Going Deeper With Sacrifice

I heard a GREAT quote this past week about sacrifice:

“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will be the sacrifice.”

I couldn’t find who to attribute that quote to, but it is spot on. Just as a gold medalist has to sacrifice time, sweat, money, and comfort in order to get what she wants, a Jesus-follower might need to sacrifice food, time, pleasure, and more in order to get what he wants in a relationship with God through Christ.

Going Deeper with Sacrifice Blank 350x196 - Going Deeper With SacrificeAnd so this week, I want to do something a little different here in the News & Notes. I want you to do three things:

#1. I want you to look at the Parable of the Hidden Treasure again (the same parable we looked at this past Sunday), but I want you to sacrifice fifteen minutes to watch the parable be told as if it was a modern story. You can find the short film here.

#2. Once the film is done, I want you to take a couple of minutes to ask yourself, “What do I really want in my relationship with God? And what am I willing to sacrifice to get there?” If you need to, write down your answer.

#3. Then I want you to take a minute to pray, asking God to give you the courage and strength to sacrifice whatever it is He asked you to give up in response to step 2 above.

So enjoy the film. And may you take a small step toward Christlikeness as you make the decision to sacrifice something this week, month, year, or for life.

Going Deeper With Giving

by Jacob Tews

In this past Sunday’s message, at Riverwood church in Waverly Iowa; we scratched the surface of what the Bible has to say about giving.Going deeper with Giving blank 350x196 - Going Deeper With Giving

  • First, we learned our God is sovereign, in control of everything and owning it all, too. If we are followers of Jesus, we don’t even have a claim to ourselves, for “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • Then we learned about our role as “sojourning stewards,” servants of God who have the glorious responsibility of caring for and investing wisely the resources he provides, living briefly on this earth as visitors, in reality citizens of Heaven.
  • Finally we discussed a practical application of these two ideas, discovering a bit about what the Bible says about tithing (giving 10%), and how just achieving that “giving training wheels” level—by God’s grace—can provide for amazing work for God’s kingdom.

There are so many facets to this discussion that we could (and should!) explore; the Scriptures are full of God’s wisdom concerning money and possessions. As I mentioned on Sunday, the book Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn is an outstanding source of Bible exposition on the subject, and well worth reading. I’m recommending it to you with the full knowledge that it will probably offend you at some points, like it did me, but with the hope that it will help you draw closer to Jesus by shoving you into the deep end of God’s Word!

In my message, we didn’t get into great detail regarding the parables of the master and stewards in Jesus’s teachings, so I wanted to take this opportunity to look at one of them: Matthew 25:14-30. The passage is long, but even if it is familiar to you, please take a moment to read it.

The Parable of the Talents

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, “Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”

But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

What We Learn

I want you to notice a few things here:

First, we find a couple of important pieces of information about God. He entrusted to his servants his property, and then he left. God takes a portion of his property (remember, it’s all his?) and entrusts it to each of us. He knows his servants well enough to be able to astutely give them different amounts to work with, “to each according to his ability.” The expectation, which we read later in the story, is that those servants will wisely use and invest the money to gain for their master. This investing happens while the master is absent; the servants are trusted to honor the master’s wishes even though he is not currently holding them accountable.

When the master returns to settle accounts, he commends the two who have made investments that were beneficial to him, then chastises the one who did not, going so far as to call him worthless before throwing him out into the street. Now, we must not misunderstand the last servant’s situation out of the context of the rest of God’s Word. This parable cannot teach us that we earn God’s favor by working for his kingdom, because elsewhere in Scripture we learn that our redemption is entirely God’s work, not ours. But it should be an encouragement to us: those who are saved have a responsibility of wisely stewarding God’s resources. Thankfully, God will give us the ability to do so as we submit to him.

