Archive for January, 2016

“Who Do People Say I Am?”#1

Sermon Notes (Sunday January 17th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

 

Who Do People Say I Am?”#1

Job 37:23-24; Matthew 16:13-20

 

You probably heard this account about a hilarious email miscommunication. A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon twenty years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel plans—so, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the next day.

 

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to email his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email. Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. The widow decided to check her email expecting comforting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read: To: My Loving Wife; Subject: I’ve arrived. The message read: I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was. P.S.—Sure is hot down here!

 

In today’s gospel reading from Matthew chapter 16, Jesus wants to makes sure there is no miscommunication when it comes to who He is: the Son of God. While travelling in the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus, referring to Himself, asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they replied, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 

And as was the case in Jesus’ day, today there are also many ideas about who Jesus is. We are often tempted to create our own version of Jesus who will comfortably fit into our worldview. There is the Liberal Jesus, the Conservative Jesus, the Old School Jesus, Jesus as CEO, Jesus the Great Moral Teacher, Jesus the Misunderstood Prophet, Jesus the Philosopher, Jesus the Life Coach, Rock Star Jesus—the list goes on and on. Please allow me to share with you this morning a couple observations based on our Scriptures today:

 

First: A Question that Must be Answered

“Who do you say I am?” In his classic book, Mere Christianity, British Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) addresses the idea of Jesus being who He said He was, the Son of God: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about (Jesus): I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic —on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to…Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God” (Mere Christianity, p. 54-56). Liar, lunatic, or Lord— according to Lewis, those are the three choices we have as far as identifying Jesus goes.

 

Friends, we are faced with the same challenge that C. S. Lewis writes about in Mere Christianity. Who do you say Jesus is?  He is completely unique.  He doesn’t fit into our categories.  He doesn’t match popular expectations. He’s so much greater than anything we could ever conceive.  In Job 37:23 we read, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power.”  He is the Christ.  That’s who Jesus Christ is. And there’s no more important question that we could ask this morning than this – Who do you say that Jesus is? It’s the question that we ask all the time when somebody comes to join the church, when we come before the Lord’s Table, when we administer baptism, and when we ordain and install new church officers. We ask the question, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

 

Second: Half is Never Really Enough

We must have a clear and solid answer of who Jesus is. Half is never really enough. Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer of the New York Pen League. In one of his inspiring poems he says, “Do not love half lovers. Do not entertain half friends. Do not indulge in works of the half talented. Do not live half a life and do not die a half death …. Do not accept half a solution. Do not believe half truths. Do not dream half a dream. Do not fantasize about half hopes. Half a drink will not quench your thirst. Half a meal will not satisfy your hunger. Half the way will get you no where. Half an idea will bear you no results.” Half is never really enough. Today I leave you with a challenge, to not settle for half on anything. Remember that a life worth living is worth living all the way.

 

In our Tuesday morning Bible Study we have been studying the Letter to the Hebrews. In Hebrews we see Israel safely delivered out of Egypt, but a whole generation never enjoyed the promised rest in Canaan. It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life. We either go forward and claim God’s blessings, or we go backwards and wonder about aimlessly. Someone once said, “Most Christians are betweeners. They are between Egypt and Canaanout of the place of danger, but not yet into the place of rest and rich inheritance. They are between Good Friday and Easter Sundaysaved by the blood but not yet enjoying newness of resurrection life.” Are you a betweener? There are believers today who can make the same mistake.

 

“Who do you say that I am?” In the Greek text, that word you has an enormous stress. In fact, the you really goes at the first of the sentence. It is as if Jesus is saying, “But you who have followed me and have known me from the beginning, who do you say that I am?” It is the greatest question in the entire universe and it is one which every person must eventually answer. Let me stop here today and next Sunday, Lord willing, we will look at the life that confesses this one revolutionary truth—that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the living God. We will look at what kind of life is this. We will elaborate more on does it mean to acknowledge Jesus as “The Messiah, the Son of the living God.” “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”   Amen!

“Crossing Over Into a New Year!”

Sermon Notes (Sunday January 10th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Crossing Over Into a New Year!

Deuteronomy 11:8-17; Hebrews 13:8

 

The Christmas season was over. The young family started taking down the Christmas decorations and putting them away for another year. The little girl in the family observed her mom wrapping up the nativity scene and placing each figure carefully away in a storage box. When it came time for the little figure of Jesus in the manger to be wrapped up in paper, she looked at her mother and asked, “Mommy, are we putting Jesus away for another year?” Christmas is over and we are crossing over into a New Year, are we putting Jesus away for another year? Will this be a year you grow closer to Jesus or, for some reason, move further away from Him?

