Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, January 17, 2019 @ 7:52 AM

God love us and he want us to be happy.  God gives us many good things.  He's already given us the best thing ever, his love and his Son Jesus Christ.  If God would do all that for us, why would he withhold things that would make us happy?  This Sunday we'll learn about Hannah's Prayer in 1 Samuel 1:9-20.  Hannah was married, but was unable to have a child.  She prayed to conceive and have a child and God granted her request. 

What is it you really want in life?  God wants you to pray about those things - and in many cases he'll give you what you ask for.  However, I've said many times, God is not our celestial genie who gives us three wishes every day.  God is sovereign, and though he wants to make us happy and give us good things, he answers every prayer according to his will.  There will be some times when we ask God for something, and his answer is "No."  When we pray and don't get what we ask for, it should cause us to seek the heart of God, to try to understand his will and commit ourselves to whatever is God's purpose for our lives. 

In our story, Hannah has a son, a very special son named Samuel, a judge of Israel and a prophet, but she will have to give him to the Lord.  That had to be hard, but God gave Hannah what she wanted and she did what she had committed in her heart to do.  Will you accept the sovereignty of God, pray and do what God asks you to do, and put him first in every area of your life?  It is when we put God first in our lives that we will receive great things from him.

Our January Prayer Challenge is for each member of our congregation to spend five minutes a day praying for his church.  Here are this week's prayer concerns:

Sunday 1/20: Pray for faith to know God hears and answers all our prayers.

Monday 1/21: Pray that we will love our brothers and sisters of all races and cultural backgrounds on this Martin Luther King Day.

Tuesday 1/22: Pray “Confident Parenting” will bless families and reach unbelievers.

Wednesday 1/23: Pray that our church’s name change will attract people to Church on The Hill.

Thursday 1/24: Pray for our church staff, may they be strengthened for the work they do.

Friday 1/25: Pray for our children and youth – may our kids come to know and love the Lord.

Saturday 1/26: Ask God to provide for our church’s ministries and property improvements.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 @ 9:44 AM

There are times in our lives when we pray desperate prayers.  When we get a bad diagnosis from the doctor, we may pray a desperate prayer for God to spare our life.  When our spouse or a child is sick, we pray desperate prayers for healing.  The loss of a job or financial crisis is often accompanied by desperate prayers.  God hears our desperate prayers and answers them.  He may not always answer them the way we would like, but the more we pray, our faith increases and we begin to understand how God may be working through our desperate times.

This Sunday in worship we'll meet King Hezekiah whose story is found in 2 Kings 18-19.  King Hezekiah was one of the good kings of Judah, but he reigned during desperate times.  The Assyrian Empire was at the peak of it's might.  They attacked Judah, overran and destroyed most of it's cities.  Hezekiah's army was decimated.  All that's left is the people crowded inside the walls of Jerusalem.  The city is surrounded by an army of over 180,000 Assyrian soldiers.  If Hezekiah surrenders, the people will be sold into slavery and resettled to other parts of the Empire.  The city of Jerusalem will be destroyed.  If he doesn't surrender, the city will be destroyed and most of the people killed.  

So Hezekiah prays a desperate prayer for deliverance and God hears him and answers.  God miraculously defeats the Assyrians, wipes out most of their army, and they go back home in defeat.  No one in Jerusalem has to take up a weapon, no one from Judah is injured or killed, God saves them from their enemy.  It's a wonderful story and you'll hear about it from King Hezekiah's perspective when we worship God this Sunday.

Most of us face times in our lives when we pray desperate prayers.  But we shouldn't wait to develop a healthy prayer life until we're facing desperate times.  How can we develop our relationship with God and prepare ourselves for desperate times, so that we know God will hear and answer our prayers?  Join us for worship this Sunday at 9:00 (Traditional Worship) and 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary Worship) to discover how to trust God and pray in desperate times.

Also, join our January Prayer Challenge.  We are asking members of our congregation to set aside five minutes a day to pray for the First Baptist Church, it's ministries and it;s leaders.  This week's prayer concerns are:

Sunday 1/13: Pray desperate prayers for your needs and our church and trust God to answer.

Monday 1/14: Pray for our Deacon Board as they meet tonight – may God guide their plans.

Tuesday 1/15: Pray for Mount Rubidoux Manor Annual Meeting – expansion of services to low income seniors in need of assisted living.

Wednesday 1/16: Pray for Wednesday Prayer Meeting, for our church and one another.

