When Courage Is Required - God Is Good!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA9er @ 9:59 AM

In Sunday's sermon we'll learn about Daniel's courage in serving the Lord.  In Daniel 5 the king of Babylon sees the writing on the wall.  Daniel job is to tell him what it means.  It turns out the writing is a message from God stating that the king's time has run out, his evil behavior demands judgment, and he will die that night.  For Daniel to proclaim that message to a king could result in instant execution, but he faithfully told the truth.

It takes courage to live like a Christian today.  Jesus never said it would be easy to be a Christian.   Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).  Jesus goes on in the next verse, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."  It sounds like being a disciple of Jesus can be pretty dangerous!  What are some ways it takes courage to be a Christian?

It takes courage in many parts of the world simply to follow Christ.  Christians are being physically persecuted, oppressed and even killed because of their faith in Jesus in places in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  Christians are even being targeted in our own country, as seen in the recent church shooting in Charleston where nine people were killed.

It takes courage to speak the truth about faith and morality.  In our culture people believe there are many spiritual paths that lead to God.  People don't want to hear the New Testament's message that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6).  Behavior the Bible teaches is sin has become acceptable and is even accorded the status of a civil right.

It takes courage to witness to those who don't know Christ.  We may face rejection and ridicule from people who don't want to hear what we say.

It takes courage to tithe.  The Bible teaches that God's standard for faithful giving is giving 10% of our income to the Lord's work.  We're afraid if we make that commitment  we won't be able to pay our bills or buy the things we want or do the things we want to do.  We have to have courage to believe that God will provide.

It takes courage to give our time and energy to serve God.  People may not agree with what we do and oppose us.  An example is our church's GUMBO Homeless Ministry, where city and business owners have opposed our members serving the homeless in the various sections of town.

It takes courage to be a Christian, but God, if we have the faith to serve him, gives us the courage we need.  Find out more about having the courage to live our faith this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside, traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.

Daniel - God is Good!

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA10er @ 10:54 AM

This Sunday in worship I'll begin a three-week study of Daniel.  The theme of the series is "God is Good!"  Daniel is an interesting character.  When he was a young man Babylon conquered Israel and members of the royal family and noble class we're marched off into exile in Babylon.  Daniel was one of the exiles, and arriving in Babylon he was selected for training to serve the king of Babylon.  He was also called by God to be a prophet. 

In the first six chapters of Daniel we read a number of stories and see the challenges Daniel faced as a foreigner and follower of God who was also an advisor to kings.  Often the things Daniel did took amazing courage.  There were times when his life was threatened, but he never compromised his faith or his commitment to God.  What Daniel found out was that when he trusted God in difficult times, God is good.  God was always there to provide what Daniel needed in every situation.

Over the course of this sermon series I want to make the case that when we are faithful to God, God will be faithful to us and show us his goodness in every situation.  This Sunday we'll learn that "When Life Changes... God is Good!"  In Daniel's teen years his life changed dramatically, multiple times, due to circumstances beyond his control.  Daniel discovered through all these changes that God is good!  There are things in our lives that change, we don't always like the changes, they're often beyond our control.  How do we deal with those changes?  Do we complain?  Do we harken back to the good old days?  Or do we face the changes with confidence that God is with us and will help us.  When we trust in the Lord we will discover that God is good!

Healthy Relationships

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP4er @ 4:50 PM

God did not create us to live the Christian life solo.  He wants us to be part of a community of believers (the church) and have healthy relationships with others.  In Acts 2:44-47 we see the quality of relationships in the earliest church.  Most scholars think this passage is included in the Book of Acts as a model of what the church should be.  Wouldn't it be awesome to have Christian friends who pray for us and are with us to help us in our times of need?  Wouldn't the fellowship be great if we met in one another's homes, shared meals together, and talked about life and faith?

