As the blog title declares, this is the repost of what I wrote a year after this past week’s August 30th repost, “When Strong Men Of God Weep.” For the record, four years later my personal pain from going through the shutdown of a church as judgment from God has healed. However, having had the experience of seeing “affliction by the rod of His wrath” up close (Lamentations 3:1, NKJV), I am all the more urgent to sound the alarm and the Lord’s call to repentance in the churches even as we labor to restore men! For during this same period I have been among many churches of varying size and ethnicity and have seen nothing to convince me I am telling a lie on God about His judgment.
Therefore, I pray that every church pastor and elder reading this will take it to heart. I also salute you this Labor Day among all of those that work if you are ruling well (which includes maintaining the biblically ordained order of God’s house) and laboring in the Word with all sound doctrine as God purely from His Word sees it, not sinful men in fleshy wisdom (1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:13-14). In so laboring, no matter how small the assembly you serve, you are a success in God’s eyes! Be faithful to the end knowing your eternal legacy is the souls in glory because you kept the Kingdom cause before you; letting God use you as the Word exemplified (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Originally Posted July 1, 2012
Today marks the one year anniversary since I became a retired pastor due to the disbanding of St. Mark Baptist Church here in Portland, OR. The Lord enabled me to faithfully serve the church for nearly fifteen years. I have not pursued any other church nor has any sought my service during this time which is all in God’s will for me. I miss serving the Lord’s sheep and preaching regularly but have enjoyed the lighter load of responsibility. As the Lord has led, I have purposely not written anything about the death of the church since last year’s blog on July 10, 2011 entitled, When Strong Men Of God Weep (under the category, Glory To God!) in any other forum until now.
I am sure the Lord has been keeping me from expressing any of the wide range of thoughts and emotions I have had over the past year until He in love could minister more of His instruction and healing into my life. In honor of His amazing work in me, I write in this blog only to offer what I hope will be insightful reflections on my experience in being part of a church that died. Let me begin by stating that I stand by everything I wrote in last July’s blog on the matter. Second, the death of anything we love hurts. So, there is no pretense here; a great part of the past year I have been experiencing all of the emotions of bereavement. Third, since I took responsibility for the church dying, Satan has made sure I have had plenty of accusations and questions.
The main question I have grappled with is what could I have done differently without compromising God’s will, way and Word? Experts abound to show pastors how to grow churches in today’s world, but with a prophet’s heart I rejected 99% of that stuff. I was also warned by “successful” pastors that preaching and witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone were not enough to build a New Testament church anymore. My position remains that building a church any other way is not pleasing to God and reflects a desire to fulfill a flesh rather than Kingdom agenda (Mark 16:14-20). Indeed, not growing by the preaching of the Gospel is an indictment of American Christianity since growth by conversions is only 2.2%. 3,500-4,000 churches in America close each year never to re-open.1 80% of American churches are stagnant or declining and ready to die.2
While decline and death may be the trend, I still needed to understand more fully why the church I served as pastor had to die. Only God could and did answer that question for me in a satisfactory way. In His comforting, assuring and encouraging instruction the Lord taught me that this was not all about me though it all is working together for my good (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:3-11). Churches are dying in a natural cycle of birth, life and death over the course of time to be sure. However, many historically and at this hour have died as a matter of God’s judgment after He called for repentance and revival as well as sent warnings through His prophets to no avail (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Lamentations 1-2; Revelation 2:1-5). This is the case with the church I shepherded until its death after a legacy of manmade religion and toleration of sin (Numbers 32:20-23).
This all leads to a final reflection and warning for all similar minded churches of manmade religion and sin. Unless you repent, your day to die at the hands of the Lord as judgment is also near. Some of you are already in the throes of death but are in denial. For the rest, rather than proudly judging how I may have failed to succeed as a pastor and rendering me useless, fear and see the death of the church I served as a clear sign and warning from God (Jeremiah 3:6-10; Luke 13:6-9; Revelation 3:1-3)!