Thursday 1/17: Pray for musicians and Holy Spirit inspired worship on Sundays.  Rehearsal tonight.

Friday 1/18: Pray for our children and youth ministries – winter camp coming up in a couple of weeks.

 Saturday 1/19: Pray for Sunday worship services.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 @ 3:21 PM

This Sunday we start a new series of sermons: "Prayers God Answers."  Would you like to pray bold, audacious prayers and know that God is going to answer them?  What kinds of things might you ask God to do if you prayed audacious prayers?  Would you ask him to change your heart and help you overcome bad habits so you'd be more like Jesus?  Would you pray for the healing of a friend and believe that he can do it?  Would you pray bold prayers for God to do great things in our church?  Would you pray for the lost?  Would you ask God to bless America?

One thing I know is that God wants us to pray audacious prayers.  He's tired of hearing our safe prayers that we don't really expect to be answered.  God is tired of listening to the same prayers prayed habitually day after day.  He wants us to pray fresh, new prayers with a mustard seed sized faith that is powerful enough to move mountains.

During January I'm asking everyone who calls First Baptist Riverside their church to join me in praying just five minutes a day for our church, our ministries, and for us to become the people God wants us to be.  Think of the power of a couple hundred people praying for the same thing during the same 24-hour period.  God might think we're praying for something we really want to see him do in our lives and in our church.  If God answered our prayers, what difference would that make?  It would make a huge difference in the future trajectory of our church.

This winter and spring exciting things are going on at First Baptist.  On Saturday, February 23rd, we will host a Parent Summit for parents and grandparents who want to have greater influence in the lives of their kids.  At the end of February we'll officially change the name of our church from the "First Baptist Church of Riverside" to "Church on the Hill" or "The Hill."  This will be accompanied by a major promotional campaign to make the community aware of our new name and our ministries and invite our neighbors to come and worship with us.  These events have the potential to do great things for God and for our church.  We need to be united in prayer to see what God will do.

I hope you'll come worship with us this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside and find out how to pray "Prayers God Answers."  This Sunday we'll learn to "Pray Boldly."  Our services are at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary).  Each Sunday you will receive prayer concerns for the week ahead.  In case you miss worship, I'll print the prayer concerns in my blog each week.  Won't you join with us in prayer!

Daily Prayer Concerns for the week of January 6th:

Sunday 1/6: pray for a spiritual revival in my life and my church.

Monday 1/7: pray for our preschool, preschool families, students and teachers.

Tuesday 1/8: pray for wisdom for our leaders: Deacons, pastors and office staff.

Wednesday 1/9: pray for the start of Wednesday adult and youth ministries.

Thursday 1/10: pray for our property and mission teams as they meet tonight.

Friday 1/11: pray for my oikos, the courage to talk about spiritual things, and invite family and friends to church.

Saturday 1/12: pray for Sunday worship services, classes and small groups.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, December 27, 2018 @ 10:29 AM

Life is such that we are often around people who are hard to love.  It may be a member of your family that you had to spend time with this Christmas.  It might be the person at work or school who is rude or a bully, you try to avoid them, but there they are every day.  It could be someone at church who is a little to sanctimonious for your taste.  Face it, there are people in our lives we don't like to be around, but we don't have a choice.

Jesus tells us that a measure of our love is how we love those who are unlovable.  Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, about a Samaritan who helped a Jew who was robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of the road.  Jews and Samaritans generally hated one another, were prejudiced toward each other, and yet Jesus holds this Good Samaritan up as an example of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We need to learn to love the unlovable people in our lives.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us "How to Love the Unlovable."  I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside for insights into how to love the hard to love people in your life and be a witness for Jesus in the process.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  Hope to see you here!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 @ 4:09 PM

Our theme for December is "Come to the Manger," an invitation to come meet Jesus and investigate the claims that he is the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We've learned "The Humble Come" and thought about the humility of Mary and Joseph, and Jesus leaving heaven and coming to earth as a baby.  If we want a relationship with Jesus we must come to him humbly.  We also learned "The Wise Come" as the Magi did because they have examined the evidence and decided that God was doing something special in the world.  Last Sunday "The Evil Come" led by King Herod who rejected Christ, didn't want him in this world and was ready to kill him.  There are some today who want nothing to do with Jesus

On Christmas Sunday (December 23) at First Baptist we will celebrate because "The Child Comes!"  Jesus the Living Word (John 1), the pre-existent God, the creator of all things, the one the prophets wrote about hundred's of years before his birth, has arrived.  He is born to Mary and Joseph in a stable, with a manger for his bed.  His praises sung by the angels, worshiped first by the shepherds and later by the Magi.  The miracle of the Incarnation, God has become a human being to identify with us, reveal himself to us, and die to save us from our sins.

