Attitudes for a New Year

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:17 PM

Tomorrow is the start of a New Year and many people will be making resolutions for what they hope to accomplish in 2016.  Some of my resolutions include losing another 7-8 pounds, cleaning up and organizing my office at work, and organizing my finances and important documents at home.  Most of our resolutions are about things that would be nice if we accomplished them, but they're non-essential items.  That's why it's so easy to give up on our New Year's resolutions.

What if our resolutions this year included things that would transform out lives.  I'd like to suggest we consider developing some new attitudes for the New Year.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us about some attitudes that would help us deepen our relationship with God and make us the people God wants us to be.  These attitudes are known as "The Beatitudes."  If these attitudes become part of our lives they will make us "happy" or "blessed."

The "Beatitudes" require a radical transformation of our lives.  They run counter to the attitudes we learn from our earliest years.  Putting our faith in Christ is no guarantee that these "Beatitudes" will develop in our lives.  I've met many Christians who don't possess any of these qualities.  I think that developing the "Beatitudes" in our lives is the result of intentional spiritual growth on our part.  But when we do develop these attitudes we are able to be like salt and light in the world.  In 2016 would you consider making changes in your life that would allow you to truly please God and represent him everywhere we go?

This Sunday we begin a new miniseries that is part of our overall study of "JESUS: God and Man."  For the next three weeks we'll look at some of Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.  You can worship with us on Sundays in Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

Emperors, Innkeepers and Shepherds

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA10er @ 10:15 AM

The greatest event in human history occurred the day God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and lived among us.  When we read Luke 1 and 2 and Matthew 2 we see God orchestrating all the events of Jesus' birth to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies and to help us understand the purpose of Jesus' ministry.  This Sunday in worship, as we continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man," we'll see how Jesus was born at just the right time, in the right place, to the right parents and with the right witnesses.  I hope you'll come celebrate Christ's birth with us at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m.

Think about what it means for us that the God who created the universe and who was actively involved in creating our lives came into the world to save us.  We call Jesus becoming man the "incarnation" because he took on human flesh.  The incarnation shows us that God loves us.  Even when we sinned, God never gave up on us.  Jesus was willing to make huge sacrifices to save us.  Jesus left everything that was his in heaven to come to earth with human limitations and be born in a stable.  Ultimately Jesus would die on a cross for our sins.  I can't imagine a love so great that God would come to earth to die for me.  Wow!

The incarnation reveals how much God values his relationship with us.  Jesus came to earth so that we could really know what God is like.  The gospels tell the story of God who became a man.  When we read about the things Jesus' did we see the actions of God.  When we read the things Jesus said, we hear the words of God.  We can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And if we believe in Jesus, our relationship with God never ends - we will live forever with him in heaven, God's original creative intent is restored.

The incarnation calls us to live lives that have purpose and meaning.  Jesus started a mission that will continue until he comes back at the end of time.  In the interim our job is to carry on the mission Jesus started.  We carry on the mission by serving Jesus in the church by building up the believers and outside the church as we witness to others and show Christian love to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  Your life matters because Jesus came to earth.

This Christmas read the Christmas story and think about what it means to your life that God became a man and lived among us.  The implications are amazing!

Am I Ready to Serve?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP6er @ 6:44 PM

When we read the Christmas story we find God asking a young woman and man, Mary and Joseph, to serve him in a way that would change their lives forever.  God was calling them to be the parents of his only Son, the Messiah, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  Do you understand the influence a mother and father have on a child when he is growing up?  It's huge.  Can you imagine how carefully God searched for just the right people to do the job?

Mary and Joseph were ready to serve God when he called.  They loved God.  They had a strong faith in God and commitment to God.  They were humble.  They were people who had integrity.  They were courageous and willing to face uncertainty.  They were the right people at the right time.

