Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | July 14, 2014

ELMER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH-News Wk. 07.14.14

 

Laodicea: the Lukewarm Church! part 2

Psalm 51:10-19; Revelation 3:14-22

This past Sunday we continued our look at the words of the Scripture in Revelation 3:14-21.

As we look at the words written to the church in Laodicea, we find at least two very important thoughts: on one hand, we will find how Laodicea became lukewarm in her faith. On the other hand, we will see how Christ counsels this church. In His mercy, Christ gives the Laodiceans the cure for lukewarmness.

First: Lukewarm Because Self-Reliant

How did Laodicea become lukewarm in her faith? She did not start off this way. The Greek language makes it clear that the Laodicean church had not always been lukewarm. There was a time when she had been full of zeal and love for the Gospel. At the beginning of her existence, she was excited about Jesus, she was zealous for God, she was on fire for the Kingdom and Lordship of Jesus Christ, and she was a firm defender of the faith. But now she is lukewarm.

 

What happened? The ‘Amen’, the ‘faithful’, the ‘true witness’, the Lord Jesus Christ, tells us what went wrong. The answer is found in Revelation 3:17 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” As I mentioned last week, the city of Laodicea was affluent, rich, and prosperous – so wealthy that she needed no financial assistance from Rome in rebuilding after an earthquake in A.D. 60. We know from verse 17 that many of the church members also enjoyed prosperity. This was a wealthy church in a wealthy town.

 

The church members of Laodicea, like the citizens of the city, were far too secure in their possessions and wealth. They felt self-reliant. They did not depend on anyone else. The church did not even feel dependent upon God. She did not look to the Lord for food, clothing, and shelter; she forgot that God alone is the source of everything good and necessary for life. The church of Laodicea had become part of the world: she adopted the self-reliance of the world and the materialism of the world. She was an affluent church in an affluent society.

We also have great earthly and material wealth. Do we assume this means we also have heavenly and spiritual wealth? Do we think we can get along without God? Do we think we can look after our own bread and salvation? Are we lukewarm? “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” That is what the city said. That is what the church said. “I need nothing.” “I don’t need the Lord.”

Second: Cure For Lukewarmness

What does Laodicea need to do? How can their lukewarm faith be hot again? In Revelation 3:19 Jesus says, “So be earnest, and repent.” Be earnest – that’s the problem, isn’t it; they are not earnest in the faith; they are not zealous for God. They need to repent of the fact that their focus is themselves rather than Jesus.

 

“So be earnest and repent.” How do they go about doing that? How do we go about doing that? Listen to what Jesus says in Revelation 3:18 “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. “I counsel you.” Don’t forget, these are the words of “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” So, this is not just a word of advice that they can take or leave. This is a command.

 

Laodicea’s problem was its lukewarm faith because she bought from the wrong store. Laodicea’s solution: buy from Jesus Who alone provides what is really needed. Go to Jesus and you get real riches. Go to Jesus and you are clothed in garments of righteousness. Go to Jesus and your spiritual blindness disappears. Go to Jesus and find in Him everything you need. Don’t look at banking. Don’t look at the wool industry. Don’t look at the medical school. Admit you have nothing. Admit you need everything. Look to Jesus for what you need. Throw yourself on Him. Depend on Him.

 

Friends, what is true for Laodicea is true for every church and every believer. It is only by coming to Jesus that any lukewarmness on our part can be overcome. Actually, it is not really a case of us coming to the Lord, but of Him coming to us. All that we have to do is to see and hear that the Lord is there and that we need Him. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Usually, we think that Christ knocks at the door of unbelievers. But that is not what we see in our Bible reading. He is knocking at the door of the uncommitted, lukewarm, complacent believers. Do you find yourself lukewarm in the faith? Do you find you are not excited at all about the Gospel? Do you yearn for the days when your faith was so real and meaningful, when your walk and talk with the Lord meant so much more to you? The only cure, as with Laodicea, is to come to the Lord. To regain the blessedness you once knew, open the door and let Christ in. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” prayed King David in Psalm 51:12. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Next Sunday, July 20th, Rev. Yousef’s sermon “Broken Cisterns or Living Water?” will be based on Scripture readings Jeremiah 2:1-13 and John 4:13-15. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am.

 

 

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | July 8, 2014

ELMER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – news wk 07/07/14:

“Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church!” was the title of Rev. Mouris Yousef’s sermon last Sunday, based on Scripture readings Jeremiah 2:1-13 and Revelation 3:14-22.

Laodicea was a rich and prosperous city, but it had no water close by. So the city was forced to pipe in water from hot springs six miles away-water that was neither hot nor cold but lukewarm when it arrived in the city. Before examining the life and faith of the church in Laodicea, Christ introduces Himself to this congregation. In Revelation 3:14, Christ identifies Himself as the “Amen.”

