November 9, 2008
Part 6: Worship is giving…your best!
We’ve been talking the last six weeks about 24/7 worship: loving God with all we’ve got all the time. Worship isn’t something that we do just on Sundays; it’s a whole life deal-24/7.
What is the motto for Hallmark cards? “When you care enough to give the very best.” God is like Hallmark; He cared enough about you to give His very best. That is the nature of love: love gives the very best.
To love God, to worship God, is to give Him our very best.
Announcements: (Offering will be at the end with the worship)
Thanksgiving is coming (back of tear-off) – please highlight Tom’s Turkey Drive next Sunday.
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (item #8)-class begins in January (first session is free). Brochure at Info Center.
Cami’s CD available at the Info Center. (bottom of middle page)
At 11: there are seats at the 6 PM service!
Message first, then worship and the offering and communion.
John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
God so loved that He gave. To love is to give. When you love someone, you give, you sacrifice for them. Love is giving-we know that because that is how God loves us.
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
This is how we know what love is-we see it in Jesus. We see God’s love expressed in giving His Son, and in His Son giving His life. We see that love is giving.
So if you love God, what do you do? You give! 24/7 worship is giving. Now, I know some of you might be nervous right now. “Is this preacher after my money?” No, it’s much worse than that! God is not after your money-He wants everything; He wants your whole life! We’re talking today about giving everything, giving your best to God; money is just a small part of that.
Love is giving, and worship is love expressed, so worship always includes giving as a practical expression of our love. If you haven’t given God something, you haven’t worshipped. Worship isn’t about getting something from God, but giving our love and our lives to God. That’s why I say that if you haven’t given God something, you haven’t worshipped-and I’m not thinking just of money; I’m thinking of your love and your lives. Worship is giving.
1. Worship is giving.
One of the primary ways God was worshipped all through the Bible was by giving. In the Old Testament, worship always included offerings.
Deuteronomy 12:4-6 “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
God tells them how He wants them to worship: bring your offerings to the designated place. Worship always included offerings. Look at the different kinds mentioned in those verses:
• They gave animal sacrifices: burnt offerings and sacrifices.
• They gave money: tithes and special gifts.
• They gave whatever they promised to God: vows.
• They gave over and above what was expected: freewill offerings.
• They gave the firstborn of their flocks and herds.
At least five different kinds of offerings are listed there. Worship always included offerings. They worshipped God by giving.
In fact, in several places, God told the Israelites not to come to worship empty-handed. Here’s one.
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Don’t come empty-handed, but bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord has blessed you. By the way, that concept of proportionate giving runs all through the Bible. Give in proportion to the way God has blessed you. If you’ve received more, give more. If you’ve got a lot, give a lot. Come to worship with full hands, ready to give. If you haven’t given God something, you haven’t worshipped.
1 Chronicles 16:29 “Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”
Worship always included offerings. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find any example of worship in the Old Testament that didn’t include an offering, because worship is giving. If you haven’t given God something, you haven’t worshipped.
We see the same thing in the New Testament. In Matthew 2, why did the Magi come from the east? They said, “We saw His star and we have come to worship Him.” They came to worship the newborn king. And how did they worship Him? They bowed down and worshiped Him, giving Him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. They worshiped by giving.
Even in heaven, worship is giving. Revelation 4 describes worship in heaven, where the living creatures give God praise and honor and thanks, and the 24 elders bow down and lay their crowns at His feet. They take the most valuable thing they have and give it back to God, casting their crowns at His feet.
All through the Bible, cover to cover, worship is giving.
What do we give? How would you answer that question? What do we give to God as worship? Praise, honor, thanks, adoration, ourselves, our hearts, our lives, our money…everything. Yes to all of those and more. But there’s one thing that includes them all, and the Bible is clear that worship is giving this one thing, and anything less is something less than worship. Worship is giving your best.
2. Worship is giving your best.
The first example of worship in the Bible is in Genesis 4, where two brothers, Cain and Abel offered sacrifices. The story goes like this.
Genesis 4:2-5 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Why did God accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s? Over the centuries, many explanations have been offered. Some think that God would accept only an animal sacrifice. But all through the Law, God commanded both animal and vegetable sacrifices such as grain offerings or the first-fruits. And each of them brought an offering that represented his own work, the fruit of his labors: Cain from the field, and Abel from the herd. So I don’t think it was the fact that Abel offered an animal and Cain didn’t. Why then?
