Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 20, 2014

Next Week at a Glance

 

Next Sunday, October 26th, Rev. Yousef continues his sermon series “Strength, Depth, Apprehension and Fullness!” based on Scripture readings Micah 7:18-20 and Ephesians 3:14-21. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

 

The Women’s Bible study meets Monday, October 27th at 7:00 pm.

 

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

 

The Men’s Bible study meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

 

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games.

Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade and up, meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, November 18th, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

 

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 20, 2014

Weekly Sermon Notes from Rev. Yousef 10.19.14

Strength, Depth, Apprehension, and Fullness! #2
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Ephesians 3:14-21

This morning we continue our meditations on Ephesians chapter 3:14-21. As I mentioned last Sunday, Ephesians 3:14-21 is basically a prayer Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus. Paul’s prayer is like a staircase by which he climbs higher and higher in his aspiration for his readers. His prayer-staircase has four steps. One step, one request, leads into the next one, and so on. He prays that the inner being might have spiritual strength, which will, in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ. The deeper experience will enable them to “apprehend” (get hold of) God’s great love, which will result in their being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” So, Paul was praying for strength, depth, apprehension, and fullness. Last week we covered the first part of the prayer, strengthening the inner being. This morning I would like to cover the second request of the prayer ~ the dewlling of Christ in our hearts through faith. It is a prayer for a deeper experience with Christ.

A Deeper Experience with Christ!
The aim of the first part of the prayer, the Spirit strengthening us with power in the inner being, leads to that second part of Paul’s petition ~ “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” It is clear from Scriptures like Galatians 2:20 that Christ indeed indwells every believer through the Holy Spirit. In fact, Romans 8:9-10 Scriptre affirms that if Christ does not live in us, we are not Christians, no matter how religious we may be or how strongly we affirm the Christian creeds.

So, why then in our text does Paul pray that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith? He was writing to Christian believers. What does Paul mean? I believe Paul is talking about something more than Christ indwelling us at the point of salvation. He is talking about Christ being at home in our hearts. He is talking about having close fellowship with Christ. Let’s look at this from three important angles:

First: Living in Faith and Obedience
Christ comes to dwell in our hearts as we live by faith and in obedience to the Scriptures. Biblical faith is an active reliance on God and His promises, often in the face of impossible circumstances. As we do this, Christ takes residence in our hearts. Listen to Ephesians 3:16-17 one more time, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Presbyterian theoogian Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878) explains, “Christ dwells in us by faith, because it is by faith we perceive his presence, his excellence, and his glory, and because it is by faith we appropriate and reciprocate the manifestations of his love.”

Biblical faith is always linked with obedience. If you trust God, you obey Him. To obey God, you must trust that His Word is true. In John 14:23 Jesus spoke of the link between our obedience and His being at home in our hearts, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Christ is not at home with a disobedient Christian. Christ will never take a residence in a disobedient heart.

Second: Living under the Lorship of Christ
Christ comes to dwell in our hearts by progressively and seriously taking lordship over every area of our lives. Many years ago, Presbyterian minister Robert Boyd Munger (1911-2001) wrote a little booklet called My Heart, Christ’s Home. In it he imagines the believer’s heart as a home with many rooms. The heart has a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a computer room, a TV room, many closets, and an attic. He said, “Too many believers keep Christ in the entryway, as if to say, ‘Jesus, I’ve got you in the door. Now stay there and don’t bother the rest of my life.” But the Lord wants to enter every room. He wants to enter your kitchen, your bedroom, your library, your TV room, your computer room, and he wants access to every closet and even to the “attic” of your heart. The verb “dwell” that Paul uses in Ephesians 3:17 refers to a permanent indwelling or residence of Christ in the heart. He means that we should welcome Christ into every aspect of our lives, so that there is no known area of our lives that we would be uncomfortable having Christ share it with us.

