Archive for April, 2016

Yahweh Jireh: God our Provider!

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday April 24th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Yahweh Jireh: God our Provider!

Genesis 22:1-14; Hebrews 11:17-19

 

You may have heard about the guy who fell off a cliff and on his way down he was able to grab onto a tree branch jutting out from the face of the rock.  As he hung there reviewing his options, he started yelling, “Is anyone up there?”  He was surprised to hear a voice say to him, “Yes, this is God.”  The man was greatly relieved, and quickly stuttered, “God, can you save me?”  “Of course I can,” responded God.  The man was really happy now and shouted out, “Great!  What should I do?”  The answer from the Almighty was not what he was expecting: “Let go of the branch.”  After a long period of silence, the man replied faintly, “Is there anyone else up there?”

 

Sometimes we’re like that man.  We want God to help us but we don’t always want to do what He says.  Specifically, we’re not always interested in “letting go” of those things that we think are holding us up.  It’s tough to release our grip and give control of our lives to God.  We kind of know that God will provide but maybe we’re not really sure He’ll come through for us.  And so we hold on, and wonder if there is someone else who can help us.

 

This morning we continue our meditations on some of the well-known Biblical names of God.  Last week, we meditated on El Shaddai, the Almighty, the all sufficient God, and its implications on our lives.  This morning our focus is on Yehwah Jireh ~ God our Provider.

 

Perhaps the most moving and heart-wrenching account of God’s provision is found in Genesis 22.  As I said last week, Abram was called by God when he was 75 years old from Ur the Chaldeans, the area that is now Iraq.  In Genesis 12, he is told to leave what he had always known and live in a land that God would later show him.  To let go of all that was familiar to him, Abram demonstrated incredible faith.  God then promised him that the entire world would be blessed through his offspring.  When he and Sarah got the news, they both started laughing, and so God gave the boy the name Isaac, which means “laughter.”  After 25 years of waiting, the son of promise was born to them.  But God still had some things he wanted to teach Abraham.  As we examine a couple Scriptures today, please allow me to highlight two important observations:

 

First: The Promise Tested

In Genesis 22:1-2 we read, “Some time later God tested Abraham.”  When we finish chapter 21, Isaac is still pretty young.  He is about 15-years-old, which means Abraham is around 115.  God wanted to test Abraham’s faith and faithfulness.  He is about to face an extreme exam.  This time God is going to demand something out of Abraham that will be extremely costly and exceedingly confusing: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of MoriahSacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

 

Notice the four phrases God uses – your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.  God is making it very clear who He is talking about and He is putting His finger on the fact that Isaac was everything to Abraham.  And that was part of the problem because God ALONE should be everything to him.  God was saying, “We’ve walked together for many years and now you have the son you’ve longed for.  Tell me, Abraham; is this son more important to you than your relationship with me?”  When he left his father’s country, by faith, we learn that Abraham loved God more than his father.  Now we learn that he loved God more than his own son.

 

When Abraham received this tough test of faith, he didn’t argue with God and he also didn’t check with others.  Not one word of objection is recorded in the entire text.  Instead, he practiced immediate obedience: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.  He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.  When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.”  Friends, a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted!

 

Second: Yehwah Provided

Abraham has the faith to believe that both he and Isaac will return after they worship!  Notice the pronouns: “We will worship…we will come back.”  Abraham has the assurance that Isaac will return with him.  Think about this.  Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his son, so how can he come back?  Hebrews 11:17-19 fills in the blanks for us: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

 

As Abraham and Isaac walked up the mountain together, “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.  “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Oh, how these words must have sliced right through a devoted dad’s heart.  Abraham then answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  The word “provide” is the word ‘Jireh” and has a very rich meaning.  It is translated as “to see” and as “provision.”  Abraham knew that God would somehow see to it that everything would work out.  Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

 

We know from the Bible that God loves to meet the needs of His people.  God loves to come through for His people, but often not until we “let go.”  We don’t have to fully understand in order to surrender, but we do need to fully trust.  It’s like the story I heard of a house on fire.  The little girl was trapped in her upstairs bedroom.  As she leaned out the window, her father, who was on the ground said, “Jump.  I’ll catch you.”  The little girl was afraid and replied, “But, I can’t see you!”  To which the Father shouted, “That’s OK.  I can see you.”  She jumped to safety not because she could see but because she trusted the voice of her father who told her to jump.  She was willing to let go.  And it was in letting go that she was ultimately provided for.  Is there anything you’re holding on to today?  What is your Isaac?  It’s time to put it all on the altar and trust God.

 

The British Christian Missionary Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) had a plaque in his room while he was a missionary in China.  On it were these words: Ebenezer and Jehovah Jireh, which means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” and “The Lord sees or the Lord provides.”  One looked back and the other looked forward.  One reminded him of God’s faithfulness and the other of God’s provision.  “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.  And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” Genesis 2:14.  In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

El Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty!

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday April 17th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

El Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty!