In Luke 5 we see a story from the life of Jesus that exemplifies friendship.  A paralyzed man had friends who'd heard that Jesus has the power to heal many diseases and infirmities.  They carry their friend to Jesus on a stretcher, but when they get to the house where Jesus is teaching, the crowd is so big there's no way to get in.  So they climb the exterior stairway to the roof, rip open the roofing materials, and lower their friend in front of Jesus.  Luke says that Jesus saw the faith of the friends and healed the paralyzed man.  When I'm going through hard times, I want to have friends who'll bring me to Jesus, who'll willingly help me and pray for me.

How do we develop such healthy relationships in the church?  It happens in small groups where we can know others and be known.  In small groups people come together to share a meal or snacks.  They're encouraged to talk together and get to know one another better.  They dig into the Scriptures to learn about God and grow in their faith.  They're not afraid to tell others about their joys and pains and they always pray for one another.  That's how we develop friends who will stick together through good times and bad, who'll serve one another and share with those who have needs.

I encourage everyone in our church family to get into a small group because if they don't they'll never understand what healthy relationships in the Body of Christ are all about.  I'm inviting you to come experience healthy relationships at First Baptist Riverside.  Find out what it's like to have friends "who stick closer than a brother" Proverbs 18:24).  Find out about "Healthy Relationships" this Sunday in worship at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.

Meaningful Worship

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:33 PM

This Sunday is the second of a four-week series of sermons called, “Discover Your Mission.”  It may surprise you that the sermon this Sunday is “Meaningful Worship.”  You might think that worship doesn't make much difference in carrying out the mission God has given you to pursue.  However the way we worship God has a profound effect on our ability to accomplish our mission and First Baptist Riverside's ability to achieve its 20/20 Vision. It's in worship that we encounter God, let God know that we love him, and we hear him speak into our lives.  When we worship with other believers God is able to speak to us at the same time and bring about unity in the Body of Christ.

My desire this Sunday is for each of us to experience meaningful worship.  Meaningful worship isn’t about us as much as it’s about focusing our attention on God and his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.  So we prepare for worship, clearing our minds of anything that might distract us and cause us to lose focus on Jesus.  We'll sing his praises and give thanks for what he's done for us.  When we pray, it's our opportunity to tell him about our concerns and remember he has the power to help us.  In the music and prayers, Scripture reading and message we are able to pay attention to what God is saying to us and how his Spirit is at work in our hearts and minds.

What happens to us when we experience meaningful worship is critically important for our spiritual growth and obedience to Jesus.  That's why the author of Hebrews warns us that we must not "give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25).  It's why Jesus told us that "where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them" (Matthew 18:20).  There's something that happens when Christians worship together that we cannot duplicate on our own.  Whenever we miss worship, we're missing out on an experience that can never be replaced elsewhere.

So make sure to participate in worship this weekend.  If you attend First Baptist Riverside you'll experience meaningful worship and learn more about God's plan for your life and for our church.  Traditional worship is at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship is at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA11er @ 11:11 AM

I've discovered as a pastor that there are many myths that we've accepted as truth, but they're not true.  The problem with myths, is that if we believe the myth, we may make poor decisions or do things we otherwise wouldn't do.  I believe there are several myths Christians accept that keep us from living the productive, missional lives God wants us to live.

This Sunday I'll begin a four-week series of sermons called "Discover Your Mission."  God created each of us with a plan for our lives and a mission he wants us to carry out.  What we'll learn over the next four weeks is that there are a whole series of myths that we unwittingly accept that keep us from the mission God has given us.

An example of one of the myths we believe is that missionaries are people who are called by God to serve him in a foreign land.  If that's the case then most of us cannot be missionaries because we live here.  But the idea that missionaries are people who serve God in a foreign land is a myth.  A missionary is "one who is sent."  God sends all believers to be missionaries to represent him and serve him.  Most missionaries are sent by God to serve in the community where they live, work and go to church.  You're a missionary and I'm a missionary.

So I hope you'll join us at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday and for the next four weeks as I preach on "Discover Your Mission."  I'll do my best to "bust" some myths and allow us to take a fresh look at the life God wants us to live as his people.