When the word “Amen” is applied to Christ, it means He is the faithful One, the One who can be trusted to keep His covenant with His people. As Christ examines the deeds of Laodicea, He is not impressed at all, as we read in Revelation 3:15: “that you are neither cold nor hot”. The church was not cold or hostile to the Gospel; she did not reject the faith. But neither was the church hot and enthused about the Gospel. The members claimed to be Christian, yet it made no difference in what they did or how they lived. The church of Laodicea was like the water of Laodicea-neither cold nor hot but lukewarm, and nothing is worse than lukewarm. A glass of lukewarm water, deserves to be spit out. Christ warns Laodicea that He will do the same thing to her: “You are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither cold nor hot-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Christ is saying He wants total commitment or no commitment at all. You see, featureless lukewarmness is more difficult to overcome than complete alienation from Christ.

 

What would Christ write if He sent a letter to the Elmer Presbyterian Church?

What does Christ say when He looks at our deeds? Does He admonish or praise us? Our deeds, our works, do they show us to be lukewarm in our faith or do they show us to be on fire for the Lord and the things of the Lord? One of the worst things that can happen to us as followers of Christ, is that we get so used to the treasures of salvation that they no longer mean anything to us. I pray that we will all get excited and stay excited about our faith. I pray that Christ will never say to any of us what He said to Laodicea: “You are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither cold nor hot–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Friends, we live in tough times. While I am exhorting you to have more of Jesus, the culture and the world around us call us to have less of Jesus. We have to be on watch, on guard, that ours is not a lukewarm faith, but a vibrant one.

 

Next Sunday, July 13h, Rev. Yousef’s sermon will be part two of “Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church!” based on Scripture readings Psalm 51 and Revelation 3:14-22. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am.

 

The Summer Bible School for grades K-7th meets weekly on Tuesdays from 12 noon to 3 pm through August 5th.

This year’s program, “In the Doghouse”, is about sibling rivalry-and other jealousy, and how you can banish them from the lives of your children. These lessons, from Group’s “Living Inside Out”, adjust your kids’ attitudes in big ways! Please call the church at 856-358-3888 for more information or to register.

 

Our Clothes Closet will be open Tuesday,July 15th, 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.

 

Tuesday, July 15th is also our first “Movie Night” of the summer, starting at 6:30 pm in the fellowship hall.

The movie, “Pilgrim’s Progress” follows a man and his companions on a great journey to the gates of Heaven as they face obstacles large and small, man-made and demon-spawned. This free event is open to the community and all are invited to share this powerful story.

 

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.

 

Looking ahead, our Teen VBS is returning this year from Monday, August 11 through Friday, August 15, in the evenings. More information will be made available as we get closer in time.

 

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 | June 24, 2014

Elmer Presbyterian Church News-Week of June 23, 2014

Last Sunday the church celebrated Youth Sunday, with children from Sunday school and Youth Group leading and participating in the worship service. Jim Vega, Youth Group Leader, offered his message, “Salvation”, using Scripture readings Joshua 20:1-6, Isaiah 53:3-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. In Isaiah 53:10 we read, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper”. This is the second year of Youth Sunday, and a lot has changed. Some folks have come while others have gone. New friendships made, and young people grown. But the question today remains, “Am I saved-do I belong to God?”

 

God commanded Joshua to flee to a city of refuge, and he did so. Today, our city of refuge is Jesus Christ. We receive the riches of God through Jesus Christ, not through ourselves, so we must go to our city of refuge. When we exclude ourselves from Jesus we end up in despair. Come back to Jesus Christ-come back to your city of refuge. If you want peace, look to the Cross.

 

How does a sinful man come to Jesus? Through the mercy of God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we are told, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” When Jesus Christ ascended to the Right Hand of God the Father he promised to return for us. In the Glorification we will spend eternity with God.

 

Next Sunday, June 29th, Rev. Yousef’s sermon, “Lord, to Whom Shall we Go?” will be based on Scripture readings Psalm 46 and John 6:66-71. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am. Sunday school is now on summer break and will resume in September

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.

 

It’s back! Summer Bible School for grades K-7th will meet on Tuesdays from 12 noon to 3 pm, from July 8th through August 5th. This year’s program, “In the Doghouse”, is about sibling rivalry-and other jealousy, and how you can banish them from the lives of your children. These lessons, from Group’s “Living Inside Out”, adjust your kids’ attitudes in big ways! Please call the church at 856-358-3888 for more information or to register.

 

Our Teen VBS is also returning this year from Monday, August 11 through Friday, August 15, in the evenings. More information will be made available as we get closer in time.