Before Christmas Day arrives take time to Come to the Manger and spend time with Jesus.  Think about what it means that the creator has become the creation in order to save us.  Jesus was born to die, and in so doing he is able to forgive our sins and give us eternal life.  If a star announced his birth and the angels sang his praises, Jesus is unlike anyone who ever lived before.  Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  Has his presence changed your life?  Instead of fearing the future, are you willing to trust him for your future?

I hope you'll come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside on Christmas Sunday.  We will have one big combined worship service at 9:00 a.m. so our whole church family can worship together on this special day.  We have room for you to join us.  We will celebrate because the news that Jesus Christ is born is the best news the world has ever heard.  My prayer for you is that the message of Christmas will take root in your life and that faith in Jesus will come alive in you.  Have a very happy and Blessed Christmas!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 @ 3:01 PM

The story of Jesus' birth is so wonderful we tend to focus on only the best parts: the faith of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus in a manger, the star God uses to announce our Savior's birth, the Magi and Shepherds who come to worship him.  Everything about our modern day celebration of Christmas is remarkable, the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, lights and candles, packages brightly wrapped under the tree.  Even the food is good.

However, in the Christmas story evil is always lurking in the background.   Mary and Joseph's families are shamed by the pregnancy because they aren't yet married.  The young couple is slandered by the gossip of neighbors.  And then there's King Herod.  When the Magi stop in Jerusalem to ask directions, Herod is "disturbed" by the news that a new king, the Messiah, has been born.  He deceives the Magi, telling them to go search for the child and return and tell him where the baby is so he too can worship him.  Herod's plan is to kill the child and eliminate the threat.  When the Magi are warned by God not to return to Herod, in a rage he massacres all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem.

Whenever God is at work - the evil come.  Those who are evil pay attention to their own desires.  Like Herod they don't want God to interrupt their evil pursuits.  They'd rather live with their vices, satisfy their impulses, pursue pleasure, get what they can, and nurse their prejudices and hate.  Some will do everything they can to oppose the work of Christ in the world and the church.  If we Christians seek to follow Jesus - we can expect to face opposition from those who are evil, just like Jesus did.

But when the evil come to the manger, willing to consider a better way and seeking God - they will find him.  Jesus came to save those who are evil.  All of us have sinned and fall short of what God desires for us.  Jesus' goal is to save sinners if they'll believe in him.  He wants to change their lives and values so they  become like him.  When the evil come to Jesus they'll find forgiveness, salvation, hope for the future and the unconditional love God has for them.  This Christmas, if you struggle with evil, and we all do, come to Jesus and he can help you to become the person God created you to be.  Come to the Manger this Sunday at First Baptist Riverside.  Worship is at 9:00 and 10:45.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 @ 5:38 PM

In the story of Jesus' birth we meet Magi (wise men) from the east, probably Persia.  They were adherents of Zoroastrianism along with being well educated astrologers, religious philosophers and in some cases magicians.  They saw a star in the sky, attributed it to the long-awaited prophecies of a Jewish Messiah, and traveled to Israel to investigate.

What is it in the story that made the magi "wise?"  They recognized the new star many did not see.  Though foreigners, they knew enough about the Jewish faith and scriptures to recognize it as the fulfillment of prophecy.  They considered this discovery so significant, they took time out of their busy schedules at made an expensive and dangerous trip to Israel to investigate the facts.  When they found the Christ child, they were prepared to worship him and the gifts they brought revealed their understanding of his purpose in coming to earth.

The wise still come to investigate the birth of Jesus.  This Sunday we'll learn why the Magi traveled to see Jesus, investigate the same evidence they discovered, and we'll come to worship the Messiah, the one and only Son of God.  You're invited to join us as we worship Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (traditional worship) or 10:45 a.m. (contemporary worship).  This Advent, "Come to the Manger" and discover the meaning and purpose of Christ's birth for your life!


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 @ 3:47 PM

I am excited about our Christmas worship theme at First Baptist Riverside: "Come to the Manger."  God invites us to come to the manger and encounter the living Christ.  As far as I am concerned, the Incarnation, that God became a human being, one of us, and lived among us, is the greatest miracle in human history.  Without Jesus coming to earth in a human body, we would be without the best revelation of God there is, there would be no forgiveness of sin, no relationship with a holy God, no salvation, no hope of eternal life.  Nothing Jesus did for us could have happened if he wasn't first born in Bethlehem some 2,020 years ago.

