Saturday, June 27, 2009

Take Two on Tithing

Two weeks ago I posted A Testimony of Tithing on my blog to tell the story of my personal discovery of what it truly means to tithe, my financial journey to put God first in my finances, the blessing tithing has brought me and a testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives during a time of financial trial.

My hope was that others who read the post would add their tithing stories of blessing to the comments, creating a collection of praise to God. I was happy for the affirming comments and stories that did come in, but I also received comments of another sort. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I suppose, but I am ever disappointed at fellow Christians’ ability to snipe when confronted with an idea that makes them feel a bit… convicted.

I posted A Testimony of Tithing in several places, so some of the responses are posted on Linkedin Discussion boards and some were emailed to me but the objections ranged from complaints that there is no Biblical basis for tithing from your gross income (versus net), that my suggestion that I felt blessed by tithing was akin to suggesting one could pay God to get His blessings, and that tithing of one’s time and talent is included in the calculation in coming up with the 10%, it’s not all from money.

So – big surprise – I have some thoughts about all that.

Most importantly, thank you – to everyone… good, bad and u.. uh-oh – for taking the time to comment. If you have a story about God’s blessings in your life that you relate to your faithfulness of tithing, I would love you to add it to the comments so that others may know your experience and be blessed by it.

One of the things that struck me (and disappointed me) when I was writing the first blog post was that when I did a Google search on tithing, the return was 90% negative. I had to go through pages and pages to get past the articles that tithing was not Biblical, tithing didn’t mean a 10th, tithing isn’t supposed to be of gross, tithing is exclusively an Old Testament concept, etc., etc., to finally find something in support of tithing.

Tithing is not just commanded in the Old Testament (Lev 27:30, Deut 14:22-29) but affirmed by Jesus himself in the New Testament (Matt 12:41-44, Luke 11:42, Matt 23:23). Yes it is specifically a 10th (Gen 14:1, Gen 28:20-22, Deut 14:22-29) and yes it is of everything (gross) you have (Prov 3:9-10, Deut 16:17) and although YES tithing should be done out of love and thanksgiving with a cheerful heart (2 Cor 9:5-15, Deut 12:5-7), there is a reward for the obedience and faithfulness of tithing (Heb 6:10, Luke 6:38). After all, everything that we have is HIS first (1 Chr 29:11-17, Deut 16:17) and we’re only returning a small portion of what He blessed us with to begin with, right? So not giving it back is like steeling from God (Mal 3:7-12).

I agree wholeheartedly that tithing isn’t limited to money (Lev 27:32) but I don’t think 5% of your income, 3% of your talent and 2% of your time to add up to “10” is what God had in mind. Just think of how amazing the church’s ministry could be if we were all giving at least 10% of all of those things. Yes, yes – I said the church. No, the clothes you gave to Goodwill and $20 you put in the Salvation Army bucket don’t count – that’s the “and then some” that comes with its own blessing. We are commanded to support the church and specifically its ministers (Num 18:21, Neh 12:43-47, Gal 6:6) with our tithes.

Coincidentally, (or God-incidentally) the week after my post, our pastor preached a sermon on tithing! If you want to watch a great and relevant sermon by Pastor David R. Stokes of Fair Oaks Church, click here ( or visit There is also a great four-generation video testimony of tithing on the Fair Oaks Arts blog that is worth checking out: Tithing Rocks!

For lighter take - Fair Oaks Church also put together some really cute videos about two years ago poking fun at the Mac v PC commercials to promote their iChurch series – the one on tithing will give you a good chuckle:

If you want to read my original tithing post, click here: A Testimony of Tithing. Let me, again, encourage you to share your tithing stories that others may be blessed and encouraged.

Just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-- see that you also excel in this grace of giving. - 2 Cor 8:7

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Testimony of Tithing

I consider myself quite fortunate to have been “raised in the church” and to have had the act of financial giving modeled for me from the earliest age. Although I must say, my perceptions of what “giving” meant in my youth as a Catholic girl and what it means in my adulthood as a saved, born-again believer worshiping in a New Testament church, are vastly different.

