MAKING YOUR WAY IN THE WORLD TODAY

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 2:33 PM

The words from the opening jingle for the old TV comedy "Cheers" are, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you got."  Those words describe what life is like for people who are trying to follow Jesus.  In this world there are so many competing loyalties and temptations to lead us astray that it's really hard to live a life that honors God.  The truth is, it's been hard for every generation to live life faithfully for the Lord.

This Sunday we go all the way back to Lot, whose life is described in Genesis 12-19.  Lot shows his faith in God by travelling with his uncle Abram from Harran to Canaan.  God blessed Abram and Lot and their families so much, the land could not support their herds and flocks.  Lot chose to go east, to the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were located.  That's where things started to go bad.  Lot moved from the country to the city of Sodom.  When Sodom was attacked and defeated by enemy kings, Lot, his family and all their belongings were taken as part of the booty.  Abram had to rescue him.

Upon Lot's return to Sodom, things got worse.  Sodom was an evil place.  Even though it was hard to live as a believer,  Lot didn't leave.  One day two angels (messengers from God) came to investigate the evil reports they'd received about Sodom.  Lot invites the angels to stay at his house to protect them from the townsfolk, but to no avail.  A mob gathers outside Lot's home demanding he produce his guests so they could homosexually gang rape them (thus the word sodomy).  When Lot refuses, the mob threatens violence.  The only thing that saves Lot is the intervention of the angels who strike the townspeople blind.  At that point the angels decide to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroy them.  Lot and his family have to flee, but Lot's wife, finding it hard to leave her life and friends behind,  turns back, and is turned into a pillar of salt.

The story of Lot reminds us of the seriousness of evil.  God is a holy, just, perfect and pure God.  He cannot tolerate evil.  Therefore evil has to be judged.  As Christians, it's important for us to resist temptation, to flee evil, and to seek to live lives of purity that honor God.  As humans, we all have times when we become selfish, fail and sin.  For those times we have Jesus, and, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  If we believe in Jesus we must not make evil our way of life.  That's why "making your way in the world today takes everything you got" to resist the temptations all around us and to choose to please him.

This Sunday at First Baptist Riverside we'll learn about Lot's life and what he can teach us about evil and how we can overcome the temptation to sin.  I hope you can join us at our Traditional Service at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

DON"T SETTLE FOR PLAN B

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 9:04 AM

This is the word of the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  God creates us to be unique and special people.  He gives us different gifts and abilities to fulfill the plans he has for our lives.  God has a good plan for us.  God's plans should always be Plan A for our lives.  But at times, and for various reasons, we choose not to pursue God's plan, instead settling for our own Plan B, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

We see that exemplified this week in our study of "Genesis: In the Beginning" in Genesis 16.  God has an amazing plan for Abram's and Sarai's, lives.  He's promised to give them many descendants and make them into a great nation.  But years go by and they still have no children.  They begin to give up hope.  Instead of trusting God, Sarai offers her slave Hagar to Abram, that he might have children through her.  Without telling the whole story, that decision leads to turmoil in all of their lives when Hagar becomes pregnant and has a son named Ishmael.  Hagar despises Sarai.  And the child Ishmael becomes the father of the Arab nations, leading to an ongoing dispute with his half-brother Isaac's descendants to this day.

There are many reasons why we choose Plan B instead of sticking with God's Plan A.  We may grow impatient waiting for God's plan to unfold, like Abram and Sarai were.  It may be rebelliousness on our part, thinking that we know better than God does.  We may mess of God's Plan A because of some impulsive, sinful decision.  In every case, instead of pursuing God's Plan A, which is always the best outcome for our lives, we settle for Plan B and have to live with the consequences.

This Sunday we'll learn that God's Plan A for our lives is always best.  We'll identify some of the reasons we too often settle for Plan B and what the consequences of Plan B are.  We'll also discover the wisdom of sticking with Plan A and the wonder of forgiveness as we learn to repent of our mistakes, turn around and follow God's plan for our us.  If you want to find God's Plan A for your life, I hope you'll come worship with us at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

DOING SOMETHING NEW

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 8, 2018 @ 9:34 AM

When Abram was 75-years-old, God told him to leave the land where he lived and go to a place that God would give to him.  75-years-old is pretty old to pull up stakes, move, and begin a whole new life.  Yet, Abram had the faith to do exactly as the Lord instructed, made his way to Canaan, with God guiding him, protecting him, and directing him all the way.

As human beings, as we age, we tend to become set in our ways.  We like our routine and what's comfortable and become less inclined to make changes in our lives.  And yet, God likes new things.  When God created in Genesis 1 it was a whole new world.  In Revelation 21, at the end of time, God will make all things new.  The word "new" is found more than 280 times in the Bible.  God asks us to do new things, to not grow too comfortable, so that we can show our faith by following him, like Abram did.

