Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 30, 2017 @ 7:11 PM

This Sunday we begin a new Advent sermon series on the "Prophecies of Jesus' Birth."  It's exciting to know that there are three specific prophecies of Jesus' birth, and several allusions to his birth, that were given by God to His prophets hundreds of years before the drama in Bethlehem ever took place.  What's important about these prophecies is that not only do they tell us what God is going to do, but they reveal who Jesus is and the important role he has for our lives and our salvation.

This Sunday we'll look at "The Miracle of Jesus' Birth" by looking at Isaiah 7:14 and the prophecy that Jesus is to be born to a virgin.  We'll also look at New Testament passages that assert that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant and remained a virgin until after Jesus' birth.  It's surprising to me that many people who believe in the miracles Jesus did have a hard time accepting the reality of the virgin birth.  It's like we all take what we learned in Sex Education 101 and decided it's impossible even for God to send his Son to earth through a virgin.

There's tremendous significance to the virgin birth of Jesus.  Jesus is not just the product of a man and woman coming together, but the product of God and woman.  The virgin birth emphasizes the duality of Jesus' character, that while on this earth he was fully human and yet fully divine.  As a human, Jesus reveals God in words and deeds that only he could give.  As a human, Jesus understands us and has compassion for the challenges we face.  As divine, Jesus can be the worthy sacrifice for our sins that no other human could ever be. 

If you want to know more about the miracle of Jesus' virgin birth I hope you'll join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Make this Christmas the most exciting ever as you realize like never before what Jesus' birth means for you.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 6:13 AM

On this Thanksgiving Day I hope you'll take time to say, "Thank you," to God for all he has done for you.  Above all else I'm thankful for his plan of creation that has a place for me in it.  I'm thankful for the life he's given me and the new life I have in Christ Jesus.  I'm thank for God's Son Jesus Christ who came to earth so we can know God personally and then died in my place for the sins I've committed so I can have eternal life with him.  I'm thankful for the family and friends God has put in my life.  And only after those things am I thankful for the things in life I enjoy.  God is so good, I give him all the praise!

Another thing I'm thankful for is that my life has purpose in Jesus Christ.  If all I do on earth is live for myself and for the things I want, then my life has no meaning beyond me.  But when Jesus saved me, he called me to be part of a movement so much greater than myself.  I now serve God and am part of a kingdom that lasts forever.  My purpose comes from bringing others into the kingdom who are not yet there and helping them to become all God wants them to be.  That's the calling of every believer.

This Sunday I'll wrap up my sermon series on "Miracles" with a story of Jesus giving some fishermen he'd met the greatest catch of their lives.  It was a miraculous catch, greater than anything they'd ever experienced before.  This catch caused these fishermen to see Jesus as more than a teacher or prophet, and recognize him as the Son of God.  They put their trust in him and received a new calling for their lives.  Instead of fishermen, they would become disciples and later apostles and the leaders of the early church.  They were given a new job, instead of fishing for fish, Jesus tells them that they will now fish for the souls of men and women.  They devoted the rest of their lives to that movement and spread the good news of Jesus throughout the known world.

When we recognize Jesus as the Son of God and put our hope in him, he changes our vocation.  Instead of whatever our jobs are, we become disciples of Jesus and his witnesses and ambassadors to the people we know and love.  Our hobbies and jobs are no longer the most important thing in our lives, but Jesus has called us to be fishers of men and women.  The most important thing we will ever do is to invite our family members and friends (our oikos) to meet Jesus.  After they accept Jesus we invest in helping them to grow in their faith and become the people Jesus created them and saved them to be.

I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday as we learn about Jesus' incredible miracle of the catch of fish and how it changed the lives of the disciples.  May we experience that same life change and the new calling Jesus has placed upon our lives.  We have two worship options for you at First Baptist Riverside: Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  See you in worship!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 6:01 PM

Sunday we'll continue our study of "Miracles."  This week's story is found in Luke 17:11-19.  Jesus promises ten men who have leprosy that he'll heal them and sends them on their way to see the priest, the only one who is able to declare them "clean" so they can go back to their homes, jobs and families.  As they're on their way, they are healed, just as Jesus promised.  Faith is required, they must go anticipating healing, in order to be healed.  However, the main point of this story is that of the ten men who were healed, only one returned to thank Jesus - and he was a Samaritan.

God works miracles in all of our lives, we are aware of some of his miracles and others we may not be aware of.  The greatest miracle God has given us is his Son Jesus who died on the cross to save us.  By faith, we need to acknowledge what Jesus has done for us and give thanks.  This Thanksgiving season is a great time to reflect on our lives, or at least over the last year and say, "God, thank you for all you have done for me."  Giving thanks increases our faith and shows our appreciation to the Lord.  Don't be one of those people who take what Jesus does for granted.

