A Thanksgiving Sermon

“Thankful for Not Enough”

“When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”

John 6:5-11 KJV

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thess. 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Well, it’s really not a problem to obey that command when your provision is adequate and enough. But, the real test of faith comes when you are asked to be thankful for not enough! You’ve worked all week long and get your check on Friday. But, when you look at your bills and then look at your check; you discover you don’t have enough! At the end of the month, you have more month than money, but can you still be thankful for not enough?

Well, it seems that Jesus and the disciples were faced with a similar situation in the text. Jesus and the disciples were attempting to find some time alone, but the when the crowd saw them, they followed them and would not leave them alone. Mark says that when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, so he began to teach them many things. However, it was getting late in the evening and the crowd had been with Jesus all day, so the disciples came to him and said: “Send them away so that they might go and get some food, for the day is far spent and the hour is late and we are here in a lonely place” But Jesus told them: “You give them something to eat!” It is at that point that we see the first “not enough” in the story. First of all, because they have been with Jesus all day, there was not enough time for them to go and buy provisions for themselves. For if they had indeed gone away, by the time they got to the market places, the markets would have been closed! Somebody here knows what it means to not have enough time! But you still need to be thankful for not enough!

Mark says “they said,” but John identifies the spokesman as Philip, who said “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One denarius was a day’s wage; therefore, this would have been about eight months’ wages! Now, the text gives no indication how Philip came up with this particular amount. Perhaps it was the amount of money they had in their treasury, but Philip’s point was: “We don’t have enough money to buy enough bread to adequately feed all these people!” In other words, Philip and the rest of the disciples thought that Jesus was asking them to do that which was impossible! That was the second ‘not enough’ not enough money! Oh! I really don’t have to labor that point:  All of us know what it means to have not enough money!

But, while Philip was explaining why it couldn’t be done, Andrew was busy looking for a way it could be done! The Synoptic writers record Jesus as asking them to go and see how many loaves they could find, but only John reveals the source of the provisions. Andrew reports to Jesus: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” In other words, “Jesus, we found something; but it’s not enough!” Oh yes! This story is filled with ‘not enough!” There was not enough time for the crowd to go and buy food! There was not enough money for the disciples to buy food to feed the crowd! And the two fish and five barley loaves of bread were not enough food to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children!

Now, when we are faced with ‘not enough’ situations, we must guard our attitudes and dispositions! For, if we are not careful, not enough will cause us to fret and complain! Have you ever met someone who is always complaining about not having enough? What most of these people fail to realize is that part of the reason they don’t have enough is because they are always complaining that they don’t have enough! The Bible says: “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.” In other words, what we believe and say with conviction on a consistent basis will ultimately find fulfillment in the circumstances of our lives! It’s self-fulfilling prophecy! They never have enough because they believe and consistently speak they will never have enough! If you are one of these people, you need to change your vocabulary and increase your faith! You need to quit speaking about what you don’t have, and start speaking about what you want to have! The Bible says: “Let the weak say: ‘I am strong!” But, the more you grumble and complain; the more you will have to grumble and complain about!

But, Jesus did not complain that the two fish and five barley loaves were not enough! In fact, the Bible says that Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks! That’s the point I really want to drive home today! We’ve got to learn to be thankful, even when we think it’s not enough! You see, sometimes, what we think is not enough, is actually more than enough! What they had was not enough in their hands! But when they placed it in the hands of Jesus; it was more than enough!

I believe the difference was in the thanksgiving! The disciples resented not enough; but Jesus was thankful for not enough! The disciples despised not enough, but Jesus embraced not enough! The disciples saw not enough as a problem, but Jesus saw not enough as an opportunity! You see, often the difference between frustration and fulfillment, between success and failure, between poverty and provision, is in how you respond to your not enough situations! And I don’t care who you are! It doesn’t matter your financial status or social standing; everybody has and everybody will face some not enough situations! But, when you are faced with a not enough situation; what do you do? How do you respond? Do you grumble and complain? Or do you praise and thank God that not enough, is at least, more than nothing!

You see, that’s the key! Life never leaves you with nothing: Life always leaves you with something! But, sometimes the not enough really is enough, it only seems to be not enough because you misunderstand and therefore misappropriate its purpose! Let me show you what I’m talking about! Sometimes, the not enough is not meant to be fruit to be consumed, but rather seed to be planted! The frustration comes about when we eat or consume that which was meant to be planted! The disciples were frustrated by the two fish and five barley loaves of bread because they thought they were not enough for the crowd to consume. Jesus was thankful for the two fish and five barley loaves of bread because he knew he was going to use them as seed to grow a miracle to feed the multitude!