To the faithful pastors who have been wickedly terminated or had your church doors close: be encouraged because our God is faithful to remember your service (Lamentations 3:1-26; Hebrews 6:10). To the righteous remnant of believers who are also aspiring strong men and great women of God in the image of Christ: stand firm in faith on God’s word no matter what it costs you now since great is your reward (Psalm 58:3-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; Revelation 3:4-6)!
1 D.J. Chuang, Churches Closing And Pastors Leaving, January 31, 2010, djchuang.com.
2 Ed Stetzer, Finding New Life For Struggling Churches, February 2004, SBCLife.com.
In the post, Kings And Judges With Christ, under the category, Encouragement, on August 8, 2021, I wrote to encourage God’s faithful about the glorious vindication and victory our God gives us after suffering in the cause of Christ and the Kingdom. This vindication and victory comes at the forced end of three and one half years of what the Lord Jesus describes as “great tribulation” the saints will endure with only a tiny remnant surviving. They will see Christ’s return with mortal eyes before being “changed” and joining the greater number of resurrected saints en route to Him in the sky (Matthew 24:15-22, 29-31; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NKJV).
To “bypass death”--one of the common mortal human experiences of living on earth--as the Lord had me mention in another place, is a prospect of magnitude beyond incredible!1 Biblically conservative teachers of God’s Word all well know, believe and teach His consequential judgment of death for Adam’s disobedience presented in Genesis 2:15-17 and set in motion as his and his progeny’s experience in perpetuity the day he actually sinned (Genesis 3:6-11, 17-19, 4:8, 5:5). Death has been so routinely the normative experience of mankind since, it is a byword for certainty and inevitability. Even the Son of God, Jesus Christ, died--not for any sins of His, but ours!
Indeed, the Lord took on a mortal body and permanently became one of us as the Son of Man, to die in our place and make atonement for our sins (Isaiah 53; John 10:14-18; Romans 3:9-26; Hebrews 2:14-17, 9:22-28). And though the Lord was resurrected from the dead on the third day after and is “alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18, NKJV) still, He died! The Bible records only two exceptions to the rule mortal humans die. Enoch and Elijah bypassed death millennia apart by God’s sovereign will and actions (Genesis 5:21-24; 2 Kings 2:9-11). These men had in common a single minded devotion to God. So then, a mortal bypassing the experience of death is extremely rare!
Yet clearly, bypassing death is exactly what the apostle Paul sets forth as revelation from Christ he is to convey as a reality for those among the saints “who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, NKJV). Rather than death, these remnant saints are instantaneously transformed from mortal to glorious immortal and “caught up together” with those resurrected “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NKJV). The bypass of death here is plainly the experience of those saints who remain alive through great tribulation until that “day of the Lord” and His wrath arrives (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, NKJV).2
As I wrote in a August 9th Facebook post promoting the August 8th blog, “God has ordained that His saints should suffer in the cause of Christ and the Kingdom in part as a matter of His “righteous judgment” to “be counted worthy of” it and the glories that follow (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, NKJV). This “is also totally consistent with His eternal spiritual principle: “…before honor is humility,” (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12; 1 Peter 1:3-12, 5:5-11, NKJV)” as I wrote too. Seeing the revealed weakness and falling away to date of many professed American Christians during God’s Coronavirus judgment, it is evident many do not possess a mindset to suffer anything for Christ and the Kingdom.3
This, of course, is the other reason the Lord in wisdom allows His professed people to go through various trials and finally, the great tribulation to demonstrate our faith, love and faithfulness in all perseverance; naturally separating out from our midst those that are not really His or sold out to Him!4 The perseverance of the saints is not a foregone conclusion as some teach. The Bible allows for real Christians to fall away in unbelief (Matthew 24:10; Hebrews 3:7-19). Perseverance is the God expected and helped outcome of a real Christian’s displayed faith, love (shown by obedience) and faithfulness through the most severe trials and tribulation to the end (Mark 13:13; Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 1:20-24; Hebrews 6:11-12, 10:32-39; 1 Peter 1:5-9; Revelation 12:7-13:18, 14:9-13).
