Archive for June, 2015

The Perfect Father!

Father’s Day ~ Sunday June 21st, 2015

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

The Perfect Father!

Psalm 68:4-5; Matthew 7:9-11

 

Happy Father’s Day! Today we recognize fathers. On Father’s Day, we thank our fathers for everything they have done for us and everything they mean to us. Some of us can do this easily because they had great fathers while others reluctantly because they had a father that wasn’t worth the title. While some of us grew up around incredible godly fathers, some probably grew up with fathers who came far short of the ideal; fathers who were cold, distant and disengaged; fathers who were angry, critical and controlling; fathers who were alcoholic, or depressed, or physically abusive; fathers whose own inner struggles sapped all their strength, leaving them with little left over to care for their families’ needs. And that has impacted some people’s ability to see and to trust God as their heavenly Father. Even the best of fathers, with the best of intentions, often miss the mark. Those of us who are fathers know that all too well. In spite of our best efforts, we often fail to be what God would have us to be. We act selfishly and sinfully. We fail to love our children as we should. It grieves us to admit that, but it’s true. We know that the picture of God’s fatherhood that our life is painting for our children is far from perfect.

This morning, we’re going to be looking at an important question: “What kind of father is God?” To the Atheist, ‘god’ is a product of the imaginations of weak people who need a crutch. To the Buddhists, ‘god’ is a ‘Force of Nature’, a universal glue binding everything. To the Muslims, God is ‘Transcendent’ – Too above, too far from us to know or understand. To these, calling God our Father, our Daddy, is an obscenity. But to a Christian, God is a ‘Person’ – Knowable as far as He has made Himself known through His Son Jesus Christ. Now if God is a person, what is His relationship to His creation? We have three options: 1. No relationship – He created and then just went away. 2. Master – Judge ~ He let us go on our own but will judge us one day. 3. Father – Wants a personal, loving, daily relationship.

The ‘Fatherhood’ of God

So, the fatherhood of God is so central and unique to the Christian faith. A quick glance at a concordance reveals that the name “Father” is applied to God very infrequently in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, it is never used by a person referring to God as “my Father.” It always refers to God as the Father of the nation of Israel. For example, Isaiah 63:16, “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” Another example in Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

The New Testament refers to God as a father over 250 times, and that’s enough by itself to make it significant. Jesus called God “Father” more than 60 times. That’s how God chooses to identify Himself. This is so important because it affects how we relate to Him. Two implications for such a great truth:

First: A New Way of Looking at God

The teaching about “God’s Fatherhood” is a new way of looking at God. The Aramaic word for “Father” of Jesus’ native tongue was “ABBA”, or “dear father” – often translated as “Daddy.” It is a word that conveys the level of loving intimacy Jesus was reaching for. In a culture that had made God ever so distant, so formal, so cold, Jesus injected warmth and a sense of personal relationship with God. As Paul puts it in Romans 8:16, “When we cry ABBA, FATHER, it is the Spirit itself bearing witness with our witness that we are the children of God.” Yes, God is the immortal, invisible, God only wise. God is the almighty creator. But God is also a most personal God, ever ready and eager to listen to us, to scoop us up into His bosom, to wrap His arms around us, to love and cherish us and to stand with us as only a mother or a father can do for a child.

Second: Is There Anyone Up There Who Cares For Me?

The “Fatherhood of God” answers the greatest question of the universe: Is there anybody up there who cares about me? Is there anybody up there who watches over me? Is there anybody up there who knows my name? And the answer comes back – Yes.  Yes. Yes. There is a God in heaven who cares about you.  And He is called Father. This “Fatherhood of God” is the answer to the deepest problem of humankind – the problem of fatherlessness. The reality of “God’s Fatherhood” reminds us that if we know Jesus Christ, we are not orphans in the universe. I love the words of the Scriptures in Psalm 68:4-5, “Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

The heart of Jesus’ teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, also reveals the same truth. In Matthew 7:9-11 we read, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” He is our provider! I know we can say like Abraham in Genesis 22:14, “The Lord will provide.” Like a good Father, He may not supply every single want in our life, He may not supply every need in the way we think it should be provided, but He will take care of His children because He is a Perfect Father.

