20 we see the outpouring of love the people in the church had for the Apostle Paul. From this passage we'll learn how to make new and lasting friendships and how to be a good friend to others.

On February 12th or some other day in February, tell the people in your life that you love them. Tell you family that you love them.  Tell your friends you love them.  Tell your neighbors you love them.  If you're in a church family, let the people you see know that you’re glad they’re part of your church family and God’s family.  I think this would be a Valentine’s Day tradition that would surely honor God.

The Big Game Strategy

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP6er @ 6:27 PM

This Sunday many of us will watch the Super Bowl.  I've been a football fan for over 50 years.  I can remember watching Super Bowl 2 when the Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland Raiders.  Watching the Super Bowl has been a tradition for me ever since.  The thing that I've noticed over the years is that the team with the best game plan usually wins.  If the defense is prepared and ready for the plays the opposing team runs and the offense catches them off guard, they're going to win the game.  One of the reasons the Patriots are favored this year is because Bill Belichick has a reputation for designing an outstanding game plan against an opponent.

The Bible tells us God's game plan for winning in life.  It's a simple but effective game plan.  Believe in Jesus who died for your sins and rose again and he'll forgive your sins and give you eternal life (Acts 2:38-39).  Winning also means living a life of moral and ethical integrity - God says, "Be holy as I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16)  We are to make disciples, be Jesus' witnesses to the people we know, and be Christ's ambassadors to the world (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).  We are to be a blessing to others (James 2:14-19) and serve the Lord in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  And we're to tithe (Malachi 3:6-12, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15).  If we follow God's game plan, we'll win at life and earn the commendation of our Savior, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." (Matthew 25:21).

Equally important, the church needs to follow God's game plan if it's going to win.  It's said that 90% of churches in America are plateaued or declining.  I would suggest that many, if not most, of those churches are not following the coach's (God's) game plan.  They just keep running the same plays they've run for years, and they don't work anymore.  What is the game plan for the church?  We need to know who the owner is - the church is the body of Christ - he owns it (1 Corinthians 12).  It's not our church - it's his church.  The coach is the Holy Spirit, he guides, directs and empowers the church (Acts 1:4-8).  The goal of the church is to be Jesus witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8), every person we reach for Christ is a touchdown.  We also adhere to the Biblical principle of "justice" as we help the poor, sick, and grieving and resist the evil we see in the world.

I don't want to just do enough to sneak into heaven.  I want to win as a Christian and I want to be part of a winning team: the church.  I want to go into heaven ready to meet my Savior because I've given my life to serve him.  I want to say like Paul, who looked back on his life and said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."  (2 Timothy 4:6-8)  Don't just play the game - win!

It's Always Too Soon to Give Up

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP8er @ 8:49 PM

Life is challenging and following Jesus can be difficult.  We may think about giving up.  I want to encourage you today - Don’t give up!  God can help you.  Our sermon title for Sunday is “It’s Always Too Soon To Give Up.”  No matter what your problems are, if something inside you is telling you to give up, God says, "It's too soon for you to give up."

Our Scripture text for Sunday is Acts 18:1-17.  It's the story of Paul's visit to Corinth when he established a church for the Corinthians.  After Paul preached in the synagogue for several weeks, opposition arose.  His enemies abused him.  The same scenario had recently played out in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.  Paul had to be frustrated and discouraged.  He was ready to give up.  But Paul didn't give up.

Why not give up?  Two important things happened to Paul. First, some of the people Paul had been preaching to came to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  There's almost nothing more thrilling than to see someone you've witnessed to become a follower of Jesus.  The second thing happened - God spoke to Paul.  He told Paul not to be afraid and keep speaking about Jesus.  If Paul would remain faithful to the task he had been given, God would protect him from harm.  This was the divine assurance Paul needed to stay in Corinth and build a healthy church that would share the good news of Jesus throughout the whole region.

What God did for Paul to encourage him and keep him from giving up - God will do for you too.  God is our partner as we go through life and in the various ways we serve him.  So if you have anxieties, cares, worries, things that are keeping you far from God, know that God will act on your behalf.  He will encourage you to never give up and to keep on going.

If you need encouragement, if you're thinking about giving up, if you feel like life is too hard and your challenges are wearing you down, join us for worship and be encouraged.  Come to worship and hear God say, "It's Always Too Soon to Give Up."  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Everyone is welcome.  First Baptist Riverside is located at 5500 Alessandro Boulevard.

Become a Troublemaker

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP6er @ 6:55 PM

My mother was a good Christian woman and didn't raise me to be a troublemaker.  I was taught in Sunday School to be a good boy and not cause trouble.  So imagine my surprise years later when I read the Bible and found out that God wants me to be a troublemaker!  You may have been raised by a godly mother and taught not to be a troublemaker.  If that's the case, it's time to reprogram your brain, because there are times and places where God wants you to cause lots of trouble.