 

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday,July 15th, 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 | June 23, 2014

Youth Group Car Wash – Saturday, June 28 – 9am-1pm

Come on out and support our youth group. They will be working hard to

earn money to further their work in the name of Jesus Christ.

carwash pic 2

 

                       Get your car washed and help our youth with

your donation!

carwash pic 1

Don’t miss this great event!

Bring all your cars!

          

             Bring all your friends cars!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get them clean and looking good!!

All for a great cause!carwash 3

 Come on out!

9am-1pm on Saturday, June 28th

Elmer Presbyterian Church parking lot

Don’t miss this great chance to help our youth and get a clean car!

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | June 10, 2014

Glory Has Come to Me Through Them!

Scripture for this week:

1 Samuel 2:30; John 17:6-10

Theologian and sixteen century reformer, John Calvin, once said, “Creation (including humanity ~ including us) is the theater of God’s glory.” Believe it or not, we are to display the glory of the Creator! To glorify somebody means to demonstrate and manifest their value and worth. To glorify God, therefore, means to demonstrate God’s value to others. Glorifying God is one of the most important duties in living a Christian life.

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646 A.D. ~ written by English and Scottish theologians) asks: What is the chief end of man? The answer is, “To glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” The more we read the Scriptures, the more we find God’s people consumed by the desire to glorify God. This desire should control and direct our attitudes, our thinking, our decisions, and our behaviors. The desire to glorify God is very much the compass of the Christian life. “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” says the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31.  The “whatever you do” includes all of our activities and relationships. For example, God calls us to glorify Him in our home and community, with our friends as well as strangers, in marriage or singleness, and very definitely in our daily work in which we do it all for the glory of God.

 

The great German composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub.” He headed his compositions, “J.J.” The letters stood for “Jesus Juva” which means, “Jesus help me.” He ended them “S.D.G.” The letters stood for “Soli Dei gratia” which means “To God alone the praise.” In John 17:10 Jesus offers thanks to God because through His disciples, He is glorified ~ glory has come to me through them. I guess the question is: How do we do that? How do we glorify Christ? Please allow me this morning to share a couple observations as we ponder this question:

 

First: Bearing Spiritual Fruit

In John 15:8, Jesus said, “By this My Father (God) is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” Followers of Christ glorify their Master when they bear fruit. In 1996 I met a wonderful man whose life exemplified what does it mean to bear much fruit. He was a generous, loving, caring, and wise man. We were in the middle of raising funds to a major renovation project that included the sanctuary, the educational building, and the manse of the church that I served back in Egypt. The Session divided itself into 4 small groups to personally visit with the members of the church and appeal to them. I was part of one of these four groups. The group of members we were assigned was the wealthiest in our congregation.

 

One of the people whom we visited with was a wonderful man whose life demonstrated the love of Christ. We got to his house and after we fellowshipped with him, he called his wife and asked her to bring him “Obadiah.” I thought “Obadiah” was the name of one of his sons or a family member. It was not! A few minutes later, his wife came and brought him his checkbook. I asked him why in the world he would call his checkbook “Obadiah!” The name “Obadiah” means “The servant of God.” He said, “Mouris, let me tell you something. According to 2 Corinthians 10:5 we should take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. A few years ago, I took my checkbook captive and made it obedient to Christ. I know this money is given to me for a reason and that reason is beyond myself.” He gave us a very big check. This saint has gone to be with the Lord, but the impact he has left on my life will never end. Glory has come to Jesus through this man. I have seen men and women who bear spiritual fruit and because of their fruit God is glorified. I have seen people who use their talents to build up the kingdom. I have seen people bearing all different kinds of spiritual fruit: teaching, preaching, giving, praying, encouraging, and practicing hospitality; all for the glory of God. I think the words of Jesus in John 15:8 challenge our life in such a big way today, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”

 

Second: Being in and Doing God’s Will

We aim at God’s glory when we’re content to be and to do His will at any cost…at any cost. In John 21:18 Jesus says to Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Up to now, this may even just appear to be reflecting the signs of growing old, which some of us are finding every day – no longer able to do some of the things we loved doing, not being able to dress ourselves, being helped and taken about, losing independence. But John’s comment in John 21:19 puts it all into perspective. John helps us see what Jesus is actually saying to Peter: “This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.”

 

What? Glorify God? Jesus said, “I’m gonna get glory when you die crucifixion, Peter. How about it?” Then Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and what did Peter do? Followed Him. Peter paid the price. He died crucified. But, you see, in dying a death of crucifixion, he obeyed the will of God. Hear the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 12:27-28, “Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.” In other words, you remember Jesus in the Garden? “Father, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but…what?…Thine be done.” In other words, “God, if You’re gonna get glory outta this, I submit to it.” What does He say? “Father, glorify Thy name, whatever it costs Me.’ And then there came a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’” Yes, aiming at God’s glory means that I’m content to be and to do God’s will, whatever it costs.

