4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
If your thanksgivings are anything like mine, you know there is going to be a lot of food. Several casseroles, several options for mashed potatoes or sweetpotatoes, depending on how many family cooks are in the kitchen. Stuffings, salad, rolls, cranberry sauce, greenbean casserole…and then you finish and just about ready for the food coma to follow, and then Gramma or Nanna is bringing out the homemade pumpkin, or cherry, or apple pies, watching you as to which one you will choose....Maybe you have uttered that thanksgiving prayer. Dear Lord, “Stretch me”
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
Introduction: At the Thanksgiving lunch junior gorged himself on all of his favorite dishes: green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing with gravy, cranberry sauce, homemade biscuits, followed by pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie and vanilla ice cream. Five hours later, the family gathered to eat again and the table was laden with the leftovers. Junior wasn't the least bit hungry. He was still full from that unbelievable lunch. But these were all of his favorites and he wanted to eat something so he bowed his head and uttered this simple prayer, ''Lord, STRETCH ME.''
I love leftovers, depending on what is leftover. Not everyone enjoys eating leftovers but I always have. One of my wife and I’s guilty pleasures is streaming and watching cooking shows. One time they had this show on where three chefs were competing against three of the shows frequent judges in a cook-off and the ingredients they had to work with were, Thanksgiving Day leftovers. It was pretty interesting to see how those experts rearranged, recombined, and reconstituted all of those wonderful leftovers into brand new tasty dishes. When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers all I need are a plate, a fork and a microwave.
I know we haven’t yet had thanksgiving, so its not quite time for leftovers, but I’m quite sure each of your homes will be filled with them soon. Like I mentioned, I love thanksgiving leftovers. No one at thanksgiving is going to eat the bare minimum, nor if your table if full, will you be provided the bare minimum. God doesn’t provide for us the minimum either. He gives us ample provisions and blessings.
Today I want us to thank God for leftovers. Before we get going this morning, lets take a moment to pray.
I. THANK GOD FOR HIS LEFTOVER INCLINATIONS
''When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.' So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.''
You recognize this as coming from the account of the feeding of the five thousand. In fact, let's look at the whole passage
''When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?' He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him; 'Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!' Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?' Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.' There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.' So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.''
In this familiar account, Jesus fed a crowd of thousands. Five thousand men were counted. If you add in women and children you're going to have many more than five thousand. Starting with five loaves of bread and two fish, (think five Ritz crackers and two sardines), Jesus gave thanks for the food and had his disciples break it up and distribute it. As they broke it up and distributed it, Jesus miraculously multiplied it so that everyone had ''enough to eat.'' But notice today the little detail that says not only did everyone have enough to eat that day but they also gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers, enough for each of the disciples to warm up dinner in the microwave later on.
Our God is a God of leftovers. What I mean by that is that He is a God of abundance and generosity. God doesn't just provide us what we need. He doesn't give us the bare minimum requirements so that we can scrape by. God gives us what we need, and then some.
Just think about food for a minute. We need food to survive. We need protein, carbs, sugar (not too much) and liquid. So God provides those things. But notice that God COULD have met those needs with one item for each category: some sort of meat, or veggie meat, a cauliflower, a cherry and a cup of water . We could be living a life in which every day we had fri-chic, cauliflower, cherries and water - and we'd never know the difference. Instead, in each category God created and provides a variety of tastes, textures, flavors, and combinations. Think of the varieties of protein: even just from vegetables and think of the varieties within each of those choices, or from veggie meats or from you non-vegetarians, theres plenty of variety in meat choices also. God has provided the same variety for your carbs and your sugars and the different options for quenching your thirst are practically endless. That's how we're able to have fourteen different food shows and chef competitions my wife and I can be entertained from. GOD makes that possible! Now I understand we may not have ACCESS to all of the choices all of the time but my point is that God CREATED things that way because that's the kind of God he is. He is a God of abundance and generosity, a God of leftovers. He had YOU in mind when He set it up that way.
II. THANK GOD FOR LEFTOVER GRACE
''But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.''
Grace is God's unmerited or unearned favor. Grace is God treating us better than we deserve. Grace is God granting us love, mercy, forgiveness and eternal life when what we deserve is wrath, condemnation and eternal punishment. God is not selfish with His grace he is lavish with it. God doesn't dispense His grace with an eyedropper he sloshes it around with a bucket. You have not been ''barely'' saved by God's grace you are well and truly saved, saturated and covered by God's grace. And if you're a Christian today you have not out-sinned the grace of God.
''But where sin increased, grace increased all the more''
EXAMPLE: Last week I drove from Vero Beach to Melbourne. In the span of about two hours, I saw the following: A woman driving with a child on her lap. The kid looked to be about two and, yes, there was an empty car seat in the back. A motorcyclist weaving in and out of traffic on I-95, going well over 70 miles an hour (because I was driving 70 and he flew past me) with his helmet strapped to the back of his bike.
EXAMPLE: In the span of about two hours, I saw the following: A woman driving with a child on her lap. The kid looked to be about two and, yes, there was an empty car seat in the back.
A motorcyclist weaving in and out of traffic on the interstate going well over 70 miles an hour (because I was driving 70 and he flew past me) with his helmet strapped to the back of his bike.
A young woman pumping gas into her car while smoking a cigarette.