We are going to have a great celebration of Thanksgiving this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside in both of our services.  We hope you'll join us and share in the celebration!  We have two services: traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m. We'll be looking for you!

MIRACLES - Bring Your Friends

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 9, 2017 @ 1:38 PM

Our November sermons are on "Miracles," reflecting on some of Jesus best known miracles.  This Sunday we'll look at Jesus healing the paralytic (Luke 5:17-26).  Some men have a friend who is paralyzed.  They believe if they can get him to Jesus, he'll be healed.  They carry their friend on a stretcher to the place where Jesus is teaching.  There's a huge crowd and no way to get into the house where Jesus is.  So they go up the exterior stairs to the roof, make a hole, and lower their friend before Jesus.  Jesus is amazed by their faith and heals their friend.

This story tells us about the power of Jesus to heal someone with a disability for which there is no cure.  We see the compassion of Jesus as he lovingly provides for the paralytic's physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

However, besides Jesus, the friends of the paralytic are the heroes in this story.  They have faith Jesus can heal their friend.  They're willing to pick up their friend and take him to Jesus.  When the house is crowded, they don't give up, instead they rely on their ingenuity to get on the roof, cut a hole and lower their friend before Jesus.  They could have been arrested for destroying personal property, or at least would be expected to repair the hole.  It didn't matter - they loved their friend and would do anything to help him.

All of us have friends who need to experience Jesus' miraculous power.  However, Jesus greatest miracle is not healing the sick, but forgiving and saving sinful people.  You and I know people who need spiritual healing.  The question is: Do we care enough to bring our friends to Jesus?  Do we have faith to believe that Jesus can heal the sinners we know?  Will we invest the time and energy to take our friends to Jesus, to convince them to go with us and find out what Jesus can do for them?  It is the faith of the friends that enables Jesus to heal the paralytic.  It may be your faith that enables Jesus to save someone who is far from him.

I hope you'll join us for worship and think about the friends you need to bring to Jesus.  Consider the love and grace of Jesus, who willingly heals and saves all who come to him.  We have two worship services on Sundays, traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We'd be pleased to have you come worship with us this Sunday!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 2, 2017 @ 6:41 PM

Do you believe in miracles?  Most Christians would say, "Yes!"  But I think most of us don't expect to see miracles in our lives.  We don't pray like we expect miracles.  We don't expect miracles in our church.  I don't know about you, but I think it's time we believe in miracles again.  During the month of November I'm going to preach about "Miracles" and we'll study four of the miracle stories of Jesus.  We'll learn about the power of God and how he is at work in people's lives.

This Sunday's message is "The Light of the World."  In John 9 Jesus heals a man who was born blind.  Jesus explains to the disciples that he has come into a dark world to bring God's light.  A blind person in Jesus' day was thought to live in darkness.  By healing the man, Jesus allows him to live in the light.  Jesus does the same thing for us.  Without Christ, we live our lives in darkness.  But when we have faith in Jesus, he strips away the darkness and we have light.  The miracle of salvation is Jesus making the darkness light in our lives.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law are upset because Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath.  They refuse to believe in Jesus.  The blind man doesn't know Jesus well, but testifies to what he does know, "This I know. I once was blind, but now I see."  Later Jesus talks to the man and explains that he is God's Son and the formerly blind man believes in Jesus and is saved.  It's a wonderful story about the miracles God can work in all of our lives.

I hope you'll join us for worship on Sunday in either our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m. and learn more about the miracles Jesus wants to do in your life.  Let's begin to expect to see miracles, and recognize them when they come, so that our faith can grow and we will trust Jesus to meet our deepest needs.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @ 4:37 PM

This Sunday the commitment stage of our "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign wraps up.  We're planning to end with a "bang!"  This Sunday will be the worship highlight of the year.  The whole congregation will be together in one worship service at 9:00 a.m.   We're planning for amazing music, celebration, and a message focused on the promises God gives us when we follow him.  Then after worship, at 10:30 a.m., there will be brunch for everyone in the Fellowship Hall. This will be a worship service you won't want to miss.

The "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign has challenged us to seek God's will for our lives and the future of First Baptist Riverside.  I hope you've been reading and praying through the 20-Day Devotional Guide.  More than 100 of our members came to pray at the Prayer Vigil on October 18, while others prayed from home or work as time allowed.  In our classes and small groups we've learned what the Bible says about stewardship, and our Sunday sermons challenged us to consider our part in making God's vision a reality at FBR.

