Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 @ 11:19 AM

When you read 1 John, you can't help but notice that love has everything to do with our Christian faith.  In 1 John 4:16 we find the ultimate definition of God, "God is love."  In verse 9 John tells us how God shows his love for us, "He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."  Verse 10, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  He goes on in verse 11 and 12, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

God loves you more than you will ever know.  It is impossible to measure the infinite love of God.  His love is unlike any other love we will ever experience.  If you're married you know the love you have for your spouse.  If you're a parent you know the love you have for your children.  But God's love is greater.  God's love is sacrificial.  To save us from our sins, God had to send his only begotten Son to earth to die on a cross.  Jesus is God and he endured the ultimate cruelty for the people he loved.  God's love is generous.  He blesses his people with life, health, provides the things we want and need, he answers our prayers.

What God wants from us is our love, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  God wants our worship and devotion.  God wants us to serve him.  And God wants us to love one another.  One of the ways we show our love for God is to love the other people he has created and loves.

This Sunday we want to invite you to join us for worship and a celebration of God's love for us.  If you haven't put your faith in Jesus and experienced his love, you'll find out all about it this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  Join us for worship at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).  We hope to see you here!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @ 3:30 PM

In Tina Turner's version of the song, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" the answer is nothing.  Love is just a second hand emotion.  When it comes to our Christians faith, "What's Love God to Do With It?" the answer is everything.  1 John 3 tells us that love is the central tenet of our Christian faith.  Jesus taught us how to love by laying his life down for us.  Jesus' death on the cross is the ultimate example of what love is.  John later tells us that "God is love" in 1 John 4.  Love defines the character of God and should define our character if we believe in him.

Love has everything to do with our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  John says that If anyone does not love, they remain in death.  A person who doesn't love their fellow believers is lost in sin and does not have a relationship with God.  Love is not just some ethereal idea, it must be put into action.  John says in verse 17, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?"  We must put our love into action.

John is writing about love in the context of our church family.  "Do we love one another in our church family?"  The North African theologian Tertullian, in the second century, imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . .  how they love one another... and how they are ready to die for each other.”  Love is what set the Christian church apart from every other religious group.  Is that true of us today?

Join us for worship this Sunday and learn "What's Love God to Do With It?"  What does love for your brothers and sisters in Christ got to do with living the Christian faith?  How do we put such love into action?  Our services are at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).  Hope to see you there.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

We live in difficult times.  Weekly we hear news of the next natural disaster: Hurricane Florence in the Carolina's, typhoons in Japan, an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.  Politics in America has become a zero sum game, one side can win only if the other side loses, so there is no willingness to compromise, no working together for the common good.  Terrorism continues to spread throughout the third world and often overflows into the first world.  Here at home we have conflict spawned "Black Lives Matter" and the "#Me Too" movements.  In the midst of this confusion the church is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus and offer hope to a world where people are fearful.

In 1 John 2:18 the author tells us we're living in the "last hour."  He wrote that over 1900 years ago.  We've been living in the "last hour" since Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  Jesus can return to earth to establish his kingdom at anytime.  John says that in the "last hour" there will be hardship and tribulation for the church.  Our job as Christians is to "Stay the Course," follow Jesus and be faithful to the calling Jesus has given to his church.

John says that in the "last hour" there will be "antichrists" (in fact many antichrists), people who will not accept both the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God.  There are many who are opposed to Christ.  One example is Mormons who do not accept the pre-existence of Jesus as divine Son of God.  Another example are the many people who have a fuzzy view of "God" (example: the new TV series "God Friended Me") who have no strong theology of Christ who is the only one able to lead us to a relationship with God.

In worship this Sunday we'll talk about what it means to be Christians in the "last hour" in a world filled with many "antichrists."  How can we have a deep and resilient faith in troubling times?  How can we be a witness for Christ and a light to the world?  How can we be a force for good and for God surrounded by the  evil of this day?