I would go so far as to suggest that right now God may be asking you to do something new.  He may be asking you to serve him in a new way, and if you do, he'll give you the strength and ability to serve him well.  He may be asking you to learn new things about him by joining a small group or Bible class or by spending more intentional times in personal Bible study and prayer.  God may want you to do something new with your finances,  if you don't tithe, show your faith by giving God 10% of your income, as he instructs in the Bible.  God may be asking you to talk to a friend or family member about you're faith.  If you've never shared your faith with another person before, it can feel intimidating, but God will help us.  What new thing might God be asking you to do?

I believe Genesis 12 speaks powerfully to the First Baptist Church of Riverside.  We've served God in this community for 144 years.  That's a long time.  Sometimes churches, like people, grow comfortable, fear change, and when God calls them to mount a new campaign, to serve Christ in a new way, they hesitate.  Well, the world is changing.  If we want to continue to serve God in Riverside and have a relevant witness to the people in our community, we must be willing to change.  I'm not talking about changing our beliefs or what the Bible teaches.  God's word is eternal and never changes.  But the way we do ministry has to change.  We don't show our faith by continuing to do what's comfortable, we show our faith by being willing to follow God and do what he asks.

Maybe God is speaking to you right now, challenging you to do something new.  If you want to know more about what that might look like for your life, join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  We have a Traditional Worship Service at 9:00 a.m. and a Contemporary Service at 10:45 a.m.  This Sunday is Scout Sunday, the Scouts from Troop 2 will participate in our services and they'll have a Pancake Breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. to raise money for their activities.  Come to church early enough to have breakfast and support the scouts.  Hope to see you here!

PROMISES OF GRACE

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Friday, February 2, 2018 @ 9:54 AM

God is just.  God is also holy, and because God is holy he must judge evil.  As a result of the evil in the days of Noah, God sent a great flood to destroy the world, saving one righteous man and his family to start the human race over again.  After the flood God made a covenant with Noah, promising he would never again destroy the world with a flood.  Forever the rainbow stands as a sign of the covenant, reminding people of God's promise.  While God judges evil, he also offers a promise of grace, a plan of forgiveness and salvation so that we will not have to face judgment.

On this Communion Sunday, we remember another covenant, a New Covenant, a promise of grace God made with his people when Jesus was on this earth.  In this covenant Jesus would die on a cross to pay the penalty of sin, offering forgiveness and salvation to all who believe in him.  Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 2:8, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  The sign of this New Covenant is Jesus' blood, which we remember every time we drink from the cup during the service of communion.

I've often heard people describe a covenant as being like a contract, but it is not.  A contract is an agreement between two parties where both promise to abide by the terms of the contract.  A covenant is one-sided, it is a promise God makes to his people.  We have no say in determining the terms of a covenant.  We can only accept it or reject it.  According to the terms of the New Covenant, we are saved by Jesus' blood, his sacrifice on the cross, through our faith in him.  Our hope is in Christ alone.  We are not saved by living a good life, doing good works, giving money to the poor, or anything else we might do.  We are saved by faith in Christ alone.  That's God's covenant, his promise of grace to us.  We can take it or leave it.

So the question for us is, will be accept the New Covenant that supersedes all other covenants, and believe in Jesus and follow him?  This Sunday we'll seek to understand the concept of "covenant" and God's promise of grace.  If you want to receive grace and avoid judgment, then join us for worship and learn about our faith in Christ and affirm the covenant in the taking of communion.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

EAST OF EDEN - WHERE EVIL REIGNS

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 3:13 PM

Our study of "Genesis" continues in chapter 4, with the story of Cain and Abel.  Sin, that came into the world by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil progresses to family jealousy, sibling rivalry, violence and murder.  Once we allow evil a foothold in our lives, it takes on a life of it's own and becomes increasingly worse.  If we're honest with ourselves, we've seen this process at work in our lives.

When we become aware of sin and temptation, we've got to repent, turn around and change direction.  If Cain could have admitted his pride and stubbornness in offering a sacrifice that was unacceptable to God, he would not have felt the need to take out his anger and revenge on his brother.  Instead Cain became angry , his anger turned into action, and he killed his brother.

Whatever our sin, if we want to please God, when we become aware that something is wrong, we confess it, change our attitude and move on.  When we dwell on the hurts others have inflicted on us, when feel like life is unfair, we 'll become bitter and angry and strike out.  When we focus our minds on evil, whatever it is, at some point the temptation becomes too great and we make a bad choice and do the wrong thing.  We need to develop self-control.  As Christians, we know that self control is one of the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit that grows in our lives as we mature in our faith.  Our relationship with God changes the way we think.