Nicodemus: Born Again

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA9er @ 9:44 AM

This Sunday I get to do something I truly love as a pastor, become a Bible character and let the word of God come alive through me.  I've been studying Nicodemus for several weeks, what we know about him from the Scripture as well as looking into the background of what it must have meant for him as a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin to seek to learn more abut Jesus Christ.

Nicodemus came at night to meet with Jesus, away from the crowds and curious eyes of onlookers.  That night Jesus told Nicodemus that for someone to see the kingdom of God, they must be born again.  Nicodemus, as a Pharisee, would have thought that salvation came through keeping the Old Testament Law.  But Jesus tells him salvation comes from a change of heart and mind.

There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve salvation.  Salvation comes by grace.  It is the gift of God made possible through Jesus' death on the cross for our sins.  Our response is to freely receive what Jesus has done for us by having faith in him.  Nicodemus has to change his way of thinking and put his trust in Jesus.  Did he do that?  The Scripture is ambiguous.  We meet Nicodemus two more times in the Gospel of John and it appears he had a deep affinity for Jesus, but we're never told that he became a follower.

Now Jesus challenges us to be born again and we have to decide what we will do with Jesus.  Will we put our faith in him and allow the Spirit of God to come into our lives and transform us and make us the people God wants us to be?  We don't know how Nicodemus' story ended, but we have the power to write the ending to our story when we decide what we'll do with Jesus.

Pray for America

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:46 PM

As the Fourth of July Weekend begins, we'll do many things to celebrate America's 240th birthday.  We'll hang flags from our houses, some will go to patriotic concerts or fireworks displays.  We'll have barbecues, go camping, spend time at the beach, there's so much we can do on a holiday weekend.  But none of those activities will make America any better next Tuesday than she was before the weekend began.

Let me suggest that if you love America, do something this weekend that will make America better: pray for America.  When Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem (described in 2 Chronicles 7) God said - when times are tough in Israel, call my people together to pray.  "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land." (v. 14)

We are facing tough times in America today.  Our nation is divided politically, economically, and racially.  The upcoming election will divide us further.  The United States has been the victim of several terrorist attacks and we may have to send our troops back into harms way to end the threat.  In California we're in the midst of a terrible drought, and as a result we may have catastrophic fires this summer.  When it comes to faith, people are turning from God and leaving the church, resulting in a cultural morality that does not reflect the righteousness of God.

So if you want to do something this weekend that will make America better, let's call on the Lord to help our nation.  God has the power to change America.  Who will pray if it is not God's people who are called by his name (Christians).  It's time for us to humble ourselves and admit that there are big problems our country faces that cannot be resolved apart from a new reliance on God.  We must confess our sins and ask God to forgive us for the mistakes we've made.  Not everyone will pray.  Not everyone will agree that God is the answer to our problems.  But if the 100 million Americans, who call themselves Christians, would humble themselves and pray for our nation this weekend, I believe we will see God work in amazing ways.

This Sunday, come worship with us as we "Pray for America."  2 Chronicles 7 is our Scripture text.  We'll learn how God wants us to pray for America.  We'll have several people in our congregation model how to pray.  All of us, in the context of the worship service will have opportunities to pray for America.  So join us for worship at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional Worship) or at 10:45 a.m.  (Contemporary Worship) and let's "Pray for America."

A Winning Attitude

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA11er @ 11:50 AM

I talk to many Christians who have defeatist attitudes.  They're pessimistic.  They won't take risks for God or go out of their way to serve him because they really don't expect God to work through them with power.  Jesus wants his people to have a winning attitude.  He wants us to be confident that when we step out in faith to follow him that he'll give us whatever it takes to do his will.

In Matthew 16 Peter declares that Jesus is "the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  Jesus recognizes that Peter's faith will enable him to do great things for the Kingdom of God.  Jesus says in Matthew 16:18, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."  Peter, with all of his humanness revealed elsewhere in the Gospels, will be the rock, the person under whose leadership the church of Jesus Christ will be built.  Not only that, but all the power of Satan and death (Hades) will not be able to resist the offensive power of the church as it moves out to proclaim the gospel to the world.