At critical times God's people are called to step up and renew their commitment to Christ.  This is such a time at First Baptist Riverside.  Our church has faced several challenges in recent years.  Recently our attendance has declined and our church is aging.  The 20/20 Vision is a plan for how to grow First Baptist Riverside and reach the next generation for Christ.  The "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign is about raising money to improve our campus so that we will be ready for the new people God (and hopefully we) will bring to church in the years ahead.

A week ago we had some of our church's leaders meet and, following the example in 1 Chronicles 28-29, asked them to go first and turn in their commitments for the campaign.  I think you'll be very excited this Sunday to hear what they've done to help us reach our goals in this campaign.  Now it's time for the rest of us to step up and for God to be glorified as we renew our commitment to do his work at First Baptist.  God bless you - and I hope to see you Sunday!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 3:03 PM

Jesus' love for us is defined by the sacrifices he willingly made for us.  Jesus sacrificed the comfort of heaven to come to earth, to live among us and teach us about God.  Think of it - leaving a perfect heaven for a primitive existence in first century Israel while facing opposition and persecution by Israel's religious leaders.  Jesus then made the ultimate sacrifice, dying on the cross to forgive our sins and save us.  Jesus' love for us is revealed by the sacrifices he made for us.

The question for us is, do we love Jesus?  If we love him, is our love defined by the sacrifices we are willing make for him?  What sacrifices does Jesus expect of us?  We sacrifice our time and things we want to do, that may be important to us, in order to serve Jesus and to make time to worship him.  We make financial sacrifices to be able to give our tithes and offerings to the Lord.  Jesus said that we may need to make the ultimate sacrifice and be willing to die for him.  Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)

In Matthew 26:6-13, our text this Sunday, we're told the story of a woman who anointed Jesus' feet with oil (a very expensive perfume).  The oil cost the equivalent of a full year's wages.  The disciples were astonished by the lavishness of the woman's gift and complained that if she had just given the money to them, they could have used it for other purposes.  But Jesus commends the woman because it is a sacrificial gift of love.  The challenge for us this Sunday is to "define" the sacrifice that we will make to show our love for Jesus.  If you'd like to find out more, join us at our traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. or at our contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We'd love to see you!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 5:13 PM

In Acts 2 we're told the Holy Spirit enables his people to see visions and dream dreams.  God's vision gives us insight into his plan for our lives or for his church.  In the first century, the Spirit gave the apostles a vision for what the church could become.  They gave their lives to realize the vision.  They changed the world.  God blesses those who pursue his vision.

In the Old Testament God sent the people of Israel from Egypt across the Wilderness to a land he promised would flow with milk and honey.  The hope of the Promised Land kept the Israelites united and moving forward.  When they reached the borders off the Promised Land, the people selected twelve spies to scout it out, to see if everything was as God promised them it would be.  And it was.  They brought back stories about the richness of the land and samples of crops the land produced.

But they also told the people it would be hard to take the land.  The cities were fortified.  The people who lived there were giants who could not be defeated in battle.  The spies said they felt like grasshoppers among these giants.  As we'll see in Sunday's sermon based on Numbers 13-14, the people refused to go into the land.  They grumbled and planned to go back to Egypt.  God was disappointed in his people and condemned them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until a new generation would be given the land.

God gives each of us a vision for the work he wants us to do.  He may want us to help out in the ministry of the church, or get involved serving in the community, or being his witnesses in our workplaces or neighborhood.  We know what we should do.  But many Christians refuse to act on the vision because they're afraid of the cost.  Some don't want to be bothered.  They don't want to invest the time to be trained or prepared for the Lord's work.  They're unwilling to make the investment of time and money needed to do the job.  The problem is, when we refuse to follow the vision, we spend our lives wandering in the wilderness, never becoming the people he wants us to be.  If you've see God's vision for your life, pursue it!

In the same way, God has given First Baptist Riverside a vision.  He wants our church to be "growing" (reaching people for Christ), "healthy" (helping people have healthy relationships with God and others), "missional" (serving him where we live), and "enduring" (continuing to serve Jesus in Riverside as we have for the past 143 years).  We are on the border of the Promised Land.  We have to decide if we will move forward, or stay where we are.  The first step in moving forward is the "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign to raise $600,000 for improvements to help our church be ready for ministry in the 2020's and 30's.  Will we do the work and make the sacrifices to meet or exceed our goal?  If we pursue the vision, God will bless our church and each of us.  If we're don't make the sacrifice, then we'll be left to wander in the wilderness until another generation comes who will be faithful and obedient to God.  What will we do?

I hope you'll be in church this Sunday to hear about the vision God has for your life and our church.  If you choose to pursue the vision, expect to see God work in mighty ways in your life and at FBR.  The message Sunday will be "Trust God."  Will we trust God and believe that with his power, we can achieve the vision and reach the goals he's given us?  Join us for traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. or contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 @ 4:49 PM

This Sunday we will celebrate the fact that our God is able.  He is able in every way.  God is omnipotent, all-powerful, there is nothing he cannot do.  So whatever our need, God is able to help us.  Whatever we ask for in prayer, God is able to give it.  When we remember how great God is, it inspires our faith.  We can trust him to do what is seemingly impossible.

