Good Reasons for Giving

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-11
Date: 12/22/2007 
Gift giving ought to be a joyful act of worship. There are good reasons for giving. People have needs and it helps us learn to be unselfish. In one sense our giving ultimately is a gift to God. Giving reminds us that 100% of what we have belongs to the Lord.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning and welcome. Happy Sabbath. It's good to see each of you here, and I want to especially welcome friends and family who may be visiting Central today. Maybe you're visiting your family for the holidays. This is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, and so we do expect that we have some who are visiting today.

You know I thought it was interesting, just this week I was listening to the news on the radio and they said that the archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he's essentially the pope for the Anglican seventy-seven million church members. It ended up in the news a lot because he made a statement that he said a number of elements of the traditional Christmas story such as the three magi and the star of Bethlehem were the stuff of legend. He may have been misquoted in some ways or the quotes may have been misapplied, but he basically was saying it doesn't appear other places and it's probably a fable and it serves a purpose. I thought that's too bad. It caused quite a furor in the church to have the leader of the church make this statement. This is one of the verses that I wanted to focus on today. This is a unique Sabbath here at Sacramento Central if you're visiting today. Today is really about worship, and it's about worship through giving. Worship and giving go together. The Bible begins with the story of Christ coming, “God so loved the world He gave His Son,” and then it tells us about these unusual men. Now granted we don't know how many there were. We don't sing we four men of Orient are. It's typically the three wise men. I've never yet seen a nativity where there were only two unless one was stolen.

My daughter emailed me this week from San Francisco. A couple of years ago right after Christmas a pastor in a church there noticed the plastic baby Jesus was missing from the nativity. He knew it had been there just a moment before and so he ran outside and looked up and down the street, and he saw this little boy pulling a little red radio wagon with a plastic baby Jesus in it. He didn't want to come down on him too hard so he caught up with him and he said, “What do you have there?” He says, “I've got the baby Jesus.” He said, “Where'd you get it?” He said, “Well, I got it in the church.” He said, “And what are you doing?” The boy said, “Well, Pastor, about a week ago, I know there's no Santa, so I prayed to Jesus that I'd get this red wagon. I promised that if I got it, I'd take Him for the first ride.” Every year there's some story about somebody, somebody robs one of these plastic nativity scenes or something.

Typically you see the three wise men. They say three because they brought their three gifts. You can read about this in Matthew 2:10-11. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” They say three gifts so they assumed one of them brought one of each, there were three wise men. Could have been. We're not sure. We're sure of the three gifts though. That gold represents His divine origin. The frankincense, His pure life, and myrrh was used to embalm somebody. It represented His sacrificial death. It's interesting, it says when they came, they came with “exceeding great joy.” They give of their treasures.

They give cheerfully. They give joyfully, and they do it in the context of worship. I never dreamed I would catch myself doing this because one of the things that made me the most uncomfortable about being a pastor was I grew up with the idea of preachers, I was not a Christian, all they do is tell people to go to church so they can beg for their money. I've come to realize how wrong I was because in life really there are only two things that we give an account for: it's what we do with who we are, that's our time, our lives, and what we do with what we have. We show our love for God, we worship Him. Every Sabbath we give Him our time, sacred holy time which is ever seventh day in a special sense, dedicated to God, we worship Him. And we give of our means and the Bible says a certain percentage of that is set aside as holy as well, but it's done in the context of worship. So a few years ago we began a tradition here at Central. The Sabbath immediately before Christmas we don't collect an offering, we bring it, and we'll be doing that at the end of the service today because I think it is an act of worship, and it's something that should be done joyfully. It should be done in the context of adoration.

I want to talk a little bit about good reasons for giving, and that's the title of the message today, “Good Reasons for Giving”. Typically December is the biggest giving month of the year. Matter of fact, just yesterday in the news I heard that they're shocked. In spite of the high gas prices and the housing slump they're right now already experiencing a record December in buying, and that's supposed to be very good for the economy. The stock market shot up on that news, and the reason for the record buying is because there's usually record giving. People are buying gifts to give. So often of course as people are warming up their credit cards and making acquisitions they're sometimes forgetting about the most important gift, the gift of worship and giving for God who gave His Son. Matter of fact, in December ministers typically it is one of the most important months because sometimes those last three weeks in December can be the equivalent of three months of giving during the year. I know one ministry, something went wrong at the post office.

Their offering appeal in December all got dumped in a dumpster. They never reached their people and it just about bankrupted them for the year because it was such an important time because people are more philanthropic. Even charities recognize this, and they do their giving then. You know I thought it was interesting, the University of Iowa, Center for Philanthropy, they did a study on giving habits. They said families that have a higher income of a hundred thousand or more, they give a lower percentage, about 2.2% of their income, than families of an income of fifty thousand or lower who give 4.2%. I thought that was remarkable that the ones who had more gave less than the ones who had less. It's interesting that it wasn't largely the rich, there were a few who followed Jesus. It was typically the rank and file people that did that.