This week in worship we'll continue our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive!"  In Acts 17:6 we read, "But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: 'These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.'"  The enemies of the church are accusing Paul, Silas, Luke, Timothy, Jason and other believers of being troublemakers.  In fact, they were causing trouble all over the world. 

As followers of Jesus Christ you and I are called to be troublemakers all over the world.  However we need to redefine what it means to be a troublemaker.  If your idea of being a troublemaker means to hurt people, destroy property, sin and selfishly do whatever your heart desires - then listen to your mother and don't be a troublemaker.  But if your definition of being a troublemaker is to proclaim Christ to people everywhere, telling them that they need to change their lives and follow Jesus - that's what God has in mind.  If being a troublemaker means living out a radical commitment to Christ that reveals to sinners that the ways of the world are foolish and makes them feel guilty for their sinful ways and question their values - that kind of troublemaker honors God.

Paul and the early followers of Jesus were telling the people in Thessalonica that their idols were useless, they needed to give up their false gods and follow the Lord.  They were preaching the gospel and perceived to be a threat to those in power.  They were not quiet and compliant Christians who did what they were told. They were sold out doing the work God told them to do.  The same should be true of us today.  If we're Christians, we're called to live in a corrupt and evil world and not keep quiet and stay in our place.  We're call to be world-changers.  Instead of being compliant, we have a gospel that calls people to radical lifestyle of following the Lord.

I hope you'll choose to come worship with us this Sunday and learn what it means to "Become a Troublemaker" for Jesus.  We have a Traditional Worship time at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

Listening to God

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:06 PM

God promises, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart"  (Jeremiah 29:13).  God makes himself available to anyone who seeks to have a relationship with him.  Jesus said that seeking God is the key to everything we want in life.  "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).  When we seek God we will encounter him and he'll speak to us and reveal his plans for our lives.

This Sunday, as we continue to study "ACTS: The Church Alive!" in Acts 16 we'll see several examples of God speaking to his people.  In each situations they listened to God and did what he said.  God spoke to Timothy and he became Paul's partner in the gospel ministry.  God spoke to Paul and told him to go to Macedonia to help the people there, and Paul went, establishing some of the great churches in Macedonia and Greece.  God spoke to Luke, and he became Paul's partner in ministry and the author of the "Gospel According to Luke" and "The Book of Acts."  God spoke to Lydia and she and her household became followers of Jesus and in her home the church at Philippi met.  All of this speaking and action takes place in just the first 15 verses of Acts 16

The question for us isn't "Does God speaks?"  God doesn't change.  He continually speaks to his people.  The question is, "Are we listening?"  "Do we know how to listen to what God is saying to us?"  When people tell me that they don't hear from God, I don't think it's because God isn't speaking to them, it's because they're not listening.  So this Sunday in worship I'll use the example of the people whose stories are told in Acts 16 to show us how God speaks and what he says to his people. 

I hope you'll come worship with us this Sunday and learn how to listen to God.  When you hear him, don't ignore him.  If you do what he tells you to do, you will experience God's purpose and meaning for your life, like every person in Acts 16 did.  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  If you can't make it to worship, then go to the online sermons on our website next week and listen and learn how to hear what God is saying to you.

Law vs. Grace

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:54 PM

There has been a constant tension between law and grace among God's people since the time of Jesus.  The church has to decide: are we saved by obeying the Law or are we saved by grace?  The Law points out our failure and makes us realize that we can never please God ourselves.  Grace is what Jesus offers to us because he died on the cross for our sins to save us.

The Christians faith is based on grace.  Paul told the Ephesians, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)   We have a God who loves us so much that he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves - pay our debt of sin.

Unfortunately, at times, the church delivers a mixed message.  We communicate that for someone to be accepted in our fellowship requires a mix of grace and law.  Every church has it's own culture and we expect people to obey our rules if they want to fit in.  We should never make rules that exclude anyone  that Jesus died to save.  Like God, we are to offer grace to those who come to our church who are not familiar with our rules or traditions.

This week in worship we'll resume our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive!" in Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem.  The leaders of the church had to decide what was required for people to be saved and accepted into the community of believers.  Must someone become a Jew (and follow the Jewish law) before they can become a Christian?  Or do Jews and Gentiles have equal access to grace through faith in Christ?  Fortunately the Council of Jerusalem came down on the side of grace.  This Sunday learn how you can receive grace and no longer be judged under the law when you believe in Jesus.  Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

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