The image of God being a “Daddy” is so deeply rooted in the Scriptures. It conveys these two amazing truths: God is very personal and God is our provider. God is so committed to His children. As mentioned, there are so many applications for that. As we conclude, let me put before you this morning a challenge. This challenge comes from Malachi chapter 1. This challenge is not only for the fathers among us this morning, but for all of us. Let me ask you this morning: Are you honoring your Father? In Malachi 1:6-7 God had this to say to us, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.” Are we truly honoring God? As you examine your life today, what areas of your life that need to come under the lordship of Christ and the fear of the Lord? Happy Father’s Day church! Rejoice over the fact that you’ve an amazing Heavenly Father who is loving, caring, and compassionate. To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!

Making Choices That Matter! #2

Sunday June 14th, 2015

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

Making Choices that Matter! #2

Daniel 1:1-16; Hebrews 11:32-40

This morning we continue with our series entitled “Making Choices that Matter.” In this series we are looking at some key Biblical characters and some Scripture passages of people who had to make some hard decisions. As we look at those stories from the Scriptures, we will be able to identify some important Biblical principles in the decision-making process. It is my hope as we look at some of those principles to learn how to make God-honoring choices; choices that matter.

Our text this morning is about four young men who came to a time of decision in their lives. They could either compromise and go with the flow, or they could stand their ground and live for the Lord. The circumstances they faced and the decisions they made set the course or the rest of their lives. Since this incident occurred, the names of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have stood tall as the names of great heroes of the faith. Who would have ever heard of Daniel if he had compromised at this early stage of life? His name would be unknown to us today, and we would never have received these wonderful testimonies.

 

A Life Lived Without Compromise

As we examine the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we can see what does it mean to live a life without compromise. One of our major problems today as followers of Christ is compromise. Have you ever heard the story of the guy who could not decide what side he wanted to fight for during the Civil War? He put on the coat of the North and the trousers of the South, and guess what? He got shot at from both sides! This is what happens to the compromiser, the person who tries to live in two worlds. It’s one miserable place to be. Sadly, as I said earlier, there are many in the church today that live a compromised life.

As you and I go through life, there will always be times where we are going to have to make decisions to do the right thing. When these times come, and they most certainly will, we will either decide to go with God despite the cost. Or, we will choose to compromise. The truths contained in Daniel chapter 1 and Hebrews chapter 11 will help us as we face the serious crossroads of life. This morning I would like to speak for a little while on, “Conquering Compromise.” My prayer is that we can glean the strength that we need to always make our stand for the Lord.

 

The Problems at Hand

In Daniel chapter 1 we see that these four Hebrew young men faced several challenges. Each of these had the potential to derail them and lead them off on a spiritual tangent. However, the problems they faced, were not that different from those we face daily in our world. From Daniel chapter 1, we can see four ways compromise could’ve found it way to the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Let me very briefly highlight these four ways based on Daniel chapter 1:

 

  1. A New Home

As we look at Daniel chapter 1, we figure out that these four young men were surrounded by all kinds of compromise. Around they year 580 B.C., the Babylonians attacked and conquered the land of Judea. They took with them the best young men of Judea to serve in their palaces. Among those taken to the exile were Daniel and his three friends. So, these young men are being planted in a new home. They are being planted in a foreign soil. They had been brought up in and around Jerusalem. There they were constantly reminded of their God and of His importance to life. They worshipped in the temple and were surrounded by the priests, the scribes, and the prophets.

 

Their reality is different now. They are slaves in Babylon. They are surrounded by heathen worship, heathen images and heathen people. It would’ve been easy to conform just to fit in. I am sure you’ve heard the phrase, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” For the Christian, the danger is just as real. It is easy to be spiritual in church. It is easy to be godly around godly people. However, when we separate from the godly influences around us, can we stand our ground? On Monday July 20th we will watch the movie “God is Not Dead” here at our church.   I invite you to join us that night. In the movie, we see a young man, a college student, who stands his ground and defends his faith against his atheist professor and eventually makes a difference in the whole community.

