Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 4:25 PM

The people whose lives are described in Scripture are fascinating.  As I read their stories I like to do character studies, to see if I can get inside their heads and understand what they're thinking and what they're feeling in the moment.  This Sunday, as we bring our study of Genesis to a close, I'm going to preach the message as Joseph reflecting back over the stories in Genesis and the events in his life.  What did Joseph learn, and what did he think about God, based on his life experiences?

My sermon title tells you what I think Joseph discovered - "It's All About God!"  It's a lesson we all need to learn.  Our culture tells us that life is all about us.  It tells us to do whatever we want, go for the gusto, live for today because tomorrow we will die.  But when we know God, we know he created us for a reason.  The most important purpose for our lives comes because God created us as individuals to be his precious children, therefore we are here to live in a relationship with God.  We can't understand life and we have no ultimate purpose in living apart from God. 

God also has a specific plan for each of our lives.  It's a good plan, a plan to prosper us and not harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  Many of the things that happen in our lives are not coincidences, they occur to prepare and position us to be able to achieve God's purposes.  If we don't know God's plan, then we won't understand the significance of these events.  So the question is:  how do we know God's plan for us?  His basic plan for every believer is found in Scripture, that's why it's so important for us to read and study the Bible.  But the rest of his plan is unique to us.  We need to learn to apply what we know of God's will to the circumstances of our lives, and with the wisdom and leading the Holy Spirit supplies we can know God's specific plan for us.  And the specific plan for our lives - it's all about God!

I hope your excited and anxious to discover God's plan for your life.  If you worship with us this Sunday you'll hear Joseph reflect on God's plan for his life and how he discovered what it was.  You're welcome to attend our traditional worship service using hymns and a little more formal style at 9:00 a.m. and our contemporary worship featuring our worship band and informal style is at 10:45 a.m.  We would love to see you in church this Sunday!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 7:56 AM

The Christian faith isn't just about eternal life and getting us into heaven when we die.  God has a great plan for our lives here on earth right now.  Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)  But if we want to have a "full" life, then it is essential that we learn to live right.  Many Christians are not experiencing the fullness of life because they're living the wrong way.

As we continue our study of Genesis in chapter 45, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  If you know the story, you'll remember Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery as a teenager because they couldn't stand his arrogance and bragging and the fact that their father loved Joseph more than them.  But life in slavery and in an Egyptian prison had taught Joseph some important life lessons.  While Joseph reveals himself to his brother, he is a entirely different man than the one they wanted to get rid of years before.

Joseph was now living right!  He had learned to love the people who were in his life.  He was willing to forgive those who wronged him.  He figured out God's plan for his life and was contentedly living out that plan.  Instead of being entitled, Joseph was thankful for everything God had done for him and he lived his life to bless other people.  So many people are unhappy because they have not learned to love and forgive and value their important relationships.  They have no idea what God's plan is for their life and they're living for themselves instead of seeking to serve God and bless others.

If you'd like to learn more about the joy of "Living Right," I hope you'll worship with us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  I'll be speaking in much more detail about the lessons Joseph learned that allowed him to experience the full life God wants for all his people.  You can attend worship at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Service) or at 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Service).  I hope to see you there.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 2:44 PM

In our study of Genesis, the last important character we're introduced to is Joseph.  God reveals in dreams that Joseph is destined for greatness, but his life doesn't start out that way.  Because of his arrogance and bragging, his brothers hate him.  They sell him as a slave into Egypt.  He serves in Potiphar's household until he's unjustly accused of attempting to rape Potiphar's wife.  He's thrown into prison for several years and becomes the warden's servant. 

Joseph becomes known as a man with the insight to interpret dreams, and Pharaoh's has a couple of dreams that perplex him.  In one dream Pharaoh is standing on the bank of the Nile River and out of the river comes seven fat cows followed by seven scrawny cows that then eat the fat cows.  In the next dream Pharaoh sees seven heads of grain, full and good, growing from one stalk.  After them seven other heads sprout that are withered and thin and they swallow up the good heads of grain.  No one can explain Pharaoh's dream until his cupbearer remembers Joseph, who interpreted his dream years before when he was in prison.  Joseph is brought to Pharaoh and interprets the dream as a warning that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.  Joseph explains to Pharaoh what he must do to provide for his people.  To make a long story short, Pharaoh appoints Joseph as administrator over his kingdom to collect food in the good times so there will be food during the famine.  Joseph becomes the second most important person in Egypt after Pharaoh.