What are some good reasons for giving? First of all, I think we should give because people need it, others need it. When we come and when we give we're giving away from ourselves. Now we're naturally selfish. We're grasping and we're hoarding and we pull things together. When you give, you're thinking outside of yourself. You're giving because others have need and there are a lot of promises in the Bible about this where God promises blessings. I'll talk more about that in a minute. Proverbs 19:17, I've got a lot of verses with promises for you today, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” Did you hear that? When you give to others in need you’re giving to the Lord. Didn’t Jesus say, “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me”?

That’s in the Old Testament too. Psalms 41:1 “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” Now you ought to write that one down because my Bible tells me there is a significant time of trouble, you all have your own little times of trouble, but there is a universal time of trouble in the future. Who is going to be delivered? Those who consider the poor, he will be delivered in the time of trouble. Isaiah 58 What is the fast that God is looking for among His people? Verse 7, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” Yesterday I was driving back from, I attended a friend’s funeral up in Oregon. Long trip to Oregon and back in two days. Up around Clearlake I saw a couple people hitchhiking. The first one I saw standing on the road, I was on the phone talking to the office and I had my stuff spread all over the seat and the backseat and there was this young hippie, I don’t know any other way to say it.

He had his hair in dreadlocks, blonde dreadlocks just in case you were wondering. I thought to myself, “He probably smells like pot.” I’m driving, I’m on the phone as I see him, I thought I’d like to help him, but… For whatever reason I drove by and I felt bad. I felt smitten. My conscience bothered me, and I went up the road a little bit and I was sort of repenting. There was somebody else that was standing on the side of the road and I could see the hood was up and they were standing there and their truck broke down. I said, “Okay, Lord, I can take a hint.” So I pulled over and I stopped and I picked them up. I figured he’s going up the road to the next gas station. I knew it wasn’t very far, four or five miles up the road and I thought, I’m not going to be able to convert him in four or five miles. I like to preach to hitchhikers, but sometimes you don’t have enough time, you know? I thought, you know… The Holy Spirit says, “Doug, don’t just pick him up because you think you’re going to convert him. He needs a ride. Help him!” I’m always thinking like an evangelist.

Can I get a convert? How far can I get? How many studies can I cover? How long do… Oh, I can’t do my twenty-seven presentations; I’m not giving him a ride. You know that’s not very Christ-like, is it? The world is in need and God gives us an opportunity to show a little bit of Jesus by helping them. I thought I can’t preach to him, but I’ll just tell him, he worked on heating and air. He had a heating and air repair truck. It ran out of gas and they just needed gas and I said, “Well, I’m a pastor.” He said, “I’ve got a lot of friends that do plastering.” I said, “No, I’m not a plasterer. I said I’m a pastor. I do plaster sometimes.” Anyway, so you know we’re just supposed to help people because you show Christ’s love by doing that. I John 3:17 “But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” How many times do we see somebody that has some basic need? When I was at my friend’s funeral two days ago, it was a great tribute. This was someone I knew for twenty-eight years.

Our kids grew up together. I used to be his pastor. The tributes that came in and how often he would see somebody that had need, and he’d say to someone anonymously, “Could you please take this hundred dollars or this two hundred dollars and give it to that person?” He just would do these random acts of generosity and all of the people were telling these stories and you know the Bible says, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” “What you do in secret, God will reward you openly.” You’ve heard these verses. Well, the Lord was doing that. He was being honored at that time for what he had done secretly. Then his profession was a car mechanic and someone asked “How many of you had your car repaired by this individual?” There must have been four hundred, five hundred people there. The church was packed, chairs were set up, seems like half the hands went up of people whose cars he had fixed, most of them he was just helping them out for free. So that’s what life is, it’s to help those in need. You give to others because they need help.

Another reason we give is not only because they need it, but because you need it. You need to give. We are naturally selfish, grasping creatures. God created man with this desire to give, to love, but because of sin it got reversed. The magnet became reversed and instead of man giving away from himself, now we have this natural inclination to grasp, to hoard, to claim, to claw, to hold things. It starves our natural selfishness when we give. You need to give. In order for the Lord to recreate His image in you, He gives us these opportunities. I Chronicles 29:13 tells a story. When David, near the end of his life, he’s wanting to collect funds so they can build a temple to God because the tabernacle of God is a tent. The temple of God is a tent. All of these pagan nations, they’ve got the gods to Dagon, the temples to all of these pagan gods and Jehovah… David says, “It’s just not right. You’re dwelling in a tent that’s several hundred years old. It used to be a mobile sanctuary; we don’t need a mobile sanctuary anymore. We’re settled in the Promised Land.”

The people were gathering to give to God’s cause, and David says, “Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?” It’s a gift to give to God. This is what the wise men were doing. It’s a privilege. They did it joyfully. David is saying, “Oh, we don’t deserve this to be able to give to You.” Do you know what it means when you give? It means that you have received because you have nothing to give unless you have something, right? It’s a privilege. “For all things come from You…” When you give, you know what it does? It helps us remember where everything comes from. Everything comes from God. Amen? “For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.” When you give it reminds you… what percentage of what you have belongs to God? A hundred percent; it’s not just tithe. Tithe is just a token of our faith that everything belongs to Him. I heard that when Nelson Rockefeller died, very wealthy family, he used to be our governor in New York when I lived there, that someone asked his accountant at the funeral, elbowed him and said, “How much did he leave?” The accountant said, “All of it.” Because it all belongs to God, you don’t take any of it with you. You will not see a hearse pulling a U-Haul, will you? We need to give because it reminds us, and giving starves the natural inclination we have to be grasping and selfish.