I believe the question is not, “How much of the Lord do I have?” but rather, “How much of me does the Lord have?” Ephesians 3:17, then, is a prayer for a deeper experience between Christ and the believer. Call it what you will—sanctification, total surrender, dedication, or even the filling of the Holy Spirit. I call it “what we desperately need.” I call it “that most of us lack.” Bible teacher and commentator Warren Wiersbe says, “To know God personally is salvation ~ John 17:3; to know Him increasingly is sanctification ~ Philippians 3:10; to know Him perfectly is glorification ~ 1 Cor. 13:9-12. “I pray,” says Paul in Ephesians 3:16-17 “that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Third: Rooted and Established in God’s Love
As a result of Christ’s permenenat dewlling in the believer’s heart, we will be “rooted and established in love.” Here is a double metaphor; one taken from agriculture, the other, from architecture. “Rooted” is an agricultural metaphor, which should paint a picture of an extensive root system that not only attaches itself to the source of nutrients but keeps the plant set in place. “Established” is more structural or architectural and offers us another picture of stability and strength. This is a foundation that cannot be shaken. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Friends, we live in a world that is more mobile than it’s ever been before. It is estimated that roughly one out of every thirty-five people live in a different country than their country of origin. We don’t need statistics to tell us that it has become the norm for people to uproot their lives on a regular basis to chase whatever it is they are looking for out of life. The problem with this is Scripture tells us over and over again that we can only grow in our faith when we are firmly planted in Biblical community. To put it another way, deep faith will never be cultivated in isolation or even in shallow relationships. In other words, a person only grows spiritually when he commits to putting down deep roots and chooses to live within the confines of Biblical community.

Friends, let’s be clear about it—each believer does have the Lord Jesus Christ living in them. His presence is real. No doubt about this truth. If this is so, again, what is the significance of this petition? Again, the emphasis here is on the significance of the manifestation of the presence of Christ. This is not a prayer for Christ to enter the life, but rather for Christ to be manifest in and through the life. It is one thing to have Christ in you, and another to have Christ at home in you. When He is at home in you, His presence will be obvious in every part of your life. Let me concolude with this short but meaningful story. A little girl, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh! Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the girl, “if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?” May Christ’s dwelling in your heart show through everyday. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 18, 2014

Elmer Presbyterian Church Wk. 10.13.14

Rev. Mouris Yousef’s sermon last Sunday was part one of “Strength, Depth, Apprehension and Fullness!” based on Scripture readings 1 Samuel 30:1-6 and Ephesians 3:14-21. This month we’ll be looking at Ephesians chapter 3:14-21, a passage rich, full, and abundant with truth. It is a passage to the implementation of all spiritual truth to the life of the believer. Ephesians chapter 3:14-21 is stuck in the middle of the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters of Ephesian describe the resources available to every believer, while the last three describe how the believer is to live. And the bridge in between is passage 3:14-21, which I call the ignition. Ephesians 3:14-21 is a prayer that Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus. There are four requests in Paul’s prayer, and they are like parts to a telescope with one request leading to the next one, and so on. Paul prayed for strength, depth, apprehension, and fullness. This week we look at the first request, strengthening our inner being.

What we need the most is inner being strength. In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Physical strength is of little value when it comes to the challenges we face in life. This is why Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” There is little we can do about the progressive deterioration of our outer, physical person, but what’s true of the physical body is not true of the inner self, the “inner being” as Paul calls it.

The last two weeks we looked at Caleb and Zerubabbel. We learn from these Biblical characters the importance of relying on divine resources as we face our mountains. The truth is that we have a need far greater than a financial or material need-we have a spiritual need. We are weak in our inner being, but God is able to strengthen us at every turn. Another example of being strengthened inwardly by the Lord is found in 1 Samuel 30. David and his 600 men, along with their wives and children, were camped at Ziklag-on the run from Saul. While David and his men were gone one day the Amalekites came and took all of their wives and children. When David and the men returned they found their camp destroyed, and their wives and children gone. How did David and his men respond? In 1 Samuel 30:4 we read, “So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.” David’s men blamed him and were thinking about stoning him. In 1 Samuel 30:6 we read an insightful statement: “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” This is what Paul was praying for the folks in Ephesus. Friends, our society is enamored with strength. Body, financial, military-all kinds of strength. Yet we often feel weak and worn out because we do not pay attention to the strength of our inner being. Paul asks the Ephesians to pray so that the Holy Spirit would make their hearts or their inner being stronger every day. Usually we pray for other things in our life but we don’t pray for our own hearts. Most often we forget to pray that God would make our hearts, our inner being, strong. Let’s pray for inner spiritual strength.