I think the answer is suggested in the text. Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil, but Able brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The fat portion was considered the richest and best portion. Cain offered simply “some produce of the land,” but Abel offered the best, the choicest animals from his flock, “firstlings” and “their fat portions.” Hebrews 11:4 says it was a better offering-literally, more excellent-than Cain’s.
I think Abel gave his best. He looked at his flock and said, “Which lamb is the best lamb-I want to give my best to show God I love Him.” Cain’s attitude seems to have been, “I need to give an offering to God. This will do; it’s good enough.”
The first example of worship in the Bible focuses on what worship really is: it is giving your best to God.
The Old Testament sacrificial law hammered this idea. Over and over it says that our offerings to God should be our best: our best animal, one without any defect, perfect; our choicest fruits and vegetables; the first and best of all our crops and herds. But even though it was clear, the Israelites ignored it, and gave God far less than their best.
Malachi 1:6-14 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”-says the LORD Almighty.
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.
12 “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty.
“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
God asked for their best, and they thought, “Why bother? What a burden! My best lamb would bring a handsome price at market; why waste it by offering it to God? Look, here’s a sick and scrawny lamb that won’t sell at all; that will be good enough for God.” And so they offered blemished lambs. And God rejected these “good enough” offerings just as He had rejected Cain’s centuries before, because worship is giving your best.
ILL: A pastor made an appeal in church for a great and worthy cause. A certain woman who was a member of that church, came to him afterwards, handed him a check for $50 and asked him if her gift was satisfactory. The pastor replied, “If it is your best.”
There was a moment of soul-searching thought, and the woman asked to have her check returned to her. She left with it and returned 2 days later with a check for $5000 and asked the pastor the same question: “Is my gift satisfactory?” The pastor gave the same answer as before, “If it is your best.” After a few moments of hesitation she took back the check and left.
Later in the week she came again with a check. This time it was for $50,000. As she placed it in the pastor’s hand, she said, “After praying a lot about this, I have decided that this gift does represent my best, and I am happy to give it.”
Worship is giving your best. Too often, we give God blemished lambs, not just with our money, but in other ways too.
• Our time. Years ago, I learned from Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones that God deserves the first and best of our time. Rather than giving God leftover time, when we’re tired and distracted, he challenged me to pick the hour of the day when I’m at my best, and give God that hour. It was too easy for me to rush through my day, and at the end, remember that I hadn’t prayed. So I tried to pray in bed-I don’t think God would describe it as “quality time”. I think it was a blemished lamb.
• Our service. If you’re going to do something for God, give him your best. I talked about that at length last week when we looked at Colossians 3:22, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord.” As I said last Sunday, if you’re running wind sprints for a losing team, or shining shoes-whatever you do, give your best to God. So many Christians offer blemished lambs to God; we really don’t want to do that around here. One of our guiding values is excellence. We want to do our very best for God in everything we do.
ILL: Several years ago, a young lady-we’ll call her Connie-from our sister church, Summit Ridge, flew to business meetings in Orlando, Florida. Connie’s company spent over a million dollars to throw their big annual party. They flew in their top staff and several celebrities; they spared no expense. On Friday, Connie reminded her boss that she was flying home the next day. He told her that he really wanted her to stay over the weekend for the final banquet on Monday night. Connie told him that she couldn’t because she had to teach the 5-year-old boys’ class at her church on Sunday morning. The boss asked her if she couldn’t get someone to fill in for her. She smiled and said, “You don’t understand. The most important thing in my life is teaching those 5-year-old boys every Sunday. I’ll call and see if they can cover for me; but if they can’t, I’ll be flying back home tomorrow.”
Then the boss said, “Connie, you don’t understand. The banquet Monday night is to honor the employee of the year. You are the employee of the year…so you sorta need to be there.”
Connie smiled and said, “If I can get a sub, I’ll be there.”
The boss said, “If it’s that important to you, I’ll fly you back there tomorrow in my Lear Jet, and fly you back here Monday morning.”
Connie called, and they found a sub.
That’s giving your best. That’s worship.
• Our stuff. How many times do we have opportunity to share what we have, and rather than giving our best, we give our cast-offs.
ILL: You’ll like this one. Paul Harvey’s broadcast (11/22/95) shared this story:
The Butterball Turkey Company set up a hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for twenty-three years. The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below zero degrees the entire time. But the operator warned the woman that, even if it were safe, the flavor had probably deteriorated, and she wouldn’t recommend eating it.