We would love for you to join us in worship as we grapple with these issues of faith and devotion to Christ.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. on Sundays and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

New Church Name: “Church on THE HILL”

Posted by Connie Senturier on Sunday, September 30, 2018 @ 12:34 PM

Six months ago, on March 11, our congregation voted 90-7 to consider a new name for our church. Over 50 suggestions of names were given by the congregation to the Board of Deacons. Deacons and Staff have had numerous discussions about the new name and spent considerable time in prayer as a group and individuals seeking God’s guidance. When we decided to participate in the StratOps Strategic Planning process, we decided to wait to see if that process would help us identify a name.

 The consultant who helped with StratOps also helped us with the new name. He taught us two maxims for choosing a church name:

#1 “Choose a name you can define, not a name that defines you.”

#2 “Maximize opportunities and minimize obstacles.”

He taught us our existing name is a huge obstacle for many people to overcome before ever considering if they will come to our church. There are too many “Baptists” in the news that do not represent us but define us in the eyes of others. We need a name we can define.

The name “Church on the Hill” identifies our location in the city, we are on a hill. When I tell people about our church they’ll often say, “Oh, that’s the church on the hill on Alessandro.” Yep. In our publicity and outreach materials we will be known as “The Hill.” Come find hope on “The Hill.” Meet Jesus on “The Hill.”

We will use a DBA for the new name, “The First Baptist Church of Riverside doing business as ‘Church on the Hill.’” So, think about it, pray about it. See if God leads you as he led us in this process. We’ll have a Q and A time next Sunday at 12:10 in the Legacy Room for anyone who wants to talk about it.

There will be a Special Congregational Business Meeting on Sunday, October 14 at 12:10 in the Legacy Room for congregational approval. After that, it will be a three-month process of changing our name, signs, website, letterhead, email, etc., etc., etc. and then roll out the new name around the first of the year.

Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement through this process.

Pastor Joe                                                                                                       



Posted by Connie Senturier on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 @ 4:46 PM

We have different ways to measuring ourselves to know if we're growing or healthy.  We can measure our height, stand on a scale to measure our weight, we measure our blood pressure, and various blood tests to measure a whole array of things.  But how do we measure ourselves to know if we're healthy or growing in our faith in Christ?  In 1 John 1 the author gives us several ways to measure how we're doing in our relationship with Jesus.

"The Measure of a Christian" is something every believer should be concerned about.  We're quite obsessed about measures of our height, weight and health factors that tell us how our physical body is doing.  But all of us will eventually have a heart rate that falls to zero and what's left is our relationship with Jesus.   That relationship determines our spiritual health now and our eternal destiny.

I hope you'll worship with us at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday and learn about "The Measure of a Christian" and the spiritual measurements that will determine your spiritual health and future.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  REMEMBER, THIS SUNDAY OUR BOARD WILL REVEAL THE NEW NAME FOR OUR CHURCH!  Find out what the new name is and what the approval process will be.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 4:16 PM

This Sunday is the beginning of a new sermon series I'll preach on 1 John, an amazing letter from the disciple Jesus loved.  John's letter is built on the premise that "God is Love" (1 John 4:7-21).  This is an awesome letter and teaches us about the grace and goodness of God and the importance of loving God and loving one another.

This Sunday's sermon is "Walking in the Light."  John begins his letter with the bold statement, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all"     (1 John 1:5).  Darkness symbolizes evil because evil blinds us from God and keeps us from seeing the truth.  The darkness of sin disqualifies us from having a healthy relationship with God.  That's why we choose to put our faith in Jesus, who "purifies us from all sin"  (1 John 1:7).  Only by believing in Jesus and accepting his sacrifice on the cross for our sins allows us to walk in the light.

If we know and love God, then we will choose to walk in the light.  Walking in the light means obeying God, following the example of Jesus, avoiding selfish and sinful choices that dishonor God.  We love God so much for what he has done for us that we choose to serve God and live a life that is pleasing to him.  Giving up our sinful ways is no sacrifice, because we know that walking in the light will lead to a happy, satisfying and purpose-filled life.