Oh! There are many people who don’t pay their tithes or give offerings unto the Lord because they think, if they do, they will not have enough to pay their bills. They don’t understand, the tithe is a seed! You can’t harvest a crop unless you plant seed! Many of us are suffering today because, instead of planting our seed, we’ve been eating our seed! And when we eat our seed, we never have enough, because the seed is not meant for consumption, the seed is meant for the production of a harvest after it has been planted in the ground!

Yes! Jesus was thankful for not enough! The Bible says Jesus took the loaves and the fish and began to bless and brake them! That’s where the miracle took place; in between the blessing and the breaking! As Jesus blessed and broke, the pieces of bread and fish multiplied. Well, I told you a few minutes ago that it is dangerous to complain, because the more you complain; the more you will have to complain about! Well, the opposite is true also! The more thankful you are; the more you will have to be thankful for! That’s why you ought to live life with an attitude of gratitude!

Well, Jesus took the bread and the fish and blessed and broke the pieces. Then he gave it to the disciples and the disciples gave it to the crowd. As Jesus was thanking, blessing and breaking, the disciples were passing to the multitude and a miracle took place! The bread and the fish began to multiply. Well, I’ll be through in a minute, but I think we ought to notice when the miracle took place! The miracle didn’t take place ‘before’ they needed it; it took place ‘as’ they needed it! Oftentimes, we are tempted to fret and complain about not enough because we don’t see the need being met before the need needs to be met! In other words, we want to wait until we can see something happening before we praise the Lord! But, we’ve got to learn to thank Him in advance! Don’t wait until the battle is over; shout now, for although you can’t see it in the natural; the victory has already been won!

Now, the Bible says: “They all ate and were satisfied!” Before we go, I think we need to know who they all were! We call this; the feeding of the five thousand, but that’s a misnomer. There were quite possibly, well over twenty thousand people who ate and were satisfied, because the five thousand was only the number of men; They didn’t count the women and children!

Well, after they had all eaten and were full, John says that Jesus told the disciples: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” I’ve got two more things to say and then I’m through! Notice they started out with not enough, but they ended up with more than enough! Somebody needs to know today that sometimes the most important thing is not in how you start, but rather in how you finish! If you are dealing with not enough today; don’t despise your not enough! Just be thankful for your not enough and put it in the hands of Jesus! Because, what is not enough in your hands is more than enough in the hands of Jesus!

Yes! Jesus said: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost!” When the Lord takes your not enough and turns it into more than enough; you need to be careful how you handle the leftovers! Don’t forget to pick up the pieces! Sometimes, we are faced with a not enough situation this time, only because we were not faithful with the leftovers last time! But I’ve learned how to handle the leftovers! Some people think they are too good for the leftovers, but leftovers are a defense against the future not enough! How you handle the leftovers will determine if you will continually face not enough situations.  But if you are faithful with the leftovers, God will always make sure to supply your need, not according to your need, but according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus! Oh! Be not dismayed whatever betide; God will take care of you! Beneath His wings of love abide; God will take care of you! Yes! Through every day, over all the way. He will take care or you! God will take care of you!

Do You Love Me More Than These?

This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

(John 21:14-17 ESV)

If most (not necessarily all) Americans who claim to be Christian, were more devoted to actually practicing Christian principles than defending and practicing their cultural heritage, political ideology, or personal interests, most of the current issues plaguing American society such as racial divisions, politics, police brutality, and even gun violence would not exist.

So, the question for every American, who claims to follow Christ, is the same question Jesus posed to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) Do you love God more than your guns? Do you love the Lord more than your cultural heritage or racial identity? Do you love God more than your political party affiliations or platforms?

If the so-called Christians, really loved God the way they say they do, then that love would supersede racial and ethnic differences and Black and White Christians would stand together to protest and eliminate the systemic police brutality and racial injustice that is so prevalent in America today!

The bottom line is this: Unless the confessing Christian’s faith controls his or her politics instead of that Christian allowing politics to taint and distort their faith; any claim to Christian authenticity is suspect at best, if not just simply a farce in reality! Until practice is consistent with statements of faith, those who don’t believe have no credible tangible evidence that the Christian’s faith is actually real!