The caller replied, “That’s what we thought. We’ll just give it to the church.”
Please don’t offer God blemished lambs…or old turkeys! No blemished lambs of time, or service, or stuff or money. Give God your best.
We’ve got a video that is an inspiring example of worship, of giving your best to God. Watch this
Video: Eric and Keith
Worship is giving your best. Whatever you give, whether it’s your time or your talent or your treasure, you give your best.
3. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.
It’s fascinating to me that Jesus mentioned the tithe in only three places, and the context each time is somewhat negative. People were giving with loving.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
The Pharisees were religious about tithing, but neglected more important matters such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus said they should do those more important things without neglecting tithing.
Luke 11:42 is Luke’s record of the same verse.
Luke 18:12 is the prayer of the self-righteous Pharisee, ‘I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
In all three of these verses, tithing was done religiously but without love. It was an evidence of self-righteousness, not an expression of worship. It is an example of giving without love. In each case, Jesus exposed the person’s heart.
So many people get uptight whenever churches talk about giving money to God. Let me say it again: God is not after your money. He wants you! He wants your heart! He wants your love! He wants everything! If He has all that, the money is no big deal. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If giving money to God makes you uncomfortable, it’s a heart issue. If God has your heart, giving Him your money is natural. But if God doesn’t have your heart, then it will always be a struggle to give. God wants you first.
In 2 Corinthians 8:5 Paul talks about the incredible generosity of the Macedonian Christians. He says, “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” There is the secret of their generosity. Giving money is no big deal if first you have given yourself to the Lord.
Let me lean on you. Are you able to give generously and joyfully to God, or do you squirm just a little bit whenever we talk about giving? It’s not about money; it’s about love. It’s about worship. It’s about where your heart is. It’s about giving yourself first to the Lord, and then giving your best out of love. For some of you, your money is the last great frontier. You’ve given everything to God… everything but your money.
ILL: There is a story about Constantine, the fourth century Roman emperor, who forced his armies to convert to Christianity. He baptized them en masse, marching them down into the Tiber River, holding their swords over their heads. Everything was baptized but their swords. Everything but their swords belonged to Jesus; their swords belonged to Constantine.
Some of us are like Constantine, but it’s not swords, it our wallets, our purses, our money. We were baptized holding our wallets in the air. If that’s the last frontier in your walk with God, I want you to know that He’ll hound you about it. Not because of the money…but because of your heart. Worship is giving…He wants your worship, not just your money.
With that in mind, now look again at Malachi 3:8-12, the classic passage on tithing.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
The tithe means a tenth. The tithe is one tenth of your income. To give the tithe means that you give the first tenth of all you make to God. An offering was an additional gift above and beyond the tithe. God said that the Israelites were robbing Him by not giving their tithe and offerings.
You rob God when you don’t give the tithe and offering. Here’s the question: What do you rob God of? I think it’s not just the money-He owns it all anyway! I think it’s love. It’s worship. When you don’t give, you are robbing God of the worship and love that He wants and deserves from you. He wants your heart. Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. That’s why it pains Him so when you don’t give your best. You can’t love without giving. When you don’t give, you are robbing God of worship.
When offerings are seen in this light, as acts of worship, they ought to be one of the most joyful things we do. The offering ought to be one of the highlights of our worship! 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that God loves a cheerful giver. The word “cheerful” translates the Greek word hilarion; we get “hilarious” from it. God loves cheerful givers, hilarious givers, givers who love to give because they love God so much.
ILL: The Presbyterian Church in Ghana was established over a hundred years ago by Scottish Presbyterians, and their worship service is very much like a Scottish Presbyterian service. Recently they have allowed the African traditional experience into the worship service at the offering.
At the offering, they let the people dance. That’s a part of African culture in worship. They let the people dance as they bring their offerings forward. They really get down. The music is going, and they individually turn it into a production as they bring that offering to the offering plate. They take their time, too. The offering could go on for a long time because they are dancing all the way down the aisle. It’s the only time in the service when they smile. Isn’t that interesting: the only time in the service when they smile is when they’re giving their money. They are worshipping!
You can give without loving…we don’t want you to do that! But you cannot love without giving. And when you love God, you love to give, because giving is worship! Worship is giving, and for the next few minutes, I want to invite you to give God something: give Him your love; give Him your heart; give Him your offering. Most of all, give Him yourself. Let’s worship Him with our songs and offering!
Offering and Worship.
Prayer: Ask for people to give themselves to the Lord.