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.

Jesus' Servants

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 4:40 PM

If Jesus doesn't need us to do anything for him on this earth, he might as well just take us home to heaven the moment we confess our faith in him.  The fact that we're still here suggests that God has something more in mind for us.  We've been learning about what Jesus expects from us during the month of September.  We learned in 1 Corinthians 5 that we are Jesus' Ambassadors, as though God is making his appeal to others through us.  As Christians we represent Jesus in our words and actions 24/7/365.  When we're actively fulfilling our role as ambassadors, we'll have a growing church.  Last week we learned that we are disciples of Jesus, we are to grow and mature in our faith by learning from the apostles' teaching (the New Testament), fellowship, worship and prayer.  God wants us to develop healthy relationships with him and with others.  When we're disciples, we'll have a healthy church.

This Sunday we'll discover that an important part of God's plan for us is to be his servants while we're on this earth.  Jesus wants all of us to be missionally minded, looking for ways to serve him in our church, in our neighborhoods, community and world.  Jesus' desire is for the church and it's members to be missional, to get outside of our holy huddle on Sunday mornings and live for him during the week.

In Jesus' "Parable of the Sheep and the Goats" (Matthew 25:31-46) we're reminded that Jesus wants us to go through life with our eyes wide open to see the needs people have around us.  If they're hungry or thirsty, in need of clothing or shelter, or sick or in prison, we are to help them and serve them in Jesus' name.  When we serve the least of these brothers and sisters of Jesus, it's as though we are serving him.  Too often we measure our faithfulness to Jesus in terms of church attendance, when in fact, Jesus is more concerned about us serving him.

I invite you to First Baptist Riverside this Sunday to learn more about having a missional mindset and serving Jesus.  We have a Traditional Worship service at 9:00 a.m. and a Contemporary Worship service at 10:45 a.m.  We'd love to have you join us!

Disciple For Jesus

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 9:59 AM

Many Christians think if they go to church from time to time and put some money in the offering plate, they've done everything necessary to be a good Christian.  But Jesus didn't die on the cross to make us church attenders.  He didn't die so we would throw a few dollars his way to support our local church.  Jesus calls us to be disciples.  When Jesus issued the Great Commission the his church he said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).  Jesus died to make us disciples!

What is a disciple?  In Jesus' day a disciple is one who follows and learns.  During Jesus ministry  he had twelve disciples who followed him and learned from him for three years, so that they would be prepared to carry out Jesus' mission when he was no longer here.  Jesus wants us to follow him, to be cognizant of his leading every day of our lives, 24/7/365.  Jesus wants us to learn about our faith until we understand everything that he has commanded us, and we willingly choose to do what he says.  A disciple is one who is willing to serve his master whenever the master calls.

So what does it take to be a disciple?  It requires commitment.  Following Jesus is not a hobby and it's not something that we do for a couple hours on Sunday morning.  Being a disciple is a lifestyle.  Discipleship requires that we worship Jesus.  It means that we study the Bible and pray as individuals, but also in small groups where we deepen our relationship with God and our friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ.  Discipleship involves being ready to serve Jesus on a moment's notice.

So don't be content to be a church attender.  Become a disciple.  If you want to learn more about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside on Sunday.  We have a traditional service at 9:00 a.m. and a contemporary worship service at 10:45 a.m.  We would love to meet you and invite you to be a part of the band of followers here at First Baptist.

Ambassadors for Jesus

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 @ 10:35 AM

The last three weeks Diane and I enjoyed vacation in Europe.  We visited Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and took a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords.  We learned much about history and culture and enjoyed the beauty of God's created world.  We were also reminded that no matter where we are or what we're doing, if we're Christians, we are ambassadors for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20).  We met many people over the course off our trip and were able to talk about our faith in Jesus Christ and the ministry we do.  Those who know we are Christians, hopefully, are able to see our love for others and our desire to live for Jesus.

An ambassador is someone who represents the president or king of their country.  They speak on behalf of the leader of their nation to the leaders in the country where they serve.  They represent their nation to the people who live in that foreign land.  Christians live in a foreign country, where people do not know our King or live by the values he espouses.  We speak on behalf of King Jesus to people who don't know him.  We allow others to see our love for others and attitudes that reflect the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).  We model morals that align with Biblical teaching.  Ambassadors are not just on duty in public settings, but everywhere they go and in everything they do.

