I would like to speak with you this morning about a time when God's pockets were empty. Now we normally think of God as having pockets that are stuffed with all kinds of wealth and goodies. Unimaginable riches. But there was a time when God's pockets were empty. Now think about the day that God emptied His pockets. In giving His Son, God gave all that He could possibly give. He could give no more to save us. He gave His best. The richest gift of Heaven was Jesus Christ, and Jesus could give no more than Himself, than His life, and Jesus was God. He is God. He gave His life, and when you give your life you can't give any more, and God is a good giver.
I would like for you to open your Bibles to Romans. Romans the eighth chapter, and look if you will at verse 32, if you have your Bible with you. Romans 8, verse 32. I'm turning to mine, so that I know that you can turn to yours in the same amount of time. It says, “He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us,” how much? “All things.” That's what He's going to do. God will do that for us.
A perfect example of giving is found in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He” did what? “He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And when God gave Jesus, He gave His best. He gave all He could. God's pockets were empty. He spent all that He had to save us. And why did we need saving? Because we were lost. Why were we lost? Well, because the devil had us.
I think of the pirates. You know the world has pirates now, don't you? The Somalian pirates. You know in my day, a pirate was a man who had a big ear ring in his ear and had a patch over one eye and looked mean and bad. Today, the pirates aren't like that, and I think of those pirates. You know, several weeks ago, the huge super tanker, the Cyrus Starr and its crew of 25 people were seized 4 hundred and 20 nautical miles off of the Horn of Africa. Somalia. And it was carrying more than 2 million gallons of crude oil with a value of 1 hundred and 10 million dollars. Now if you were to buy one of these ships, brand-new, these are super tankers; you could get it brand-new, right off the showroom floor for a hundred and 48 million dollars. So there's a lot of value there, that those pirates have taken.
And the initial ransom was 25 million dollars, and the pirates still have it, I think, as of this morning, don't they? And so that ship is still there. They usually only spend a million dollars for the average ship, but this one is 25 million dollars of ransom money, and thousands of renegade pirates live there, and they live in an area of poverty, and yet the pirates drive expensive SUVs and expensive, exotic sports cars. They are wealthy. They are rich. They live in modern homes. They have electricity, and they treat their kidnapped ships crews very nicely. Those people are eating pizza. Well I don't know if that's nice food, but they treat them nice. They give them what food they want until the ransom money comes, and the ransom money usually is dropped by aircraft, usually helicopter, in a waterproof container. Hundreds of dollars, millions of dollars, descending down from the helicopter. Once the cash is counted, confirmed that it’s the proper amount, then the ship's crew are freed and they may move their ship on to their destination.
Now I know the name of the head pirate. And his name is the devil. Satan. And you and I are the people that are held hostage. Isn't this correct? We have been kidnapped, and we are not being treated well. We’re not down here enjoying life as we ought to have enjoyed it, and almost 1 hundred percent of us have paid through our nose with death. We have been killed as a result of this. I think only 2 people so far have escaped, and that’s Enoch and Elijah. And here is where we basically are.
Here's the point. The ransom has already descended from the heavens. Right? A valuable ransom. The cost was the highest ever paid, and it cost God His only Son, and now the cost has been counted, and the full payment was made when Jesus died on the cross. But there's a big major problem with this thing. The old evil black-beard pirate still has possession of the whole kit and caboodle of us human beings, doesn't he? He hasn't let us go even though the price was paid 2 thousand years ago. Fortunately, Jesus promised to come quickly and rescue us, and I think that that day is imminent, don't you feel that way? If you believe in Him, you will be rescued. It may still cost you your life, but you’re going to get out of here some day. He spent all He had to save you, and He's on the way, and that's my illustration of John 3:16 in modern language. Hope you like it.
I'm in love with Jesus and I hope you're in love with Jesus. I want to be like Jesus, just as much as I possibly can, because He’s my Savior. My Rescuer is coming. Don't give up on that.