I was tempted to walk over to the smoking gas pump and kindly inform her that she was one tiny spark away from incinerating herself, her passengers, and probably the entire station, but two things stopped me. One, it's printed plainly on the gas pump that you should never smoke while gassing up your car. (Everyone knows this, right?) And two, I just really didn't want to get that close to someone who could explode any second. As I was driving away (and watching in my rearview mirror just in case there was a big boom and a mushroom cloud), a verse of Scripture came to mind: ''The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.'' () Then another thought quickly followed. What must God think when he observes the way we live our lives? I was appalled by the senseless behavior of three people. Three. How many times a day is God appalled? How many times a second is he appalled? Millions? Billions? (I probably contribute two or three reasons for him to shake his head and roll his eyes before lunch everyday!) I don't know who the first person to attach the word ''amazing'' to God's grace was, but I doubt that a more perfect adjective could ever be found. With mountains and mountains of human sin and foolishness dropped at his feet every second of every day, God just keeps on loving mankind and forgiving those who know him as their Lord. And he even has grace left over! Amazing. Simply amazing.
III. THANK GOD FOR LEFTOVER FAMILY
''Jesus replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'''
The holidays are all about the family, right? Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times we make a special effort to get together with our brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles who are all so nice and gracious and with whom we get along SO well.
ILLUSTRATION: In fact, I have a heartwarming video clip here to remind us of what the holidays are all about. Show ''A Thanksgiving Moment'' from Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYB9bC13ODw
We all love our families, black sheep and all. I don't want to take anything away from that. But the fact is that bio-families aren't ALWAYS what we would like them to be. We may be estranged from some members of our family. We maybe can't stand some members of our family...or they can't stand us. We may have some family members that simply cause stress and grief for everyone during the holidays. And if YOUR family isn't always what you would like it to be you should know that you're not alone.
EXAMPLE: In fact, I think of the Samuel and Elizabeth and their ever growing family of fostering to adoption. Their kids are so thankful for a true family.
If we have a good family that is a gift from God. God created the family. So I'm not taking anything away from that. But while I'm not taking anything away from your family, that's not the only ''family'' we have. We can surely thank God that he has given us EXTRA family. As members of God's Church we have SPIRITUAL family. As Jesus said, ''Whoever does the will of the Father in heaven is my sister and brother and mother.'' I've seen that family dynamic in action over the years and it is a wonder to behold. Many of us who've been in the church for a long time wonder how people go through life without a CHURCH family. There is simply nothing to compare. Coming to Boone and Banner Elk, I grew up in mostly larger churches and there is a sense of community and church family, but not quite like what I have found here.
That's not to say that we might not have a ''Thanksgiving tiffs'' or two with our church family. We have our moments of strife to. But in our church fam, we know for the most part everyone is here to worship and serve Jesus, and we love Him
IV. THANK GOD FOR LEFTOVER POWER
''Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.''
The context of this prayer is the inner power that God gives us to live holy and pleasing lives. In fact, let's look at the passage in its entirety and notice how many times the word ''power'' occurs (3 times in 6 verses).
''I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.''
God has been generous and abundant in giving us power to know Christ and His love and His holiness. A seeking Christian has an internal power source to live a holy, godly life. God hasn't given us a ''little'' power. He has given us great power. He's given us a stick of dynamite worth of power. That power is the Holy Spirit.
ILLUSTRATION: Wouldn’t it be sad if Ben Carson never realized his potential as a Neuro-surgeon? Im not talking about Ben as a politician, I dont care if you support that or are against it. I’m saying Ben carson as a doctor. What a waste of potential if it had not been realized. If you read his book which tells his life story, you’ll find several instances where events transpired that may have sent his life in a completely different direction. Wouldn't that be sad? J
Something far more tragic occurs in the life of some Christians. Some Christians live out their entire lives totally unaware that they have access to a dynamic spiritual power within themselves. As a result these Christians are often frustrated, demoralized and guilt-ridden at their inability to overcome sin in their life and obey the commands of God. If they only knew of the saving power that existed for them.
Today I want to make sure that none of us gets to our death bed without knowing that God has given us a precious and abundant gift in the Holy spirit.
Thank God for leftover power.
V. THANK GOD WITH A LEFTOVER VISION
''Don't be afraid,'' the prophet answered. ''Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.'' And Elisha prayed, ''O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.'' Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
In Old Testament times Elisha the prophet and his faithful servant were surrounded by a hostile army. The servant panicked but Elisha prayed asking God to open his eyes of faith and let him see the true reality. God answered the prayer and the servant was able to see the ample provision of God to protect and defend.
Some of you might be thinking, ''Ross, you keep talking in this sermon about God's abundance and generosity but I just don't see it. My life feels empty, dry and impoverished. Where is the evidence of God's abundant nature for me?''
My friends, the simple truth is you see what you're looking for. Every one of us faces some difficult and challenging circumstances in our lives, that's a fact. But it's also a fact that God is in each one of our lives helping us and blessing us every step of the way. We simply need to adjust our perspective and look with the eyes of faith.
ILLUSTRATION: Sunday, December 7th, 1941-Admiral Chester Nimitz (PICTURE) was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat-you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, ''Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?'' Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, ''The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?''
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, ''What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?'' Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk-we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top-of-the-ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.
Anyway you look at it-Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism. President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
Whether you see the generous abundance provisions God has made o or not depends entirely on your disposition. Today I want each of us to Thank God for leftovers.