 

“The chief end of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Recent surveys by Barna, Gallup, and many others have demonstrated, even most Christians today regard self-fulfillment as the main purpose in life, and that, I think, measures what Columbia University historian Eugene Rice calls “the gulf between the secular imagination of the twentieth century and the sixteenth century’s intoxication with the majesty of God.” “We can,” writes Rice, “exercise only historical sympathy to try to understand how it was that the most sensitive intelligences of an entire epoch found a total, supreme liberty in the abandonment of human weakness to the omnipotence of God.”

 

Friends, today we will have the chance to say thank you to a wonderful disciple and follower of Christ whose life has always brought glory and honor to Jesus. Mrs. Jane Wiley, thank you for being who you are. Thank you for sharing God’s given talents to you with the congregation of Elmer Presbyterian Church for over 43 years. Thank you for serving the Lord so faithfully. Jane, glory has come to Jesus through your faithfulness. We love and we will greatly miss you! This morning we wanted to sing with you a song that is so dear to your heart; a song that has always given you strength and courage to keep going: Great is Thy Faithfulness O God My Father. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday June 1st, 2014)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

 

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 17, 2013

Elmer Presbyterian Church News for October 15!

Rev. Mouris Yousef’s sermon last Sunday, “Lazarus, Come Out!” was based on Scripture readings Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:38-44. Jesus and His disciples had gone back across the Jordan. It was here that Jesus received word from Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Upon receiving the news, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.” What a powerful faith lesson for us today! Those Jesus loves are not exempt from illness and other experiences, but how we respond to those experiences is all-important. Jesus stayed where he was for an additional two days, knowing full well that his good friend Lazarus would succumb to his illness. Why did Jesus wait too long? Because of all the miracles that Jesus performed, this one would truly authenticate His sonship and in a supremely powerful way demonstrate that he is truly the long- awaited, promised Messiah.

Martha met Jesus as he was coming to Bethany. The dialogue between Martha and Jesus presents us with some of the most exquisite theology we have in Scripture. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus replied: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” The intensity and depth of her faith blazes brilliantly through her sorrow.

Jesus tells Martha, “Take away the stone.”  But Martha shows us a lapse of faith in this moment, as she turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, He has been in there four days.” You know that something that has been dead for four days is beyond repair. Martha tries to stop Him! Earlier she said, “Yes, Lord…” Now she says, “No, Lord.” In effect: “Nothing can be done; Lazarus is gone.” But Martha surrendered, seeming to say to Jesus, “I’ll do what you ask.” Friends, you and I may show a lapse of faith before the tombs and decomposition of our lives. But let me affirm to you today that it is not about tombs and decay, it is about who is facing them. Our God is the Lord of life. The secret of victory over death, decomposition, tombs, troubles, and all of our miseries is trusting Jesus and surrendering to Him.

Next Sunday, October 20th, we welcome Rev. Richard Merritt as he shares his message “While Paul was waiting for them at Athens…” based on Scripture readings Acts: 17: 16-25 and 31-34. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am with Sunday school following from 11:20 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

The Community Bible Study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets Tuesday at 10:00 am in the church, and is currently studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. All in the community are invited to attend.

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 Men’s Bible study meets on Thursday at 6:00 pm and is studying the series “Men in the Bible Whose Lives Were Changed”. This study is open to men of all ages in the community. For more information please call the church at 856-358-8888.

Our Clothes Closet will next be open Tuesday, November 19th, 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, have 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 additional information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 17, 2013

Lazarus Come Out!

Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:38-44

In October 1983, I went with my 6th grade classmates to a field trip.  I remember it very well as if it happened yesterday.  We went to visit Beni Hasan, an ancient Egyptian cemetery site South of Minia, Egypt.  I remember seeing so many burial sites that go back to the Old and Middle Kingdoms, spanning from the 27th to 17th century BCE.  I remember seeing a temple constructed by Queen Hatshepsut and King Thutmose III dedicated to the local goddess Pakhet.  Such a magnificent place to see!  In one of the rooms of the temple, there was a display of all the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.  There you will see Amun, Anubis, Atun, Horus, Isis, Nun, Osiris, Ptah, Seth, and more.  A Muslim close friend of mine asked me as we had been looking at this display, “Mouris, who is your God?  Which one of these?”  I answered, “My God is called Jesus Christ.  He is not in this display because he is alive.  His mummy is not here.”  Then I continued telling my friend more about my God.  “Indeed He is alive and He has the power to give life to those who are dead,” I said to my friend.  I told my friend, “I have the proof; a real story of a man called Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.”  Jesus’ encounter with Lazarus will be the last in our series, “Encountering Jesus.”  This encounter has so many valuable lessons, so we will spend two Sundays with this encounter to focus on some of these great lessons this encounter suggests.  The narrative of the miracle not only reveals Jesus’ authority and power over death, that He is indeed “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), but it also presents us with some remarkable challenges for our walk of faith with the Master.  This morning we will focus on Martha, Lazarus’ sister and see what happens when faith gets challenged.  But before we do that, I would like to give you some background of the story.