You know we’re still in a mess down here in blackbeard’s backyard. This is not a very happy place. A lot of us are out of work. People are losing jobs. The economy is bad. We’re losing our homes. It's pretty bad, and you know, if you're a tad better than your neighbor, help your neighbor. This is a time to share. This is a time to give, and give of your means to lift the burdens of a fellow kidnapped person.
But here's my question. “Can I really afford to help others? Do I really have enough money? I wish I was a little bit richer.” Do you wish that for yourself? Do you want to be a little bit richer? You know, right now, we’re in an official recession. They tell us that as of December of 2 thousand and 7 we have been in an official recession now for 12 months. Why didn't they tell us that back then? I wish they would have. I don't understand how those things work. But that being the case, if you didn't know better, you would think that we were in a full-blown, old-fashioned depression. Now maybe they will tell us in December of 2 thousand and 9 that as of December of 2 thousand and 8 we were in a depression. I don't know why they always wait so long to tell us these things.
But, what is a Christian supposed to do? We’re living in hard times. The motto during the Great Depression was, ‘Make do or do without’. That was their motto. And I think we could do some things. We could sell a few loads of our stuff. We generally have too much stuff. We could get a second part-time job. You could even get scissors, a pair of scissors, and cut up your credit cards, if you can't control them. And if it's not food or shelter, leave it on the shelf. Don't buy it.
And what about the church? “Maybe I ought to thin down my tithe a little bit. Well, I can't do that, though, because that belongs to God, and I'm not going to rob God, but maybe I ought to make my offerings a little leaner during this time. I just wish I was a little bit richer. If only I knew how to get rich.”
We'll let me tell you, that in the Bible, it tells you how to get rich. Now I'm going to let you look up a text in Proverbs. Don't underline this text, because you aren't going to do it anyway, but at least I'll read it to you. Here is some wisdom from the wisest human being that ever lived. Proverbs, chapter 11, and I want to read you verse 25. It says, now here's how to get rich. “Whoever gives to others will get richer.” Now you don't believe that, and not one of you is willing to try that, probably, but that's what it says. “Whoever gives to others will get richer. Those who help others will themselves be helped.”
Now you don't learn this on Wall Street. They never tell you this. Your financial gurus will not tell you this. They will tell you just the opposite. Can this verse, maybe, be out of context? Let's look at verse 24, the verse right before this. Read verse 24. It says, “People give much but get back even more.” So it's not out of context, is it? So maybe it's we who are out of context. Perhaps if we actually got up the gumption to follow what God is saying here, we would actually see how this works. Now, I certainly don't want to end up poor like this verse says, in verse 25. I don't want to do that. Verse 24, the last part of the verse says others who don't give what they should will end up poor. I don't want that to happen to me.
I wonder if this is actually true. I looked up on the Internet, and I found an article in Forbes magazine, which said that America's top 25 philanthropists gave away more than 1 and a half billion dollars in the year 1996, and it says something very interesting. Their wealth came after they became givers. Very interesting. It supports what Proverbs says, and Henry Ward Beecher said it like this. “In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.” Just the opposite of Wall Street.
I think we take up too much stuff. Drive around Collegedale and count the number of storage facilities that you can rent to store all the stuff that your hands have taken up, and woe be to you if you paid for some of that stuff with plastic, and woe be to you if some of that stuff is still owed for. That's bad. You know, we live in a world that urges us to spend. They do it on television, radio ads, Internet. They all bombard us. You get on the Internet and here’s this little thing wiggling and calling your attention over here to spend some money. I have never tried to find out who graduated in the same year. I don't know where those ads take me. I will not go there. But everybody wants our money. They say, “You need our merchandise, and you need it now,” and people listen to these commercials.
I saw a commercial on the television the other day. It said, here is this doodad, this gizmo, and you need it, and you need it bad. And here's what it will do, and a guy was just going like this, and he said, “If you will call in the next hour or so, we will give you two of these for 19.95 plus 20 or 30 dollars shipping and handling,” probably. I just turned it off.
