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.

20/20 VISION SUNDAY - DON'T MISS IT!

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.

HONORING MOM

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:50 PM

This Sunday we will honor the person who, for better or worse, probably played the most significant role in nurturing you and making you the person you are today.  I can't imagine a more important job or a bigger responsibility than being a mom.  We need to honor our mothers and give thanks for the role they play or played in our lives.

For some of us Mother's Day is bittersweet.  Some of our mothers that have gone on to glory and we miss them.  A few of us have some "mom issues" we wish we could address with mom but she's no longer here.  I haven't hidden the fact that I have some struggles because of my upbringing and my relationship with my mother.  But one thing I always knew is that my mother loved me and did the very best job she could do to raise me.  Any shortcomings she had were the result of her own childhood in an even more dysfunctional home than ours.  I will always love my mom and give thanks that she did her best to be a loving mother.  While there are some memories I struggle with from my childhood, I also have many happy memories growing up.

I think we all need to remember that we're imperfect people who make mistakes from time to time.  I know some mothers carry a lot of guilt because they were not the perfect mothers - I want you to know that there are no perfect mothers.  Mothers have to deal with issues from their own upbringing as well as challenges in their marriage and career responsibilities.  We need to remember we're followers of a God who forgives our sins and redeems us - so let go of any guilt you may feel.  God can even use the tough things that happen to us to shape us into the people he wants us to be.  I know I have more compassion for others because of some of the struggles I've dealt with.  God helps the children of imperfect parents turn out just fine.

For those who are mothers today, don't feel you have to be the perfect mom, because you'll never be perfect on this earth.  Just love your kids.  Do the best you can do as a mother.  If you have areas of weakness, try to learn how to do those things better.  If you're married, allow your spouse's strengths to help you build a healthy family.  I'm so thankful to my wife Diane who is a wonderful mother to our children and who helped me to overcome some of my dysfunction to be a better father than I would have otherwise been.  Above all, trust God to help you to be the best parent you can be.  If you're a mother, God bless you!  Thank you for everything you do for your children!

TRANSFORMATION - CHANGE

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:12 PM

One of my life verses in Romans 12:1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

What Paul asks of us in this passage is countercultural.  God is merciful.  He loves us and gave his Son to die for our sins.  As a result we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, not to die as the sacrificial lambs did under the Old Testament Law, but to live sacrificially for Christ.  Society tells us to live for self, to do as we please, to go for the gusto.  Paul also says our true worship of God is to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God - that requires a transformation of our moral and ethical nature.  To live sacrificially and morally for Jesus requires us to change what we value, our attitudes and the way we think.

So Paul tells us not to conform to the pattern of this world.  Whatever the media and society tells us to do, we can take for granted that we should probably choose to do the opposite.  We can't live by cultural standards and please God.  That's a huge change Paul is asking us to make.  He says that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We have to totally change the way we think so our thoughts and actions are based on godly values.

Most people are not willing to make those changes.  Their lives are built around the pattern and values of this world and they're not willing to live life differently.  But those who do change, who allow God to transform their lives by changing the way they think are able to test and approve what God's will is.  When we start living God's way we'll see the wisdom of his will and how he wants us to live.

This week as we continue our study of "Together" we'll learn that being transformed by the renewing of our minds is essential in our life together in the church.   Come worship with us this Sunday and learn how God wants you to live.

Night of Worship

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP7er @ 7:20 PM

This Sunday evening (April 24th) will be our sixth annual Night of Worship to be held at 6:00 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church, 29175 Ironwood Avenue in Moreno Valley.  Each year First Baptist Riverside, Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Nacimiento, and Trinity Baptist in Moreno Valley join together for a night of multicultural worship.  This year our guest speaker is Dr. Willie Nolte, the Mission Lead of Transformation Ministries.

It's been jokingly said that 11:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour in America.  I don't know if that's true or not.  What I do know is that on Sundays many Christians go to churches that reflect their cultural heritage.  I also understand that our faith tends to be more meaningful to us when we experience it in own cultural context.  However, to the outside world it seems that the church is out of touch at best or racist at worst.

The New Testament teaches us that all Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul said that, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  We're to love one another.  There should be no walls built to separate God's children.  There is equality among believers regardless of ethnicity, gender or social status.  Therefore we seek to find opportunities to affirm our unity with believers of other backgrounds.

So each year First Baptist Riverside (a multicultural but predominantly Anglo church), Iglesia Bautista (a Hispanic church) and Trinity Baptist (a predominantly African American church) come together to share a Night of Worship and to celebrate our common faith in God.  We bring music and the spoken word from our own traditions, celebrate the unity we have as sister churches in Transformation Ministries, and praise God for the unity we have in him.  It's one of the highlights of our church year.

