13 11 2019

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When 67-year-old carpenter Russell Herman died, his will included quite a number of lavish bequests. Included in his last desires and wishes for immediate distribution were more than two billion dollars for the City of East St. Louis, another billion and a half for the State of Illinois, two and a half billion for the national forest system, and to top off the list, Herman left six trillion dollars to the government to help pay off the national debt. That sounds amazingly generous, but there was a small problem. Herman’s only asset when he died was a 1983 Oldsmobile. He made grand gestures, but there was no real substance involved. His contract of promises was meaningless because there was nothing concrete to back them up.

True generosity is not determined by the amount of talk that we do, but it’s validated by the actions we make to actually give our best away. When Jesus saw the widow give her two cents in the Temple, He commended her sacrificial gift by complimenting publicly how much she loved God and His will in her life. The best way to determine what our true treasure genuinely is and where our valuables can actually be found is by following the trail of how we spend our time and our money.

I think when people pass on and stand before the Lord, nobody is going to be saying, “I sure wish I would have piled up more stuff that I just left behind back on earth.” Nobody is born lugging a suitcase down the birth canal. I think greed and financial worry cause nothing more than headaches, strain and endless anxiety. We have a God who promises to supply all our needs if we simply trust Him. Could it be that our appetite is bigger than our basic necessities?

When I was in grade school back in the 1960’s, I wrote a letter to then President Lyndon Johnson. He wrote me back. Recently I learned that on the wall of President Johnson’s White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson’s great-grandfather, George W. Baines. Baines had led Houston to Christ and the general was a changed man, no longer vulgar and an egomaniac, but a content and compassionate man. When General Houston was baptized, he said that if my sins are being washed away in this body of water, God help the fish. It was an incredible event for those who knew him. He was suddenly looking for opportunities to help others. When he offered to pay half the local minister’s salary and someone asked him why, he said, “My wallet was baptized too.” Sam Houston literally and practically demonstrated the reality of God’s grace to him by reciprocating that grace through living and giving. Another way of saying this is that God fills us to spill us to bless us and bless others through us.

Nobody can out give God. If the Lord meets your needs, it is just Him keeping His promises to us. We don’t have to hoard His blessings to us. We should always be willing and ready to share them. My Parents had 7 children of their own and adopted 30 more. There was no way on paper to work out the details of how this family made it financially. It was the presence and power of God. It was also the simple faith of my Parents that believed the Lord would keep His word. One of the many ways He supplied was the Saturday night doughnut runs that I would make from Peapack, NJ to the Butterfly Bakery in Teaneck, NJ which was just before the George Washington Bridge. We packed the 15 passenger Sheptock van with bags and bags of amazing pastries, cakes, bread and other delicious delights. As soon as I got home, only minutes later, my Mom would send me out with repacked bags to share with friends and neighbors around us. If God could supply tonight, He could do so next time so there was no freezing what tasted so much better fresh and ready.

True followers of Jesus are generous people. It is just part of our new nature in Christ. Terri and I have always promised God the first cut of any income we receive. The Church pays us and we give back to the Lighthouse. How can I ask others to give if I don’t lead by example? But I challenge all of you reading this today, if you have never been a giver, what are you waiting for? Take God up on His word. God so loved the world that He gave us Himself. He didn’t make a contribution to humanity. He sacrificed His very life laying it down so that we could be in eternity with Him forever. What is too much to do for a Lord that was willing to do all that for us? How can we serve a Lord who has no limit when it comes to sharing from His bountiful supply with a greedy and selfish spirit?

I was thinking about this. Very often in our services before the offering we’ll say something like, “If you’re just visiting today, you don’t have to observe the Bible’s commands to be generous. Just let it go.” It’s kind of interesting. We don’t say that about other truths in the Bible. We don’t say, for example, “The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ but if you’re just visiting today, don’t worry about that one.” This is something for anybody, even if you don’t believe in God. Just test God’s generosity challenge. See if it is not true that when you become generous, God enhances your life in every regard.

Thanksgiving is in a few weeks. Why not practice this principle? Every time that God prompts your heart to give, just do it. Even if it defies common sense, be adventurous with your resources. I am not just talking about money. I am challenging you to be liberal with your time, your talents and your faith. If you ever are going to learn about the faithfulness of God, you must practice giving from a grateful heart. I’d love to hear what happens because of your trust in the Lord. The principle from Scripture is timeless and it goes something like this: “There is a powerful relationship between our true spiritual condition and our attitude and actions concerning money and possessions.” Don’t just pretend to share all that God has given you. Really do it. Let’s make it a November to remember by being the most generous believers Cape May County has ever seen!




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