A good reason to give is you’ll be blessed when you give. Acts 20:35 “And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Now this is an interesting verse because this is not in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but if you’ve got a red letter Bible, it’s in red letter. You do not find that verse in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You find Paul quoting something Jesus said that’s not recorded in any of the gospels, but Jesus did say that. He said, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, running over will men heap into your bosom,” but the only time it says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” is in the book of Acts. Paul was quoting something Jesus said. It is more blessed to give than to receive. How many of you would rather be able to help somebody? How many of you like to borrow or lend? What would you rather do? It’s much, much better to be able to help somebody than to be in need and say, “I’m in trouble. I need help.” There is a blessing in it. God promises even in that famous passage we’re going to look at Malachi 3:10 And try “‘Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.’” Not only that, He promises to rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Those things that devour our increase, the Lord promises to neutralize those things so that not only will He give you more, what you have lasts longer when God blesses you.

You know God just did some wonderful things for Karen and me; when we moved to Sacramento we really prayed about it. I’ve probably told you this story before. He directed us to the house He wanted us to have through prayer within minutes of our praying. We needed a house right away, had no furniture, didn’t want to sell our cabin in Covelo. We had furniture in there, didn’t want to take it all out in case we go up to the cabin, and so we said, “Lord, school starts in two weeks. We have nothing. If You want us to come to Sacramento we’ve got to find a house.” We prayed. We told Him where we were hoping we’d find the house, and the first house we looked at we went in, we bought it. The Lord worked it out. In two weeks escrow closed. It was just a miracle. The wonderful thing is the lady was moving out and needed to leave her furniture. She hadn’t sold it yet. The rest of the story is, we didn’t have a washer, we didn’t have a dryer, we didn’t have a refrigerator, we didn’t have a freezer, and as we walked through the house we said to her, “Could you leave that? Can you leave that?

Can you leave that? Can you leave that?” She added a little something to the price for those things, but she basically walked away and we could move into a house right away. The miracle is, like the children of Israel’s shoes, the refrigerator and the freezer are still working fourteen years later and we don’t know how long she had it. I keep saying to Karen, I know we’ve got to replace that because one day we’re going to come and everything is going to be dripping out from underneath it, but it’s still working. So the Lord blesses you when you’re faithful and He rebukes those things that devour. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll come home, probably, and the hot water heater is going to be spraying water out. No, I think God will bless. Genesis 32, Jacob made a promise to the Lord, he said, Lord if You watch over me and bring me back to my home, of all that You give me, I will give a tenth to thee. Jacob made a vow, and did God bless him? He left his family. He says I have nothing but this staff in my hand. When he came back into the Promised Land, he had grown into basically two camps with flocks, and even his father-in-law was threatened. He says, “You’ve become greater than us!” God had blessed him so much, he was able to give a fortune to his brother and still have a fortune left when he came back. Basically that’s when he gave his tithe. There was no priesthood back then, so to speak. God just poured out his blessings. He made a vow and he kept it. Did he continue to increase beyond that? Yes, he did.

Some people think I can’t afford to give. Giving doesn’t cost; giving pays. We’ve got this idea that we lose when we give. You don’t lose. I want to say this in the context of not only the regular needs here at Central Church. A few years ago as we began to outgrow this facility we entered into the big, prolonged test of building another church. First we were going to sell this one so that we could subsidize building another one. You all remember that history? Our conference wasn’t too happy with that and so we compromised and said, “Okay, we’re going to keep this one,” which meant a lot of renovation here, “and we’re going to still build another one.” A number of us had made commitments to help go towards a new church and we were moving forward with that. We thought how are we going to have enough money to build another church and to renovate this church? But you know, God’s people are faithful. The money that was committed to the new church is still there. We have managed to completely rebuild the bathrooms, re-carpet the Camellia Room, put new windows in all the church, and just a plethora of other things and upgrades, and we have more money now in our bank account than before. God is faithful. Don’t misunderstand, we’ve got a lot left to do.

You’re always afraid when you tell people God is blessing, they’ll say, “Oh, good. You don’t need my help.” God is blessing. He’ll bless you, but there is still plenty to do and we still have plenty to raise for the new church. A number of people made commitments. I was talking on the phone, totally different subject. I won’t even name the family. I was on the phone with one of our families and talking and this husband and wife are members here, they’re also part of the Granite Bay Church plant. They made a vow a few years ago to help with the new church, and then as things began to change and it looked like we were going to build the new church, but we’re not selling this church… She wrote a little note here, and, oh, that’s not her note. That’s my note. I’ve got… Let me see where I put that. Here it is. “Nearly two years ago when it was announced that Amazing Facts would be taking over the church building project at Granite Bay, my first thought was that this must be a sign that God doesn’t want us to finish our pledge that we had made during our campaign for the relocation program. Surely God must be honoring us for making our pledge and for what we’ve already given, but now the program has changed and then surely they won’t be needing the rest of our money and we can spend it on something else.