I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday and the next four weeks as we learn from 1 John about the love and grace of God.  This Sunday we'll discover what we must do to "Walk in the Light" and please God.  Our worship schedule is Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 @ 12:56 PM

This Sunday is the second part of a two-week sermon series called, "Christianity is a Team Sport."   The Christian faith was not designed for Lone Rangers.  We need each other.  Last week we invited anyone who'd like to "Be On Our Team" to join us.  All are welcome.  But it's not enough to just be on the team.  God expects us to "Get in the Game."  There's no reason to be on the team if we don't get in the game.

Every person who professes faith in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit.  God takes up residence in our lives.  He gives each of us spiritual gifts, talents and abilities we need to be able to play our position and serve him.  In football, every player on offense and defense has a specific assignment on every play.  They must have the God-given ability, as well as master the the skills necessary to do what is expected of them.  So it is in the church.  We are to serve the Lord together, each of us using our unique God-given ability and the skills we have learned to share our faith with others, to teach a class or lead a small group, to be a leader, to serve in a ministry, whatever God wants us to do.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul gives a similar example of the church being the body of Christ.  Every part that makes up a human body has a role, a job that it is to perform.  When all the parts of the body are carrying out their task, the body works like a well-oiled machine.  But if one part of the body doesn't do it's job, the whole body is handicapped, or the body may even die.  Likewise, the church, when everyone is doing their job, is able to do great things for God.  But if some parts are not working, then the body is handicapped and unable to do what God asks of it.  

That's why we every Christian who is on God's team needs to get into the game.  If someone doesn't play their role, not only are they letting down the coach (God), but they're letting down their teammates as well.  When one person doesn't do their job, all the other members of the team try to compensate by doing more than is expected of them, but that leads to burnout and discouragement.  

Serving God in the church or in the community takes time and energy, it may require sacrifices and we may endure opposition.  That's why many people refuse to serve.  They say they're too busy, they don't have time, they can't do what's asked of them.  We need to remember the sacrifice Jesus made to save us and think about what our fate would be if Jesus didn't suffer and die for our sins.  What would our future look like if Jesus didn't come to save us because he was too busy, didn't have time, it was too hard or because he had to endure opposition.  We are called to be a contributing member of the team because we owe our lives to Jesus. 

We also need to remember that others are counting on us.  If we're unwilling to serve God and others, there are people who may never hear the gospel message and be saved.  A ministry that might touch another person's life might never happen.  A believer may not grow in their faith and be able to serve others because we did not teach them or mentor them.  If we don't get in the game it will affect the lives of many people.

Join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside and learn how to "Get in the Game."  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We hope to see you here!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Life is at it's best when we live it with people who will love, encourage and support us.  Jesus envisions the church to be a spiritual family with God our Father and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Apostle Paul tells us that the church is to be a place where we encourage one another and build each other up.  In the church we enjoy fellowship with others, pray for each other and work together.  These relationships are precious, but rare in our hectic, individualistic culture.

This Sunday is Kickoff Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  This week marks the restart of all of our small groups and classes for the fall.  It's in our small groups and classes that we do life with people we can know well and be known by.  Together we learn about our faith, provide spiritual support and serve God together.  We also build strong friendships.  In these smaller groupings we truly are a spiritual family, encouraging one another and praying for one another.

This weekend the NFL season kicks off, it's Kickoff Sunday at FBR and my message is "Be On Our Team."   We all had those awkward moments in school when teams were chosen and we were left out.  God selects each of us to be important members of his team.  He wants you on his team and at First Baptist we want you on our team.  You matter and have an important role to play.  On God's team you'll never be cut or traded, you're on his team for life.  As teammates we work together and have each other's back.  On Sunday I'll talk about how God wants his team (the church) to operate and what our role is on the team.