The interesting part of the story takes place after Cain kills Abel.  God does not condemn him for murder nor treat him as his sin deserves.  Instead he is exiled and he'll endure the consequences of his actions in a harder life, but God gives Cain protection and grace and an opportunity to change his life.  Even in the earliest part of the Bible, God offers us grace and a second chance.  Join us this Sunday to learn about sin and grace in "East of Eden - Where Evil Reigns."  Come worship on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. Traditional Worship or 10:45 a.m. Contemporary Worship.

INNOCENCE LOST

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 3:16 PM

This Sunday we continue our study of "Genesis." In Genesis 1 God created the world.  In Genesis 2 God created human life in the persons of Adam and Eve. They're enjoying their time in the Garden of Eden.  We have no idea how much time has passed, it could have been days, months, or even years.  In chapter 3 a new character enters the story: the serpent.  The serpent represents Satan.  He twists God's words, challenging Adam and Eve to question God's motives.  God has warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Satan seeks to convince them that God's motive is selfish in issuing that command, to keep Adam and Eve subservient, knowing that if they ate the fruit they would become like God.

Eve looks at the fruit and it looks good to eat.  She also thinks it would be good to become like God.  So she eats it and then offers it to Adam and also eats.  Adam is complicit in the sin because he "was with her."  Upon eating the fruit, their innocence is lost.  They realize they're naked and try to cover up.  In one act of eating the fruit God had warned them about, sin and evil came into the world and their innocence was lost.

There are some important "why's" in this story.  Why did God allow the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be in the garden?  God didn't want the humans he made to be slaves or robots, but to have free will.  Would they choose of their own volition to be obedient and faithful to God?  Why did God allow Satan into the garden to tempt Adam and Eve?  Sometimes God tests us to see if we'll be faithful.  This was a test.  Would the people he created be faithful?  They were not.

As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve are removed from the Garden of Eden.  Death enters the world.  From that point on people would possess a sin nature predisposing them to selfishness and sin.  The result is that ever since "the fall," all people have sinned and fallen short of God's ideal for their lives.  The wages of sin is death.  But God still wants people to follow him and be his children.  Did God know that the people he created would sin?  Sure he did.  So he had a plan in mind: to send his own Son to earth to suffer and die in the place of sinners like you and me.  If we believe in him, our sins are forgiven, we are saved and will have eternal life in our Father's house (John 14:1-6).

This Sunday at First Baptist, come learn more about mankind's original sin.  By understanding how Adam and Eve were tempted, we'll learn how Satan works and recognize when he's messing around in our lives.  We can resist Satan, be faithful to God, and know that if (when ) we sin, Jesus will forgive us.  What a wonderful hope.  Join us for worship this Sunday at our Traditional Worship Service at 9:00 a.m. or our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

THE CENTERPIECE OF CREATION

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 4:02 PM

In Genesis 1 we learn about the creation of the earth and the universe.  This Sunday, when I preach on  Genesis 2, the focus changes to "The Centerpiece of Creation," which is human beings.  Last week we learned how God created mankind, male and female, in his image (Genesis 1:27).  In Genesis 2 we find that God takes great care in creating the male and female.  God is far more involved and "hands on" creating the people who would become his children.

In Genesis 2 we learn that humans are different from all other created beings.  Verse 7 says, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."  The word "breath" is the same Hebrew word that can also be translated "spirit."  I believe that God's breath is the origin of the human soul.  Only human beings have a soul.  The soul is the us that connects with God.  It's the us that will live forever.

It is important for us to develop and nurture the spirit within us.  When our bodies are dead and gone, our spirit (soul) continues on.  We spend so much time feeding ourselves and exercising in the hope that our bodies will be healthy, but if the soul is malnourished and without a connection to God, then we will be separated from him forever.  That would be terribly foolish.

We nurture our soul by having fellowship with God.  During the time of Adam and Eve, God walked in the garden with them.  Today we nurture our soul by developing a close relationship with God.  That relationship begins when we become aware of our need for God and ask Jesus to come into our lives and forgive our sins.  Our soul become healthy and strong as we worship God, spending time studying his word (the Bible), as we pray, serve God and have fellowship (develop friendships) with other believers.

This Sunday, I hope you'll join us for worship to find out more about the soul God has given you and how to care for it.  You'll also learn about God's purpose and plan for your life.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Join our study of "Genesis: In the Beginning..." as this book develops the key themes found throughout the rest of the Bible.