So I want to urge you to join us Sunday evening for a Night of Worship at Trinity Baptist.  It will be a time you will not easily forget!

Attitude Check

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:38 PM

When I was a kid and was grumpy or complaining, my parents would say, "Attitude check!"  I needed to check my attitude because my attitude wasn't making me very nice to be around.  In Philippians 2, Paul says to the believers in Philippi, "Attitude check!"  Paul wanted the Philippians to love one another, to be humble and likeminded as they lived and worked together in the church.  I don't know about you, but I've been in some churches over the years where I saw people's bad attitudes and petty behavior and wanted to yell, "Attitude check!"

In verse 5 Jesus tells the believers that they should have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.  Paul then wrote a beautiful poem describing the attitude Jesus had when he came to earth to save us (or he quoted someone else's poem or hymn).  What was Jesus attitude?

  • Jesus was God and equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in every way.  Yet when Jesus came to earth he wasn't selfish.  He didn't try to hold on to his privilege or power, but willingly gave it up to come live among us.
  • Jesus, instead of coming to be served, he came as a servant to serve humanity.
  • Jesus humbled himself and went to the cross where he died for our sins, faithfully doing the work God had given him to do.
  • It was because Jesus let go of his privilege, became a servant, humbled himself and died on the cross that God exalted him to the highest place.

If our attitude is like Jesus' attitude, we won't be selfish.  We'll let go of any privilege and power that may be ours and willingly serve God.  We'll serve those who are weaker than we are and need our help.  We'll humble ourselves and make sacrifices to do the work God gives us to do.  If every Christian had the same attitude as Christ Jesus, there would never be any division or conflict in the church.  We'd be likeminded and work together to carry on the mission of Jesus.

Let the Walls Fall Down

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA10er @ 10:23 AM

Several years ago a Christian song that was popular called "Let the Walls Fall Down."  The words say...

  Let the walls fall down (let the walls fall down)
  Let the walls fall down (let the walls fall down)
  Let the walls fall down (let the walls fall down)
  By His love, let the walls fall down.

  One by one, we're drawn together
  One by one, to Jesus' side
  One in Him, we'll live forever
  Strangers He has reconciled.

  In His love, no walls between us
  In His love a common ground
  Kneeling at the cross of Jesus
  All our pride comes tumbling down

There is so much that divides people in America and around the world - race, social class, religion, politics, gender and age, to name a few.  But in the church, what unites us is much stronger than what divides us.  Jesus died to forgive our sins and break down the walls between us.  We have to work together if we're ever going to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all people.  In the church we grow to love one another because of our common hope and common faith.

This Sunday in worship we'll learn about Jesus' last prayer (John 17) when he asked that his followers would become one so that the world would know that he is real.  The message is "Together in Jesus" because pleasing Jesus and being the answer to his prayer is more important than anything else in the world.  I hope you'll come worship together with us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

TOGETHER

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP6er @ 6:02 PM

After Jesus' ministry on earth was finished, he commissioned the disciples to spread the gospel and establish churches to the ends of the earth.  In every community there was to be a church or churches where believers could meet together for worship, fun, fellowship, prayer and service.  The Book of Acts describes the spread of the Christian movement from Jerusalem to Rome.  One of the themes of Acts is the believers being and serving "together."  The word "together" is found 24 times in the Book of Acts.

Sometimes it's difficult to coexist with other believers in a church.  We live in a culture where we're told we should have everything "our way" and people who aren't like us shouldn't be in our group.  There are churches in every community dying, dividing or in conflict because they can't agree on the essentials of the church.  This division has to break God's heart and certainly gives the Christian faith a "black eye" in the community.  God's desire for the church is for it to reflect the diversity of the Christian community and be a showcase for what it means to love one another.

This Sunday I'm starting a new sermon series called "Together."  In the coming weeks we'll learn God's plan for how to be his people, get along with one another, and serve and worship together.  Jesus intends for all his followers to be part of a church and for each of his people to be accepted and loved within the church.  This Sunday we'll study 1 Corinthians 13 in a sermon titled "Together in Love."  The secret to getting along with one another is to learn to love one another with the same love Jesus has for us.  In coming weeks we'll learn about other essentials of being "Together": humility, like-mindedness, having a common faith in Christ and common goals for the church. 

If you're not currently a believer in Jesus, come worship with us during our "Together" series and discover what the Christian faith is all about.  If you believe in Jesus, but aren't part of a church, you're living outside of God's will for your life, so come find out why Jesus thinks the church is so important.  If you're part of our First Baptist Church family, come find out how we can become a better church by implementing the "togetherness" principles described in the Bible.  We provide two worship options on Sunday mornings: traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  I hope to see you here soon at FBR.

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