This Sunday in worship I'm going to ask our congregation to answer the question, "Am I Ready to Serve?"  God has important work he wants done in our community and around the world.  Are we ready if God calls us to serve him?  Is our relationship with God good enough for us to hear him when he calls?  Do we have the faith to say like Mary, "I am the Lord's servant"?  Would we be willing to serve the Lord if we knew that what he asks us to do would change the course of our lives?  Do we have the moral and ethical integrity to be qualified to do the work God has for us to do?

God could use Mary and Joseph because they were ready to serve.  If you've never heard God's call to serve, could it be because you're not ready to serve him?  We all need to do whatever it takes to prepare ourselves so that when God gives us a job to do, we'll be ready to do it.  We'll learn how to get ready to serve this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside when we worship at 9:00 and 10:45 a.m.

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA9er @ 9:07 AM

May today be a time for each of us to reflect on the good things God does in our lives and say "Thank you!"  We owe everything to God.  He's the creator of all things.  God made us, knitting us together in our mother's womb.  He made every person we love who is part of our lives.  God has given us the talents and abilities to be able to work and care for our families.  God is good!

God has given us every spiritual blessing.  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live among us and reveal Himself to us.  Jesus willingly died on the cross, paying the debt we owe for sin, so that we can be forgiven, our relationship with God can be restored, and we can be saved.  We have the hope of eternal life and heaven because of what Jesus did for us.  We have meaning and purpose in this life because God has called us to be part of a movement that can change people's lives and the world.  Praise God!

Each of us can make a list of the specific things God has done to enrich our lives and help us in our times of need.  So take time today to count your blessings and name them one by one.  By the time you're done you'll be amazed by all the blessings you've received and you'll be ready to give thanks and praise to God.

Lunch With Jesus

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA7er @ 7:47 AM

Thanksgiving is nearly here and it's time to pause and reflect on the good things God brings into our lives.  I hope you'll join me in setting aside time this week to count your blessings and name them one by one.  I use my journal (legal pad) to list things I'm thankful for and by the time I'm done my heart overflows with gratitude to God for his grace and goodness.

One of the things that makes Thanksgiving one of our favorite holidays is the meal and fellowship we share with family and friends.  This Sunday as we continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man - Miracles" we'll learn about a meal Jesus made for thousands of his friends.   Jesus' miracle of "Feeding of the 5,000" is even more amazing because only the men in the crowd were counted, so Jesus fed between 10,000 and 15,000 people when you add the women and children.  It's a remarkable story found in John 6:1-13.

I'm calling Sunday's sermon "Lunch With Jesus."  Imagine what it would be like to be part of a large crowd listening to Jesus teach.  It's past noon and everyone is getting hungry and a little antsy.  Most people didn't plan ahead and bring food with them.  Jesus has everyone sit down on the grass and takes a boy's lunch, blesses it and passes it out to feed the crowd.  That's not going to go very far!  But as the disciples divide the food to take to the people, more and more appears.  As baskets full of fish and bread are passed, everyone takes their fill, but the food never runs out.  This is unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.

As the people eat, they reflect on the miracle they've experienced.  They think about the things Jesus has taught them that morning.  Their lives are changed by having lunch with Jesus.  Our lives will be changed as we reflect on this story and vicariously join in having lunch with Jesus, enjoying fellowship with him and reflecting on what he has to say that is of profound importance for our lives.  Join us for worship this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:45 a.m. for "Lunch with Jesus."

What Do You See?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OA9er @ 9:43 AM

This Sunday we'll continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man" by looking at the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). My sermon title is, "What Do You See?"  After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him on a boat, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  A sudden storm arises, tossing the boat to and fro, making the disciples wonder if they're going down in the storm. 

Imagine you're one of the disciples on the boat.  You're in the midst of a fierce, life-threatening storm.  What do you see?  Do you find yourself focusing on your problems?  Do you just want to find a way out of the storm?  Are you focusing on your fears, thinking about the worst case scenario?  Do you focus on your doubts?  Or do you see it as an opportunity to trust God and grow in your faith.