The lesson in this story that's important for us is that Joseph learns to serve the Lord in all seasons of his life, in the good times and bad times, during the seasons when he's a nobody and when he's a respected leader in Egypt.  The truth is, we all have various seasons in our lives, in our families, in our careers - things are good or bad or something in between - are we ready in all those seasons to be the person God needs us to be?  This Sunday in my message we'll learn how to serve the Lord wherever we find ourselves in the seasons of our lives.  I hope you'll join us in worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 2:50 PM

This Sunday is April Fools Day.  It's a day people play tricks on one another and then shout, "April Fools!"  This Sunday is also Easter.  What if the story of Jesus' resurrection is God's April Fools joke on us?   Many people question whether Jesus rose from the dead.  The thought of someone who has been dead for three days rising back to life is beyond our human experience.  They say, "That could never happen."  Even in the early days of the Christian movement, Paul says that Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.

But is the resurrection absurd if Jesus is the Son of God?  Doesn't it seem reasonable that God would have power over life and death?  Jesus told his followers that he would die and rise again (Luke 18:31-33).  Jesus' disciples and the women with them were witnesses who testified to seeing Jesus alive after he had been crucified and buried.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us there were over 500 witnesses who saw the risen Christ.  It's not just that they saw him, their lives were transformed  by the resurrection.  The disciples who were afraid and hid when Jesus was arrested, but after spending time with the risen Christ, they went out on the streets of Jerusalem and preached for everyone to hear.  Thomas who had been fearful and a doubter, preached the gospel all the way to India before he was executed.  You don't die for something you're not sure is true!

So the question for us is, how can we know that Jesus has risen from the dead?  For us it's a matter of faith.  We believe the message we have received, knowing that we will never see the risen Christ again until when he returns to earth at the end of time.  In fact, Jesus gave a blessing to all of those who believe, saying to doubting Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).  We accept that the evidence of the Bible and history as adequate for us to believe in the resurrection.

Why does the resurrection matter to me?  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then he is just another man who died and was buried.  He isn't the Son of God and his death is not sufficient to forgive our sins and save us.  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then there will be no resurrection for anyone.  Without Jesus' resurrection, we have nothing to look forward too, no hope of heaven when we die.  But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then he is who he said he was, the Son of God.  He is able to forgive our sins and make us right with God.  He is able to give us life after death and eternity with him in heaven.

This Sunday I hope you'll come worship with us and think through the evidence and the implications of the resurrection as I'll be preaching on "Resurrection: Truth or Fiction."  It may well be that the hope and meaning for life you're looking for can be unlocked when you put your faith in Jesus.  I hope to see you when we worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.  There will be a special children's program both hours, with a Rock and Roll Easter Egg Hunt during halftime between services - have your children to the Fellowship Hall at 10:15 a.m. for them to participate.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 2:53 PM

In Isaiah 53 the prophet tells us what to expect from Jesus hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth.  He tells us in verse 2 that Jesus "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."   The paintings we've seen of a beautiful Jesus or the handsome actors who've portrayed him in movies and television miss the point.  Jesus was a man of the people, a common man, one who is able to understand us.  Isaiah goes on to describe the ugliness of Jesus' crucifixion, the rejection, the beatings, the crucifixion, leaving Jesus looking "like one from whom people hide their faces..." 

But there is a beauty in Jesus we need to see anew as we enter into Holy Week.  What Jesus did for us at Calvary is the most beautiful thing God could ever do for us.  God loves us so much that his own Son left heaven and came to earth to live among us and show us what God is like.  If you want to know God, read the gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, every word and every action are the words and actions of God.  And at Calvary the Son of God suffered and died in our place, paying the penalty for sins we've committed, suffering our punishment for the wrong we have done.  Only a God who truly loves us would endure what Jesus endured to save us.  Jesus' death is a beautiful act of love for us, the most wonderful gift we can receive.

It's available to all of us.  Jesus says if we want our sins to be forgiven, and to have a relationship with God and eternal life, all we must do is put our faith in him.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  When we do confess our sins, we're ready for a relationship with God.  All you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you, and he will.

This Sunday we'll see that with Jesus, beauty is not just skin deep.  He was a beautiful man who put us first and willingly died to save us.  I hope you'll join us for worship in our traditional service at 9:00 a.m. or our contemporary service at 10:45 a.m. to discover "The Beauty of Jesus."  Discover how he can be in your life.