Our nation is severely divided along racial lines today because many people have confused real Christianity with politics! A real Christian is not the one who is on the political or social Left or Right! The identity of the real Christian is not determined by political affiliations. The real Christian is the one who follows Christ!

My prayer is that all who claim to love the Lord would actually love Him more than their own personal agendas! Then, and only then, will there be healing in the land!

Have We (the Church) Truly Repented?

Some years ago, I did a word-study of the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in our English Bibles. As I result of this study, I came to a shocking conclusion: Most of us who call ourselves Christians, have NOT truly repented at all! This is mostly in part because of a mis-interpretation which has led to a misunderstanding, and therefore a misapplication the biblical concept of repentance.

Let me show you what I am talking about. When I was first introduced to the concept of repentance as a young Christian, I was taught that to repent means to be ‘godly sorrow for your sins.’ However, I would discover later on, that this definition is based on a faulty interpretation and misunderstanding of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. The apostle wrote: “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (KJV) Here are the same verses in one of the more recent versions; the ESV: “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Now, here’s the thing that most people have missed about what Paul said. Paul DID NOT SAY godly sorrow or godly grief ‘was’ repentance. He said godly sorrow or godly grief ‘works’ or ‘produces’ repentance! Godly sorrow/grief and repentance are two different concepts; they are not synonymous! They are not the same!

So, to feel sorry for your sins is not the same as repenting, it’s just feeling sorry for your sins! But, feeling sorry for your sins ought to produce repentance! Feeling sorry for your sins ought to lead you to the act of repenting. So, that brings us to the question: If being godly sorrow for your sins is not the same as repentance, then, what does it actually mean to repent? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘repent’ has as its primary meaning; to change one’s mind or the way one thinks. Therefore, to repent is to change your mind or to change your thought process; repentance is a change of mind! True repentance is a change in ‘what’ and ‘how’ one thinks! This change of mind will invariably lead to a change in action, behavior and life.

Jesus’ first recorded public declaration is found in Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV) The Jewish people at that time were anxiously waiting for and anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God (the rule, reign, and authority of God among his people on earth). What Jesus was essentially saying was this: “Quit thinking about the Kingdom of God in the future-tense and understand and live in view of the fact that the Kingdom of God has now arrived!” The message of Jesus for us today is for us to quit thinking of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven in the future and start thinking of the Kingdom of God as a present reality!

Therefore, in view of what Jesus said, even most people who call themselves Christians still need to repent! Why? Because most Christians think of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven, in the sweet by and by! But the message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is also a present reality on earth in the sour here and now! The message is: Repent! Quit thinking religion and start thinking Kingdom! We’ve got our hearts set on ‘going to Heaven,’ but Jesus told us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” We’re want to leave here and go there, but Jesus wants us to stay here, working and praying that the ‘there’ will come here! He prayed to his Father in the garden on the eve of his passion, concerning his disciples and us: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Jn. 17:15 NIV) We need to repent, because we’ve been praying to the Father to get us out, while Jesus prayed to the Father to keep us in! We need to repent! We need to change our minds; we need to change our thought process! We’ve been thinking religion; but Jesus wasn’t about religion, Jesus was about the Kingdom! Jesus never told us to seek first religion; he told us to seek first the Kingdom! Religion is always about the past and the future ‘over there,’ but the Kingdom is primarily about in the present here! Religion allows evil to win in the present because of a faith in a future victory, but the Kingdom defeats the power of the enemy in the present and will ultimately destroy the enemy in the future! That’s why the enemy doesn’t mind us ‘having religion,’ because religion blinds us to the present reality of the Kingdom! The message to the church today is the same as the message Jesus proclaimed centuries ago: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” The Kingdom of God is not just pie-in-the-shy-when-you-die-by-and-by; the Kingdom is the present power and reality of God in the world right now! The Kingdom of God is not just later; the Kingdom of God is NOW AND LATER!

Another Love TKO

Having a spirit of unforgiveness is detrimental to our spiritual, mental, and physical health. When we don’t forgive and insist on holding grudges, we don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive or the one we’re holding a grudge against; we’re hurting our own selves.

Unforgiveness is detrimental to us spiritually because Jesus said, if we don’t forgive others; the Father will not forgive us! Think about it! There is no wrong anyone can do to us that is greater than the wrong we have already done to God! But those who are in right relationship with God have been forgiven of their sins and are forgiven by God on a daily basis! Therefore, when we refuse to forgive others, we are, in a sense, making ourselves to be greater than God!