The truth is that everyone who believes in Jesus is an ambassador for Christ.  We don't have a choice - it's who we are in Christ.  The only choice we have is whether we'll be a good ambassador or a poor ambassador for Jesus.  We are on duty for Christ 24/7/365.  People should be able to hear Jesus in our words and see him in our actions, wherever we are and whatever we're doing.  If we say or do things that don't reflect our faith in Christ, then we do a disservice to our king.  So let's always be aware that we are ambassadors for Jesus - and be good ambassadors that honor him.

This Sunday in worship at First Baptist Riverside, we'll discover what it means to be ambassadors for Jesus and how we can represent him well.  Join us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  This Sunday and in the weeks ahead we'll also be talking about the vision God has given our church, our 20/20 Vision for the Future: to be a growing, healthy, missional and enduring church for Jesus Christ in our community.  Come find out what First Baptist is all about!

David: The Lord is My Shepherd

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 @ 3:31 PM

I have been devotionally reading through the Psalms this summer, and once again was in awe as I read through the 23rd Psalm.  God gave me an idea, "I could portray the character of David in a sermon and describe why David wrote the 23rd Psalm and explain what it means."  This Sunday (August 13) is the day!  I'm inviting all of you who read this blog to join us for worship and invite some friends to come along.  I think the 23rd Psalm will refresh your soul the way it does mine.

David started out young taking care of his family's sheep.  He became intimately aware of the lifestyle of a shepherd.  Later in life, when thinking of a way to describe his relationship with the Lord, the thought hit him that the Lord relates to us in much the same way a shepherd relates to the sheep.  The end result is a poem (or a song) that's been read (and listened to) more than any other literature ever written.  The reason for the popularity of the 23rd Psalm is that it describes God in a way that helps us make sense of the benefit of following him.

This Sunday we will discover what God is like and see how God cares for us.  If you're not sure why you should be a Christian and devote your life to God, this Sunday's sermons will clear up many of your questions.  Join us at Traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, August 3, 2017 @ 4:21 PM

We have been studying Paul's Letter to the Philippians in our sermons this summer.  Paul wraps up the letter by teaching about contentment.  He says that he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  He says in verse 12, "I know what it means to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."  Paul is an unusual person.  Most of us are not content unless everything is going our way and we have everything we want.

I wonder why contentment seems to always be referred to as a secret.  Paul says he has" learned the secret of being content."  Books have been written on "The Secret of Contentment."  I think "contentment" is a secret is because so few people have been able to attain it. 

"Contentment" is a way of living.  We live in a world where most people think that right here, right now is all that matters.  We need to view life from a longer perspective.  The most important thing in life is a relationship with God.  If we have God, we have the ability to be content.  Even if life isn't perfect now, we'ree content because we know that this world is temporary, but our lives are eternal and we will be with God forever in heaven.  So I can be content because my hope and my faith is in the Lord.

If our contentment requires that we have everything we want right now, very few people will be content.  John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the United States in the early 20th Century.  In an interview he was asked when he'd finally have enough?  His answer: "When I get a little more."  He was never content.  Whatever he had, he had to have more.  That's true for most of us.  Whatever we have now, even if it is more than we ever thought we'd have, it's never enough, we want more.  People are miserable trying to get ahead, trying to make themselves happy, but they're never able to obtain happiness.

This Sunday we will learn the secret of contentment at First Baptist Riverside in our traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45.  We hope you'll join us and find out how God can give us contentment.

Pleasing God

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 10:57 AM

When you love someone you want to please them.  As a child you want to please your mom and dad and see the joy on their faces.  When you fall in love and get married you show your love by seeking to please your spouse.  When you are in a loving relationship it's natural to want to please the other person.  So it is in our relationship with God.  God doesn't want us to serve him out of a sense of obligation or duty, but because we love him and want to please him.

This Sunday we will continue our study of Philippians and having "The Right Stuff" to be a follower of Jesus.  In Philippians 4:1-9 Paul describes some wonderful things we can do to please God.  Let me encourage you to reflect on your relationship with God.  Are you serving God?  Have you made changes in your life to align your actions with the teachings of Scripture?  Are you giving your tithes and offerings to the Lord?  If you're doing these things, why do you do them?  The motive that pleases God is love.

This Sunday I invite you to join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside.  We'll learn about things we can do to please God and show him how much we love him.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m. 

The Right Stuff - Pressing On

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, July 20, 2017 @ 10:57 AM

I work hard to stay in shape.  With a family history of heart disease I want to keep my heart strong.  So I go to the gym three mornings a week and run five miles on the elliptical machine.  And it's working.  My blood pressure is down where it should be.  My pulse rate is that of a distance runner.  But I have to tell you that there are some days when it is hard to get motivated.  I may be tired from a long day the day before or distracted because I have an important meeting coming up.  Sometimes I've got to grit my teeth and just keep on going, knowing that the goal is worthwhile.