Isaiah 49:24-26; Revelation 1:4-8

 

I believe the amazing story of Charles Blondin, the famous French tightrope walker, is a wonderful introduction to my sermon this morning.  Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls.  People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

 

Blondin walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times – each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded.  One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!  The highlight of the show came when Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow full of potatoes across the rope.

 

Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!  Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”  The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world.  We believe!”  “Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow?”  Not one hand went up!

 

Like Blondin’s audience, sometimes we, followers of Christ, get excited and emotional after an important spiritual experience or a rousing sermon.  Caught up in the moment, we are eager to cheer for those who are doing the work and taking the chances, but when we are called to step out in faith — to risk a little, or to lay it all on the line — our hands stay clasped firmly in our lap.  Like Blondin’s audience, sometimes our faith ends where risk begins.  God has never failed anyone since He created Adam and Eve.  His timing and balance are perfect — let’s get into the wheelbarrow.

 

What is in a Name?

Over the next couple Sundays, we will be looking at some of the Biblical names of God.  In the days gone by, a person’s name tells us so much about him or her and God’s names similarly tell us so much about His character.

 

This morning I want us to look at a great name of God.  It is a name that I am sure most of us have heard before – it is the name El Shaddai.  But what does this name mean?  “El Shaddai” is first found in Genesis 17:1 where the Lord appeared to Abram for the sixth time and then changed his name to Abraham.  The most simple translation of “El Shaddai” is ’God’ (’el’), THE ALL-MIGHTY ONE (’Shaddai’), to clearly differentiate the ONE true God from all the other ‘gods’ of the nations.

 

As mentioned, “El Shaddai” is first found in Genesis 17:1.  At the age of 99 ~ 24 years after the first promise was made ~ God appeared to Abram.  Up until this time, Abram, knew God only as Jehovah (Yahweh in Hebrew) and as El Elyon (Lord Most High).  But now God reveals another important side to His character.  He says – “I am El Shaddai ~ I am God Almighty.”  From that encounter between Abraham and God the Almighty, I want to draw a single application that is as important to us today as it was to Abraham back then.  What was so important about God revealing Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai?

 

El Shaddai ~ The All Sufficient God

In the context of Genesis chapter 17, El Shaddai speaks of God’s all-sufficiency.  In every circumstance that we find ourselves in, God is all-sufficient for us.  When God appeared to Abram, He said – “I am El Shaddai” – your all sufficiency, Abraham, walk before me and be blameless.

 

What was the major stumbling block for Abram walking before God and being blameless?  What was the major obstacle to Abram having anything at all to do with God?  It was the fact that 24 years earlier a promise had been made and it had not been fulfilled.  Could this God Yahweh be trusted?  I don’t know whether these thoughts were going through Abram’s mind, but I do know that both Abram and Sarah believed that they had well and truly missed the boat.  In Genesis 17:17 we see Abram laughing in disbelief that God was still contending that he could bear a child and in Genesis 18:12 Sarah also had a bit of a giggle to herself.  So it was in this context that God reveals Himself as the all sufficient one.  He was saying, don’t worry about what you have or haven’t yet received, Abraham.  I am all you need and will supply you with all you need.

 

Friends, I believe this is a timely message.  Often times we doubt that God is able to supply us with what we need.  Sometimes things look hopeless, impossible and useless.  Sometimes we feel old and barren like Abraham and Sarah – and we laugh at God’s promises.  We feel that we have exhausted all our resources and we are at our wit’s end – nothing has worked.  Have you ever felt like this?  Take some time this morning and look unto Jesus as the all-sufficient one.  What do we do in such situations?  Where do we turn?

 

I believe that God is giving us the answer here in this passage – He is saying that I am the “El Shaddai” – the ONE who is sufficient to meet all our needs; the one who is sufficient to calm all our storms; the one who is sufficient to restore our hopes, and to strengthen our feeble arms and our weak knees.  Abram was about to learn that God’s promises are fulfilled not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6.)  It would be El Shaddai who would accomplish His will in Abram’s life!  God is able, whatever the circumstance and whatever the difficulty.  The Apostle John echoes the same truth in Revelation chapter 1.  He was exiled to Patmos, the church was so persecuted, and it seemed to many that the “Jesus Movement” is coming to an end, yet here is what God wanted to give to His people in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

Friends, our God is the God of might and power.  In Proverbs 18:10 we read, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and are safe.”   Psalm 9:10 reminds us that “Those who know Your name, Oh Lord, will put their trust in You for You have not forsaken those who seek You.”  El Shaddai, God reminded Abraham and reminds His children today that He is the all-sufficient God, the God that is more than enough.  He is a covenant-maker and covenant-keeping God.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Amen!

“The Lord of the Storm!”

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday April 10th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

The Lord of the Storm!”