The Historical Setting

Because of the hatred and many plots against Him, Jesus and His disciples went back across the Jordan, most probably Perea on the east side of the Jordan, approximately twenty miles from Jerusalem.  It was here that Jesus received word from Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  We immediately catch a glimpse of the wonderfully warm and intimate relationship that Jesus had with this family that lived in Bethany, a village two miles outside of Jerusalem.  It is apparent that Jesus was a frequent guest in their home when he visited Jerusalem.

Upon receiving the news, the response of Jesus was both optimistic and purposeful.  He said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.”  What a powerful faith lesson for us today!  Those Jesus loves are not exempt from illness and other experiences.  How we respond to those experiences is all-important.  Allowing God to work his will through the experience will not only bring us into a closer and deeper relationship with Him, but in the long run will bring honor and glory to his worthy and holy name.

As the narrative continues, we are given the assurance that indeed “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  But for this event to glorify the Father and the son, Jesus stayed where he was for an additional two days, knowing full well that his good friend Lazarus would succumb to his illness.  When Jesus finally suggested to his disciples that they return to Judea, He told his disciples “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”  Why did Jesus wait too long?   Let me tell you this truth: of all the miracles that Jesus performed, this one would truly authenticate His sonship and in a supremely powerful way demonstrate that he is truly the long- awaited, promised Messiah.  Jesus was certain of the outcome.  He knew the faith of the sisters and disciples would be confirmed and many of the Jews who were there would also believe (John 11:45).

Martha’s Faith is Being Challenged

When Martha, the more aggressive of the two sisters, heard that Jesus was coming to Bethany, she went out to meet him.  Mary, the quiet, more contemplative one, “stayed at home.”  The dialogue between Martha and Jesus presents us with some of the most exquisite theology we have in Scripture.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus replied: “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” “Yes Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

What an incredible woman!  What remarkable spiritual insight and faith!  The intensity and depth of her faith blazes brilliantly through her sorrow.  She knows that if Jesus had been there, he had the power and authority to heal Lazarus and prevent his death.  But even now, yes, even now, she had that brilliant spark of hope that “God will give you whatever you ask.”  Jesus’ reply, “Your brother will rise again,” elicits a response from Martha which once again reveals a profound depth of understanding, confidence, and trust in the promises of God.  “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  There was no confusion in her mind, no doubts, no uncertainties about who Jesus is, about what He is capable of doing, about the nature of death and the hope of the resurrection.

Jesus stands before the tomb, and He tells Martha, “Take away the stone.”  Now that’s Martha’s family’s tomb.  It’s really going to be up to Martha to command that stone to be removed.  Martha, being of the character that she is, she shows us a lapse of faith in this moment, but it’s no different than any of us.  We who have confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, we have those moments, do we not, where our faith wanes.  We’re no different from Martha who turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, He has been in there four days.”  There is odor.  If you turn that stone back, the odor of his decaying body will waft into this procession of people.  We know what decomposition looks like.  You know that something that has been dead for four days is beyond repair.  It’s beyond hope.  It’s beyond any help.  Here at the height of the story, Jesus’ friend and disciple resists the great commandment.  “Let the stone remains where it is.  Don’t trouble us any more — even if you are the Son of God.  Even the Son of God must admit the reality of death.  Leave us to our misery and despair.  Don’t disturb my brother’s bones. We’re having a hard enough time as it is.  Please don’t make a scene.  Please don’t make us do something. Please don’t disrupt the tomb.  We don’t want your intervention.  We’ve made peace with death.”  Martha tries to stop Him!  Earlier she said, “Yes, Lord…” Now she says, “No, Lord.”  In effect: “Nothing can be done; Lazarus is gone.  You’re too late.  Face it, death has won.”  However, Martha surrendered to Jesus.  I imagine Martha saying to Jesus, “From my human mind it seems impossible, but I’ll do what you ask.”

Friends, you and I may show a lapse of faith before the tombs and decomposition of our lives.  But let me affirm to you today that it is not about tombs and decay, it is about who is facing them.  Our God is the Lord of life.  The secret of victory over death, decomposition, tombs, troubles, and all of our miseries is trusting Jesus and surrendering to Him.  To God in Christ all praise, honor, and glory and to that all God’s people said “Amen!”