When Paul writes his letter to the Philippians, he's in a Roman prison.  Following Jesus is turning out to be a challenging endeavor.  So, in the last half of chapter 3, Paul talks about his commitment to Christ.  He says in verses 13 and 14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 

Sometimes living the Christian life is a struggle.  We don't want to get up on Sunday morning to go to church.  We don't want to devote the time to attend a small group or Bible class.  We don't want to serve Jesus because there are other things we'd rather be doing.  We don't want to share our faith because the person we're talking with may want to argue with us.  But worship, spiritual growth, service and witnessing are all important aspects of living for Jesus.  So Paul uses the imagery of a runner to describe the Christian life, there are times when we will need to strain toward what is ahead and press on toward the goal God has set for us.

I'm committed to the goal of a healthy heart and that motivates me to get up early in the  morning and go to the gym before work to exercise.  I am committed to living the Christian life and pleasing Jesus my Savior, so I discipline myself to follow Jesus and serve him every day.  How are you doing in the marathon called the Christian life?  Are you in the race?  Are you running toward the goal?  Or have you gotten sidetracked?  This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn how to get into the race and press on toward the goal of living for Jesus and receiving the prize that is given to all who persevere.  Join us for Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

The Right Stuff - Faith

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 11:18 AM

This Sunday we'll continue our summer study of Paul's Letter to the Philippians.  In Philippians 3, Paul addresses the issue of salvation.  Are we saved by faith in Jesus Christ?  Are we saved by obedience to the law and good works?  Or are we saved by a combination of faith and law?  The teaching of the New Testament is clear.  We are saved by God's grace (his gift) through faith and not by works or obedience to the law.  However, we humans have a hard time accepting that salvation is free.  We think we should have to do something to "earn" it.  If we're not careful, we can add a lot of "should's" and "ought's" to what is required for someone to be saved.

In  Paul's day some Jewish Christians taught that salvation comes by a combination of faith in Jesus and obedience to Jewish law and customs.  They sought to impose Jewish customs on Gentile believers, causing them to doubt their salvation.  We do the same thing today, with certain moral rules or political opinions we expect people to follow before they can become Christians. This Sunday we'll reflect on Paul's affirmation of salvation by faith alone and receive the assurance of salvation for all who believe in Jesus.

This Sunday we'll also hear from a special guest, Kit Ripley, a missionary our church supports in Thailand.  Kit works at the New Life Center that rescues girls from human trafficking and the sex trade in Thailand.  They provide counseling, education, and the hope of getting a good job to women who have been horribly mistreated.  The New Life Center is a ministry of God's love in action.  We hope you'll join us for worship at our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or at our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

The Right Stuff - Conduct

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 @ 11:12 AM

Many people think of Christianity as believing in Jesus so that they can go to heaven when they die.  The Bible teaches us that we are saved by grace (it's God's free gift), that we receive by having faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).  But Jesus knows our heart when we put our faith in him.  Believing in Jesus means being committed to Christ and having an ongoing relationship with him.  If we just pray the salvation prayer and nothing changes in our lives, then it will be up to Jesus to judge whether we were serious about it or not.

This summer at First Baptist Riverside we're studying Paul's Letter to the Philippians in a sermon series called "The Right Stuff."  Philippians tells us about having "The Right Stuff" to be a follower of Jesus.  Following Jesus involves a life of spiritual growth - living for Jesus and serving him as we use our spiritual gifts for his glory.

This Sunday we'll talk about the importance of conducting our lives in a way that honors Jesus and serves as a witness to others that we have had a life-transforming relationship with him.  Though we're saved by grace and not obedience to the law, our conduct matters to Jesus.  If we don't change our sinful ways, then we'll be a bad witness to others and turn people off from the Christian faith.  If we don't exhibit conduct that honors Christ we can turn people off to the church.

As an example of Christian conduct Paul tell the Philippians that they are to do everything without grumbling and arguing (Philippians 2:14).  If someone comes to our church and the members are grumbling and complaining about things or if they're arguing or bickering with one another, why would anyone want to return to a church like that?  Rick Warren once said that our lives are a "walking billboard" for Jesus.  Are you living your life in such a way that people are attracted to Jesus?

If you want to find out more about conduct that allows us to be Jesus' witnesses and serve him effectively, I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Hopefully you'll find our conduct will attract you to come back and worship with us again and again.

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