However, Jesus' death is not the end of the story.  On Easter Jesus rose victorious from the grave.  We'll celebrate Jesus' resurrection next Sunday.  Jesus was raised, he ascended into heaven and we'll see the glorified Christ when we get there.  And how will he appear?  John, in the Book of Revelation, sees the glorified Jesus and describes him this way, "Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (Revelation 5:6).  We will see Jesus beautiful in all of his glory, bearing the marks of his sacrifice, so that we'll never forget what he did to save us.  This is the God who we worship, the only God who is able to save us.  Isn't he beautiful!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 6:11 PM

Honesty and integrity seem to be in short supply in America today.  In the last presidential campaign, the average person didn't know who or what to believe.  Each campaign produced misleading advertisements.  In the candidates speeches and debates we discovered they were accomplished liars.  Fact checkers found dozens of statements that we're blatantly and intentionally untrue, or at the very least these statements distorted the truth.  But it's not just a problem in politics.  Businesses use deceptive advertising.  We're told to read the small print, because the large print is misleading.  Unfortunately we've all had experiences where friends and family members lied to us. 

This is not a new problem.  As we continue to learn about Jacob in our "Genesis" sermon series, we find him to be a deceitful man who took pride in tricking others.  This Sunday we'll see he meets his match in Laban.  Laban promises Jacob that he can marry his daughter Rachel if he serves Laban for seven years.  Rachel must have been something because that's a high price!  But on the wedding night Laban sneaks his older daughter Leah into the honeymoon tent and Jacob sleeps with her.  Now Jacob has to work another seven years for Rachel, back in the days when polygamy was practiced.  Jacob didn't learn from his bad experience with a liar, he just doubled down and deceived Laban when Jacob moved his family away.  What's a person to do in a world filled with dishonest people?

We're supposed to be different, that's what we do.  God is truthful.  We can rely on him because he never changes.  He's the same yesterday, today and forever.  Jesus said, "I am the truth."  Jesus embodies the truth.  The Holy Spirit is known as "the Spirit of truth."  As God's people, we are to live by a high standard of honesty and integrity.  Jesus taught that we should be known to be truthful, our "yes" should be "yes," and our "no" should be "no."  You may wonder how can we survive in a dishonest world if we always tell the truth.  Telling the truth may be costly at times, but being people of integrity is worth it.  God wants us to be different from the people in this world.  Besides, we're called to be Jesus' witnesses and Christ's ambassadors.  How can we represent Jesus if we don't have a reputation for honesty?

This Sunday in worship at First Baptist Riverside, I'll teach about the importance of honesty and integrity and how we can choose to have these qualities define our character.  If you'd like to be a "different" person and live a life that's pleasing to God, I hope you'll come worship with us Sunday in either our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 @ 6:01 PM

Conflict is common in all of our important relationships.  We may experience conflict with our parents, our spouse, our kids, friends, neighbors, people at work or school, and even in the church.  The author of Genesis doesn't mind revealing the shortcomings of the patriarchs, we see them in Scripture warts and all.  The story of Jacob and Esau reveals an ongoing pattern of sibling rivalry and conflict in their relationship.  In  Genesis 25 we can identify "Seeds of Conflict" that are common to all of us.  If we understand the causes of conflict, it may be possible for us to avoid some of the conflict in our relationships, or to deescalate it once it starts.

I want to invite you to join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside as we continue our study of the Book of Genesis and learn about the "Seeds of Conflict."  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 @ 12:56 PM


Our study of Genesis this week takes us to Genesis 22, where God tells Abraham to go to Mount Moriah, and sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering.  Many people can't get beyond the cruelty of God's command, asking Abraham to sacrifice his child, the child of the promise made to him, that he would become the father of a great nation.  It is a cruel command and I can't imagine what's going on in Abraham's heart and mind as he gathers up all the things needed to sacrifice his son and then had to think about what he was doing on the three day journey to Mount Moriah.  But when we dig a little deeper, there are three reasons for God's command.

First, God was testing the faith of Abraham.  Most people, no matter how much faith they have, if they received a message from God to sacrifice their own child, would not be willing to do what God commanded.  God had to see if Abraham had enough faith to be the father of the Israelite nation.  By faithfully following God, Abraham would become an example of a man of faith for all generations.  God tests our faith by asking us to make sacrifices for him.  It may be the sacrifice of giving our tithe (10% of our income) or beyond.  It may be a call to sacrifice time and energy to serve him.  When God calls, will we respond in faith to do whatever he asks?

Second, God wants to teach Abraham about grace.  Grace is God's undeserved gift for our lives.  God has no intention of allowing Abraham to harm Isaac.  When they get to the place for the sacrifice, and everything is ready, God stops Abram from killing his son, and provides a lamb (ram) for the sacrifice.  God provides a way of salvation for all of us, to save us from death and punishment for our sins, if we believe in him.  As God spared Isaac, God will spare us the punishment we deserve.

