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!


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.


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.

From Darkness to Light

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP12er @ 12:35 PM

The theme of this year's Easter Sunrise service on Mount Rubidoux is "From Darkness to Light."  That is such a rich theme in the Scriptures.  Throughout the Bible darkness is a symbol of sin and evil while God is always depicted as light.  In John 1 Jesus is described as the light that has come into the world to shine in the darkness.  In John 8:12 Jesus says, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

During Jesus' crucifixion, at about noon, we're told that darkness came over the whole land.  It was an evil day, the Son of God was dying for the sins of the world.  But three days latter, on Easter Sunday, at sunrise, at the first light, Jesus rose from the dead.  The world went from darkness to light.

For Jesus' followers, the time after his death was a dark time.  They'd lost their Lord, their friend and their leader.  They hid behind locked doors in the Upper Room grieving.  Early Sunday morning Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus body, a ritual for an honorable burial.  But when they came around the corner to the tomb they saw the guards had run away, the stone had been rolled away, and Jesus is alive.  The darkness had turned to light.

The disciples heard the report of the women but didn't know what to make of it.  They couldn't believe he had risen.  But suddenly in their midst there was another man.  He held out his hands and they saw the nail marks and he said, "Peace be with you."  They knew Jesus is alive.  The darkness had turned into light.

But one of the disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus visited them.  He refused to believe Jesus had risen.  After all, how many dead people do you know who rose from the grave three days after their death?  He would not believe unless he touched the scars left from the crucifixion in Jesus' hands and side.  The next Sunday, the disciples and Thomas were still behind locked doors in the Upper Room and again, suddenly, another man was in their midst.  He invited Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands and side.  Jesus is alive.  Thomas response, "My Lord and my God!"

There may be darkness in your life due to sin, discouragement, doubt, fear of death or judgment.  Put your faith in Jesus and believe that he is alive.  The darkness will turn to light when you invite Jesus into your life and know that he is your God.  He'll forgive your sins and save you and give you life that lasts forever.  This Easter let your life move from darkness to light.

God Uses Those Who Are Willing to Give

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP3er @ 3:45 PM

The Bible says "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).  We have a group from our church who have given this week to go to "Gleanings For the Hungry" to package food being shipped to feed hungry people all around the world.  Because of their work thousands of children who are hungry and people who are malnourished will receive a good meal.  I think that honors Christ who blessed his followers by saying, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat" ( Matt. 25:35).

For years our church has come alongside our Hispanic sister church, Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Nacimiento, to help them improve their church facility.  We were never able to match our dreams with the finances that were available, until God raised up a donor who saw the dream and committed a million dollars to fund the project.  God made a huge difference in his kingdom through a couple who were willing to give of their resources.

In the week ahead we will celebrate the one who gave the most - his name is Jesus Christ.  He is the one and only Son of God.  He left everything that was his as King in heaven and came to earth in a human body so that we might see God and hear his words.  Jesus came to earth with the end in mind, knowing that he would die on a cross to pay the penalty we owe for our sins and forgive us and save us and give us eternal life.  There is no other sacrifice needed other than the one Jesus gave, there is no other way of salvation than through faith in Jesus Christ.  Our hope of salvation came through this one who was willing to give so much.

What do you have to give for the kingdom of God?  Your knee-jerk reaction may be to say, "I don't have much."  But that's not true.  You have time to give to God and others.  You have talents and abilities that many ministries in God's kingdom could use.  You have financial resources that you could give to support the ministries of a church or a missionary who is taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Everyone has something they can give to God.  I would challenge you during Holy Week to think about what you can give as you celebrate the ultimate gift when Jesus Christ gave his life to save you.

Becoming Missional People

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP7er @ 7:48 PM

If we're not careful we may begin to think that our Christian faith is a hobby.  We tell ourselves that if we give God an hour or two on Sundays when we don't have something else planned, he'll be happy.  But if we read the Bible seriously we know God is never a hobby.  God's expectation for us is to have a 24/7 faith.  We are always God's people.  We're always on call to serve him.  We are always God's ambassadors everywhere we go to whatever group of people we happen to be with at that moment.  We call this a "missional" lifestyle - we're always on mission for Jesus.

Jesus taught us as much in his "Parable of the Sheep and the Goats" (Matthew 25:31-46), the last parable Jesus told his followers, not long before he died on the cross.  It's a parable about judgment.  The "sheep" in Jesus' parable are those who live by kingdom values and do kingdom work.  They're saved, not because of the work they do, but because their service to God 24/7 is evidence of their faith and that their lives have been changed by having a relationship with Jesus. The "goats" are condemned because they do not live by kingdom values and are not doing kingdom work.  The way they live their lives shows that they have no faith and that no transformation has taken place in their lives.

Jesus challenges us to take a look at our lives to see which group we would be in if we faced God's judgment today.  Are we "sheep" or "goats?"  Are we living for Christ every day?  Are we carrying out the mission Jesus began when he was on earth?  Are our hearts being broken by the needs of "the least of these" brothers and sisters of Christ?  Our service to Christ that evidences our faith is not limited to helping the needy.  Are we a witness to unbelieving family and friends?  Are we serving Christ in the church or in the community?  Are we ready to respond to God's call and go where he wants us to go and do what he wants us to do?

This Sunday in worship we'll look at Jesus' "Parable of the Sheep and the Goats" and reflect on what it means to be a missional people whose lives show that we have faith in Jesus.  Come worship with us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

Remember Me

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:43 PM

This Sunday in worship we'll continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man" by looking at some of the events of the last week of Jesus' life.  One of the key events is Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples the night before he died.  We can't imagine how difficult that night must have been for Jesus and the disciples.  The disciples left everything behind to follow Jesus and now they finally realize that he's serious about being betrayed, arrested, convicted and crucified in the next 24 hours. 

But before Jesus died he ate the Passover meal with his disciples.  He gave the bread and cup from the Passover meal a new meaning.  The bread would now remind Jesus' followers of how his body broken for us.  The cup of wine reminds us of the blood Jesus shed on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  He told his followers that as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we are to remember him.  For Jews, the bread and cup were served at every meal.  They were to remember Jesus daily.

Today we remember Jesus daily when we say grace before our meals.  At First Baptist Riverside we remember Jesus every week in worship, but on the first Sunday of the month we also remember him by celebrating the Lord's Supper in our worship services.  Because our lives are so busy and it's easy to be distracted from what matters most, Jesus knew that we should set aside a time and a particular activity to remind us of the core of our faith - his death, burial and resurrection.  This Sunday we'll build our entire worship experience around the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

I'd encourage you in the days ahead to think about what it means for you to obey Jesus' command, "Remember Me."  How often do you remember Jesus?  What do you do to remember Jesus?  How often do you gather with the body of Christ (the church) to remember Jesus by eating the Lord's Supper?  How does remembering Jesus enrich your life and deepen your relationship with Jesus?  What Jesus asks of all of us is, "Remember Me."

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