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Spiritual Rebooting

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 BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     When personal computers first came on the scene, users argued about whether it was best to shut down your computer every night and start it up again every morning or to leave the computer running continuously. Since there was no clear consensus, I came down firmly on the side of leaving the machine on, figuring that one less switch to turn off and on each day can only be a good thing. However, I soon discovered that, like most everything in the world, computers needed to be shut down once in a while in order to operate effectively. When programs acted like they were trying to compute the square root of the mean of the dimensions of the universe when I asked them to perform a simple function, I knew that it was time to shut it down. After a prolonged period of opening and closing programs, checking e-mail, and surfing the web, the “brain” of my PC became full of both useful and useless information, resulting in sluggish performance and the occasional “locking up”. When the PC was shut down, it purged its memory of all the useless data, stored the important stuff, and then “rebooted” with all the essential software running smoothly.

     I am convinced that one of the biggest problems with our lives as twenty-first century disciples of Christ is that we don’t “shut down and reboot” enough. We fill every block in our calendars with work or social activities. We can be reached at any moment by cell phone. Even in our leisure time, we sit with the remote and channel-surf through thousands of messages and images. Our five senses are barraged all day long and we are continually running behind schedule. And then we wonder why we feel so worn out and don’t sense the presence of the Lord in our lives.

     Striving to be Christ-like means more than becoming more righteous, humble, and honest. It means reflecting His priorities in life. A casual reading of the four gospels might lead one to think that Jesus’ brief, three-year ministry was a whirlwind of non-stop activity – healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, preaching the Good News. However, Luke tells us that, in the midst of prolonged periods of grueling ministry and teaching, “…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16). Some of these “spiritual retreats” occurred just before major events in His ministry – before He chose the twelve apostles; before the Transfiguration; and in Gethsemane, before He went to the cross. It was very important to our Lord that He often shut down the activity of His life and spend time alone with His Father.

     There are three elements to a Christ-like spiritual retreat. First of all, Luke says that Jesus “often withdrew”. It is essential that we “get away from it all” on a regular basis – withdrawing from work, family, and social responsibilities in order to focus on God’s “big picture”. Secondly, Luke says that Jesus went to “lonely places”. Whether it was in the mountains or in the desert, the purpose of these locations was to remove all the possible distractions. Finally, the purpose of Christ’s retreats was for Him to pray – a time to immerse Himself in the presence of His Father. Great refreshment waits for the disciple who is willing to reduce all of life to their Bible, prayer, and the presence of God, whether it is for a few hours or for a few days.

     Summer and holidays are traditionally times in our culture for people to schedule some “down time”. Unfortunately, we typically fill that “down time” with trips to overcrowded beaches and amusement parks, cross-country jogs to visit family members, or major home-improvement projects. I’d like to challenge you to eliminate some less important activities from your schedule and plan regular times of “withdrawal to lonely places to pray.” Find a “lonely place” in your home and spend at least a half an hour a day in prayer and Bible study. Find a “lonely place” in your community (such as a park) and spend a few hours a week in extended Bible reading and prayer. Find a camp or retreat center in your region where you can spend a few days once or twice a year in prayer, fasting, and searching for God’s presence and guidance. If “spiritual rebooting” was essential to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, then who are we to consider it optional?

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Ask the Pastor - Tithing Questions

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Senior Pastor Oakwood Presbyterian Church

QUESTION: “Do Christians have to follow the practice of tithing (giving 10% of their income to the church)? Wasn’t that an Old Testament practice that doesn’t apply to us anymore, since we are no longer under the Law?”

ANSWER: The fact that Paul says, "we are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14) doesn't apply to this question at all. In that context, Paul is talking about the law or grace as a means to salvation and victory over the power of sin. We are always under God's law as the rule book for life. Christ fulfilled the purpose of the ceremonial laws (i.e., the temple rituals and sacrifices, the priesthood, the cleansing laws, the dietary laws) as they pointed to His nature and work as the Messiah, so they no longer apply to us. The command to give ten percent of your income wasn’t in any way a shadow pointing forward to the person or work of Christ; it was a moral law, and obedience to it was a testimony to God’s ownership of us and our resources, and a reflection of trust in God’s provision. The moral laws, as they are summarized in the 10 Commandments, are still intended to govern our lives every day. We are not saved by keeping the moral laws, but Christ saved us so that we might be freed and enabled by His power to keep them.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commands.”

      So the relevant question is whether or not the requirement to give ten percent of your increase was considered part of the ceremonial law or the moral law in the Old Testament. A careful study of both Old and New Testaments will show that the practice of giving to the Lord a tenth of your increase was a part of the lives of God’s people before, during, and after the period of time that the ceremonial laws were in effect:

  • It is important to notice that God's people tithed before the Mosaic Law was given (Abraham - Gen. 14, Jacob - Gen. 28).
  • Jesus condemned the Pharisees' legalistic attitude toward tithing, but upheld the practice of tithing itself (Luke 11)
  • Paul instructed the Corinthians to "set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income" on the first day of the week, which would seem to be a reference to tithing (I Cor. 16).
  • Moses said that the tithes were to be used to support the work of the Levites in the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:21-24). Paul uses this passage and principle to support the practice of tithes being used to support the work of preachers of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:13,14).

     The burden of the argument would rest upon those who say that the command to tithe was ceremonial in nature and has been abrogated. I see nothing in the New Testament to support this argument.

QUESTION: “Should I give my whole tithe to my local church, or is it appropriate to give some of it to other Biblical ministries?”

ANSWER: Answer: This question isn’t specifically answered in God’s Word, but I think that a look at the basic principles of the tithe can guide us here. According to Leviticus 27:30-34 the tithe "belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord". To withhold it is considered stealing from the Lord (Malachi 3:7-9). God goes on to say, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse [of the temple]" (Malachi 3:10). By submitting it to the leadership of the church we give it to Him. The leadership is accountable before Him for how it is used. I think that as long as we are able to fulfill our vows to our congregation and recognize the leadership as being legitimately called by the Lord, we should entrust the entire tithe into their hands, since it is holy to the Lord. Any giving beyond the tithe can be directed to other ministries that we would like to support. We should avoid the temptation of trying to lead the church ourselves by personally redirecting where our tithes are used.

QUESTION: “Should I tithe on my income before taxes are taken out or after?”

ANSWER: This question isn’t specifically answered in God’s Word, but I think that a look at the basic principles of the tithe can guide us here. According to Leviticus 27:30-34 the tithe "belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord". To Tithes are to be given on the increase of our possessions, period. I don't see any Biblical basis for considering the (large) portion of income that we use to pay to the government as being exempt from tithing (in other words, we should tithe on gross income, not net).  Few Christians would consider the money they use to pay sales taxes at a store to be exempt from the tithe, so why should income taxes be different?

QUESTION: “How do I keep from seeing the practice of tithing in a legalistic way?”

ANSWER: It's helpful for me to think of the proper attitude behind tithing as being like that of keeping the Sabbath. Just as our whole income and our whole week belongs to the Lord, so He has required us to set apart a tenth of our increase and a seventh of our time as "holy", belonging to the Lord in a special way. It shows our submission to His Lordship and it shows our trust in Him to provide the resources that we need to serve Him.  Also, for the believer, giving to the work of the Kingdom and the preaching of the Gospel is to be seen as a good investment, resulting in far more satisfaction, joy, and reward than using those financial resources for earthly possessions and purposes. "God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7) and "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35). So this isn't legalism - tithing is worthless if it isn't from the heart, given joyfully due to trust in the Lord and excitement about seeing our resources used for His glory.

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