In our Gospel reading we heard of the
Magi, or wise men, following a star in the east, seeking to
find Jesus. Now typically when we create our nativity scenes
we place the wise men in the stable with Mary, Joseph, the
baby Jesus, the shepherds, and all the animals. But in reality
the trip the wise men undertook was thousands of miles long
and probably took a year or two.
The Magi were truly wise in that they
were well-educated individuals; they were the scientists of
their day, astronomers, and seekers of truth. Because of the
respect they received they were often used as counsels and
advisors to kings. So it was most appropriate that they would
go to a king, Herod in this case, as they sought the truth of
Jesus. And when they had completed their journey they would
find the One who was the Way, the Life, and the Truth!
The fascinating thing about this story
to me is that the wise men, who were people of prestige and
prominence, stopped what they were doing, left their titles
and positions behind, and set off to find Jesus. They wanted
to know more about this baby born in Bethlehem. And when they
arrived in Bethlehem they approached Jesus and bowed down to
worship him, realizing they were meeting the one true King.
As they worshipped Jesus they
presented him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The wise
men gave Jesus these gifts because these particular gifts were
worthy of a king. And the gifts they gave have further meaning
because they are actually symbols of Christ's identity and
what he would accomplish throughout his life. " Gold was a
gift for a king " Incense was a gift for deity " And myrrh,
which is a spice, was a gift for a person who was going to
So as you can see the wise men were
not giving these expensive gifts to Jesus to earn favor with
him. They gave these gifts as a means of worship, and to fore
tell the future of Jesus life and ministry in the world.
The wise men brought gifts and
worshipped Jesus for who he was. This is the essence of true
worship - honoring Christ for who he is and being willing to
give him what is valuable to us. We ought to worship God
because he is perfect, just, and the almighty creator of the
universe, worthy of the best we have to give.
The wise men provide us with an
example of what it means to truly give of ones self to worship
Jesus. The wise men experienced a new beginning; they left all
they had and all they were to find Jesus, to begin life anew.
The birth of Jesus changed the life of
many 2000 years ago, and his birth is still changing lives
today. As we celebrate Christ's birth again we too can
experience the life changing grace of God through Jesus
We tend to view the beginning of a new
calendar year as a time to start over, to begin again. We make
resolutions: perhaps to lose weight, get a better job, quit
some bad habit, turnover a new leaf, be a better person, and
I make resolutions every year, some
are the same ones I make every year, but by the time February
or March rolls around I'm hard pressed to remember what some
of the resolutions I made were, let alone follow-through with
But this year, I want to begin again,
knowing that with God we can always begin again. I want to
draw closer to God, I don't want to get stuck in a worship
rut, I don't want to just go through the spiritual motions of
our faith. And perhaps you would like to do the same.
I've decided to spice up my worship
life by learning to play the guitar so that I can participate
in worship in a different way. I'm not sure this will do a
whole lot for anyone who listens to my playing, but I want to
tackle something out of my comfort zone as a means to
experience God in a new way. And what I've discovered so far
is I have a greater appreciation for the words of a song, and
what they mean. You see as I learn to play a song I focus more
on the words than I used to.
I've also decided to look for new ways
this year to serve God, through the giving of the time, talent
and money God has blessed me with.
When I pause and consider when I've
experienced spiritual growth I've found in that my spiritual
life has only grown when I have engaged in the spiritual
disciplines of giving, study, prayer, worship, and serving. As
well as experiencing sacrifice. And when my spiritual life
grows my whole life begins to grow offering me new and
exciting opportunities to move beyond where I am to where God
wants me to be.
This year opportunities to engage in
these spiritual disciplines will again be offered to the
entire congregation and our community, and I'm sure our
ministry teams will offer some new fresh ways to give,
worship, pray, study serve, and sacrifice that will help each
of us grow in our walk with Christ.
We'll also be looking for ways to use
our hands and feet more in service to God. Different projects,
both short-term and long-term will be considered, planned, and
undertaken. But all the ministry teams can do is make the
opportunities available; it will be up to all of us to engage
in them, again, as a way to grow in the grace and peace of
As most of you know we don't engage in
a stewardship Sunday or a giving emphasis time at Trinity. We
don't fill out pledge cards and we don't approach giving from
a fund raising or obligation perspective. I don't believe in
this approach to giving.
Yes, financing the ministry of
Christ's church does require time and money. But giving, to be
truly giving, as defined by God, must come from our hearts,
just as the wise men's giving did, as a way to worship and
thank God for all that God has given and done for us, and as a
way of saying, "yes God, I trust that you will provide what we
need when we need it."