 

  1. A New Knowledge

In verses 3-4 we see the four young men facing another danger. They are being taught a new knowledge. These young men were taught a new language and new ways of looking at life. All their lives, they had been exposed to Jewish wisdom. Now, they are being taught the wisdom of Babylon. They are being exposed to things they have never been exposed to before. There is much pressure being exerted on them to conform to the new world around them. The same dangers face the Christian in this world today. We are constantly being exposed to new ways of thinking and are being told that our way of looking at the world, through the eyes of God in the Bible, is outdated, ancient and intolerant.

 

  1. A New Diet

Daniel 1:5 the young men are provided a new diet. All their lives, these four young men had lived by the dietary laws handed down by the Lord. Now, they are faced with new food. Most likely, this food was unclean, by Jewish standards, and most of the meat had probably been sacrificed to idols. Therefore, it would have defiled these young men and made them unclean before the Lord. As Christians, we too are faced with choices that run contrary to the best that God has purposed for us. We are confronted daily by choices to either do or not do certain things that can cause us to be defiled.

 

  1. New Names

On the top of that, in verses 6-7, the young men are given new names. When these young men arrived in Babylon, they came carrying wonderful names. Each name carried with it a testimony to the person of God. Daniel – God is my judge. Hananiah – God is gracious. Mishael – God is without equal. Azariah – The Lord is my helper. When they arrived in Babylon, they were given new names. Daniel became Belteshazzar – which means, “Bel will protect.” Hananiah became Shadrach – which means, “Inspiration of the Sun.” Mishael became Meshach – which means, “Belonging to Aku.” Azariah became Abednego – which means, “Servant of Nego.” Nebuchadnezzar’s goal was to change their identity and hopefully their way of thinking, which never happened!

Friends, as we journey through life, there are going to be constant attempts by the enemy to get us to let down our guard, to conform to the world’s standards and to do things we know to be wrong. Friends, it is impossible to have both the acceptance of the world and the approval of our heavenly Father. In James 4:4, the Scripture puts it this way: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” The sad truth is that millions of Christians around the world today are searching for a way to strike a comfortable compromise between their convictions and the wicked world in which we live. Values and principles are being negotiated! Can we stand our ground? Can we live a life without compromise? To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!

Youth Summer Events At EPC

Our Random Acts of Kindness Project will be June 10, 2015

The Way and the Truth Youth Groups will be on summer break from June 17 through July 1st

Junior Vacation Bible School, “Jesus and Friends”, will be every Tuesday from July 7th through July 21

“A Closer Walk” July 30 through August 1st (Thursday-Saturday)

Making Choices That Matter

Sunday June 7th, 2015

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

Making Choices that Matter!

Exodus 2:11-15; Hebrews 11:24-27

 

Throughout our lives we are going to have to make a lot of choices and decisions. Most often when we are thinking about what direction to go, or what decision to make, we try to make the decision that is best for us. In our culture, we are told that picking the job that pays more is best. In our culture, we are told that it is not a bad idea to be ‘religious’ but not very much. We are told we can be involved, but not committed. Our culture teaches our kids that the best thing they do is to play two sports, take AP (Advanced Placement) classes, and get straight A’s so they can get into a good college. Very little emphasis or none, though, on God’s purpose for their lives and living a life that is honoring to God. The question that I want to ask this morning is, “Is choosing what our culture says is best always actually the best thing?” We all know that the choices we make can alter our life forever and set us on a course that may last a lifetime.