Therefore, bypassing death is not the experience of billions of professed Christians in an “any moment” secret mass event that removes them from tribulation as is popularly depicted by many conservative evangelical Christians in what is called “the rapture.” But consistent with its biblical rarity, the bypass of death is for a remnant of faithful saints. Their faith, love and faithfulness in all perseverance enduring the greatest hardships and persecution against the saints of God in human history will be rewarded with the honor of bypassing death and being made immortal wherever they stand at the Second Coming of Christ!5 Whether they are conscious of it or not, these will all be of those we are teaching to be aspiring strong men and great women of God in the image of Christ!6
1 See the two-part post that begins January 5, 2020, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
2 Included among these preserved from death remnant saints are Jewish Christians who have suffered as a group historically longer than any other Christians! Read the two-
part post beginning February 16, 2020, Christ’s Message To His Faithful, under the categories, Bible Prophecy and Encouragement along with the one that follows on March
1, 2020, Offended By The Truth? It is under the category Call To Repent for very serious reasons tied to the February post.
3 In the January 5, 2020 blog already cited, the Lord enabled me to foresee the negative consequences that have occurred because professed Christians were not able to “go
to church.” Once again, the never should have been day of soft pedaling the Gospel to build big churches and pastor egos is over! Sincere repentance fed revival remains
the only solution for helping willing professed Christians prepare for so many even more severe trials and tribulation than the Coronavirus pandemic that are on the way.
Read also the March 29, 2020 post, Standing In Christ’s Strength, under the category, Encouragement.
4 See the two-part post starting June 7, 2020, Days Of Separation, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
5 Read the two-part post, The Prayers Of The Saints, under the category, Bible Prophecy that starts on March 16, 2014. Also, read my 2017 multi-part purposeful work to dis-
till what is coming and motivate professed Christian men to get in the game entitled, Restoring Men In Two Minute Drill, beginning on July 30th under the categories Bible
Prophecy and The Cause. Sadly, many of these men do not possess the heart of Lot for God much less Enoch or Elijah (2 Peter 2:7-8).
6 The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics is my flagship instructional resource for teaching aspiring strong men and great women of God in the image of Christ who are the
Lord’s faithful! The book and companion Strong Man Of God Men’s Group Study and Great Woman Of God Women’s Group Study are available at your favorite internet
book seller and in the Strong Man Store.
I open the New Year as the Lord leads continuing in this post to hold Him and His experiences up as our instructional example in having to endure persecution even to the death according to His Father’s will and purposes. As post titles beginning November 27, 2022 reflect, Christ was the Lamb slain prior to creation and persecuted before and to His birth along with shortly after as a young Child. This post briefly chronicles Christ’s persecution to His death on a Roman cross. We know this was all for our salvation, but what many are struggling with at this hour is why His followers must also suffer persecution as He? The Lord and His apostles provide instruction that is biblical Christianity to us.
While we know nothing about Satan’s persecution in attempts to tempt Christ to sin, corrupt, compromise or kill Him between His Childhood and the beginning of His ministry as an Adult, we know plenty from that point on thanks to New Testament writers. For example, no temptation was successful since commenting on the whole of His life the writer of Hebrews says He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15, NKJV). God the Father’s protection kept Satan from killing His Son during His formative years as it did through the three years or so He preached, taught and ministered throughout Israel starting “at about thirty years of age,” (Luke 3:23a, NKJV).