You know, we spend like there is no tomorrow, and there was no yesterday. We've been buying McMansions to live in. We've been buying wall sized flat screens, and today we’re in big debt. As of November 19, 2008, the total United States federal debt is 10 point 6 trillion dollars. Public debt is roughly 6 point 3 trillion, and when you add to that the unfunded Medicaid, the unfunded Social Security, the unfunded Medicare, veterans pensions and similar obligations, the figure of the debt of the United States is a total of 59 point 1 trillion dollars. 59 point 1 trillion, and that amounts, per household, to a total of 5 hundred and 16 thousand, 3 hundred and 48 dollars. A half a million dollars per every household. How are we ever going to pay that back?
Two weeks ago, George W. Bush was informed that the nation was at risk of falling into a depression worse than the Great Depression, and thus far, those who hold the reins of government have been bailing out to the tune of billions and billions and trillions of dollars, bailing out everybody. Banks mainly. Will they be successful?
Well, I read something in a little book called Ministry Of Healing. And here she says this. “Those who hold the reins of government are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis.” They're struggling what? In vain. Will these bailouts work? You know, we've had our party, and it was a great party but now the party is over, and the cost of the party is coming due, and the cost is recession or worse.
We are told to shun personal debt like leprosy. A debt-free church usually is largely dependent on debt-free church members. And I think when our church members get out of debt that all the churches will very quickly be out of debt. God makes another statement in Proverbs 21, just a couple or 3 more pages over. Proverbs 21 and look at verse 20. Here's God’s counsel on what you need to be doing. It says, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man,” what does he do? “He spends whatever he gets.”
You know, back in the year 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh landed on the island of Trinidad, and he discovered a lake that was empty. This 1 hundred acre lake was empty. No water in it. Well the lake was full, but it didn't have any water in it. You know what was in the lake? Pitch. In fact, the name of the lake is Pitch Lake. Look it up sometime on the Internet. Look at the pictures of Pitch Lake. It was an asphalt lake. It's still there today. It's on the western shores of Trinidad, and now over 4 hundred years later, that island has all kinds of beautiful roads, asphalt roads. Oh, it's wonderful. And that asphalt is so good that when you land at the JFK international Airport, when you land at LaGuardia, the wheels of your airplane are resting on some of that asphalt. It's wonderful stuff, and the pitch is soft, and you can walk across the lake in places where the skin has gotten thick. I wouldn't do that if it were me, but that lake still gives its rich resource to this day. 4 hundred years, the lake has been; has it been harmed by giving so much? Is the level depleted? No it's not. Not at all. The lake gave and gave and gave and was not depleted in the process. In fact, they have taken 10 million tons of asphalt out of that lake, and the level is still the same. And you know what scientists have discovered. They have discovered tunnels, and different veins that connect that lake to a mother lode, inexhaustible they claim, of asphalt. Liquid asphalt. Interesting. Very interesting. And so as far as the material is needed, as fast as you need it, you just remove it and more comes. It's sort of like perpetual motion.
And that's exactly how God wants it to be with you. God wants you to give and He will replace what you gave. That's His promise. Still more will come to replenish whatever you give. There's an old Persian proverb which says this. “What I kept I lost, what I spent I had, and what I gave I have.” Billy Graham said it this way. “God has given each of us two hands. One hand to receive, the other hand to give.” And we are not cisterns made for hoarding. We are channels made for sharing.
And Jesus says something about how we should give in Luke, chapter 6. Look at Luke 6 and verse 38. He says, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”
I started making bread in the last few weeks. I'm learning how to make bread. I think that's pretty cool. And I discovered from Katie that you don't press the flower down into the container. You just have a level, un-pressed amount, otherwise it’ll be too much, but how God gives to us, God gives us pressed down, shaken together, running over, heaping. That's how God gives to us, and when you return your tithe back to God, He is the owner, you are actually worshiping God. I think when you give your tithe to God, you’re worshiping God. Luke 6, verse 38 in the New Living Translation of the Bible says, “If you give you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and whatever measure you use in giving, large or small, it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” So He's going to give back to you according to how generous you are.
