Archive for February, 2008

Tithing on Tax Refunds

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Should you tithe on your tax refund? The short answer is yes. The long answer goes back to another question. Do you tithe on gross income or net income? This is a question that I have heard discussed a few times, and I was even asked point blank by a co-worker once. My response was something like, “If you have to ask then you probably already know the answer.”

I believe that you should tithe on gross income before Uncle Sam, your 401k, or your health insurance provider gets their cut from your pay check. This is not the most popular answer, but I believe it to be the correct one. It is not your first fruits if someone else has already been nibbling.

The long answer to the original question is that it depends on whether you are a:

  • Gross Income Tither – Then no, you have already tithed on this “refund” money when you earned it.
  • Net Income Tither – Yes, you now have new spendable income that is flowing into your wallet that has not been tithed on already.

Contemporary Christian Music Heathens

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

There is a fairly large international Christian radio network broadcasting in the local area that exclusively plays hymns and classical Christian music. This radio network plays absolutely no contemporary Christian music (CCM). Several months ago the early morning broadcast included a short sound bite calling attention to an active stance against CCM. It should not come as a surprise to my regular readers that one of my pet peeves is to hear a self proclaimed Christian rant over the practices of other Christians. It is even worse when the complaining party resorts to name calling and scripture manipulation to emphasize a position against the fellow Christians that they are criticizing. I really did not mind the fact this station avoided CCM. I akin this to Southern Baptist who are not comfortable with laying on of hands, healing prayer, and speaking in tongues. Just like I was fine listening to this particular radio station who I thought was simply avoiding CCM, I am also comfortable attending a Southern Baptist church where certain subjects are simply avoided by the pastor and congregation. But, I will not support a church or ministry that openly criticizes these things. In the instance of the radio station, the sound bite included a reference to Mathew 6:7. The person on the radio said “when you pray and sing, do not use vein repetitions.” The following is part of what I emailed to the radio network later that day.

“There was a short explanation this morning explaining your position against Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). The man speaking used Matthew 6:7 as a reference for not saying vain repetitions when praying and singing. I agree with the praying part, but I have been through over a half dozen translations of the Bible and can not find the word sing in that verse. Where does he get his reference? I am also of the firm belief that Jesus was teaching us a model on how to pray in Matthew 6.”

Now I am no theologian, but I believe these folks did get a little ahead of themselves with the use of Matthew 6:7. I ended up having over a dozen emails pass back and forth between me and a man who has worked for this network for a couple of decades.

He remained firm on his stance against CCM. That did not surprise me. What surprised me was that he also remained firm in his crusade to criticize those who listen to and sing CCM even though his own “vain repetition” argument could easily be applied to the hymn that was played immediately after the above mentioned sound bite. What follows are snippets from our email exchange as I challenged his criticism of other Christians us heathens who listen to CCM. We’ll call him Radio Joe for the purposes distinguishing his emails from mine.

From Radio Joe:

“Thanks for your comment. Matthew 6:7, as you know, is a teaching on prayer and comes just before our Lord’s teaching of the model prayer for Christians. Albert Barnes has an interesting commentary on that verse:

“Verse 7. Use not vain repetitions. The original word here is supposed to be derived from the name of a Greek poet, who made long and weary verses, declaring, by many forms and endless repetitions, the same sentiment. Hence it means to repeat a thing often, to say the same thing in different words, or to repeat the same words, as though God did not hear at first. An example of this we have in 1Ki 18:26: “They Called on Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us;”*

The heathen do. The original word is one commonly translated Gentile. The world was divided into two parts, the Jews and the Gentiles; that is, in the original, the “nations,” the nations destitute of the true religion. Christ does not fix the length of our prayers. He says that they should not repeat the same thing, as though God did not hear. And it is not improbable that he intended to condemn the practice of long prayers. His own supplications were remarkably short.

{q} “as the heathens do” Ec 5:2
{*} The following is a specimen of the vain repetitions of the Romans.

“Pious Antonine, the Gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the Gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the Gods preserve thee.”

I would submit that a CCM tune could be put to the above phrases.

One of the reasons we criticize CCM is that it robs the Christian of the great teaching in the hymns. I had a sample CD sent to me and it had 14 songs on it. Only one identified the Lord by name. Those other songs could have been song to a lover or sweetheart with the same result. Isn’t it amazing that in crisis times, people turn to the hymns and not CCM?”

My response:

“I agree with you that many of the CCM songs out today “could have been song to a lover or sweetheart with the same result.” I agree that there is value in “the great teaching in the hymns.” Our church “Seacoast Church” does incorporate hymns in the singing. However, I believe [the network] takes there position a little too far in calling Christians heathens for singing CCM. Some CCM may be unacceptable, but that does not justify stereotyping, name calling, and twisting of scripture to justify your position.

For instance, you have once again left out the three words that lead into the that part about vain repetitions in Mat 6:7. “When you (or ye) pray…” Not “when you sing”. Not “when you give praises to God the father”. It is “WHEN YOU PRAY”. Please do not try to twist this scripture to fit your man made rules on church music.