The launch of the Lord’s ministry followed His baptism by John the Baptist and being purposely “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” at the conclusion of “forty days and forty nights” of fasting from food (Matthew 3:13-4:2; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13, NKJV)!1 After His wilderness temptations, He “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” to begin His ministry (Isaiah 9:1-2; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-15, NKJV). Coming to “Nazareth, where he had been brought up,” the Lord Jesus offered His biblical credentials as the Messiah in its “synagogue on the Sabbath day;” reading from “the book of the prophet Isaiah,” (Isaiah 61:1-2a; Luke 4:16-21, NKJV).
It did not go well as those who knew the Lord from Childhood were incredulous of His claim to be the Messiah, then infuriated by His rebuke of their unbelief. They next put hands on and tried to kill Him by throwing Him “over the cliff” “of the hill” “their city was built” on. But He miraculously passed right “through the midst of them” escaping and “went His way,” (Luke 4:22-30, NKJV). This violent attempt to kill Christ was followed by several more as those in unbelief “persecuted” and “sought to kill Him,” (John 5:1-18, 8:48-59, 10:22-39, NKJV). Persecutors included His brothers and among those who would kill Him, Israel’s religious leaders (John 7:1-9, 11:38-57).2
Ultimately behind all the persecution and every attempt to kill the Lord Jesus was Satan as he in pure hatred had been seeking to do from before, at and after His birth. For he fully knew Christ was the foretold “Seed” of the woman that would crush him (Genesis 3:15, NKJV).3 According to the Lord, Satan is also a “murderer” and has been “from the beginning.” This is how it is that the Jews of that time sought to kill Him when they did since they carried out “the deeds” and “desires” of their “father the devil” as do all murderers (John 8:37-47, NKJV). However, no one could harm the Lord “because His hour had not yet come,” (Psalm 31:14-15; John 7:25-32, 40-52, 8:13-20, NKJV).
Even so, the Lord Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and foretold His impending suffering, death and triumphant resurrection to His disciples (Luke 9:18-22). And indeed, it came; the Lord’s hour ordained from eternity. It arrived by way of betrayal by a disciple possessed of Satan, “Judas, surnamed Iscariot,” (Luke 22:1-23; John 13:18-30, NKJV). He called this man ‘“Friend’” as he led “troops” out to arrest the Lord; ‘“betraying’” Him ‘“with a kiss,’” (Psalm 41:7-9; Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-51; John 18:1-3, NKJV). Consistent with His words about laying down His life saying, ‘“No one takes it from Me,’” the Lord surrendered to the throng (John 10:15-18, 18:4-11, NKJV).4 He told them too, it was their ‘“hour and’” Satan’s also--finally (Luke 22:52-53, NKJV).
After beating, whipping and humiliating Him, they crucified my Lord. But just as He said, He rose again on the third day certifying our salvation and on the fortieth day ascended back to His Father after instructing His apostles (Isaiah 53; Luke 24:36-53; Acts 1:4-11; Revelation 12:5b). As He made clear, His followers face the same satanically driven persecution as He resulting in suffering and leading to death for many as has occurred from the first century until now, because we are identified with Him (Matthew 10:16-42, 24:1-9; Luke 9:23-26, 21:12-19; John 15:18-16:4; Acts 9:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-8; 2 Timothy 3:10-12). Also, with Israel, our spiritual mother, there is still more to come until Christ’s return because she bore Him (Revelation 12:6-17)!5
1 See the January 29-February 12, 2017 three-part series and especially part two, Jesus, Son Of Man, under the category, The Cause. Interestingly, Luke 4:13 says, “Now,
when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time,” (NKJV). This plainly asserts that the devil was relentless in his persecution of
2 The tragic historical conduct of Christianity the religion of men and its leaders awaiting God’s final judgment parallels that of first century Judaism’s religious leaders. Pro-
fessed Christian religious leaders have also violently persecuted and murdered the righteous as opposition (Revelation 16:19b, 17:1-6, 18:1-19:4). Read Foxe’s Book of
3 Isn’t that amazing? More so than the unsaved and professed Christians he deceives to ignore or disparage it, Satan actually believes God’s Word! Read the January
9, 2022 post, Easier To Read Bibles, under the categories Bible Prophecy and Instruction to be reminded again of the truth: there is a war going on between God’s King-
dom and Satan’s kingdom of darkness. All mankind is in play as participants on one side or the other! On whose side do you stand?