My husband kindly reminded me that we made a pledge to God and we must honor our vow. I Samuel 2:30 ‘…for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.’ After studying Ecclesiastes in Sabbath School, I remembered in chapter 5, verse 4 and 5 that says when you vow a vow to the Lord God, ‘do not defer to pay it,’ for God ‘has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed.’ Better it is that you should not vow than you vow and not pay. And finally the promise in Malachi 3:10 ‘prove Me now,’ says the Lord, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour you out a blessing That there is not room enough to receive it.’ I’m not going to say that the final payoff was easy, and there were times I wondered whether it was going to be wise to dip that far into our savings, but the Lord was faithful and in turn He has blessed so miraculously that the amount of the pledge has nearly doubled.” God has blessed them with nearly double. There are a number of other wonderful Bible promises that were written here about the way God had blessed.

Mrs. Batchelor and I made a vow just like many of you, and we began to wonder what to do as things took on a new direction. In case you’re wondering, we weren’t allowed to sell this church to build the other one, but the conference said we can build a church on the Amazing Facts property. So instead of the new property being owned by the conference association, it was going to be owned by Amazing Facts and the Granite Bay group would be meeting there. So it went through a change, but we still have to build a church. That was all the same. Karen and I began to wonder, I wonder what this means, and we said the same thing this other family said. We made a vow, we’re going to continue paying on our vow. You know what. The family is here, our treasure is here. We now have more than twice what we vowed. God has blessed the Batchelor family totally unexpected.

Dr. Ing, you didn’t mind my using you, he was telling me, he just offered our prayer. He said, “We made a vow and we wondered how we could do it. God has blessed us now so that He covered it from sources we didn’t anticipate.” Do you doubt that God can give you? He wants to work miracles for us and so often we don’t give Him the opportunity. It takes faith, doesn’t it? God can work miracles for you, but you’ve got to put your feet in the water and step out in faith. It always ends up being a blessing. He opens the windows of heaven. They’re not always monetary blessings. We get blessings in so many other ways, as Elizabeth was saying during the children’s story, that we don’t even think about. Give because you’ll be blessed.

Giving increases faith. We just touched on that. Philippians 4:17 Paul says, “Not because I desire a gift” of you. Paul was collecting an offering to take to the church in Jerusalem that was hungry. He said, I’m not only thankful that you gave, but it’s not because I desired a gift from you, “but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” He was looking for the fruits of the Spirit in the life of the church that they would receive and it came from giving. This is, I think, what the Lord says to us, I’m looking for fruit. It’s not the money. I own everything. God can give it or take it. He can multiply it. God can make a pot of gold right here if He wanted, can’t He? He’s God. But what happens in us? Our faith is strengthened. What do you think it does for these families I’ve just mentioned when you say, “Alright, I don’t know how I’m going to, but we’ve made a promise. We’re going to step out. We’re going to keep our promise.” Then God opens the windows of heaven. What happens to your faith when all of the sudden He opens the windows of heaven and dumps a blessing on you?

You say, “Oh, Lord, why didn’t I have more faith in the past?” It strengthens your faith. When that little boy, Matthew 14:17, when he brought his five loaves and two fish to Jesus and he gave his whole lunch. He thought, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to eat for lunch, but here it is.” Did he end up getting enough to eat? We know he was full because there were twelve baskets of leftovers. If he was still hungry, it was his fault, right? So pour out a blessing, you’ll not have room enough to receive it. He couldn’t even eat everything that was left, couldn’t even receive it all. But he had to have faith. What do you think happened to that boy’s faith when he gave to Jesus that generously? Do you think it was stronger? That’s the reason He wants us to give, to strengthen our faith. Sometimes we keep thinking, I can’t afford to give.

It takes no faith. Matter of fact, many of us instead of living by faith we live by fear. We’re afraid. We don’t know if we can trust God. I’m not asking everyone to do what Jesus said to the rich young ruler, that you go liquidate your bank accounts. The way that you do that is you tell Him right now, Lord, it’s all Yours. If You tell me to give any of it then that’s what I’m doing. It just needs to all belong to God now. Put it all on the altar. We’re not talking about just an offering that we’re going to receive. We’re talking about our hearts. Present yourself a living sacrifice. If you have given your heart, if He really owns all of your heart then He owns your house, He owns your refrigerator, He’s got your bank accounts, everything. Amen?

Another good reason to give, something practical, I don’t want to use fear and intimidation, but you can avoid a curse by giving. Not only does He say I’ll open the windows of heaven, just before that He says, “Will a man rob God?” That’s blasphemous to even think it. He says, “Yet you’ve robbed Me. But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” Backstage I was talking again with one of our elders. We were discussing the subject of giving and he said, “What percentage do you think of our members are faithful in tithe?” At first I misunderstood the question. I said, “Oh, we’ve got a good church here. This year, our tithe annually is going to be higher than last year, bless their hearts.” He was really asking, “But of the people, what percent are faithful in giving a faithful tithe?” I said, “Oh.” Based on the tithe we receive the annual income of the membership here is about twenty thousand dollars or less. I know that ain’t accurate. You know what I’m saying?