One last thing you might find interesting about this story, and a detail that is often missed, is that it is possible that each of these three servants did not know the situation of the others. Jesus doesn’t say that the master “called his servants together,” only that he “called his servants.” Throughout the parable, the master’s dealings are with each of the servants individually; at the end, accounts may have been settled one-on-one. This demonstrates an important element of our giving: it is part of our worship of our God, and our responsibility is distinct from every other follower of Jesus. When we give as part of our Kingdom work, we are to do it “in secret,” as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6, that our “Father who sees in secret will reward [us].” When we step out in faith and obedience in our giving, it is Coram Deo, before the face of God, and in his presence alone. What an intimate joy we can share with him!

I know I am convicted, challenged, and inspired by our study of God’s Word this week, and I hope you are, too. It is my prayer that the Lord will guide you, and me, and all of our Riverwood family, into greater and greater opportunities for generous, joyful, grace-filled, obedient giving as we seek to honor our sovereign God as his humble, grateful, sojourning stewards.

Serving

If you are an American, hope you had a wonderful celebration of our nation’s birthday. If you didn’t take time yesterday, be sure to thank God for placing you in a country where you currently have the freedom to worship Him! At the same time, pray for those nations that actively persecute Jesus-followers, that God would protect those who follow Jesus as well as call the leaders of those nations to follow Him.

Serving Up More
This past Sunday, I talked about the spiritual discipline of serving. One of the Scripture passages we looked at together was Galatians 6:10, which reads:

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

However, because this verse was not our “key” verse for the morning, I did not take the time to put Galatians 6:10 in context. But if you go back and read the verses surrounding it, you’ll see that shortly before verse 10, Paul writes this famous quote:

“[F]or whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Paul’s point is that if you “sow” your FIST (finances, influence, skills, & time) into your selfishness, you will “reap” corruption. But if you “sow” into the Spirit, you will “reap” eternal life. And part of “sowing” into the Spirit, according to Paul, is to serve others.

And as we saw Sunday, you are to serve two groups of people, those inside the church family and those outside the church family.

So here are some ways you can “sow into the Spirit” through serving…

Inside the Church Family

  • Be a teaching assistant in the Kids Creek Elementary Class
  • Be a preschool teacher in the Kids Creek Preschool Class
  • Hold and play with babies in the nursery
  • Do some admin help during the week
  • Join a new finance team we are starting
  • Greet and/or Usher on Sunday mornings
  • Play or sing in the band
  • Put out signs at 9:00 am on Sundays
  • Drive the Wartburg shuttle during the school year
  • Volunteer with the Overflow Middle School Group
  • Become a Growth Group apprentice to learn how to lead your own Group
  • Edit and post the Sunday message podcast online
There are so many things you can do. Whatever you are interested in, let me know and we’ll do what we can to find a way for you to serve the Riverwood family.

Outside the Church Family

I think you’ll discover that when you “sow” into people’s lives through the giving of your time, energy, and presence, you will “reap” far more than you ever imagined. So enter into this spiritual discipline of serving!

Prayer

By Erin Bird,

Prayer Time
Last Sunday, we had the pleasure of having Patrick Ray teach us on the topic of prayer from Romans 8. Because I was serving in Kids Creek, I went and listened to the podcast, and I really enjoyed Patrick’s message. (If you missed the message, you can catch it online or through any smartphone app you prefer to use for podcast listening).

So here are some ideas to help you go even further with prayer: Prayer blank 350x196 - Prayer

  • Set your watch or phone alarm to go off every hour to remind you to pray.
  • Invite a fellow Jesus-follower to pray with you. (Something powerful and amazing happens when we pray aloud with others. And if you are married, pray with your spouse!)
  • Don’t spend all of your prayer time talking. Spend a moment in silence.
  • Keep a journal of prayers so you can see how God has answered them.
  • Use an app like Echo on your smartphone to keep prayer requests and get reminders throughout the day to pray.
  • When someone shares an emotional struggle with you, offer to pray for them right then and there. (If they say no, that’s fine. Let them know you’ll pray for the right after your conversation.)
  • Lastly, as Patrick recommended (and even gave time for during his message), allow the Scriptures to guide you to pray. Patrick suggested selecting a Psalm, but you can use almost any of Scripture (although the genealogy passages might be difficult!)

Have your own idea? Head over to our Facebook page and share your ideas in the comments.