If you're looking for a place where you can investigate the Christian faith, connect with people who'll care for you and grow in your faith, you can experience that at First Baptist.  I hope you'll join us for worship on Kickoff Sunday.  We'll have a combined worship celebration for our entire congregation at 9:00 a.m. followed by Brunch in the Fellowship Hall at 10:30.  It's fun to be on a team and we want you to be on our team, so come and check out First Baptist.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, August 30, 2018 @ 2:27 PM

There are times when people feel the need for power beyond themselves to help them faces challenges in their lives.  I have a friend who is an unbeliever, yet when he was recently facing surgery, he asked me to pray for him.  I don't think he believes in the power of prayer, he just felt better knowing someone was praying for him.  I have a family member living in Maui.  She isn't a Christian.  The recent hurricane was bearing down on Maui, ready to hit her side of the island.  She texted that she was praying for the hurricane would weaken.  I didn't know she believed in prayer and who she might be praying too.  But in times of trouble we know we need divine help.

If unbelievers pray in their times of need, how much more should we Christians, who know God and have experienced answers to our prayers, turn to God when we face challenges.  That's the message in James 5.  If we're in trouble, we should pray.  When we're sick, we should pray.  When we sin, we should pray.  But there's more.  James says we should pray for one another.  Prayer is something we do in community.  There's power when we join to pray for each other.

The question for worship this Sunday, as we wrap up our summer study of James, is, "How do we go about creating a community of prayer where we pray for one another?"  James says that if someone is sick, to call the elders (the leaders and spiritually mature people in the church) and they will pray for the one who is sick.  How do we go about providing that ministry to every person who is part of our church family?

I have a dream for First Baptist, that we would have a prayer ministry where everyone in our church family would know they're prayed for and that they would have the opportunity to pray for others.  When someone is sick we'll gather around and lay hands on them, anoint them with oil and pray.  My dream is of a church where we pray individually and gather together in groups to pray for God to guide, bless and transform our church to serve him in powerful ways in our community.

I believe in the power of prayer to help people in need, to empower churches to do amazing ministry, and to change the world.  Let us commit ourselves as believers to pray and see how God answers our prayers and works in our lives and church.  If you'd like to know more about the power of prayer and how you can be part of a praying community, come to worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship)  or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).  We'll discover how all of us are standing in the need of prayer.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 @ 1:43 PM

I'm a planner.  I have plans for my life, for improvements I want to do around the house, for what I'd like to accomplish this week, this month, this year.  We all make plans, but we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.  Something could happen that will change all my plans in a second.  The recent scare I had with cancer could have changed everything I had planned.  We learn in James 4:13-17 to be humble and to hold on to our plans lightly.  In fact, it will be better for me if I seek God's will and attempt to follow his plans.

"God Has a Plan!"  God has a plan for my life and for yours.  He has a plan for the church and the world and for eternity beyond this world.  The good news is that God's plan is good.  His plans are better than mine.  God knows the future.  He knows the opportunities that will come my way.  If I'm wise, I'll seek to understand and follow God's plan.

How do I discover God's plan?  The place to start is to have a clear understanding from Scripture of how God expects me to live and the values he wants me to have.  Prayer plays an important role as we seek God's guidance in the day-to-day choices we make.  We need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit who guides us in the decision-making process.  Understanding our spiritual gifts will help us to know how God wants us to serve him.  All of these spiritual resources help us to know and follow God's plans as we make decisions about marriage, family, career and the things we're going to do.

We also need to remember God's plans for us are eternal.  We cannot limit God by what he gives us to do in this lifetime.  God's plan for us includes having faith in Jesus, our sins forgiven, our relationship with God restored and eternity in a heavenly home.  Jesus is a planner, for he has planned and prepared a place for us in the Father's house forever (John 14:2).

God has a plan and his plans are always good.  His plan is better than any plan we'll make for our lives.  So humble yourself before God and allow him to lead and direct you into the future he has planned.  Our theme in worship this Sunday is "God Has a Plan!" based on James 4:13-17 and 5:7-12.  Join us at First Baptist to learn more about God's plan for your life at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship).

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