We don’t police who is paying tithe and who is not. I don’t think there’s anyone here who has been reprimanded privately, maybe publically as a group, but we just trust the Holy Spirit to talk to people about being faithful. Do you know what our tithe would look like at this church if every member paid a faithful tithe? It’s staggering to think about, but yet, if it makes you feel any better, if you want to compare yourself to others, this is a faithful church. But across the board, very few pay a faithful tithe. I worry because God wants to bless you, and many of you, you’re not blessed. You’re struggling with curses in your life. All of the problems you could be bringing on yourself. Read for instance, this is the Bible, friends. Don’t take it up with Pastor Doug. Of course you can blame me for assembling these scriptures, but it’s in the Bible. Haggai 1:6 they were trying to build up the temple of the Lord and the people were building their own houses and forgetting about God’s house and listen to what he says, “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” You can barely pay the interest on what you’re earning because it’s all under a curse. Some have said, “Pastor Doug, when I get my credit cards paid off, then I’ll start paying my tithe.” Gotta make sure Citibank gets their percentage, but God doesn’t get His percentage.

Can we be blessed like that? Not according to the word of God. Some people might say to a person who is prosperous, “How can you afford such a nice house? How can you afford that car?” You’d be surprised their answer is, “Well, I pay tithe.” Through faithfulness they are able to do something they otherwise might not be able to do. There is a verse, Luke 12, turn with me, Luke 12:16. This is sort of a sober passage, but they’re the words of Jesus. Do you believe what Jesus said, friends? He spoke this parable to them, saying, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’” It never occurred to him, God had blessed him that he might share his blessings with others. He said, “This is what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my little barns,” I’m paraphrasing, “I’ll build bigger barns and there I will store, I’ll hoard all of my crops and my goods. I’ll say, ‘Soul, you can be secure now. You’ve got a big bank account, good retirement package, nothing to worry about. Take your ease.

Eat, drink and be merry for many years.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Someone said, “If you’re giving while you’re living then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’.” So many people wait until the government or their estate or something starts to carve up what they’ve left behind and they thought that they had their retirement all mapped out. We don’t know what the economy is going to do tomorrow. We don’t know what a terrorist attack could do to the economy and that fear should not make you cling; that fear should make you give. Because what would be worse? To give too much and have a little shortfall for the future, or to have some catastrophe and to have everything evaporate when you could have given it, and instead it’s all lost. Did Noah have any regrets that he invested everything into the ark? Probably when he was building it he was thinking, “What in the world am I doing? What are we going to do for our retirement?” His friends said, “Noah, you’re crazy!

Think about the future! You’re wasting all of your money.” He was thinking about the future, and when the ark rose up on the flooding waters do you think he was sorry that he had invested everything? Was his family sorry? Were the animals sorry? No, and you know, so don’t wait if God has prospered you. Give now, He’ll give you more. God looks down from heaven with His great ATM machine up there. He is willing to make deposits into the hands of those who are willing to be channels of blessings to others. If God knows that He can give to us and we will faithfully transmit His blessings how He directs, hey, He’s looking for vehicles through which He can give on earth. So many of us, I think, we struggle because we don’t allow the Lord to use us as conduits. We hoard things. We are the most blessed people in the world. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of people who in our country are called low income still have a car a TV and a cell phone. I mean if you’ve traveled and seen what I’ve seen… There are some hungry people, there are some homeless people; I don’t want to be insensitive.

I used to be one. I used to eat out of a dumpster. I used to be homeless unless you want to call a cave a home. I’ve slept on the streets. I’ve slept on stair landings. I remember sleeping all night once by a Jack in the Box. It drove me crazy all night long, “Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I have your order?” So I understand there are some people that are really struggling in our society, but generally speaking the poorest in our culture are rich compared with most of the world and we have so much to be thankful for. Yet I go to a poor family in India and they’ll give you their last meal. The generosity of the poorest is sometimes so much more than the rich. A good reason to give is to avoid the curse; receive the blessings.

Giving will multiply your existing resources. Cast your bread on the water and after many days you’ll find it. Now bread is not just talking about money. I know in the vernacular when I was growing up we’d say, “Do you have any bread?” They don’t say that anymore. “Do you have any dough?” which is a kind of bread. The idea of casting your bread on the waters, today it’s not just talking about money. Bread is the word of God. As you share Jesus with others it returns to you. When you share a scripture, you remember it. It’s a principal in life, as you give it away you get to keep it. When the disciples broke the bread that the little boy had given them, they received it from Jesus, they broke it, they gave away, it multiplied in their hands. Isn’t that right? So giving enables the multiplication of existing resources.

As I said, God is looking for those that He can give to. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is not greener on this side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it. If you give, if you water, he that waters will be watered, the Bible says. Amen? Again the words of Christ in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” I just remembered a quote that I copied into my notes here that I wanted to share with you. This is from the book Acts of the Apostles. It’s talking about the early church. You know what I love? On our Bible Answers program we’ve got people from all different backgrounds that call in. You realize that many evangelical Christians don’t believe in tithe? Are you aware of that? They think tithe was an Old Testament law, now we’re in New Testament times, tithe is not required. I love it when they call me up, say, “Pastor Doug, what do you think?