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 8, 2013

EPC News

Last Sunday Rev. Mouris Yousef concluded his series “Peter: Broken and Restored” using Scripture readings Hosea 14:1-9 and John 21:15-23. Last week we saw Peter being restored, healed, and renewed. Jesus had wrestled with Peter to move him from the “phileo” love to the “agape” love, just as Jesus has been doing with us. How did Peter demonstrate his love-his agape-for Jesus? By serving Him; by tending God’s sheep. Now, let us see how Peter demonstrated his love to the Lord. To love-to agape-the Lord is to live and die for his glory, and Peter is called to live for the glory of the Lord by serving the Lord’s people.

 

Caring for God’s people was a task Peter took seriously. In 1 Peter 5:1-4 we read, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ… shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” Peter’s “phileo” love has turned to the “agape” love; the kind of love that Jesus desired for him. Peter shows his love for Jesus by living for the glory of the Lord, loving the Lord and his people, and serving them in His name. The call for all of us is to love the Lord and His people, serving them in the ways the Lord shows us, using the gifts He has given us. What is the Lord saying to you, as you answer His question: ‘Do you love me?’ So far it’s all good, isn’t it? To love the Lord is to live for His glory. But we want to love the Lord on our terms. We want to be followers of Christ when it is convenient.  To love the Lord is to live for his glory, and die for his glory. About 34 years later Peter was arrested because of his faith in Jesus, and is being martyred, executed by Nero. Peter was placed on a cross. Thinking himself unworthy to die like Jesus, he asked that he be placed on the cross upside-down to “glorify God”. So Peter glorified God in his life and in his death. Alongside the call to live for God’s glory is the call to die for God’s glory.

 

Often times when we begin to obey the Lord and do what he has called us all to do we are tempted to compare. Peter asks Jesus in John 21:21 about another disciple, “What will be expected of him Lord?”  Jesus responds by saying, “It doesn’t matter what that other person will do or how long they will be around for or what gifts they have; what is that to you?” The Church that God blesses is a Church where there is no competition or comparison and is a place full of people who are fulfilled because they are busy doing whatever God asks of them.

 

Rev. Yousef’s sermon next Sunday, October 13th is titled “Lazarus, Come Out!” based on Scripture readings Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:38-44. All are invited to attend our service at 10:00 am with Sunday school following from 11:20 am–12 noon for children ages 4th through 8th grades.

 

The Women’s Bible study meets Monday, October 14th at 7:00 pm.

 

The Community Bible Study, led by Rev. Yousef, meets Tuesday at 10:00 am in the church, and is currently studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. All in the community are invited to attend.

 

Our Clothes Closet will be open Tuesday, October 15th, 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, have 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 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 Men’s Bible study meets on Thursday at 6:00 pm and is studying the series “Men in the Bible Whose Lives Were Changed”. This study is open to men of all ages in the community. For more information please call the church at 856-358-8888.

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 additional information about any of our worship services or programs, or need transportation, please call 856-358-8888.

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | October 8, 2013

Peter: Broken and Restored III!

Hosea 14:1-9; John 21:15-23

Today we conclude our meditations on Peter’s restoration after failing the Lord and denying to have known Jesus of Nazareth three times the night Jesus was arrested.  Last week we saw Peter being restored, healed, and renewed.  We saw Peter being sought after by the Lord Himself.  We saw Peter being given another chance by the ONE he failed and abandoned.  We saw Jesus stretching Peter and moving him to the next level.  Jesus wrestled with Peter to move him from the “phileo” love to the “agape” love.  I believe that Jesus has been doing the same thing with us.  He is wrestling with us trying to take us to the next level.  But we look at ourselves, the many times we’ve failed the Lord, and we dismiss every and all hope of being more committed disciples.  The beauty of John 21 is seeing Jesus calling Peter and each one of us, even in our weakness, sin, and failings, to allow Him to grow our love for Him.

 

The question we pondered very briefly last Sunday, how will you demonstrate that love for Jesus?  How did Peter demonstrate his love ~ his agape ~ for Jesus?  He did so by serving Him; by tending God’s sheep.  We said that “agape” is not based on emotion but on the will.  Agape is a deliberate choice to act in a certain manner.  Thus, when Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” He was teaching that loving Him would be a demonstrable action, not an emotional feeling.  Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading raised a great point.  We learned from Exodus 21 that all the Hebrew servants were given a chance after serving 6 years to go free.  But if the servant declared, as we see in Exodus 21:5-6, “I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’  then his master must take him before the judges.  He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl.  Then he will be his servant for life.”  Those who had committed their lives to their masters had to show that love in such a practical and tangible way, i.e. continue serving the master, making that declaration before everybody, and even leaving a mark on their bodies.  Now, let us go back to our friend Peter to see how his love to the Lord will be demonstrated.