There was a mother that took two small boys and a daughter to see Peter Pan, and when they walked in, she had to buy the tickets. They were 2.50 each, so there were four tickets. She shelled out 10 one dollar bills, and they went in and enjoyed it. The next day, the same mother and her daughter were at church. And when the collection plate was passed the mother took some money out of her purse. She took a quarter out of her purse and put it in the offering plate. The little girl looked up at her mother, thought about it for a minute, and she said, “Mommy, church is a lot cheaper than a movie isn't it?”
Deuteronomy, chapter 15 gives us some advice. You may want to underline this one, because this one you may wish to do. Deuteronomy, chapter 15 and verse 10. It says, “Give freely to the poor person and do not wish that you didn't have to give. The Lord your God will bless you and your work and everything you touch.”
Let me ask you a question. How many of you ate leftovers for the main meal at Thanksgiving? How many? Two. Two of you had leftovers. Why did the rest of you not have leftovers? Why not? Did you warm up your leftovers in the refrigerator and serve them on paper plates, and eat in front of the television with your guests? Of course not. Most of us prepared a special meal, and we put on our best tablecloth, because we’re thankful for what God has done for us, and we offer our guests the very best.
How many of us invite the Lord Jesus into our life and then we serve Him leftovers? We give Him our time that is left over after our work and our families and our recreation and our vacations. We give Him our talents that are left over after we've taken time in our social schedule and our sports activities and our hobbies. We give Him our money that's left over after we pay the bills, if there is any money left over. That's not how to get rich. That's not how to please God. Numbers, chapter 18, verse 29 says, “Choose the best and the holiest part of what you have been given as the portion that you give back to the Lord.”
Have I given to the Lord who gave His best for me? Have I given Him leftovers or have I given Him the best? When you're baptized when you're 80 years old, that's a good thing to do, but you are giving God the leftovers. When you're baptized when you're 10 years old or 11 you're giving God the best of your life. You're committing your life to Him, your whole future life, rather than giving Him what's left, and that's what God wants us to do. Give your best to the Master. Give your time to Him. Give your heart Him. Give your talent to Him.
What you do with God’s things is up to you. You know, what you are is God's gift to you, and what you become is your gift to God. And so, what are you doing with your life? Giving in the offering plate is great, but your best gift is your heart. Your life. Are you in church every Sabbath? Are you reading your Bible? Do you get your Bible out and read it every day? Are you a real Christian? You know, we’re living in the last days, and I urge you, I beg of you as a pastor, give your life to Jesus Christ. Give it to Him today. Don't go out of this church and skip church next week. Don't go out of this church and put your Bible on the shelf and say, “Ok, I’ll get that next Sabbath. I'll get the dust off of it and bring it to church again.” No! Get involved in true Christianity. Be a hundred percent Christian. You'll never regret it.
You know, you don't want to be the richest man in the cemetery, because you cannot do business underneath of the tombstone. What you want to do is be rich toward God, and you enrich your life by Bible study. By prayer. By church attendance. That's how you do it. Matthew, chapter 10, verse 8. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Give your heart to Jesus. Give it to Him today.
It's time for our closing hymn. I'd Rather Have Jesus. Would you rather have Jesus than anything this world has to go? I would, and I believe that you would too. Let's give our lives and our hearts to Jesus Christ. Let's sing our closing hymn.
Let's sing our closing hymn, Now Thank We All Our God.
Hymn of Praise: #132, O Come All Ye Faithful Scripture: 1 Kings 17:13,14 Hymn of Response: #327, I'd Rather Have Jesus
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 12/12/08