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, October 19th, will be part two of “Strength, Depth, Apprehension and Fullness!” based on Scripture readings Jeremiah 17:5-10 and Ephesians 3:14-21. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

Our Clothes Closet will be open Tuesday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

The Men’s Bible study meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

The Chancel Choir rehearsals  are held on Thursday’s at 7:30pm

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games.
Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade through one year out of high school meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 7, 2014

Coming Up!!

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, October 12th, “A Wall of Fire and Glory in Her Midst!” will be based on Scripture readings Zechariah 2:1-5 and Matthew 10:26-31. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

 

The Women’s Bible study meets on Monday, October 13th at 7:00 pm.

 

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

 

The Men’s Bible study group meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

 

Chancel Choir rehearsals are Thursdays at 7:30pm at the church

 

SAVE THE DATE!! Christmas cantata followed by our annual luncheon will be on 12/21/14

 

Bell Choir rehearsals will be starting soon!!

 

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games.

Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade and up meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

 

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

 

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 7, 2014

Coming Up!!

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, October 12th, “A Wall of Fire and Glory in Her Midst!” will be based on Scripture readings Zechariah 2:1-5 and Matthew 10:26-31. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

 

The Women’s Bible study meets on Monday, October 13th at 7:00 pm.

 

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

 

The Men’s Bible study group meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

 

Chancel Choir rehearsals are Thursdays at 7:30pm at the church

 

SAVE THE DATE!! Christmas cantata followed by our annual luncheon will be on 12/21/14

 

Bell Choir rehearsals will be starting soon!!

 

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games.

Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade and up meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

 

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

 

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 7, 2014

Sermon Notes Wk. 10.06.14

“What Are You, Mighty Mountain?” asked Rev. Mouris Yousef in his sermon last Sunday, based on Scripture readings Zechariah 4:1-7 and 2 Matthew 5:13-16. How can a small, fragile community of God’s people flourish in a hostile environment with little resources, and do the work of God? God answers this question in Zechariah chapter 4, which describes a vision Zechariah received showing how God will sustain His people while they do the work He has given them to do! It is a vision that comforts the anxieties of Zechariah and his people. What lessons did the Lord want to teach Zechariah and his people? And what is the message to us today? First this is a reminder of the importance of our witness in the world. This chapter contains a vision of a golden lampstand that burned olive oil. The lampstand was to burn continually, a reminder to the nation of Israel to be light to those around them. The lampstand represents the universal witness of God’s people. The nation of Israel, God’s people in the Old Testament were to be a witness to the nations. The church in the New Testament is also called to witness to God’s glory in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus used the same image in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Is this possible? God often works when hope has long been abandoned. There can be no greater illustration of this than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So yes, biblical faith is all about impossibilities, a message portrayed in Zechariah chapter 4. What a discouraged group of people Zechariah served! Their fathers had sinned badly and were deported, cast out of the Promised Land. Now God miraculously set them free from their captivity and sent them back to rebuild the ruined temple and the collapsed community of God’s people. But they had no resources, they lost their vision, and their hearts were drifting away. Genuine faith is about making the impossible possible. Zechariah reminded the nation of Israel that the Temple will be built and their witness will be restored.

How will this impossible mission be accomplished? God uses His called out people in all ages to supply the Church with the Holy Spirit’s power so that His Church might shine the gospel into a sin-darkened world. There is a truth we find in Zechariah chapter 4 about the Spirit of God’s role in our lives. “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabbel: not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” All types of human strength will be insufficient when it comes to accomplishing God’s work! That is what God is reminding Zerubbabel about. The spirit is at work today completing the building of the body of Christ, reforming and transforming believers into the image of Christ. Name that which hinders you from seeing God and fulfilling His purpose in your life. I hope you can shout from the bottom of your heart, “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, October 12th, “A Wall of Fire and Glory in Her Midst!” will be based on Scripture readings Zechariah 2:1-5 and Matthew 10:26-31. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | September 30, 2014

Elmer Presbyterian Church Wk. 9.28.14

Rev. Yousef’s sermon last Sunday, “Give me This Mountain!” was based on Scripture readings Joshua 14:10-15 and Matthew 7:7-12. We meet Caleb son of Jephunneh in the Bible when he is about 40 years old. Caleb, a leader of his tribe of Judah, and eleven of his peers from the other tribes are sent on a mission to explore Canaan. When they return, they carry a huge cluster of grapes, talking about the abundance of the land, “it does flow with milk and honey.” But ten of the spies are clearly frightened by the prospect of conquest. “The people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” This “bad report” is contagious, and by nightfall has spread throughout the camp, and with it the infectious fear of these tribal leaders. By morning the men were ready to rebel, select another leader, and return to Egypt. The minority report, however, turned things upside down.