 

In the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 11, the children of Israel were coming to the end of an era. After 40 years of wandering in Sinai wilderness and the death of an entire generation, they are now looking forward with great anticipation to the dawn of a new era in a new land. They were encamped on the eastern bank of the River Jordan overlooking the Promised Land. They are ready to cross over the River Jordan to the land flowing milk and honey.

 

Crossing over into a New Year can bring some very mixed feelings. On one hand, we get excited for so many opportunities that lie ahead of us. On the other hand, we get nervous about the challenges 2016 might bring our way. As we cross over into the New Year and as we celebrate the ordination and installation of new church officers today, I want to share with you this morning a couple important lessons from God’s Word based on Deuteronomy 11 and Hebrews 13. Two reminders that we as Followers of Christ and leaders in this church will need through out the year:

 

First: We Will Encounter Hills and Valleys

In Deuteronomy 11:11 we read, “But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys…” As we look into the New Year, we know that we will be facing mountains and valleys. The sea will not always be smooth. The journey will not always be down hill. The road will not always be straight and bathed in light. Sometimes we will find ourselves in the dark, struggling with hills and through valleys. The fact is, like it or not, life is filled with ups and down, hills and valleys, troubles and trials, difficulties and traumas.

 

The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys.” Mountains might not always be pleasant, but we need them. We cannot live without the hills. Friends, we need the hills – for the challenge… to force us to our knees… to teach us we can climb… to remind us of the faithfulness of God. Someone once said, “To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm.” Mountains and valleys will be always there. They are part of our human experience. As followers of Christ and leaders of this congregation, some days we will be flying up there while other days we will be walking down here. In all circumstances, God’s Presence will go with us and will give us rest. And that’s the second great truth we encounter in Deuteronomy chapter 11.

 

Second: The Eyes of the Lord Continually on us

My second thought has to do with the God who continually cares for us. Along with the hills and valleys, God leads us through. He always provides the grace… the strength… to get over the mountain or through the valley. Unbelievers have no such resource… you and I do. Praise God.

 

God continually observes us all year long. In Deuteronomy 11:11-12 we read, “But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.”

 

Friends, we are tempted to think that God watches over the spiritually elite more than average, ordinary people. Isn’t it hard to believe that God is as interested in you and your life as He is in the life of Billy Graham or some other great Christian leaders? I know we feel insignificant to God at times – maybe even forgotten or forsaken.

 

The Bible makes it clear that it’s impossible for God to forget you; in fact, it’s impossible for Him to ever take His eyes off of you. The eyes of the Lord our God are continually on us from the beginning of the year to its end. Even though you are but one of His children, He observes you, sees you, focuses in on you as carefully, as tenderly and as continually as if you were the only child in His family.

 

God’s eyes never get red and sleepy observing us. God’s eyes never get distracted from you. God’s eyes never get bored watching over you. God’s awareness of you is just as real and continual when you go through difficult moments in 2016 as it is when you go through wonderful moments this year.

 

Are you worried about the days to come? Let Christ give you a fresh start. Let’s remember to keep our eyes always fixed on Him. As we embark on a new year, let’s remember God’s faithfulness. Open your eyes in the days to come and you will see tangible reminders of God’s Presence and faithfulness in your life. Friends, a lot of things can scare and frighten us this year. The unknown is frightening. But I want to encourage you today to rest secure in God’s love. “Perfect love,” says 1 John 4:18, “drives out fear.” Friends, let’s remember that we will encounter hills and valleys. Let’s also remember, which is far more important, that the eyes of the Lord are continually on us. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8. “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Best wishes for 2016. Amen!

 

 

“New Day, New Year, New You!”

ELMER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH  01/03/16:

“New Day, New Year, New You!”

Rev. John Lore shared his message “New Day, New Year, New You!” based on Scripture readings Isaiah 43:18-19 and Lamentations 3:19-23 with the congregation while Rev. Mouris Yousef enjoyed some vacation time. Our departing hymn this week, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” was written by Thomas Chisolm (1866-1960) whose health was so fragile there were times when he was confined to bed, unable to work. He came to Christ at age 27 and found comfort in the Scriptures, and in the fact that God was faithful to be his strength in time of illness and provide his needs. Lamentations 3:22-23 was one of his favorite scriptures: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” Thomas often wrote to his good friend, William Runyan, exchanging several poems. Runyan found one of Williams’ poems so moving that he composed a musical score to accompany the lyrics, leading “Great is Thy Faithfulness” to be published in 1923.

A new year brings us time for reflection, and a time to reflect on God’s great faithfulness to us. Forgiveness has already happened for Christians, even though not all of us have experienced it yet. There is a plan in life, and God surely has a plan for you. In John 13:34-34 Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The love we have from Jesus Christ is always with us and will never end.