4 Here is the reason faithful Christians--every aspiring strong man and great woman of God in the image of Christ--does not take up arms to resist persecutors. He taught
and set the example for how we are to conduct ourselves. The Lord led me to write about this in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics. Get your Soft or
Hard Cover copy at your favorite internet bookseller or brick and mortar bookstore and the Strong Man Store.
5 Satan is the original anti-Semite. He hates and will violently persecute the Jews until Christ returns and rescues God’s elect remnant from among them (Isaiah 10:20-23;
Micah 5:3-4, 7:14-20). Consequently, the historic and ongoing rise of anti-Semitism in the world at this hour should not baffle professed Christians that take God’s written
Just as Black History Month, so, Juneteenth is a commemoration started by black Americans for our people and fellow citizens to remember the end of American slavery. Juneteenth is the clever handle used for June 19, 1865 which marks the date the last slaves in Texas heard about the end of slavery with the defeat of the Southern Confederacy in the Civil War a few months earlier and over two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This year we have reached the one hundred and fiftieth year since that first Juneteenth. While this is a good thing and should be celebrated to the fullest, I am concerned about the condition of freedmen today.
There will be Juneteenth parades, picnics, concerts, church services, memorials and many community events featuring political, social, educational, religious and financial heavy hitters celebrating a great moment in our nation’s history; a moment when an evil chapter was brought to its end. Indeed, it was in 1865 Texas and should be today a celebration like unto ancient Israel’s Jubilee year that God instituted for them (Leviticus 25:8-17). Every fiftieth year the sound of a trumpet on the Day of Atonement announced the Jubilee when liberty was proclaimed in all the land. Slaves were set free, oppression banned, fields not planted and debts cancelled.
Launched as it was on the Day of Atonement, the Jubilee reconciled men to God and to each other as families were restored and neighbors brought back together after forced servitude along with other types of oppression due to disputes and indebtedness had divided them. In my mind’s eye I see the ancient Jews and my slave forefathers in their respective historical years of jubilee shouting, leaping, dancing and singing as the long wait to be released from heavy and painful burdens ended in freedom and hope for a better future! However, for both peoples the time of jubilee was all too short-lived as the evil works of human sinfulness in a fallen world overtook them.
For America’s black freedmen in the aftermath of that first Juneteenth, the realities of unabated racial bigotry and hostilities from many of their fellow white citizens have dogged them to some degree or another to this very hour. In spite of this, a relative few especially of those energized by the faith and love of Jesus Christ have been able to move past all artificially imposed barriers of race to achieve much. Accomplished African Americans are found in nearly every field of endeavor including the highest political and legal offices in the land. This post-slavery progress is undeniable and yet, there is still so much holding back the remaining number of freedmen.
Keeping it real, we cannot in all honesty assert the deep seated problems of over the top black male incarceration rates, gang violence, low educational attainment, joblessness, female single parent headed households and poverty are all caused by persistent racism--though most assuredly it has its surmountable in Christ part (John 16:33; Philippians 4:13; 1 John 5:4-5). No, the poor state of many freedmen today is due in large part to self-sabotage in that the guilty have chosen the sluggard’s way of victimization, entitlement, lawlessness and hedonism in all rebellion against God and His Word (Proverbs 6:6-11, 20:1, 23:29-35, 24:30-34, 28:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)!
