This year’s Spiritual Growth Plan focuses on prayer. Ponder a verse and a comment on the blessing of prayer from your Spiritual Growth Committee: Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.” God always answers our prayers and God always hears our prayers.
Please check the Welcome Center for the Easter Flowers order forms. Please place the order and your payment in the church office mail slot. The cost is $14.00 per plant. Deadline to order is Sunday, March 29th. Plants can be picked up after the second service on Easter Sunday.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23:2
Sheep are peculiar animals. They are by nature flocking creatures and will instinctively follow a leader, even to their demise. The psalmist pictures the Lord as the Good Shepherd who leads His flock to pastures where they can eat and rest and to quiet waters where they can drink and be refreshed. Jesus Himself says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11a). He abundantly provides for our daily needs. He does not lead us to dried-up pastures with dangerous waters, but lovingly leads us to green pastures with still waters. In Jesus we will never be lacking. In Jesus we will never be in want. God promises … those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10b).
Commission on Inter-Church Relations – Lord God, bless the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations as they work to preserve and strengthen the bond of confessional fellowship with church bodies already in our fellowship and to extend the bond of fellowship with churches where we find unity in doctrine and practice. Thank you that in the past two years so many church groups from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are requesting fellowship with our synod. Continue to build your church around the world, Lord Jesus, and bless WELS Inter-Church Relations as it works diligently to strengthen these relationships. Amen.
Last week’s e-Devotion explored the topic of proportionategiving. Whereas firstfruits giving addresses the issues of the heart’s attitude,proportionate giving begins the conversation about the amount given. We saw that a key question for proportionate giving is not so much what percentage is given, but how much remains for us to live on. A millionaire who gives $100,000 has “only” $900,000 left to live on. A single mom who makes $30,000 and gives 10% has only $27,000 left to live on. The percent given was exactly the same. The amount of sacrifice behind the two gifts was extremely different. In other words, the millionaire could easily give a more substantial offering than 10% with precious little impact on daily life.
This week we come to our final Ten for Ten topic: Sacrificial giving.
Sacrificial gifts have a significant impact on daily life because they are given out of faith in God’s promises to care for his children. Sacrificial gifts both stretch our faith and provide significant resources for the Lord’s work. Randy Alcorn shares some biblical thoughts on sacrificial giving:
Describing the Macedonian Christians, Paul writes, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
How do “severe trial,” “overflowing joy,” “extreme poverty,” and “rich generosity” all fit together in one verse? Among other things, we see here that giving is not a luxury of the rich. It’s a privilege of the poor. (Emphasis added)
There are three levels of giving—less than our ability, according to our ability, and beyond our ability. It’s fair to say that 96 percent of Christians in the Western world give less than their ability. Perhaps another 3 percent or more give according to their ability, and less than 1 percent give beyond their ability.
What does it mean to give beyond our ability? It means to push our giving past the point where the figures add up. It means to give when the bottom line says we shouldn’t. It means living with the faith of the poor widow. For most of us, giving according to our means would stretch us. Giving beyond our means would appear to break us. But it won’t—because we know God is faithful.
Giving sacrificially also means giving the best. If we have two blankets and someone needs one of them, sacrificial giving hands over the better of the two. Sadly, much of our “giving” is merely discarding. Donating secondhand goods to church rummage sales and benevolence organizations is certainly better than throwing them away. But giving away something we didn’t want in the first place isn’t giving; it’s selective disposal. It’s often done because we want a newer or better version.
King David said, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). Sacrificial giving is parting with what we’d rather keep. It’s keeping the old and giving away the new or giving away both. The giving of the first Christians was spontaneous, unguarded, and uncalculated…
We don’t like risky faith. We like to have our safety net below us, a backup plan in case God fails. Our instinct for self-preservation leads us to hedge our bets…
A disciple does not ask, “How much can I keep?” but, “How much more can I give?” Whenever we start to get comfortable with our level of giving, it’s time to raise it again.” (Alcorn, p. 203)
In other words, sacrificial giving is never an effort at “getting blood from a turnip.” Sacrificial gifts are gifts that are inspired by the promises of God’s continual care and the totality of Christ’s sacrifice for us. May these truths transform each of us into Macedonian Christians for our day and age—a people who “gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
A Christian never “gives ’til it hurts.” Instead, the Christian eagerly looks for opportunities to grow in the grace of giving—sometimes even beyond our ability. How is that possible? Simple, we give with the mind of Christ—not according to the ways of the world!