 

To Love the Lord is to Live and Die for His Glory

Now if you were listening closely, or if you’ve got the text open in front of you, you’ll notice that there is something else said to Peter through which we understand what it means to love the Lord.  In summary, to love ~ to agape  ~ the Lord is to live and die for his glory.  When we love the Lord, we are given a job to do: tend and feed God’s sheep.  Peter is given a job to do, a task to complete – he is called to live for the glory of the Lord by serving the Lord’s people.  Remember where he is – sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, having returned to his former way of life, back to fishing again.  Peter is given a second chance and being extended another invitation to leave his nets and become a fisher of men.

 

Caring for God’s people was a task Peter took very seriously, as we see from his first letter, as he passes this task on to the next generation.  In 1 Peter 5:1-4 we read, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ… shepherd the flock of God that is among you.’ Do you see how he points to the chief Shepherd?  His “phileo” love has turned to the “agape” love; the kind of love that Jesus desired for him.

 

For Peter, he demonstrated his love for the Jesus by living for the glory of the Lord, loving the Lord and his people, and serving them in His name.  While you may not be a pastor, the call for all of us is to love the Lord and His people, serving them in the ways the Lord shows us, using the gifts He has given us.  It could be in hospitality, teaching, encouragement, prayer, counseling, helping in practical ways, music, giving, or any number of ways.   What is it that the Lord is saying to you, as you answer His question: ‘Do you love me?’ How will you demonstrate your love ~ your agape ~ for Him?

 

So far it’s all good, all straightforward, isn’t it?  To love the Lord is to live for His glory.  But we may never have imagined what comes next.  In fact, we may not want to think about what comes next.  We want to love the Lord on our own terms.  We want to be Christians according to our definition of Christianity rather than the Biblical definition.  We want to be followers of Christ when it is convenient; when it is cheap.  To love the Lord is to live for his glory, and die for his glory.

 

In John 21:18 Jesus says to Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  Up to now, this may even just appear to be reflecting the signs of growing old, which some of us are finding every day –  no longer able to do some of the things we loved doing, not being able to dress ourselves, being helped and taken about, losing independence.  But John’s comment puts it all into perspective, helps us see what Jesus is actually saying to Peter.  In summary, to love the Lord is to live for his glory, and die for his glory.  “This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.”

 

Standing before Peter the apostle, years later, lies the cross, where he too will be martyred, executed by Nero.  About 34 years after this incident, Peter was arrested because of his faith in Jesus.  Peter was placed on a cross.  Thinking himself unworthy to die like Jesus, he asked that he be placed on the cross upside-down.  “glorify God” – Peter glorified God in his life … AND … in his death.  In this part of the world, we don’t think too much here about having to “glorify God” by DIEING for our faith.  We think more about “glorifying God” by “counting our many blessings”, and giving God the glory.  BUT … do we even do that?  How many times do we even stop to thank God for His outpouring of His grace, mercy and love upon us?  Alongside the call to live for God’s glory is the call to die for God’s glory.

 

The Tendency to Compare

Often times when we begin to obey the Lord and really do what he has called us all to do we are tempted to compare.  At this point, Peter asks Jesus in John 21:21 about another disciple, “What will be expected of him Lord?”  Jesus responds by saying, “It doesn’t matter what that other person will do or how long they will be around for or what gifts they have; what is that to you?”  If you get caught up on others and what they are doing or not doing then you are in fact wasting the time you have been given to serve the Lord.  You will never be responsible for what they do so don’t worry about it.  You don’t have to be them, because the body is diverse and has many parts.  Nowhere in the bible does it call on you to be like me or vice versa.  You were never called to fulfill my purpose and I wasn’t called to fulfill yours and so we cannot compare ourselves to each other.  The Church that God blesses is a Church where there is no competition or comparison and a place full of people who are fulfilled because they are busy doing whatever God asks of them.  Jesus simply said to Peter, “Peter, mind your own business.”  To God in Christ all praise, honor, and glory and to that all God’s people said “Amen!”

 

Posted by: Elmer Presbyterian Church | September 15, 2013

Raising Godly Children in Godless Times!

Exodus 2:1-10; Matthew 18:1-6

 

This morning as we commission Christian education leaders and volunteers for this year, I wanted to bring to you this message.  I am sure that parents and church educators wonder whether anything they do is working to raise their children.  There is a moral crisis of monumental proportions, where people define their own morality, and our children are more confused than ever about what is right and wrong.  The question is: How do we raise kids in times like these?  How do we raise secure children in times of insecurity?  How do we raise Godly children in godless times?