I call it a loose apples and oranges example at best in your 1 Kings example. These people in 1 Kings were praying to Baal and Elijah was warning them, the heathen, about praying to their god. This was not a command from God to avoid praising Him with CCM music.

I submit that even if you want to try and tie prayer to singing like you are doing with Mat 6:7, then think about the numerous verses where you find, “pray without ceasing”. Look at Romans 1:9 in particular where Paul says, ” For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” Would you call Paul a heathen too? I do not believe you would. I know this verse is not about vain repetitions in singing, but it does illustrate that repeating even prayers is a practice of the apostle Paul.

I don’t believe I am far off here in illustrating that the apostle Paul was admitting to repetition in his prayers even though it appears to go against what Jesus said in mat 6:7. Let’s see what Barnes has to say on Romans 1:9, ” That without ceasing, adialeiptwv. This word means constantly, always, without intermission. It was not only once, but REPEATEDLY. It had been the burden of his prayers. The same thing he also mentions in regard to other churches, 1Th 1:2 2:13.” (my emphasis of all caps added)

The bottom line is that what ever we do, if truly by the leading of the Holy Spirit, whether we are praising, praying to, or worshiping God, how can any man criticize it? I encourage you to stand on James 4:11-12 in your feeling against CCM.

“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?” (NIV)

I also encourage you to stand on Titus 2:8 as a fellow believer:

“Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.” (NLT)

I truly believe that your critical spirit can be more damaging to the body of Christ even if you were correct. You and [the network] have not been sent to earth to judge.

As [the network] continues to criticize other believers who listen to and sing forms of CCM, then as one of those Christians, I will stand on Ecc 7:5 (NLT) It is “better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.” Notice I am referring to you as a wise person as in being characterized by scholarly knowledge. I believe you are certainly misled in some of your interpretations and uses of scripture just like any of the rest of us are subject to at times.”

Response from Radio Joe:

This will be my last reply to you, as I have a lot of positive emails to answer. You agree that the people in First Kings are Baal worshippers. Why, then, would CCM imitate them by repeating the same words over and over? Does Baal worship honor God?

Praying without ceasing does not mean repeating a Rosary type prayer over and over. Would you talk to another human, like your father, that way? Did Jesus ever pray that way?

Paul did not say that he prayed the same exact words over and over, but brought the same requests to God in prayer.

If you believe that Paul never criticized anyone when they were wrong, read Galatians 2:11 “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”

That was not his last email. There were eight more (4 each) after that one.

My Response:

It might be best if we do drop this subject. I have never won a person over to Christ by arguing with them and I do not expect you or [the network] are going to change policies regarding on-air criticism of fellow Christians based on one man’s input. I am confident that I am not the only one who has voiced these types of complaints to you regarding your criticism of CCM.

The very music played on [the network] repeats phrases so your vain repetition argument goes out the window pretty quick anyway. Once again, go back and listen to the song that played just after the sound bit that I have been referring too. I counted at least 12 instances of “Take me gently”. No I would not speak to another human that way either. I really did not want to split hairs to make my point, but you are being very hypocritical. I have no problems with [the network]‘s use of hymnal music, and in fact like that it is used it in our church from time to time.

We are Christians singing and praising God with the music and instruments that we feel led of the Lord to use. We are not heathen praising and worshiping a false god as referred to in 1 Kings. You are either comparing apples to oranges, or you are questioning who I am praising with my use of CCM. Either way, I believe you may be on dangerous ground with God. Stop going by what your religious teachers taught you and ask God to speak directly to you through the power of the Holy Spirit. You may not even be aware of how God can use you if you will just surrender yourself to him.

As I said, this went on for a while and then he closed one of his emails with this phrase.

From Radio Joe:

“… God bless you, Hank. If CCM is your thing, that is between you and your God, not between us.”

“You and your God”? Like MY God is different from the God that other Christians praise and worship?

I will skip a few emails to one that neared the end of our exchange.

My Response:

You did it again. In your last line you wrote to me as if my God were different than yours. It is as if you are speaking to me in a condescending way based on my choice of music. It is a shame that you think God can only be worshiped your way with music. Believe it or not, I do understand your point at some level even though I do not agree with it.

I have never in my emails with you requested that you start playing CCM on [the network], not once. Play the hymn music and enjoy it. It is great. Even promote your support of hymn only music. What I request is that you stop criticizing the things you do not play. Stop criticizing Christians who sing and listen to CCM.

Through our conversations I have come to a sobering realization that you have not yet disputed. It appears that you are questioning the salvation of others based on the fact that they sing and listen to CCM.

The conversation pretty much ended as we exchanged a few pleasantries and went on about our own business. Unfortunately, [the network] can easily be replaced with [a church or pastor] and the term CCM can be replaced with at least a few dozen other items like: what you wear, the translation of the Bible you reference, your religious denomination, whether you get your baby baptized, what parenting philosophy you choose, whether you have tattoos or nose rings, and the list goes on and on.

Can’t we Christians all just get along without criticizing things about each other that have nothing to do with our personal relationships with Jesus Christ? If you have turned your life over to God, it doesn’t mater what you look like, what tunes you sing to praise God, or whether you attend a particular church. All that matters is that you have Got Jesus.