This Sunday I'll be preaching on "The Humble Come." Think about the humility that is present in the Christmas story.  The baby Jesus left heaven to come to the manger.  Joseph and Mary were humble people, they were not nobility, even if they were the parents of the king.  The location was humble, Jesus was born in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem, not in a palace in Jerusalem.  The mode of transportation was humble.  We think of Mary, nine months pregnant riding on a donkey, but it doesn't say she road a donkey anywhere in Scripture.  She most likely walked.  The shepherds were the itinerant farm laborers of the day, a humble profession.

If we want to have an encounter with the living Christ, we must come to the manger humbly.  We don't come arrogantly, making demands of Jesus.  We come humbly to understand who he is, what he did for us, and the hope we have in life because we know him.  Jesus is our Lord and we come to prostrate ourselves before him and worship him.  If you want to encounter the living Christ this Christmas, you must come to the manger humbly.

I invite you to join us this Sunday, and the weeks ahead, for a life-changing series of message challenging you to "Come to the Manger."  This Sunday be one of the humble who come.  We worship Sundays at 9:00 a.m. (traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (contemporary).  We hope you'll choose to spend your Christmas with us - but more importantly that you'll spend it at the Manger with Jesus.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Monday, November 19, 2018 @ 9:12 PM

Jonah and the Whale is one of the great stories in the Bible.  It's the only part of Jonah's story most people know.  But it's not the most important part of the story.  The rest of the story tells us how God changed Jonah's life and saved a nation.  It's a story of hope.  

This Sunday, to conclude our sermon series "Find Hope on the Hill," we'll hear from Jonah about how he survived three days in the whale's stomach and how God miraculously saved him.  We'll find out that Jonah finally did what God wanted him to do in the first place and how Jonah's ministry saved many people.  Finally Jonah will explain how God changed his mind, changed his prejudices, changed his attitudes and helped him to understand the miracle of grace.

I hope you'll join us for worship at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday as we learn the lessons Jonah learned about God and his love.  When you understand the message behind the book of Jonah it will change the way you think about God and others.  We worship every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (Traditional) and 10:45 a.m. (Contemporary).  Hope to see you on The Hill.


Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, November 15, 2018 @ 7:53 AM

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite religious holidays.  I endeavor to thank God daily for the good things he does for me, but I know I overlook many things.  For me, thanksgiving is the one time a year when I can reflect on my life and realize God's goodness, how he meets my needs, answers my prayers, forgives my sins and saves me from disaster.  In the busyness of life, I don't always take time to think about all the spiritual blessings that are mine because God is in my life.  How can I remember all that God does and give thanks throughout the year?

God taught Joshua and the people of Israel a great way to remember his goodness.  As Israel was ready to cross from the Wilderness into the Promised Land, God stopped the waters of the Jordan River from flowing so the people could walk over on dry ground.  God instructed Joshua to have a leader from each of the twelve tribes to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan River.  When they reached the other side, Joshua would pile those stones up on the bank of the river.  This pile of stones would serve as a memorial to remind Israel what God had done for them in that place.  When their children asked, "Why are those stones here?" their parents could tell them the story of how God stopped the waters of the Jordan River (during the spring floods) and helped the people enter the land he had promised to give them.

We need to gather some stones and build memorials in our lives.  We need memorials to trigger our memories and remind us of the goodness of God.  What can we set up to remind us of the significant things God has done for us so that we can give thanks and build up our faith?  We have some observances like Christmas, Easter, the Lord's Supper that help us remember the goodness of God.  But what other reminders can we set up in our lives, in our homes, to remember God's goodness on a daily basis?

This Sunday our congregation at First Baptist Riverside will celebrate Thanksgiving and remember the goodness of God.  We'll build a pile of stones to remind us of the good things God done for us.  Each person will receive their own stone, and on that stone, write one thing of particular importance that they want to give thanks to God for.  They'll take that stone home, to keep on their dining room table (or in some other prominent place) as a "memorial" while they celebrate Thanksgiving.

I hope you'll join us for this meaningful worship service.  This Sunday will be a celebration for our whole church family and guests at 9:00 a.m. (one combined worship service for everyone).  I hope you'll join us and give God the glory for the good things he has done!

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