The word “tithe” may have been used in the context of “giving to the church” in my house (although I don’t remember it), but it was certainly never openly defined as “a tenth” of your gross income.

I watched my parents religiously put cash or a check in the envelope each week (and after my first communion, I got my own envelops to fill and bring to church) but the “tithe” or offering was more loosely defined as “what we’ve decided to give the church” or “what we can afford to give the church.”

There was also no explanation, perceived value or case built for the blessing that comes from putting God first in your finances or that it’s done out of love and thanksgiving. It was an obligation.

I remember, well into my adulthood, the first time I heard a solid tithing sermon and had that “ah-ha” moment. I went home that Sunday, pulled up the online banking, did the math and found that my inconsistent giving had added up to about 8.5 % … oh, wait – that was net income – it was a little more than 7% of gross income. Ouch- I’ve got some work to do.

I wish I could tell you that I stepped out on faith and immediately began giving 10% the very next week, and every week thereafter (no justifications, just an explanation), but like most people, my expenses were pretty equal to my income and it was going to require some long-term lifestyle changes to make it work. I'd say the lack of faith was directed at myself, not God.

I was a good position (and determined) to get there quickly – no credit card debt, no outstanding loans, just a modest car payment and the regular household bills, but $20k a year in daycare was a killer and there was no way "manage that expense better" - it it what it is.

It started with the tax refund. Somehow (God’s handy work, I’m sure of it) it was much more than we expected it to be … so that can go right back to Him!

Trust? Test? Reward? Hmmmm…

Next, out of nowhere, I received promotion and raise at work – well, that’s like “found money” right? So that can go right back to God without even missing it. To make a long story short, the months that followed were filled with occurrences like that one where my faithfulness to define “tithe” as an actual 10% of gross income was rewarded with God’s trust in me to be a good steward of more ... and then more. In the same year that I finally hit the 10% mark, I received two promotions and three raises. Praise God!!!

In this last year, however, our family has experienced a potentially significant financial crisis. I say “potentially” because as I have remained faithful in putting God first in my finances, He has been faithful to our family. There have been many a weeks over the past year that I could not believe we did not run short in paying the bills. Somehow, when my own calculations told me we were about to come up short, there just seemed to be what we needed … and frequently more.

Now I don’t expect my testimony about my tithing experience to drive someone to suddenly start giving if they weren't or to give more than they had been. And I certainly wouldn’t want someone to take from this testimony that they should give more so they can get more - that motivation is as off-base as the giving out of obligation.

Let my encouragement and message be that act of tithing has been far more of a spiritual gift back to myself than it has been of financial benefit to the church and you cannot imagine the blessing of giving until you’ve gotten there! Let me end with this thought…

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. - Proverbs 11:25

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UPDATE: a followup to this story was posted on June 27, 2009. See Take Two on Tithing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Secular obesity? Biblical malnutrition?

Staying spiritually fit in a fast-food-para-faith culture.

About a year ago, a friend from work was telling me that she was looking for a church to go to. She’d grown up in the church but had drifted away from the Lord as an adult and was now looking to get back into a healthy new “walking” routine with God.

Of course, I jumped at the chance to invite her to Fair Oaks Church ( where my family worships every week, but she and I were commuting into our office from opposite directions and it would have been a 90 minute drive for her. She was also troubled by her husband’s active resistance to the idea of going to church and was hesitant to begin a routine of abandoning him every Sunday.

Although I certainly encouraged her to find a church in her community where she could have real fellowship with a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who would be a support for her as she grows in her faith and encourages her husband, I also suggested to her that she check out Fair Oaks Church’s weekly podcasts and webcasts which she can watch whenever she wanted and perhaps generate some interest with her husband right at home.

Fast forward one year and my friend is hooked on the podcasts and webcasts from Fair Oaks Church. Over the year we’ve had some great conversations about Pastor Stokes sermons, but she definitely recognized the need to be a part of a local church community and started attending a church in her area.