In the midst of the fear and unbelief the majority report created, Caleb and Joshua stood firm in faith and hope. In Numbers 13:30 we read, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” The next day, too, Caleb and Joshua try to sway the Israelites with their faith as we know from Numbers 14:7-9: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” Note Caleb’s positive attitude and the explicit mention of the Lord. Joshua and Caleb have seen the same giants and heavily fortified cities, but they are looking through lenses of faith. They see the Lord enabling them to conquer these people. The Lord was angry with the people who could not see through lenses of faith, and vowed that none of this generation would enter the Promised Land, only Caleb and Joshua.

Caleb declared to Joshua that he desired the hill country where the giants had been seen. He was confident that with the power of God he would be able to take this tough territory. Each of us has a mountain to climb, spiritually speaking. The children of God always face obstacles in their lives, but with God’s strength we can overcome our mountains. As Caleb claimed the mountain God has promised, God provided him with strength for each demand and we find that he was sufficient for the task. Friends, unless we claim it, we will not get it. Unless we believe it, we won’t see it. “Give me this mountain” Caleb asked Joshua. What is your mountain? By faith, claim it today.

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, October 5th, “What Are You, Mighty Mountain?” will be based on Scripture readings Zechariah 4:1-7 and 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. We’ll be celebrating the Lord’s Supper during our Worship Service, with an Open Table for all who confess Christ as Lord and Savior. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | September 22, 2014

Coming Up!!

Rev. Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, September 28th, “Give me This Mountain!” will be based on Scripture readings Joshua 14:10-15 and Matthew 7:7-12. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

The Men’s Bible study group meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games. Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade through one year out of high school meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. If you, or someone you know, has need for these items, please come visit us at the church on that date. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | September 22, 2014

Elmer Presbyterian Church Wk. 9.22.14

“But Peter Followed Him at a Distance!”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 26:57-68

Peter is a very interesting Biblical character. When we look at the life of Peter, we see a roller coaster experience. He is up and down more times than the Great American Scream Machine. In one instance, he is walking on water, and in the next moment, he is sinking beneath the waves. At one point he boldly confesses who he believes the Lord to be. At another point, Peter denies even knowing who he is! In the last days before the crucifixion, Peter boldly states that he will go to prison with the Lord, and even die for Jesus. Yet in a short time, he falls asleep while the Lord is praying. As the Roman soldiers approach the Lord to arrest Him, Peter shows remarkable courage by drawing a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers, but now as the Lord is led away we see Peter following at a distance, staying out of sight, staying in the shadows. In Matthew 26:58 we read these words, “But Peter followed Him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”

Stanley Hauerwas, an American Theologian and Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, notes that “at a distance” is a wonderful description for the way most of us follow Jesus today. Friends, let me ask you: Is your relationship with the Lord much like Peter’s in Matthew 26:58? I think everyone of us can find many points on which we can relate to Peter. This morning I want us to look at Peter’s worst moments and learn from them! Please allow me to make two important observations based on Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 26:

First: Distance from the Lord is at the Heart of every Fall
Distance from the Lord is at the heart of every fall. We may give a hundred reasons for a spiritual life that is falling apart. We may cite all of the various reasons for a broken relationship. We may try to justify the absence of the inner peace and true fulfillment by all possible means. But the truth of the matter is that: distance from the Lord is at the heart of every fall. The more I look at Peter’s life, the more I realize that before Peter’s shameful denial was Peter’s following the Lord at a distance.