Lord, remove the obstacles in my heart that would keep me from trusting you and following you. Do not let me stop giving just because some local needs have been met, but, as you give the ability, lead me to provide for the saving gospel to be heard in places far removed from my home. Give me a spirit of joy and an increase in eagerness for the work of your kingdom. Thank you for the great sacrifice you made for me and my sin upon the cross. Let your once-for-all sacrifice inspire my sacrifices for you! Amen.
During a special voters’ meeting on February 2, the assembly approved a revised Constitution and Bylaws. You can find a copy on our church website in the members only section. If you’d like a paper copy, please contact Sarah in the church office and she’d be happy to provide you with one.
SENIOR ADULT BIBLE STUDY
In our study, we are looking at the Old Testament books of Habakkuk and Malachi during January and February, and then journeying through Acts beginning in March. Join us as we learn God’s truths and apply them to our lives. The class is taught by Staff Minister Hering in the Church Office Classroom on Tuesdays at 10:30 am. This session runs now through March 31st.
FORWARD IN CHRIST SUBSCRIPTIONS
It is time again for renewals and new subscriptions to “Forward In Christ,” the synod’s monthly news magazine. If you are a current subscriber, please indicate whether you wish to renew or cancel on the renewal form located on the Welcome Center in the back of church. If you are a new subscriber, please fill out the necessary information on the form for new subscribers. The cost this year is $13.44 for new or renewal subscriptions. Please make your checks payable to Our Savior Lutheran Church, insert in designated envelope and place in the church office mail slot. The deadline is March 15th.
Last week’s e-Devotion discussed the matter of firstfruits giving. The teaching of firstfruits giving takes aim at the attitude in the heart instead of dictating an amount in an envelope. This past weekend, we moved forward another step in our understanding of Christian stewardship. Scripture teaches that our giving is to be in proportion to our income. To quote Martin Luther, “What does this mean?”
Randy Alcon’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity has some thought-provoking information on proportionate giving:
When there was an impending famine, “the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea” (Acts 11:29). God says when it comes to giving, “each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). (Emphasis added)
The Old Testament tithe was proportionate, not fixed. If someone earned five hundred pieces of gold, he tithed fifty. But if he earned only twenty pieces, he was required to tithe only two. Tithing was proportionate to income.
But proportionate giving is not equal giving. (Emphasis added) It’s a much greater sacrifice for someone who earns ten thousand dollars a year to give a thousand than it is for someone who earns eighty thousand to give eight thousand. Although it’s true that the second person is giving away eight times as much as the other, he’s also left with eight times more to live on.
It’s easy for us to describe someone as a generous giver based solely on the amount given, but true generosity is determined by how much a person gives of what he or she has. A financial counselor wrote to me, saying, “I’ve worked with wealthy couples who are making a million dollars a year, with a net worth of $10 million, but they’re giving $15,000 a year and feel very generous.” Some people would think that anyone who gave $15,000 a year must be generous. But not necessarily. It all depends on what’s left.
One person can give $25 in an act of great sacrifice, whereas another can give a million dollars and not sacrifice at all. If someone makes $10,000,000 a year, gives away $9,000,000 and spends “only” the other million on himself we may be impressed, and it may be a relatively wise eternal investment, but is it really sacrificial in God’s eyes? This is one reason why it’s unhealthy and misleading to publicly laud large donors in the Christian community. Often their sacrifice is far less than those whose names will never be known.