In our Scripture Text for Sunday in John 6, Jesus attracts a large crowd of 5,000 men, with women and children, potentially 15,000 people.  The people have walked a long way to come to Jesus.  They're in a remote place.  Jesus will teach for hours.  They'll get hungry.  Jesus asks the disciples, "How are we going to feed all these people?"  Philip says, "It would take more than half a year's wages to feed all these people."  Andrew found a little boy who brought  lunch, but what good will that do with so many hungry people.  It's then that Jesus does one of his best-known miracles.  He has the people sit down on the grass, blesses the boy's lunch, and distributes the food to the disciples who distribute it to the crowd.  Everyone eats their fill and there are far more leftovers than what they started with.

This Sunday we will launch our "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign.  Our goal in the next four weeks is to examine our faith and prayerfully consider what God would have each of us do, and what we as a church should do.  We may look at our goal of raising $600,000 dollars for improvements around our church campus and say, like Philip, "It's impossible!"  Or we can say like Andrew, "What I can give is just a drop in the bucket compared to the need."  But we better be careful not to leave God out of the equation.  Our God is able to provide what we need if we give him what we have, in the same way Jesus provided for the crowd that day in Galilee.

I am convinced that if we believe in Jesus, he will give us what we need.  All of us who participate in this campaign will end up feeling the same sense of joy and exhilaration the disciples experience when Jesus fed the crowd.  The next four weeks will be about building our faith, trusting in the Lord, seeing what he is able to do, and having our faith expanded!  With all my heart I believe the "20/20 Vision for the Future" campaign is not primarily about raising money, but growing our faith in a way that will bring revival and growth to everyone at First Baptist Riverside.

Come join with us this Sunday and have your faith expanded.  We will have our traditional worship service at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  This Sunday you will receive a 20-Day Devotional Guide, that if you follow it, it'll change your life.  So don't miss what God is going to do in our midst beginning this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 2:15 PM

"Faithfulness" is a concept at the center of our Christian faith.  God is faithful to us.  He never gave up on people when they sinned, instead he gave his Son Jesus to die for us, to forgive our sins and save us.  God is faithful in keeping all the promises given to us in the Bible.  God wants us to be faithful in the commitments we make to him.  To help us, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of faithfulness in our lives so that we can follow through with the promises we make to God and others.  Faithfulness is key to every important relationship.  We are to be faithful to our spouse, faithful to our children, and faithful in our relationships with our friends.

This Sunday we'll examine the concept of faithfulness in worship as we look at Jesus' message to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2.  The church in Ephesus was one of the oldest churches, established by the Apostle Paul.  It had a great history in evangelizing the city of Ephesus as well as all the surrounding area.  The church in Ephesus was the mother church for the other six churches Jesus addresses in Revelation 2-3.  Jesus complements them for their hard work and perseverance.  They don't tolerate false teachers and false doctrine.  They have not grown weary in their work for the Lord.

However, Jesus says, "Yet I have this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5)  Jesus had so much good to say about the church, but when addressing their motivation, they were doing it for the wrong reasons.  It was just hard work and drudgery rather than serving Jesus because they loved him.  Each of us needs to look at what we do for the Lord and ask, "Am I doing it out of duty and because I feel like I have too, or am I doing it because I love Jesus?"    Jesus is thankful for our faithfulness in serving and obeying him, but he wants us to do it for the right reasons.

Since Jesus' message is addressed to the church, we need to reflect on the same issues as they relate to the church.  The First Baptist Church has been serving Riverside for a long time, established in 1874, we've been serving Jesus for 143 years.  Every good thing said about the church in Ephesus can be said about FBR.  We've worked hard and persevered.  We don't tolerate false teachers and false doctrine.  We've endured hardship for Jesus' name.  We've played an important role in many ministries in our community.  But have we maintained our first love?  Jesus wants us to do the right things for the right reasons.

The 20/20 Vision for First Baptist Riverside is for us to be a growing, healthy, missional and enduring church.  FBR has had a rich history in Riverside and we want to serve Jesus and share our faith with others for many years to come.  But it's important that we maintain our first love for Jesus.  We tell others about Jesus because we're head-over-heels in love with him and we can't keep quiet.  We serve Jesus because it is our greatest desire to please him. 

I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday as we learn about maintaining our first love for Jesus as we seek to endure and do the work of Jesus here in Riverside.  We have a traditional worship service at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship service at 10:45 a.m.

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