Of all the disciples, when Peter sees Jesus walking on the water toward them, Peter sees an opportunity to trust Jesus and grow in his faith.  My experience in life is that my best times of spiritual growth don't come when everything is going great.  My most significant times of spiritual growth have happened in times of hardship, difficulty, chaos, uncertainty.  When we view difficult times as opportunities for us to pray harder and trust God more, our faith grows and our love for the Lord increases.

Like Peter, we need to get out of the boat, to leave behind the relative safety of our status quo, and go to Jesus who is calling us unto himself.  We're human, so like Peter we may have some doubts along the way, and at times we'll sink, but Jesus is always be there to lift us up.  Peter was stronger spiritually for getting out of the boat than he would have been if he's stayed with the other disciples.  So when challenging times come, be willing to get out of the relative safety of the boat and go to Jesus.  Let him build your faith.

Mission to Thailand

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP5er @ 5:18 PM

I've been away nearly two weeks with a mission team from First Baptist Riverside serving God in Thailand.  We led a five day retreat for the Thailand Baptist Mission Fellowship, a group of about fifty missionaries and their families.  These missionaries come from the United States, Australia, Britain , Germany, Japan, and India.  The members of the Thailand Baptist Mission Fellowship serve in stressful ministries in Thailand rescuing women from the sex trade and human trafficking, operating an orphanage for children whose parents have died of AIDS, doing street ministries in the cities, evangelizing and helping improve agriculture and business among the hill tribes, and training pastors of local churches.

At the retreat we led programming for adults, youth and children.  Usually the missionaries have to lead their own retreat, meaning that some of them are working instead of getting a break.  The theme of the retreat was "Treasure Quest" as we helped the adults and children discover the treasures God has made available to them as they serve him.  Torrie and Barbara led the children's ministry, Connie and Ed led the youth ministry, Nick was our worship leader, and Diane and I led the adults.  We also facilitated a get-acquainted activity at the beginning of the retreat, a "Treasure Quest" at the end, as well as providing spa treatments for the missionaries.

It was amazing to meet the missionaries who are serving God in Thailand.  They are a dedicated group of people, serving God passionately under difficult conditions, with love and compassion for the Thai people.  While we were in Thailand we were able to visit the New Life Center housing about fifty girls rescued from the sex trade and human trafficking.  We also visited the House of Love, an orphanage for children who families have been devastated by AIDS, and a preschool to help disadvantaged kids get a head start before they go to school.

We had a couple of days to do some sightseeing in Thailand.  One day we explored old town Chiang Mai and learned a lot about the culture and the religion of Thailand.  The other day we visited Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest mountain in Thailand, known for beautiful waterfalls and temples.  We visited a Karin village, one of the hill tribes that has become largely Christianized through the work of Baptist missionaries.

This Sunday (November 8th) in worship I'll be able to show some pictures and talk about the work we did in Thailand.  This Sunday we'll also continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man" and learn about Jesus' miracle healing the demon possessed boy in Mark 9.  On Wednesday, December 9th at 6:30 p.m. our Thailand Mission Team will lead an hour program to give a more in depth report of our trip with additional pictures and display items. We hope you'll join us.

A New Adventure

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP2er @ 2:55 PM

After planning for more than a year to go to Thailand to lead a retreat for the members of the Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship, the time for our trip has arrived.  There are seven from our church who will be leading the retreat: Barbara, Connie, Ed, Nick, Torrie, Joe and Diane.  Barbara and Torrie will be leading the children's program.  Connie and Ed will lead the youth ministry.  Nick and Ed will lead music.  Connie will do art.  Diane and Joe will lead the adult sessions and worship.  We'll all have listening ears for missionaries who want to talk about their lives and ministries, we'll lead recreation, activities and provide some basic spa treatments to pamper the missionaries.  We're taking gifts to the missionaries and their families to brighten their day.