One study showed that American households with incomes under $10,000 gave 5.5% of their income to charities, whereas those earning more than $100,000 gave 2.9%. This disparity shows that true sacrifice in giving typically decreases, not increases, as people make more money.
Believers…can increase the proportion of their giving as God blesses them financially or as they learn to trust him more. Hence, over the years, may believers give a higher and higher percentage to the Lord.” (Alcorn, pp. 209-10)
In the Gospel Lesson from Sunday, we heard that the master of the house entrusted different portions of his estate to different servants (Matthew 25:14-30). So too, the Lord has blessed each of us in different ways and at various levels. What should our thoughtful, prayerful response be to these blessings? That’s where the Bible’s teaching about proportionate giving is such a help. For some families with fewer resources, the practice of giving 10% of their income might be a significant leap of faith. For other families with more resources, the practice of giving 10% may be a starting point for faith-filled giving.
St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The Christians of Grafton will be blessed as they put God’s principles of proportional giving into practice!
Lord, I cannot even begin to list my own needs and desires, much less your blessings. Give me the power of your Spirit to take up the task of using these wonderful products of your generosity to glorify your name. Amen.
When we give, we are responding to God’s grace. Tithing serves as a guide to our giving. Without the tithe, we would lack guidance as to what would be an appropriate response to God’s goodness. Through faith, many brothers and sisters at Our Savior give well beyond the tithe.
In the book Holy Smoke! What ever Happened to Tithing? J. Cliff Christopher and Herb Mather wrote, “The tithe is a benchmark along a journey rather than a mark of having arrived at the destination. When we travel on highways today, we need roads, signposts, and other benchmarks such as motels, restaurants, and gas stations. These are institutions. Their purpose is to serve the public on its journey. Likewise, benchmarks such as tithing serve the person on the spiritual journey.”
Tithing is no longer a requirement, but it can still serve as a proper benchmark for our faithful response to God for who he is and what he has done for us. The big issue for us today? God doesn’t FORCE us to give. Instead, through Christ, he gives us the gift of being able to give. May God help us to see this key difference!
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because Jesus kept the law of tithing perfectly for us, we are no longer living under a command to tithe. However, living in the grace and forgiveness of Christ, we are asked to give freely (Matthew 10:8) and generously (1 Corinthians 16:2). The tithe can now serve as a joyful benchmark instead of a burdensome command.
When I, through faith, give God my first and best, I know that God is honored. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Prayer: Good and gracious Heavenly Father, You are the source of all good things. Lead me to know you more deeply, to love you more dearly and to serve you more generously with all my gifts, gifts of time, talent and treasure. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Our Savior Lutheran School Registration
If you are interested in our Early Childhood Christian Education Program, please stop by or contact the school office to obtain information to register for the 2020-2021 school year. Registration is open for students in gr. 3K through the eighth grade. We invite you to visit our classrooms. Contact the school office for more information.
Our Savior has a tuition assistance fund to support members of our congregation who attend either Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary or Martin Luther College in order to prepare for full-time Gospel ministry (pastor, teacher, staff minister). This fund offers our congregation members an opportunity to provide financial support and encouragement to those who are preparing to become pastors, teachers and staff ministers. Please consider a gift of support. Envelopes are on the table in back of church in a box labeled “Tuition Assistance Fund.”
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School Presents: Little Women Friday, Feb 21 @7pm; Sat, Feb 22 @ 7pm; Sun, Feb 23 @ 2pm. Tickets can be purchased online at kmlhs.org or at the box office the day of the event.
Volunteers Needed at KML!
This year KML’s Gala Dinner and Auction will be held on site at KML on Saturday, April 25, and we need all hands-on deck! Numerous SHORT-TERM volunteer opportunities are available for you to help make this event a success! Most only ask for a time commitment of a few hours. View the volunteer opportunities and sign up to help at www.kmlhs.org/2020team. Visit www.kmlhs.org/auction to make a donation, register to attend, secure your sponsorship, or learn more about this event. Questions? Contact Mrs. Crystal Perez (262-677-4051 x1117; [email protected]).