Is tithe required of New Testament Christians? Isn’t that an Old Testament law? There’s really nothing in the New Testament about tithe.” They’re wrong. There is. Jesus addresses tithe in the New Testament. He says we should still do it. But I say, “Well, in a sense you’re right because in the New Testament it’s much more than tithe. In the Old Testament it was ten percent. In the New Testament it says they sold their houses and lands and set them down at the apostles’ feet and no man said that ought that he had was his own, but all men had everything in common. These people were giving everything!” So I say, “What do you want? Do you want the Old Testament tithe and the offerings or do you want the New Testament? Tithe was kindergarten for New Testament Christians. It’s much more than ten percent.

If you can’t even handle tithe then you can’t be a New Testament Christian.” Isn’t that right? Yeah, that’s basic. That’s pretty basic, I would think. Here, Acts of the Apostles, I started to read something to you. “Men are tempted to use their means in self-indulgence in the gratification of appetite and personal adornment and in the embellishment of their homes. For these objects many church members do not hesitate to spend freely, even extravagantly, but when asked to give to the Lord’s treasury to carry forward His work in the earth they demur. Perhaps feeling they can’t well do otherwise they dole out a sum far smaller than they often spend on some needless indulgence. They manifest no real love for Christ’s service, no earnest interest in the salvation of souls. What marvel that the Christian life of such a ones is but dwarfed and sickly?” Their life! Why do I talk about these things? No matter what the offering is today, it’s not going to affect what’s in my bank account. It’s not going to affect what’s in my refrigerator, doesn’t affect that at all.

Do you realize that? I’m not one of these televangelists that benefits from your offerings. Not a penny of your offering goes in my pocket. If you give to Amazing Facts, you give to Central Church, either one, I get a flat salary. I know what it is. It’s direct deposit. So preaching this, I have no benefit except your spiritual health. As you give you become more like Christ; you become more like God “For God so loved the world He gave…” Naturally it’s not easy, we’re afraid. It’s natural to give to ourselves, to go shopping. You know what I find. This is tough for me. When I go out Christmas shopping, I typically depend on Karen to do the shopping which is bittersweet. I don’t want to do the shopping. I want her to do the shopping, but I don’t want her to do the shopping! Do you know what I mean? When this friend passed away Karen said, “Doug, you really should go. Someone should be there for the funeral.” I said, “Do you want to come?” She said, “No, I’ll stay. I’ll stay home and take care of the boys. Stephen and Nathan aren’t in school.”

Translation: I’ll shop! I’m glad she does the shopping. I typically only need to buy one gift. I buy Karen’s gift; she buys the other gifts. But you know what I automatically do? I always want to buy for others what I would want. So I say, “Karen, don’t you want this new chainsaw? I think you should learn to run a chainsaw and if you don’t use it, I know someone who will.” Aren’t you that way? Don’t you know, when I buy things for the kids I buy what I’d want to play with. You pray for me.

Another reason to give is because of commitment, because God says so, and He’s God. He’s the Creator, we are the creation. He commands us to give. He knows we need it and we need to believe Him. A church that is growing is going somewhere. A church that is going somewhere, a church that is growing costs something. In this trip I’ve referred to several times I watched my gas because gas is getting so expensive. I didn’t used to care so much, but when you start paying $3.50 a gallon because you stop in some of these remote gas stations out in the middle of nowhere you become very sensitive. My car, even though it’s about seven or eight years old, it’s got one of these computers that tells you what your gas mileage is as you step on it. It’s a little computer attached to the vacuum hose. You men know what I’m talking about. You can basically tell an estimate of what you’re burning, and I noticed I wanted to get there, but the more I stepped on it the lower my mileage went. So I thought, man! And the most stuff you put in the car, the more you’re carrying, the more your mileage goes down. So the idea is to take a motorcycle and go slowly. But, you know, did I really want to do that? If you want to go fast, and if you want to do a lot it uses more gas. That’s a law of life.

If you’re working harder, you need more calories. Some of you believe in whether you work harder or not. The idea is consumption/production. It’s supposed to work that way and in a church that’s doing a lot, we spend a lot here. Our budget at Central Church is thirty something thousand a month. I don’t know. It’s in your bulletin. That’s because we’re doing a lot every month. We don’t get any subsidies from Bill Gates or from any corporation. You’re doing it all. A hundred percent of what happens here at Central Church comes from you. Praise the Lord! That’s a sign of your faithfulness. We’ve made a commitment. Proverbs 28:6 “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” If we are faithful, whether you are blessed or not, you do what God says. Amen? Even if you did not think you’d be compensated.

One time Peter said, “Jesus, we’ve forsaken everything to follow You. What will we have? What will we get?” Christ told him, “Peter, no man who has forsaken houses or lands or families in this life, but he will have a hundred times more in this life, houses and lands and fathers and mothers and families and in eternal life.” The Lord says it even begins now, the blessings begin. Nobody who forsakes things to follow Jesus… But he said you will have persecutions. There will be trials. Paul says, I’ve learned in whatever state I’m in to be content. That’s something we need to learn. Some say, “Well, Pastor Doug, I used to pay my tithe and my offerings to support God’s work, but I saw somebody in the church organization, somebody in the conference office, they poorly invested something or they didn’t spend it the…” Or “One of the pastors, I didn’t like the way that he was behaving so I stopped giving. I saw some hypocrisy in the church in one of the elders of the church or the deacons or deaconess or something…” You all know these stories.

