Preface: The theme of our current series of sermons is "Investing." We are exploring God's Word that teaches: "It is not what we have that forms our character, but what we do with what we have!" Dad was the first person of a family of 14 to become a Christian. He attended a church in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. During the Great Depression he put $5 in the offering and marked it "tithe". A deacon came back to him and asked how much change he wanted back. Dad said "None." The deacon responded: "Brother Lonnie, no one puts in that much money."
Dad had read the Bible about tithing and knew he had done the right thing. He decided it was time to look for a church that believed in tithing. One day while cutting wood in a forest he heard men praying. He approached them, became acquainted and found a new church home.
He and mom married in 1936. Tithing on their meager income was DNA. They moved from the mountains to a small town in Piedmont, North Carolina. Dad worked in a textile mill. The owner came by one day and said: "Lonnie, you need a home." Dad responded that he could not afford one. The owner of the mill loaned Dad and Mom $1200. Dad built a frame home. The owner of the mill said: "Lonnie, you need a well." He loaned Dad $600 to put down a well to have water to the house.
Dad sold the home for $3,000. Paid off debt. Tithed. Then he and mom bought thirty-three acres of flood-ravaged land in Ashe County, NC for $600. The old house had been under water. They boiled water and hand-scrubbed the house with lye soap before moving in with five children. I was the baby.
Over the next few years mom helped keep the farm going. Dad worked multiple jobs, gave directions with the farm and helped with plantings and harvests, operated a sawmill/lumber business with his brother, and began pastoring a rural church.
About mid-1950's Dad and Mom decided to enter full-time pastoring. Dad shared with a realtor that he would take $10,000 for his part of a sale. Folks thought dad had lost his mind. It was an outrageously high price for that time. The realtor very quickly sold for $11,000 to an artist from Florida.
Dad and Mom tithed $1,000 and invested $9,000 in 28 acres of land in China Grove, NC.
There is more to the story. Dad lived another 50 years. Mom lived another 55 years. But to the end theirs was a story of tithing and giving.
Witnessing the stewardship of Laila's and my parents has been a tremendous influence in our lives. We agreed before marriage that tithing would be part of our worship as we serve Jesus. We also agreed that our marriage would be devoted to stewardship allowing us to be generous to the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We both find enormous joy in sharing our blessings with others.
Just this past weekend we were at a missions conference. There were a large number of men and women missionaries. I was meditating and decided to give a special gift to a certain missionary lady. But after the meeting I did not see her.
Laila and I finally walked to the car and drove away. Laila said: "I want you to know that I gave money to a missionary lady." It was the same lady I had planned to give money.
Laila and I have developed a ministry to pastoral couples. We raise $200 to treat a pastoral couple to a meal at their favorite restaurant. After the meal we present them with one of our books with a new $100 bill inside the front cover. We tell them it is a gift loving people have given us to give to them.
We have experienced incredible moments of joy by couples being encouraged. (Remember that Laila and I are children of pastors). In the next few weeks we are planning ministry time with 30 pastoral couples. Currently, we are only $1000 shy of our goal for this tour.
My prayer is that you will experience the joy of partnering with others in Kingdom work. No possession is as exciting as the joy of encouraging another person to be faithful in following Jesus.
While there are rewards eternal we are constantly amazed at how many blessings we celebrate as we journey toward heaven.
As I prepare to send this letter to you I am waiting for Dr. Bako from the African country of Chad to wake up in our cottage. Yesterday I picked him up at ANM to come to our home for dinner and a time of encouraging him before he returns to serve as Administrative Bishop for hundreds of pastors and churches.
If you do not invest in Jesus' Church by tithing and giving my hope is that you will soon decide to and celebrate the joy with us! "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Malachi 3:10; Hebrews 7:8 "In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him (Jesus) who is declared to be living."