Being unforgiving hinders our faith and prevents God from hearing our prayers! In Mark 11:22-26, Jesus makes the connection between moving mountains, receiving the things we desire when we pray and forgiveness.

Being unforgiving is detrimental to us mentally because strife, resentment, and other negative emotions that come with being unforgiving actually weaken and disempower us! They make us restless and angry, thereby inhibiting our ability to think positively and productively. When we refuse to forgive, we re-live the hurt over and over again in our minds; not allowing ourselves to emotionally heal.

Being unforgiving is detrimental to us physically because the doctors have discovered that our physical well-being is directly connected to our spiritual and mental health! When we are unforgiving for long periods of time, the resentment can manifest physically in the form of chronic high blood pressure, heart problems, cancers, and other health issues.

The bottom line is this; refusing to forgive is spiritual, emotional, and physical suicide! We don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive; but we are killing ourselves.

When someone has done us wrong, we’ve got to learn to forgive easily and quickly. Doing so doesn’t mean the person has taken advantage of us or walked over us; it means we are spiritually and emotionally mature and not spiritually and emotionally stupid! We would do well with a slight adaptation of the words of the late “Rev” Teddy Pendergrass: “We just need to let it go; it’s just another love T. K. O!”

 

 

 

A Bag of M & M’s

In the 1994 film: Forrest Gump, the lead character Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) says: “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re going to get.” Well, that may very well be true, but have you ever thought about the fact that the issues of race and skin color are like a bag of M & M’s?

I grew up, eating M & M’s and even today, I will occasionally indulge myself with a small bag. Now, the interesting thing about M & M’s is that they come in all different colors and two main types. You can get the ones with peanuts on the inside (my favorite) or the ones that are just chocolate on the inside. But whether they are just plain chocolate or peanuts, they come with a candy coating of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and other different colors. But here is the real interesting thing about M & M’s: No matter what color they are on the outside, they are all the same on the inside! In fact, even with the different coloring of the outside, they all taste the same! You can’t taste the difference between the reds and the blues or the greens and the browns! In fact, you could have a bag of M & M’s, all the same color and if you were blind-folded, you couldn’t taste the difference between that bag and a bag with assorted colors! Why? Because there is no difference! All M & M’s are exactly the same! The chocolate on the inside taste exactly the same and the candy-coating on the outside taste exactly the same! The only difference in M & M’s is the color on the outside, which, as far as taste, makes no difference at all!

Well, differences between the various races of people are like the differences between the M & M’s! We come in various different colors on the outside, but we all are exactly the same on the inside! We live in an age of advance medical technology. Organ transplants occur on a daily basis! Medical technology has demonstrated, too many times to deny that there is no structural or any other type of difference between the heart of a Black person and the heart of a White, Latino, Asian or person of any other ethnic group! All of our internal organs are the same! All of our blood-types are the same! The only difference is the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the slant of our eyes, the structure of our cheek-bones, and some other minute details that really don’t matter.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is race and skin-color such an issue? When we boil it down to the essence and peel away all of the artificial excuses and fallacies, the real issue is fear. As humans, we naturally tend to fear what we perceive to be different and is unknown to us. But, the fear can be alleviated by knowledge.

When it is all said and done, we all are just like a bag of M & M’s! We have different coloring on the outside, but we are exactly the same on the inside! We have different skin-coloring, but we all have red blood! Our internal organs are the exactly the same! That’s why doctors can transplant the heart or lungs of a Black person into a White person or the liver and kidneys of a White person into a Black person! We are all the same physically, mentally and spiritually! When we all are ready to acknowledge that, the racial issues in this country will dissipate to a great degree. Most of the racial problems in America today are fueled by ignorance and fear. There is a connection between the two; ignorance breeds fear and fear impedes the acquisition of the knowledge which would eliminate the fear.

There is also a lot of historical baggage that we must sort out! But that’s another post for another day! I just wanted us, for this post, to look at a bag of M & M’s and learn from them! Can you imagine what it would be like to go to the store and all the M & M’s were bagged according to their colors? All the greens in one bag, all the reds in one bag and all the yellows in one bag. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like that! I like all those different colors bunch together in one bag! I know it’s just psychological because, like I said earlier, they all taste the same! Even in the candy coating on the outside, there is no difference in the taste between the red coating and the yellow coating! But it’s just more pleasing to the eyes to have that variety of colors! A bag of all green M & M’s or all red M & M’s would be a boring bag! Perhaps that is what our Creator was thinking when the various races and ethnic groups were created. Variety is the spice of life! Just like a bag of all red M & M’s or all green M & M’s, life would be boring and dull if we all were exactly the same on the outside!