 

Well, there is a mother in the Bible who did just that.  Her country’s ruler had just adopted a program of infanticide to eliminate her entire race.  They were slaves in a foreign land, and the king, the Pharaoh of Egypt, had decreed that every baby boy be thrown into the Nile River.  Those were scary times.  And yet, a slave mother found a way to raise a son whose impact on this world is still being felt today 3500 years later.  Four important principles to raise Godly children in godless times:

 

First: We Must Treasure our Children

How did Jochebed, Moses’ mother, do it?  Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 2, where we see this remarkable mother at work.  Exodus 2:1-2 “Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.”  Despite the king’s decree, and at the risk of her own life, she hid her baby boy for three months.  Now, the Hebrew word for “hid” suggests the hiding of treasure.  In other words, Jochebed, Moses’ mother “treasured” her son.  She was going to give him every opportunity to survive and thrive even if it meant losing her own life.  And that’s what we must do if we want to raise Godly children in a godless age.  We must treasure our children.  We must value them more than we value a bigger house, more than a more affluent life, more than even our own lives.  Rather than taking that second job so we can get a nicer car, we invest that time to listen to a child, to play with a child, or to be there when they need us.

 

Second: We Must Care for our Children

We must care for our children and provide for their well-being.  We must do what we can to protect them.  That’s what the mother and Mary, the boy’s sister, did in Exodus.  They were there for him.  Exodus 2:3 says, “But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch.  Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.”  The king had dictated that all baby boys be thrown into the Nile River.  Well, that’s exactly what this clever mother did.  Only, she did it in such a way as to ensure his well-being, not his death.  She was careful to waterproof the basket with tar and pitch, and to place it among the reeds in shallow water, where the current would not carry it away.

 

Furthermore, she put the basket in a place where she knew it would be found.  One commentator said, “This was the ancient equivalent of leaving a baby on the steps of a hospital or orphanage.”  And just in case the basket wasn’t discovered, the mother sent her daughter to keep an eye on her baby brother.  Exodus 2:4-6 “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.  Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank.  She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.  She opened it and saw the baby.  He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.  “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

 

The king’s own daughter finds the boy!  In Exodus 2:7-8, we read that Mary, Moses sister, approached the king’s daughter offering help in getting a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  Just as planned.  No doubt, the mother had told her daughter what to do when someone found the basket.  In Exodus 2:9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to Jochebed “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.”  So the woman took the baby and nursed him.”  Now, she can legally care for her own son and even get paid for it!  God is certainly at work here, but so is mom.  She did everything she could to prepare for her child’s well-being.  And that’s what mothers must do today.  Someone once said, “If it was going to be easy to raise kids, it never would have started with something called labor.”

 

Third: We Must Teach our Children God’s Word

We must instruct our children in the basic principles of God’s Word.  We must train them to follow the God of their fathers and mothers.  That’s what the mother here in Exodus 2 did.  She had only two, at the most three, years to raise the boy herself.  After she was done nursing him, she was to give him back to Pharaoh’s daughter.  Yet, when he grows up, he identifies himself with the Hebrews, not the Egyptians (Exodus 2:11-15).  He is familiar with the God of his fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6,15).

 

Tell me, where did this boy learn to know who he was?  And where did this boy learn to know about God?  Well, it certainly wasn’t in that Egyptian household.  No.  It was at his mother’s breast.  She taught him from his earliest years.  And that’s what we must do today if we’re going to raise Godly children in godless times.  We must teach our children from their very earliest days about who they are and Whose they are.  They don’t belong to us; they belong to Christ.  Set a good example for your children.  Utilize every means at your disposal to teach them God’s Word.  Read them Bible stories.  Look at Christian movies together.  At the very least, bring your children to church – don’t send them; bring them, and then talk about what you all got out of the service.

 

Fourth: We Must Release our Children into the Lord’s Full Care

At some point, sooner or later, we must let our children go.  We must trust God to guide and direct them.  That’s what the mother of Moses did in Exodus chapter 2.  Exodus 2:10 “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses – Mose – saying, “I drew him – masa – out of the water.”

 

Imagine what went through that mother’s heart when she turned her two or three-year-old boy over to Pharaoh’s daughter.  He had just been weaned, and now he goes to live in a stranger’s home, the home of a foreigner, and the home of one of her oppressors.  The Egyptian woman names the boy, because he belongs to her now.  The Hebrew mother no longer has any control.  But God is in control.  In fact, He has been in control all along.  He arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to take a bath that morning.  He arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to find the basket.  He arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to pity the boy.  Now, God is arranging to train Moses to lead a great nation of two million Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land.  So, people of God, Sunday school teachers, Youth Group leaders, faithful Christian education volunteers, if we want to raise Godly children in godless times, we must treasure them; we must care for them; we must teach them; and finally, we must release them into God’s care.  To God in Christ all praise, honor, and glory and to that all God’s people said “Amen!”

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