How many of us have the winning attitude to believe that like Peter, Jesus can use us to do great things in the kingdom of God?  Do we feel helpless when Satan opposes us and we face spiritual battles, or are we confident that with God's help we will prevail?  As followers of Jesus Christ we are always the winners and never the losers.  So we need to be confident.  We need to have a winning attitude.

This Sunday in worship I'll be preaching on Matthew 16:13-27 and how we can develop a winning attitude.  What is the basis of our confidence that we'll be winners when we follow Jesus?  What is required for us to have this confident faith?  What difference will it make in the way we live our lives if we believe we're winners instead of losers.  Join us for worship this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. for Traditional Worship or 10:45 a.m. for Contemporary Worship."

Father's Day Legacy

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:46 PM

Father's Day is right around the corner.  It's important to remember our dads and the role they played in our lives.  As a father I realize one of the most important things in my life is the time I invested in the lives of my kids and the ongoing relationship I have with them now that they're grown and out on their own.

As I'm about to turn 60 I often think about the legacy I'm leaving behind on this earth when my time here is done.  I haven't built any monuments that people will remember me for.  The money I leave my kids will soon be spent and they probably won't even remember where it came from.  The two legacies I will leave will be in the lives of people I've touched in some way through my work for Christ and my kids.  The Bible says when we have a good relationship with our kids, we'll be remembered to the third and fourth generation.  I will be very proud if my kids look back on my life and say that I was a good father.

One thing that encourages me to try to be a good dad is the fact that our God is a "Father."  God is a good father.  He loves us.  When we sinned, he provided a way to save us when we believe in him.  Salvation required a huge sacrifice, and like a Father, Jesus made that sacrifice for us.  We can have a great relationship with him when we talk to him in prayer and listen to his voice in the words of Scripture.  I want to be the kind of father God is, in my own humble way.

This Father's Day, honor your father.  We all have one.  If your father is worthy of honor, honor him and give thanks for what he contributed to your life.  If you are a father, then be the kind of father that honors God and blesses your children.  Let your relationship with your wife and your kids be the legacy you leave from your time on this earth.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP6er @ 6:24 PM

This Sunday I will present the 20/20 Vision to our congregation.  If you're part of our church family, or if you're looking for a church home, or if you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian, then I encourage you to come to worship this Sunday to learn about the vision God has for First Baptist Riverside for the next four years.  You can join us in Traditional Worship on Sunday morning at 9:00 or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

It was about a year ago that God challenged me to start thinking about a fresh vision for what First Baptist Riverside should become by the year 2020.  God wants to give us a perfect 20/20 vision.  So I began to search the Scripture to see what God's word says about the church.  I spent hours in prayer seeking the mind of Christ in this matter.  As the vision began to take shape I talked to our pastoral staff about it and then to the Board of Deacons.  Each step along the way the vision has been refined and affirmed by leaders in our congregation.

Why should you care about the 20/20 vision?  I think we have a wonderful church family at First Baptist Riverside and we're doing some amazing ministries in our community and even around the world.  However, we should never be content with what we've done in the past or grow complacent thinking there's nothing more we need to do.  God deserves our best service.  Jesus created the church to be a light to the world.  The church is the Body of Christ doing Jesus' work where he's placed us.  I'm convinced God has a great future planned for First Baptist Riverside, but we must identify what his goals are and how he wants us to get there.

The purpose for the 20/20 vision is very personal as well.  God's will for our lives will align with God's will for the church family we're part of.  When each of us does the work God calls us to do, we'll help our church achieve its vision.  When you hear the 20/20 vision described you'll know what God is calling you to do as well.

Before you come to worship on Sunday, pray and ask God to align your will to his.  Think about what God might want First Baptist Riverside to look like by the end of the year 2020.  Think about what God want's you be like in 2020.  Invite the Holy Spirit to have free reign in your life to make you the person he wants you to be.  Come to worship on Sunday and see if what God is revealing to you is similar to what he has been revealing to the leadership of our church.  I think you'll be amazed at the consistency of God's plan for your life and for our church.

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