They’ve stopped giving, and they’re really looking for an excuse. That sounds a little bit like Judas when he said, “look at that waste of money! It could have been given to the poor!” It sounded very pious but it had nothing to do with giving to the poor. That was cloak for his covetousness. Some people are just looking for an excuse. You know, the church has people in it and you’re going to see elements of unfaithfulness. Any organizations, from the top all the way down to the pews where you sit, you’re going to find people. In the time of Jesus, was there a Judas in His church? Was Judas mismanaging the funds? Here’s the million dollar question, pardon the pun, when Jesus walked the earth, if you knew that there was a Judas in His organization would you still believe in supporting Jesus Himself? When Hannah brought Samuel, as a little baby, to the temple and she consecrated her child to the temple, she gave him to God. She did not give him to the priests. Were the priests misbehaving? Did God bless her for giving?

In spite of the corruption that was in the church, He blessed her for her faithfulness. God had commanded to give and she gave. When that widow in the temple was about to drop in her two mites… I went to an exhibit with the Amazing Facts evangelists in Southern California. It was the Dead Sea Scrolls down there. It was very interesting. Among the artifacts we looked at they showed two of the smallest coins during the time of Christ, the two mites, so we actually looked at live examples of what those two little mites, two little worthless little bronze coins is what she dropped in there. And Jesus commended her for what she did. What was the spiritual condition of the church at the time she made that offering in the temple? Was the priesthood all converted and consecrated or did Jesus accuse them of being… Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, John the Baptist accused them of being a den of vipers, and yet when she gave, Jesus said, “Bless her heart. She’ll be remembered for what she’s done.” So don’t use unfaithfulness that you might see in the organization as an excuse not to give.

As long as it’s still God’s church, and I haven’t found another church, this movement I believe is the church of God because He has committed the oracles of truth to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are going to be examples of unfaithfulness because people are people, but God will bless you and He will bless the church as we are faithful. Amen? Matter of fact, I want to read something to you. This is from the ninth volume of Testimonies, page 249. “Some have been dissatisfied and said, ‘I’ll no longer pay my tithe for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work!’ But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint plainly and openly in the right spirit…” Write a letter. Make the church accountable. “…to the proper ones. Send your position for things to be adjusted.” I think we should voice when there ought to be a revival, ought to be corrections. And then it says, “But do not withdraw from the work of God and prove unfaithful because others are not doing right.”

Giving produces cheerfulness. I want to go back where we started. Those wise men, when they gave, it says with exceeding joy. They were exceedingly joyful. They came and they worshipped and they gave. II Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity…” If you’re going to give, choose to do it not grudgingly, saying, “Aw… alright, you convinced me.” God says you should do it with a cheerful heart. Now just in case you misunderstood, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, Doug, I can’t do it cheerfully, so I’m not going to do it.” Even if you do it grudgingly you should obey God, but much better if you do it with the right spirit for the right reason. Isn’t that right?

Another point. Giving liberates for service. You’ll feel liberated. You’ll buy into the work of Jesus, to the mission of Jesus. So many of you feel like you’re out here kind of looking in; you want to be in here? Then invest. I found people feel a lot more important about what Amazing Facts is doing, a lot more excited about what the church is doing and Amazing Facts when they give. They want to know what’s going on, they want to get involved in doing it, they feel like they have some ownership in what’s happening. This is not my church. This is our church. This is your church. We’re in this thing together. It’s not even ours, it’s Christ’s church. Amen? I Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” You know it’s so easy for us to get distracted with the idea that success is the accumulation of things. Often we get weighed down with our things and we can’t serve God. There is a reason the Lord brought the children of Israel through the wilderness for forty years in preparation for entering the Promised Land. They had to learn to travel light. Isn’t that right? As they were going through the wilderness, they had to learn to travel light. The whole temple was portable. They had to know, whenever God’s shekina glory told them, they had to wrap everything up, put it on their backs, on their camels, on their donkeys and go. They were free to move because they didn’t get too weighed down. Giving actually liberates us for easier service. I heard about when during the French revolution Marie Antoinette and her husband knew that they were in trouble. They tried to escape. They disguised themselves and tried to leave Paris. Do you know how they caught them? Because their wagon was so loaded down, and they had other wagons following, they wanted to take all of their stuff with them. They would have made it out if they hadn’t tried to take so much stuff with them. Giving liberates.

Another reason to give is because of gratitude because of what God has done for us. I like the verse here in Leviticus 22:29 “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.” We freely give to God; it’s an offering of thanksgiving for His goodness. What did Naaman do after he was healed from his leprosy? Nobody asked him to, he wanted to come and to give something to the Lord Jehovah. What did Zaccheaus say when Jesus said, “I want to abide at your house?” He plopped down out of the tree and said, “Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I’ve taken anything that I shouldn’t, I’m so thankful for salvation, I’m going to pay it back fourfold!” There is a gratitude that wells up because of the forgiveness of God, the cleansing of God, that you want to give. If you know that you’re dead, and you were dead and now you’re alive, or you were spiritually sick and now you’re well, you’ve been forgiven there is a gratitude in your heart that the natural response of a converted soul is you want to give. “Can I do anything? What do You want for me to do, Lord?”