When we follow the Lord at a distance, we lose sight of His presence. When we lose sight of the Lord, we get lost. When we get lost, we end up in places we never imagined ourselves venturing them. Years ago, when we lived back in Egypt, a few friends and I decided to tour Sinai and to follow the Exodus journey. It was a 10-day trip from the Exodus starting point in North Egypt going east through Sinai to the borders of Israel. We made this trip about 17 years ago ~ before the age of cell phones and GPS’s. There were three cars following each other. I drove the first one and carried the only map that we all had and the other two cars followed me. I am sure the other two cars worked hard to keep up, but they lost sight of me in one city’s congested traffic and we got separated. A few miles away, I stopped on the side of the road hoping the other two cars will catch us. About an hour later, they finally showed up. Losing sight of the leading car and not accustomed to driving in Sinai, my friends found themselves driving aimlessly through an unfamiliar city looking for the right direction. We all learned a valuable lesson from that experience: When traveling through unfamiliar territory, it is wise to follow closely behind the one who leads us. If too much distance is permitted between ourselves and the one who knows the way, we may wind up drifting off course.

As the people of God were crossing the Jordan River making their way to the Promised Land, the Lord gave them an important piece of instruction. In Joshua 3:3-4 we read these words, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” The Ark of the Covenant, which symbolizes God’s presence, was a leading figure in the midst of the Israelites.

After the Israelites got settled in the Promised Land, God wanted the people not to lose sight of His commandments. Listen to these wonderful words from Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Second: God Knows How Weak and Timid we all Are
Like Peter, we make promises to the Lord. When we joined the church, for instance, we promised to love the Lord, to serve Him according to His Word – to forsake the world, to put to death our old nature, and to lead a godly life. Yet, how many of us actually live up to this all the way and all the time?

The question is: how does following the Lord at a distance manifest itself in our lives today? That attitude presents itself in many ways in our lives today. We follow the Lord at a distance when we live the kind of lives that others live. A few minutes ago, we prayed together the prayer of confession asking for God’s mercy because “we have conformed our lives to the ways of the world and not the ways of God’s kingdom.” We follow the Lord at a distance when we chase after money rather than God. We follow the Lord at a distance when we live for fun rather than the kingdom. We follow the Lord at a distance when we seek revenge rather than love. We follow the Lord at a distance when we focus on self rather than Jesus. We follow the Lord at a distance when we allow any form of idolatry in our lives. We follow the Lord at a distance when we go along with the crowd instead of standing up for what is noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable. We follow the Lord at a distance Lord when we so casually stop attending worship for whatever reason.

Friends, Peter was a follower. Peter was a disciple. Peter was, as we would say, a Christian. Yet, he followed the Lord at a distance. You and I claim to be followers of Jesus – not physically but relationally. Like Peter, however, we may be following the right Person at the wrong distance. Distance makes us vulnerable. It can leave room for sin and disrupt fellowship, among other terrible things. We fall when we follow the Lord at a distance. We fall when we do not allow the Lord to grow, strengthen, and enhance the quality of our faith. Let me conclude with this short story that sums it all up. The story is about a little boy who fell out of bed in the middle of the night. When his mom asked him what happened, he said, “Well, I think I stayed too close to the place where I got in.” And that is the same reason we fall away from knowing and doing the Lord’s will in our lives. We stay too close to the place where we got in. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | September 15, 2014

Coming Up !!

Rev. Mouris Yousef’s sermon for next Sunday, September 21st, “But Peter Followed Him at a Distance!” will be based on Scripture readings Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Matthew 26:57-68. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school follows worship from 11:30 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

The Women’s Bible study meets Monday, September 22nd at 7:00 pm.

The Community Bible study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. If you’d like to learn more about the Word of God this is a great opportunity to join others in lively and informed discussions of the Bible.

The Men’s Bible study group meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.

The Way youth group meets weekly on Wednesday in the Church, with Bible themed study, activities and games. Junior youth in 4th through 7th grades meet from 6:30-8:00 pm, while senior youth in 8th grade through one year out of high school meet from 7-9 pm. All youth in the area are invited to participate in the activities.

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm, offering serviceable used clothing for children and adults to those in need at no cost. If you, or someone you know, has need for these items, please come visit us at the church on that date. However, if you need assistance before then, please call the church.

The Elmer Presbyterian Church is located at 107 Chestnut Street (Rt. 40) in Elmer, at the intersection of Rt. 40 and Front Street. The church is handicap accessible, with parking available behind the church. If you would like information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

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