After attending her new church 6 or 7 times, she shared a concern/frustration with me asked me if I thought it was a real issue or if she was just being over critical. She said that in all the weeks she’d been going there, the pastor was preaching almost exclusively from the book(s) of Joel Olsteen. “Not that I have any objection to Joel Olsteen,” she said, “he’s got a great ministry and a great message, but not once since I’ve been going there have they actually quoted the Bible… just Joel.”

This is definitely a problem.

There are a lot of great preachers out there with large public ministries… plenty of books, television shows, radio broadcasts, and Cyber Churches to complement someone’s faith walk, but they should never be a person’s exclusive source spiritual nutrition. So this is how I counseled my friend….

Joel Olsteen (Max Lucado, Rick Warren, etc.) may have great messages that speak God’s Truth and are inspired by scripture, but they’re like a kind of junk food for the soul – a triple bacon cheese burger with a large fry and a chocolate milkshake will make you feel really good while you’re eating it, and it does actually have nutritional value – meat, bread, vegetable, dairy – but if you ate that every day and nothing else you wouldn’t be very healthy. The Bible is the daily sustenance needed for proper spiritual health and growth – the grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and multigrain bread with a tall glass of milk that we should be eating every day. Of course it’s okay to stop and get that bacon cheese burger every once and a while, as long as it’s not your steady diet.

I’m not an advocate of “church hopping” to find the perfect church – no church is perfect - but if your church never preaches the Word of God from the Word of God, I’d say that’s a fair reason to seek spiritual nutrition elsewhere.

My friend really appreciated the metaphor so I wanted to make sure I captured it somewhere. I’d love to take credit for it, but Pastor Jeff Reaves of Creekside Alliance Church had used it during a sermon several years ago when addressing an issue with one of our church’s small groups who had become little more than a book club and were no longer including scripture or praying in their meetings.

I thank God that my family was fortunate enough and blessed to find a church and a pastor who’s preaches from the Bible and I pray for my friend that she finds a church in her community that speaks the Word of God from the Word of God.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Christian Life Coaches...

partners or pariah to the church?

Inspired by yet another provocative Twitter post/Blog teaser, I’m compelled to respond to the question posed by “Life Coaching Trends” on April 27th ( questioning the validity of the profession of Christian Life Coaching, it’s role in the church and whether this is a service that is fee-worthy or if it should be provided for free as part of a ministry.

All fair and relatively benign questions that can all be answered with a firm “it depends.”

What challenged me were the two responders’ comments. In summary, they expressed (angrily) that anyone who would charge for or even provide such a service was “scum” because God is our Life Coach and he doesn’t charge a dime. Reading the Bible, going to church and praying are free and that’s all we need.

As a credentialed Biblical Counselor and certified Professional Life Coach … who also happens to be a Christian, I have some strong feelings on the topic.

I strongly agree that there is no better Life Coach for us than God. I strongly agree that the Bible is the best resource to find the answers to life’s questions. I strongly agree that going to church and praying should be all we need… and it’s free!

I strongly disagree that every average person in need (or even every Christian in need) knows how to utilize those amazing God-given, free resources without any guidance whatsoever. Isn’t that part of what pastoral staff do for us? Teach us, guide us, focus us on Jesus when we stray from the Truth?

An old pastor of mine once told me that a single pastor cannot effectively minister to more than 25 people at a time (that’s why small group ministries are so important). This is an opportunity for Life Coaches to be of value in a church setting. Of course in that kind of circumstance, the lay helper should be a “Christian” Life Coach to ensure the guidance given is aligned with the church’s beliefs… and no, I would not charge for these services.

The bigger flaw in the posed questions and responses is the assumption that the “Christian” in Christian Life Coaching is about who is being coached or where they’re being coached as opposed to foundation from which they coach – a foundation of biblical principles that shape the coaching practices to provide life tools that keep our eyes on Jesus.

Personally, I work in a secular profession – not in a church – and provide a lot of coaching and counseling to business managers and leaders. Having a Christian foundation to my Life Coach training allows me to integrate Christian principles when coaching executives through difficult business decisions and, from time to time, has opened windows to "witness" in an otherwise godless environment… and yes, I do get paid for that.

Praise God for Christian Life Coaching and the opportunities to use it for His glory... in any setting!!!

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