Third, God uses this event to point to the ultimate working of his plan of salvation.  About 2,000 years later God will have his only Son, Jesus Christ, walk up Mount Calvary, just a stone's throw from Mount Moriah, to die on a cross for the sins of the world.  John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to his followers by saying, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).  What Abraham prepared to do to his son, is exactly what God did to his Son to save us.

This Sunday in worship we'll take a closer look at God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son, reflect on the lessons we can learn from this story, and remember Jesus who was the sacrifice for all time, for people everywhere, who will put their faith in him.  I hope you can worship with us  to discover the depth of God's grace and the love he has for you.  We meet for worship on Sundays in Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 2:33 PM

The words from the opening jingle for the old TV comedy "Cheers" are, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you got."  Those words describe what life is like for people who are trying to follow Jesus.  In this world there are so many competing loyalties and temptations to lead us astray that it's really hard to live a life that honors God.  The truth is, it's been hard for every generation to live life faithfully for the Lord.

This Sunday we go all the way back to Lot, whose life is described in Genesis 12-19.  Lot shows his faith in God by travelling with his uncle Abram from Harran to Canaan.  God blessed Abram and Lot and their families so much, the land could not support their herds and flocks.  Lot chose to go east, to the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were located.  That's where things started to go bad.  Lot moved from the country to the city of Sodom.  When Sodom was attacked and defeated by enemy kings, Lot, his family and all their belongings were taken as part of the booty.  Abram had to rescue him.

Upon Lot's return to Sodom, things got worse.  Sodom was an evil place.  Even though it was hard to live as a believer,  Lot didn't leave.  One day two angels (messengers from God) came to investigate the evil reports they'd received about Sodom.  Lot invites the angels to stay at his house to protect them from the townsfolk, but to no avail.  A mob gathers outside Lot's home demanding he produce his guests so they could homosexually gang rape them (thus the word sodomy).  When Lot refuses, the mob threatens violence.  The only thing that saves Lot is the intervention of the angels who strike the townspeople blind.  At that point the angels decide to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroy them.  Lot and his family have to flee, but Lot's wife, finding it hard to leave her life and friends behind,  turns back, and is turned into a pillar of salt.

The story of Lot reminds us of the seriousness of evil.  God is a holy, just, perfect and pure God.  He cannot tolerate evil.  Therefore evil has to be judged.  As Christians, it's important for us to resist temptation, to flee evil, and to seek to live lives of purity that honor God.  As humans, we all have times when we become selfish, fail and sin.  For those times we have Jesus, and, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  If we believe in Jesus we must not make evil our way of life.  That's why "making your way in the world today takes everything you got" to resist the temptations all around us and to choose to please him.

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn about Lot's life and what he can teach us about evil and how we can overcome the temptation to sin.  I hope you can join us at our Traditional Service at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 9:04 AM

This is the word of the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  God creates us to be unique and special people.  He gives us different gifts and abilities to fulfill the plans he has for our lives.  God has a good plan for us.  God's plans should always be Plan A for our lives.  But at times, and for various reasons, we choose not to pursue God's plan, instead settling for our own Plan B, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

We see that exemplified this week in our study of "Genesis: In the Beginning" in Genesis 16.  God has an amazing plan for Abram's and Sarai's, lives.  He's promised to give them many descendants and make them into a great nation.  But years go by and they still have no children.  They begin to give up hope.  Instead of trusting God, Sarai offers her slave Hagar to Abram, that he might have children through her.  Without telling the whole story, that decision leads to turmoil in all of their lives when Hagar becomes pregnant and has a son named Ishmael.  Hagar despises Sarai.  And the child Ishmael becomes the father of the Arab nations, leading to an ongoing dispute with his half-brother Isaac's descendants to this day.

There are many reasons why we choose Plan B instead of sticking with God's Plan A.  We may grow impatient waiting for God's plan to unfold, like Abram and Sarai were.  It may be rebelliousness on our part, thinking that we know better than God does.  We may mess of God's Plan A because of some impulsive, sinful decision.  In every case, instead of pursuing God's Plan A, which is always the best outcome for our lives, we settle for Plan B and have to live with the consequences.

This Sunday we'll learn that God's Plan A for our lives is always best.  We'll identify some of the reasons we too often settle for Plan B and what the consequences of Plan B are.  We'll also discover the wisdom of sticking with Plan A and the wonder of forgiveness as we learn to repent of our mistakes, turn around and follow God's plan for our us.  If you want to find God's Plan A for your life, I hope you'll come worship with us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

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