GENESIS: IN THE BEGINNING

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 @ 4:40 PM

Sunday marks the start of our all-church study of "Genesis: In the Beginning."  This week we'll begin in Genesis 1 and learn about "God's Handiwork."  There are many questions people have about creation, but the one thing all Christians agree on is that our God is the power and master designer behind everything that is.  The fact that God created gets to the question of purpose.  If God intentionally created the earth and human beings to be his children, there is a purpose for it.  There's a reason why this world exists.  There's a reason for each of us to be here.  You and I are essential elements of God's plan.  We are not the random product of a big bang or genetics, instead we have been formed by God in our mother's womb to be the people he wants us to be.

Genesis introduces all the major theological concepts that we find in the Bible.  It tells us of the origin of evil and why we need Jesus to be our Savior.  We'll learn about the holiness of God, his justice and the judgment of sin, and also that he's a God of grace who forgives those who trust in him.  In Genesis we see the beginning of God's salvation plan that reaches fruition in Jesus Christ, whose birth we just celebrated.  I'm very excited about this study of Genesis and the things we will learn about God and our faith every Sunday.

I hope that you'll choose to be part of our study of "Genesis - In the Beginning."  To get the most from this study means attending worship on Sundays.  The message is the same in both our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  I will be covering about half of Genesis in my messages on Sunday mornings and the other half will be covered in our small groups and Sunday Bible classes, so I hope you'll commit to being in a small group or class beginning this Sunday.  We have many groups to choose from and they're expecting new people to join them for this study, so you'll be warmly welcomed.  We would love to have you be part of this incredible learning experience with us.

GENESIS: IN THE BEGINNING

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 @ 4:40 PM

Sunday marks the start of our all-church study of "Genesis: In the Beginning."  This week we'll begin in Genesis 1 and learn about "God's Handiwork."  There are many questions people have about creation, but the one thing all Christians agree on is that our God is the power and master designer behind everything that is.  The fact that God created gets to the question of purpose.  If God intentionally created the earth and human beings to be his children, there is a purpose for it.  There's a reason why this world exists.  There's a reason for each of us to be here.  You and I are essential elements of God's plan.  We are not the random product of a big bang or genetics, instead we have been formed by God in our mother's womb to be the people he wants us to be.

Genesis introduces all the major theological concepts that we find in the Bible.  It tells us of the origin of evil and why we need Jesus to be our Savior.  We'll learn about the holiness of God, his justice and the judgment of sin, and also that he's a God of grace who forgives those who trust in him.  In Genesis we see the beginning of God's salvation plan that reaches fruition in Jesus Christ, whose birth we just celebrated.  I'm very excited about this study of Genesis and the things we will learn about God and our faith every Sunday.

I hope that you'll choose to be part of our study of "Genesis - In the Beginning."  To get the most from this study means attending worship on Sundays.  The message is the same in both our Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  I will be covering about half of Genesis in my messages on Sunday mornings and the other half will be covered in our small groups and Sunday Bible classes, so I hope you'll commit to being in a small group or class beginning this Sunday.  We have many groups to choose from and they're expecting new people to join them for this study, so you'll be warmly welcomed.  We would love to have you be part of this incredible learning experience with us.

CHRISTMAS DISCOVERIES

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 12:07 PM

There are many great discoveries that are part of our Christmas celebration.  There will certainly be a sense of discovery among the children in our families as they anxiously await Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to open the presents with their names on them under the tree.  You can be assured that there will be no unopened presents, the spirit of discovery is far too strong for that to happen.

In the story of Jesus' birth, the angels announce to the shepherds, "good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-11)   The shepherds went to Bethlehem to discover everything was just as the angels said it would be.  They found the baby Jesus in a stable, lying in a manger.

The wise men (Magi) noticed a new star in the sky.  Aware that the Jews looked forward to a day when God would send them a new king, the wise men travelled to Israel and discovered the Christ child in Bethlehem.  What was true of both the shepherds and the wise men was that they would not have found Jesus if they hadn't gone searching for him.

Now is a good time for us to discover the meaning of Christmas.  Christmas is more than just a nice story about a baby being born in a stable.  The baby in Bethlehem is the Son of God.  He came to get to know us.  He wants to have a relationship with us.  But for that to happen our sins must be forgiven, so Jesus died on the cross to pay our debt of sin.  Christmas is the perfect time to discover how much God loves you, that he sent his Son to you and the lengths he went to, to save you.

I hope you'll join us for a very special time of worship on Christmas Eve.  Out theme is "Christmas Discoveries" as we discover important things about Jesus and the purpose of his birth.  Our Christmas Eve Sunday worship services will be at 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., so come to whichever service best fits your schedule.  Bring the whole family for a Christmas celebration.

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