If we give for any other reason, then
I suggest we stop giving. God wants us to give for the right
reasons, not simply as a means to maintain an institution or
as a way to get a tax break. If we can't give out of love for
God, then we shouldn't give, it's that simple. Now when we do
give God provides a standard for which we ought to strive for,
and that's a tithe of our income, or in other words 10% of our
You may remember that 3 years ago this
month we set a goal of becoming a tithing congregation by
January 2007. Meaning, we would tithe, or give 10% of our
church income to help others by 2007.
Well, I'm happy to report that in 2004
we achieved this goal by giving over 12% of our income to help
our brothers and sisters in Christ. And when you include our
apportionments, this congregation has given over 18% of what
we received to help God's people in our community and around
the world. This is something you should be proud of and we
ought to give thanks to God for both the means and the desire
to give from the heart.
Now it's interesting to note that
throughout the year we never kept track of what were giving as
a congregation, we just gave as God led us to give. It was
only a couple of weeks ago that we discovered, when doing our
year-end accounting, that we had actually tithed the church's
income. Again, if we remain focused on the ministry of the
Christ's church everything else will fall into place, God's
When Susan and I began to tithe our
income, I was worried. How would we make ends meet, after all
that 10% might be the difference in paying a bill or not. We
have three kids to get through school, braces are needed for
their teeth, seminary had to be paid for, and of course you
have the car that breaks down at the most inconvenient time,
unexpected medical or dental bills, and the list goes on and
on. And we all have our lists for not being able to give a
tithe for God's work.
But what has been real neat to
experience is that since we have been tithing our income, God
has provided every time we've had a need. In some way the
financial issue we were dealing with was taken care of.
Now I'm not suggesting that while
we're asleep God puts more money in our bank account, I'm
saying opportunities present themselves in a timely manner.
Perhaps there is the need for a new car, but the purchase
price is too high, yet in a conversation you learn of a rebate
you weren't aware of that helps ease the financial pressure,
or you receive some unexpected check in the mail as a gift
from someone, or a medical reimbursement you sent for months
ago and forgot about comes in at just the right time. Perhaps
you're trying to figure out how to pay for college when all of
a sudden you become aware of potential scholarships you
weren't aware of.
You see, God will provide, we have to
believe that, now it may require additional work on our part,
but God will place the opportunities in front of us to make
ends meet if we're journeying down a path that is of God. The
whole key is placing our trust in God.
Individuals, or the church for that
matter, are not blessed simply because they give a certain
amount of money, you can't buy or earn favor with God.
Individuals and congregations are blessed because they place
their trust in God, strive to follow God's will, give from the
heart, and give as an act of worship and gratitude.
I also believe we ought to approach
giving of our time and talents in the same manner. We ought to
give at least 10% of our time in service to God, once again
giving from the heart and out of love. Assuming we sleep eight
hours a night this means we ought to give at least 10 hours a
week to serve God.
If we all engaged in 10 hours to
intentionally equip and make disciples for Jesus, and to care
for one another, God's kingdom would be overflowing with
disciples. Giving wholly of ones self is at the heart of what
Jesus is all about; just as giving wholly of ones self is at
the heart of being a Christian.
Now I know we all can't all of a
sudden give 10% of our income or our time, but this is a goal
we ought to be working towards. God is not so concerned with
the percentage; God is concerned with our hearts. A right and
giving heart means much more to God then a cold heart that
gives for the wrong reasons.
So as you begin the New Year and as
you begin to make your New Year resolutions, I encourage you
to assess how God is leading you, how God may be calling you
to be faithful stewards with all He has given you. I encourage
you to include in your resolutions seeking some new spiritual
undertaking as a way to draw closer to God, resolve to read
and study the Bible more, and look for ways to serve God with
the goal of experiencing God in new and uplifting ways.
As we begin this New Year, I hope and
pray God will move our hearts to a new place. " I pray we
don't come on Saturday evening or Sunday morning to simply
fill a pew. " I pray we don't give simply out of obligation,
guilt, or to attempt to earn favor with God. " I pray we
intentionally pursue God's purpose for our lives and that we
live out his purpose for us with the same intention the wise
men had when they left the comfort of their homes and jobs to
Michelangelo once said when sculpting,
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him
free." Well the same is true of each of us. God's sees his
purpose for our lives within each of us, and he carves away
worldly influences until we are set free.
Recommit your lives to Christ, make
Jesus the central person in your life, re-dedicate yourself to
worshipping him more completely, speak and listen to him more
regularly, give to him more wholly, study his word more
thoroughly, and serve him more loyally.
Approach the New Year with a passion
for wanting to do the will of God. Run towards God's call, not
away from it. Take hold of God's hand and ask him to lead the
way as you seek a new beginning.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade