Monday, January 27, 2014


張國昇牧師 1/12/ 2014

It has been our family tradition that every year the whole family will gather in one place to celebrate the birth of Christ. In the past we spent a lot of time opening gifts and hugging each other on Christmas Day as if every gift was a surprise. As we have more grandchildren it will take much more time to do these rituals if we do not put in some controls. Last year our children decided to go high tech and low cost. They had enlisted a website called “Elfster” to manage our gift exchange. Each member of the family will submit a wish list and in return each will be given a name of a family member to whom a gift of $25 or less will be purchased. I duly submitted to the idea. I got a name of a family member who had posted a list of CDs I had no idea where to buy them. In addition to that problem, I, being a simple man of little wants, failed to post a wish list. As Christmas was approaching one of my daughter asked me what were my wishes? It did not take a genius to figure out that she must have my name to buy a gift for. I really did not know what I wanted. When pressed I told her jokingly I wished I would have two additional sons-in-law. She just said, “Dad!” meaning it could not be ordered from, or at least not for $25!
    In the middle class American society buying gift at Christmas time is not always easy. The average family seems to have everything; it has all the common gadgets imaginable that it is hard to think of one that the family doesn’t have. Children have so many toys already that one more or one less would not make a lot of difference. It is no wonder on the day after Christmas when the stores are opened the lines for merchandise exchange and return are longer than the lines of cashiers. What is an appropriate gift? We have often heard that it is not the value of the gift but the thought behind it that counts! Last Christmas I had attended an evening service at HPBC. It was a musical worship service with orchestra and carol singing. It had included a high school drummer team to play the familiar tune of “The little drummer boy”. I believe everybody knows that song and everyone loves that song; even our grandchildren can sing “Pa rum pum pum pum”. But we seldom think about the thought behind the song that counts. The song was written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. The story lines in the song go: a little drummer boy was invited by the Magi to come along to see the new born King. They had brought gifts to lay before the king to honor him. The boy said, “I am a poor boy too. I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our king. Shall I play for you on my drum?” Mary, the mother of Jesus, nodded with permission. The boy said, “I play my drum for him; I play my best for him. Then he smiled at me, me and my drum.” What is an appropriate gift for Jesus? The drummer boy had no gold, frankincense or myrrh to offer to Jesus; he offered what he had and he played it the best he could for Jesus. He won the smile of Jesus, honoring him just as much as the gifts of the Magi.
    What can we offer to God? This morning we had read Psalm 50. Before us is an imagined scene of theophany of our mighty God appearing at Mount Zion to summon the entire world to his judgment. But his eyes are on His people Israel. There is a stiff warning to Israel: true worship does not consist of merely offering sacrifices unthinkingly out of accustomed religious practices. What can we offer to the God of the Universe? God is not poor; we cannot offer anything to enrich him. God said, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens. For every animal in the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” (Psalm 50:10-11) Pagan offerings consist of food and drinks. They believe that their gods or those poor wandering hungry spirits of the dead actually partake in the food and drink offerings. Our God is not hungry or in need of food. “Do I eat the flesh of the bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God and fulfill your vows to the Most High.” said the Lord (Psalm 50:13-14)  Sacrifice should be offered from the heart with thanksgiving and faithfulness. We are God’s people in the New Covenant. (1Peter 2:9) Jesus had condemned the religious leaders of his time for being hard-hearted and hypocritical. How about us in making offering to God today? Every time the offering plate passes by you in the church do you feel a little uncomfortable? Do you start thinking should I offer a dollar or ten dollars? Billy Graham once told of a story on offering. One time when the offering plate passed in front of a Christian he wanted to offer $5 but mistakenly put a $20 bill on the plate. He wanted to take it back and exchange for a $5 bill but was too embarrass to do so. So he started to comfort himself that the money was all for God’s work. He understood that the offering was all for God’s work; but Billy Graham reminded us that God only gave him $5 credit. It is the heart and not the amount God cares about. In the book of Mark there is a very interest passage.  One day, Jesus was sitting opposite to the offering box of the treasury with his disciples. He was watching the people putting money into the temple treasury. Many rich people put in large amount. Then a poor widow came and put in two very small coins ( lepton--the poor widow’s two little mites as KJV describes it). The coin was so small that the stamp on it was barely legible. Jesus was not there because he had nothing else worthwhile to do; Jesus was there waiting to teach his disciples a lesson. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth (abundance KJV) ; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44) When it comes to tithes and offerings I never ask the church to take out the calculator. It is not tax-time; that is April 15. For a gross family income of $123,456 a 10% tax would be 12,345 dollars and sixty cents. That is obligation; Uncle Sam needs the money; otherwise he has to borrow more from China. We give not because there is a need in the church or because we have to pay the pastor salary. We give because we recognize all that we have is a blessing from God; we give because of thanksgiving and love for God. Jesus called the church, the body of Christ to go out of the four walls to make disciples of all nations, teach them everything that Jesus had taught us. That is the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) He also said, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) The cross is a symbol of love, sacrifice and total obedience! Paul said, “If I preach (the Gospel) voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.” (1Corinthians 9:17-18) The Gospel is free; what we freely received we will freely give. However it takes money and resources to bring the Gospel to the unreached people.  Paul determined that he should offer the Gospel free of charge and not to live on the Gospel that is within his right. (1Tim 5:17-18) Even Jesus said, “The worker deserves his wages.” (Luke 10:7) But who bear the cost of preaching the Gospel? The Bible teaches us the body of Christ, the Church, should meet the needs. I firmly believe to solicit donation outside of the church to support the Gospel ministry is a shame to the Cross. But I am never ashamed to preach on Tithes and Offerings in the house of God because Jesus also use the example of the widow’s offering of two little mites to teach his disciples.
    What is a worthy gift to the King?  What can we offer to Jesus? An offering does not have to be monetary. The little drummer boy offers to play his drum; the CEO of a company can show his business partners how to do business ethically; a professor can show his students first of all he is a man of faith; a doctor shows love and care for his patients because God cares first… and the list goes on. Doing our best to witness for Christ is an appropriate gift for the King. The story of the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ ends with the boy playing  his best for Jesus and baby Jesus smiled on him. The best in whatever we do is all Jesus wants of us; everything else including money is a gift from God and cannot be counted as appropriate gift for him. We Christians should attempt to do the best on whatever God calls us to do; and we should pursue all life activities as a means to honor God and not as an end to our own satisfaction and glorification.
    How do we prepare for an offering? “He who sacrifice thank offerings honors me” (Psalm 50:23). We start with preparing our hearts. Those who acknowledge that they owe everything, including their very existence, to God and offer thank to God as offerings would please and honor Him. Then we practice true Christian living. Paul said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) An appropriate offering for Christians is to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. That is about Christian living—not to be burnt alive for Christ; but to be burnt daily like a candle for Christ. That is a life of holy living; a life that manifest faith living and sacrifice; and a life of obedience and submission to Christ. That, Paul said, is a reasonable service (KJV) or worship (NIV).   

Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper was instituted for the body of Christ to remember the Lord.
Romans 12:5-16