To explore this question, today and over the next few Sundays, we will be looking at some Biblical characters and some Scripture passages of people who had to make some hard decisions. As we look at those stories from God’s Living Word, the Bible, we will be able to identify some important Biblical principles in the decision-making process. It is my hope as we look at some of those principles to learn how to make God-honoring choices; choices that matter. This morning I want to look at a decision that Moses made that most definitely went against the culture and the values of his day. The background of Moses’ decision is found in Exodus chapter 2:11-15. As we look at Exodus chapter 2 and Hebrews chapter 11, please allow me to share a couple important principles:

First: Making God-Honoring Decisions are always Costly

In Exodus chapter 2, Moses had to make a very costly decision. He gave up so much! Once he had grown up, Moses had to choose between two countries, Egypt or Israel. Egypt was the country he grew up in. It was a country that offered great wealth, a great educational system, great privileges, and tremendous opportunity for achievement. Because he was an adopted member of the “royal family,” Egypt afforded Moses almost every opportunity and pleasure his heart desired. If Moses chose to ignore the beating of the Hebrew slave, He would have continued to gain power and wealth in Egypt. He would have enjoyed a glorious life with many treasures and other worldly pleasures. If Moses chose to intervene and save the Hebrew, he would be giving up the luxurious lifestyle that he was raised in.

After some thought though Moses makes his decision in Exodus 2:12, “Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” He chose to be on the side of the oppressed. He chose to affiliate and unite himself with the Hebrew slaves. The nation of Israel was enslaved by Egypt. A choice to identify with Israel was a choice to identify with slaves and to leave behind all the pleasures and treasures Egypt had to offer. We pay price for our decisions. Even today, as it has always been, the choice to identify with the people of God will mean that we will suffer persecution. Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12 “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How did Moses make his decision and on what basis? How did Moses arrive at this choice? If you were Moses, would you make the same decision? Would you come to the same conclusion? Hebrews chapter 11 gives us the rationale behind Moses decision. Moses saw things through the lens of God’s eternal perspective.

Second: Seeing Things through the Lens of God’s Eternal Perspective

In Hebrews 11:24-27, Moses is commended for his choice. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Moses understood that choosing what the culture said was best, was not what God thought was best. In fact, in these verses in Hebrews 11, it says that if Moses had chosen to ignore the beating and live comfortably as an Egyptian prince, it wouldn’t have been just a worse decision, it would have been sin! Anytime in our lives when we make decisions that are not honoring to God, we sin.

One of the secrets of making God-honoring decisions is found in Hebrews 11:26-27 “He was looking ahead to his reward … He persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” Moses was often talked about as having conversations with God face to face. It was only through his direct relationship with God that Moses was able to persevere. When you decide to make a Godly decision that goes against what the culture says, you will have to turn to God for help in sticking with your decision. It is hard to make Godly decisions and the strength that is needed only comes from God and seeing things from God’s perspective.

Friends, in 2 Peter 1:8-9, the Scripture warns us against being “nearsighted” and “blind.” In other words, making choices and decisions that are not taken in the light of God’s eternal perspective. If Moses would have aligned himself with the Egyptians, he could have continued to enjoy the pleasure of an extremely comfortable life. He could have continued to enjoy the best of everything that Egypt at that time had to offer, but we would not be preaching about him today. He could have had a great tomb full of gold with the rest of the Pharaohs, but this could have been the end of his story. He could have had a great monument or even a pyramid in the land of Egypt, but his name would have not been written in the Book of Life.

Friends, I am praying for all of us today as followers of Christ to make decisions on the basis of our identity in Christ. You and I should view things differently. We view things through the lens of God’s eternal perspective. May we have the courage to stand our ground and make choices that are honoring to God more than our culture. Friends, the choices will be determined and the decisions will be made whether we make them ourselves based on our convictions or allow others to make them for us. Late U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) learned that it’s better to make a decision than to let others make it for you. When he was a kid, his aunt took him to a shoe store and had the shoemaker to make him some custom-made shoes. He was asked if he wanted square-toed or round-toed shoes. He couldn’t make up his mind and when he went to pick them up, one was round-toed and one was square-toed. It was a lesson the shoemaker was teaching him about making his own decisions. Let’s wake up, people of God. Let’s become followers of Jesus Christ and not followers of our culture. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.