Please! Don’t Take Me With You!

I am deeply disturbed by the recent rash of murder-suicides happening all around the country with couples. I am trying to wrap my head around it. The whole situation is senseless!

I mean, if you kill that person in a fit of jealous rage, that only proves that you really didn’t love them in the first place and that the relationship was all about you, because real love doesn’t hurt!

So, you kill them, cause untold grief and despair for everyone involved, ruin your life and then go to jail, just to prove you are not to be played? That doesn’t seem very smart to me! Especially when you consider how many other people there are in the world; surely there is someone else you could find happiness with.

And then there are those who kill their lover and then turn around and kill themselves! I mean; what’s the point? If you killed them because you couldn’t stand the idea of them being with someone else, why not just kill yourself first? That would serve the same purpose.

Now before anybody thinks that I am suggesting murder or that people should commit suicide before they murder someone, I am not! I’m just thinking out loud, trying to make sense out of a senseless situation.

But, I will say this: If you are troubled and contemplating such irrational actions as I have just described, find someone to talk to! I can assure you that murder and suicide are never viable options! If you are angry and upset that they left you or cheated on you, your best revenge is to go on with your life and be happy! Whatever you’re going through, remember that you’re just going through; it won’t last! It’s only temporary! That is why murder and suicide are so tragic; murder and suicide are permanent solutions to temporary problems

In times like these, we need to be there for one another! If someone comes to you with a situation, most of the time, they already know what they need to do, they just need someone to listen. Please be a good listener and a good friend. Don’t betray their trust in you and don’t abuse their confidence in you.

Let’s look out for one another! Murder and suicide are never viable options; but love always is! 

 

Daddy! Daddy! There Are Butts In My Face!

I recently attended a revival service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Covington, Ga. The Evangelist was Pastor Charles E. Nesbitt, Jr., of the Providence Baptist Church of College Park, Ga.

During his sermon, Pastor Nesbitt shared this illustration about worship. He told the story about how he was invited to preach at a service for a friend in Ohio and his hotel room was on the 10th floor. When his ride arrived downstairs to pick him up for the service, he got on the elevator to go downstairs. Whereas, it was only he and another family on the elevator when he initially got on, on the 10th floor, the elevator stopped at nearly every floor so that by the time he reached the lobby, the elevator was packed.

In the midst of all those people getting on the elevator, the family, along with him, were forced to the back of the elevator as more people got on. In this family was a little girl about 3 or 4 years old. Because of her small size and short statue, by the time the elevator was full, all she could see was people’s butts in her face! That was a view she didn’t like very well. So, she pulled on her father’s coat-tail and raised up her arms for her father to pick her up. The father looked down at her, smiled, but ignored her gesture and continued his conversation with her mother. The girl tugged again, but got the same results. Finally, for the third time, the child tugged more vigorously than ever at her father’s coat-tails. This time, he stopped, looked down at her and her raised out-stretched arms and finally picked her up! He finally realized that her view; facing all those butts, must not have been a good experience for her. So, he picked her up into his arms and the girl was happy because, 1) she was in her father’s arms and 2) in her father’s arm, she had a nicer view and a better perspective.

Pastor Nesbitt said, that is the function of worship! When we go to church to worship and praise God, the experience lifts us up into the Father’s arms and enables us to see the world from God’s perspective, thereby, giving us a better perspective and a nicer view! Without the elevating experience of worship, without the Father lifting us up into His arms, all we have is the depressing view of all the “butts” in the world.

Thank you Pastor Nesbitt, for such a profound illustration and prolific sermon!

I posted this for all those who feel depressed and intimidated by all that is going on in the world today. Worship will not change the world, but it will change you! It will give you a different and higher perspective. It will enable you to see the world from God’s point of view! And when we look at the world from God’s point of view, we can rest in the knowledge that all things are working together for the good to them that love the Lord; the called according to His purpose. Although it looks out of control from our limited perspective, worship elevates us to the realization that God is still in control.

Oh! Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know! Lord, lift me up, and I shall stand, by faith on heaven’s table land. A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!