The missionaries of the Thailand Baptist Mission Fellowship live stressful lives.  Some of them are starting churches in the countryside.  Some are in the big cities rescuing girls and women caught up in human trafficking and the sex trade, ministering to addicts, and caring for children whose parents have died of aids.  These ministries honor Jesus and bless people, but they are difficult jobs.  Our theme for the retreat is "Treasure Quest."  We want to help the missionaries see themselves for the treasures they are in the eyes of God.  We want them to feel valued and appreciated.

We will use part of the time we're in Thailand to visit mission sites.  We'll visit Kit Ripley at the New Life Center where girls are rescued from human trafficking and the sex trade and provided with education, job training, and counseling so that they can have a new life.  Many of the girls come to know Jesus Christ and are baptized.  We'll also visit the House of Love directed by Kim Brown, a home for women and children.  This includes women who had been sold into prostitution, AIDS orphans, and children taken out of their homes by the Social Welfare Department because of abuse.  Some of the residents do not have Thai citizenship and have few rights in Thailand.

We will also have some time to see the sights and experiences of Thailand.  We'll visit the Sunday Bazaar and Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, as well as the Doi Inthanon National Park, near Chiang Mai, encompassing the highest mountain in Thailand with spectacular sights and waterfalls.

We are thankful for the members of the First Baptist Church of Riverside that have made it possible for us to go on this mission trip.  We would appreciate your prayers while we're in Thailand (October 19-29).

Discipleship is an Adventure

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP8er @ 8:01 PM

This Sunday as we continue our study of "JESUS: God and Man" we're going to learn about Jesus calling the disciples to follow him.  This is the fourth "Foundational" event in Jesus' ministry following his baptism, temptation, and the time when he taught in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.

What we'll discover this week is that Jesus was calling his disciples to a meaningful life, a life where every day was an adventure as they went where Jesus was going and learned from him.  I don't think the disciples spent many boring days with Jesus!  And after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension they continued to carry out Jesus' mission themselves.

As Christians we are not called to be Christians who fill pews on Sunday mornings and then go about our lives the rest of the week.  We are called to be Jesus' followers (disciples) today.  If we're truly following Jesus then life will be an adventure for us too!  As a follower we never know what each day will bring, how Jesus might call us to serve him, who we might be able to talk too and how he might speak through us.  Following Jesus is an adventure because every day we'll learn new things and gain new insights from the Holy Spirit.  Worship will be exciting because each Sunday we'll be able to see how God is preparing us for what he wants us to do next.

I love being a disciple, but it's demanding.  Jesus said that we must "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." (Matthew 6:33).  Jesus comes first if we're his disciples.  Jesus also said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).  We may have to make sacrifices and even give up our lives when we follow Jesus.  An adventure often denotes challenge or danger, are we willing to take risks to follow Jesus? 

I hope you'll come to First Baptist this Sunday and learn what it mean to be a disciple and discover in the sermon that "Discipleship is an Adventure."  If you can't come to church, then you can listen to the sermon on our website next week.  Discover the adventure of following Jesus!

Jesus - He's Not What We Expect

Posted by Joseph Lutz on OP1er @ 1:18 PM

This Sunday in worship we'll go with Jesus to his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30).  It's early in Jesus' ministry and he's gaining a following, so he wants to explain to the hometown folk who he is and what his ministry is all about.  Jesus wasn't what, or who, they expected him to be. That's true for us today too. Many people have a stereotype they think Jesus should fit into. He doesn't.  Jesus wasn't who the townspeople expected him to be.  Jesus isn't always who we expect him to be either.  We have to read Jesus' teachings and the story of his life from the gospels if we want to understand Jesus.

That's what our study of the life of Christ on Sunday mornings is all about.  We are reading and studying the gospels to meet "JESUS, God and Man" and to learn more about him.  You're invited to join us on Sundays in traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.

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