Because you love Him, that’s the reason for you to give. Because of love. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.”

Now I’m going to do something here, we’re going to have an offering in just a moment. I’m not worried about people running out early before we do that because if there’s anyone that would do that, their heart is not right anyway. Put that chart up on the screen. I’m going to take a moment. Of the hundred percent, I want you to be intelligent about what happens here. Of the hundred percent, that pie, this is what you give in a year as Central members. It’s divided up there. You can see that big blue section, that’s 67% of what’s given here, that’s money that’s sent off to the conference. None of it stays at our local church. It’s money that goes to the world mission, tithe, evangelism, education, a variety of things, okay? The money that’s been spent on the church building plant, that would be that 13%.

The yellow pie there, every month that is given to our Christian education. That’s sent to SAA. It does not stay here. We send it on for Christian education. Of that hundred percent, the only thing that actually stays here for all that Central church is doing is the green, and that goes towards everything that happens to operate this church. We are a very giving church. Do you know how much of this church flows out of this church? I had lunch this week in Walnut Creek with our conference president and he’s very thankful for Central Church and what it’s able to do. You know there are some churches that can’t afford a pastor. Some churches can’t afford their program. Our overflow helps these mission fields, it helps these churches also. But all that we keep here is what you see there in the green.

When those wise men came, it was an act of worship. One reason we do things the way… matter of fact, I’m going to ask if they can bring those baskets out. We’re going to have some baskets and in a moment we’re going to be singing that song, “We Three Kings”. There might have been four. We don’t know. We’re going to bring our offerings as we stand and sing as an act of worship. I just think sometimes we collect the offering and it’s almost like the members are, it’s like a toll booth, and you’ve got to throw your toll in if you want to go home. We want it to be something you bring. You come forward, you give it. It’s not being taken from you. I know some pastors when they pray for the offering, it always bothered me, “Before we lift the offering…” That sounds like a pickpocket, someone has lifted it. We want to do it as an act of worship.

We want to give it because we love the Lord. We want to give it cheerfully. We want to do it because God loves us so much He gave His Son. When the Lord gave to us, did He hold anything back or did He empty His hands? God cannot fill closed hands. We need to open our hands and open our hearts and be channels of blessing. He wants to bless you, friends, and I have faith He is going to bless you. I think He’s going to bless us this coming year in a spectacular way.

I remember reading a story, years ago, in England one very rainy afternoon, Queen Mary had slipped out as she would do with some of the children in the palace and dressed herself in the garb of the average people so she could walk around the city. She got caught in a downpour. She and the children ran up into the awning of one of these finer homes and she tapped on the door. A lady came to the door and looked a little bit troubled, and Queen Mary, who had her hat pulled down around her face, said, “I’m sorry to bother you. Do you have an umbrella that the children and I can huddle under? We’ve been caught in this rain; it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.” The lady said, “Oh, just a moment.” She went in, she rifled around, found this old castoff umbrella, broken ribs, torn holes, handed it to the queen of England. She said, “I promise to have it returned.

Thank you very much.” The queen left. The next day there was another knock at this lady’s door and there is a palace guard with his gold braid standing there and said, “Madam the queen would like to thank you for lending her your umbrella,” and then he left. The lady said, “Oh! I had an opportunity to give to the queen, to give my best, and what did I do?” You know, Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me.” Today we have an opportunity just as real as those wise men to give to Jesus. It’s to give to Jesus. Amen? I’d like to ask everybody if we could stand together. We’re going to sing all of the verses of “We Three Kings,” and that number again, Jolene? 137 in your hymnals. As we sing, whenever you feel like it, we have baskets up in the upper levels and down here in front, we’re going to come and we’re just going to give to the Lord. Amen? Let’s sing 137.

We three kings of Orient are; Bearing gifts we traverse afar Field and fountain, moor and mountain, Following yonder star. O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never Over us all to reign. O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh; Prayer and praising all men raising, Worship Him, God on high. O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom: Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stonecold tomb. O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia! Sounds through the earth and skies. O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Amen. Can you say praise the Lord! Does it make you cheerful and joyful to be able to give your gifts to Jesus? God has given so much to us. Let’s bow our heads.

Loving Lord, Jesus, we are so thankful that You came, that you gave all when You gave Your life for our sins. When You gave Your life that we could live forever. Father, we thank You for giving Jesus. We are so thankful that we have this privilege to give. So many have nothing, and even they can give their hearts, and Lord, we do that right now. These gifts that we’ve given, monetary or otherwise, they’re really symbols, Lord, of giving the greatest gift, giving our hearts, presenting our hearts a living sacrifice. Lord, we pray that we will be more liberated to serve You, that You will open the windows of heaven and bless us that we can be channels of blessing, not that we could hoard and live selfishly. Lord, we want to be blessed so we can be conduits for Jesus to others. Bless this church, Lord, as a church family. Bless the families represented here. Especially during this holiday season we pray that You will comfort everyone. Be with us as we go from this place, and we pray that we can always remember Your presence with us. Now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and be gracious to you and give you peace in your hearts and in your homes. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

God bless you, friends. Merry Christmas and we’ll see you next Sabbath.

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