Psalm 46:1-7; Luke 8:22-25

 

I have to confess that I changed my sermon topic three times this week.  Initially I had a different topic in my mind, but out of sadness, anxiety, fear, and some concern for the future of the ministry here at the Elmer Presbyterian Church during this transition, some of you have contacted me to express those feelings.  As I thought about those mixed feelings, the Lord led me to a couple Scripture passages from Psalm 46 and Luke 8 that clearly speak to us today.  The title I put to my sermon is, “The Lord of the Storm.”

 

The story of Jesus calming the storm is quite simple, but we can draw many lessons from it.  Our Lord, perhaps exhausted from all the teaching and healing activities of the day, withdrew with His disciples and desired to cross over the lake.  As they sailed, Christ slept.  A great storm arose.  The storm was so great that the boat was filing with water.  Luke conveys to us the sense of urgency in that the disciples now felt they were in jeopardy.  This small lake, the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberias, or Lake Gennesaret) was known for its terrible storms.  Although the disciples, as fisherman, would have been familiar with the storms of this lake, they, perhaps, had never seen a storm as this one.

 

Fear gripped the disciples, and they ran to the Lord and awoke Him.  The Lord does not answer their question or say anything to calm their fears, but instead rebukes the wind and wave so that all became still.  At this, Christ turns to them and asks them, “Where is your faith?”  As we think about our own fears today and as we think about the future of the ministry at Elmer Presbyterian, please allow me to share with you a couple thoughts from Psalm 46 and Luke 8:

 

First: Jesus Will Ask Us to Go Where We Wouldn’t Go

Our natural tendency is NOT to go where Jesus wants us to go.  Because we have a limited perspective, it is not always clear to us why we would ever consider going some of the places that Jesus would have us go.  Jesus will sometimes ask us to do things we do not understand.  Luke 8:22-25 is a great example.

 

Look again at what Jesus said, in Luke 8:22 “One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.’  So they got into a boat and set out.”  Everyone piled in.  They started rowing or sailing.  “Where are we going, Jesus?”  “Oh, to visit the Gadarenes.”  Why would Jesus want to go there?

 

Well, the good thing is the disciples didn’t argue, they trusted.  They trusted even though they knew what – or more specifically, who – was on the other side of the lake: a bunch of pigloving non-Jews.  If they made any comment, the Bible doesn’t record it.  But I think some of them were thinking: “What is wrong with the beaches on our side of the lake?”  Maybe Jesus is prompting you to walk across a room and start up a conversation.  Maybe Jesus is asking you, “Let’s go over across the street.”  We are very good at excuses.  Yet, as we follow the risen Lord, He will ask us to go where we wouldn’t go ourselves.  On the other side of the lake, someone needed healing as Luke tells in in chapter 8:26-39 ~ a demon-possessed man needed the restoration of the Lord!

 

Second: Jesus Will Save Us in A Way We Would Not Expect

As we face the storms of life, let’s be assured that Jesus will save us in a way we would not expect.  In Luke 8:24-25 we read, “…He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?”  He asked His disciples.”  What exactly were the disciples expecting Jesus was going to do?  It is strange that these disciples were willing to follow Jesus into the boat, they were willing to trust Him with the destination, they were willing to let Him go to sleep, but they were worried that they would not get across the lake.  Why?  Because they expected that with Jesus asleep in the boat, it was going to be an easy ride, smooth sailing.  They expected that with Jesus in the boat, it was going to be no problems.

 

Instead of an easy ride, what the disciples got was the storm, the wind, the waves, the boat filling with water.  They did not expect the storm to come their way with Jesus in the boat.  They had so much fear and doubt.  They probably thought God had abandoned them.  But Jesus doesn’t do that.  He doesn’t bring us this far to leave us right in the middle of the storm.  In Psalm 46 we are reminded with this great truth, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging … God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

 

As fishermen, they expected Jesus to intervene in a certain way at a certain time.  They might have expected Jesus to pray.  They might have expected Him to guide them to land somehow, or help them row back to shore, or for help to appear in the form of another boat.  They might have expected even for Him to walk on water.  He has been there and done that.

 

But Jesus does something amazing.  He stands up and tells the world to shut up.  And it does.  The wind stops.  The waves vanish.  And their journey continues to the other side of the lake, just like Jesus said it should.

 

The same Jesus who started with us is the same Jesus who is with us now and is the same Jesus who will finish it with us.  “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” Jesus says in Matthew 28:20.  If God lets you into this mess, God will lead you out.  And He will do it in a way that is uniquely God.

 

Friends, it is not about the storms of life.  Rather, it is ALL about who is in your boat!  The problems we face may seem so big, but that is because we forgotten how BIG our God is.  Friends, we are not really alone even when we think we are.  As I have written in the note I sent to all of you this week, please don’t panic!  God is still on the throne and both you as a child of God and the Elmer Presbyterian Church are centered on the Lord Jesus Christ.  In a few weeks a beautiful chapter is closing, but a more beautiful chapter awaits us.  That’s the nature of the Christian grief.  “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory and power, now and for ever and ever!”   Amen!