Freedom from physical bondage did not also equal freedom from the always deadly trio of Satan (the ultimate oppressor), sin and self for many blacks. As permitted by God in perfect mercy and grace, the black experience beginning with slavery was not intended to embitter us in perpetual inner bondage, but bring the willing among us to the greatest possible freedom (Lamentations 3:19-42). This freedom is found by faith in Jesus Christ alone. He is the eternal Jubilee for all yearning for liberty, new beginnings and a superior future (Psalm 146:5-8; Isaiah 42:5-9, 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21; Romans 8:1-2)! In the freedom of the Son clung to through all adversity, we were meant to be powerful latter day witnesses to all men under the sun and bring much glory to the God of our salvation!
So, did God fail in His good purposes toward us because the greater numbers of freedmen one hundred and fifty years later are in dire straits spiritually and materially? No way! Those who have refused to muster the will to move beyond the admittedly real obstacles of racism even through faith in Jesus Christ from that first Juneteenth until now have failed themselves and their children. Truly, generational patterns of alcohol and drug abuse, irresponsibility, sexual promiscuity and out of wed-lock births (all of which I also once had my time) have taken hold to produce entrenched poverty. To be sure, generational patterns of sin that only a personal life changing faith walk with Jesus Christ can permanently reverse are by no means limited to the physically poor.
The Liberating Gospel Of Jesus Christ!
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NKJV).
The Scriptures teach that if a man will repent from his sins and believe the Gospel he will be forgiven and declared righteous. Such a man will also be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and brought to spiritual life; beginning what is intended by God to be a lifelong journey of growing faith, love, obedience, transformation and empowered service (Romans 1:16-17, 3:21-31, 8:1-17, 12:1-21).
Still at the head of the New Year and on the eve of another February Black History Month, I am posting what the Lord led me to write for all, but especially the young, black American male inmates that read the print version of The Strong Man Of God Monthly Newsletter distributed by Strong Man Ministries to mostly Oregon and Washington prisons.1 These young men fill prisons across America. In the cause of Strong Man Ministries to restore men, their families and communities, I have gone forth as its Director into the prisons, streets, schools, football fields and basketball courts preaching the Gospel, teaching God’s Word and witnessing Christ to the end of saving even a willing few.2
Devontay was among the most promising of the twentysomethings I had encountered in our prison ministry. He was street smart, tough, but real and humble about wanting to turn his life around as I write in this anecdote. I have only done a minor edit and added footnotes to it. If it would be helpful to steer other young people (to include any of his four children) away from what he had endured in his life and suffered from his admitted poor choices which is my aim (hence, “cautionary” in the title) then, Devontay would be glad for me to put this post out. May it be so, Lord!
(There will not be a post next week, February 7th as I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with my wife--praise the Lord! The Lord willing, my next post will be on the following Sunday evening, February 14th.)
Originally Published January 2021
The news put me in shock as the sudden death of those we know always does. I had not heard about the tragic early morning accident on the local television news shows I typically watch as I learned later was reported on. I found out about the accident that ended the mortal life of 27 year-old Devontay Rhodes back on October 22, 2020 from another one of my spiritual sons in the Christian faith who is on lockdown at Oregon’s Deer Creek Correctional Institution (DRCI), Martin Lockett, in a letter he wrote to me just before Thanksgiving.3 He thought I knew.
Martin had met Devontay when they were both at Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI). Devontay was transferred there after first being at the Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI) in the fall of 2015 where I encountered him as a participant in our Ministry’s Strong Man Of God Men’s Group Study.4 Even now, my heart breaks thinking about how so very young he was and too many of our black American incarcerated males are. Unlike many of his peers though, bright, energetic and determined Devontay was genuinely eager for change in his life.
When an upcoming periodic baptismal service was announced during the study, Devontay requested that I baptize him. As a seasoned pastor, I proclaimed the Gospel to him to make sure the faith in Christ he professed rested on biblical grounds. However, I declined to baptize him until I had the opportunity to instruct him more in what it was about. He was disappointed, but clearly undeterred because he showed up at the service requesting again to be baptized. I relented. After giving him instruction, I baptized him.
As it turned out, Devontay was transferred soon after and I could not do any further instruction except through correspondence. I also wrote and asked Martin to help Devontay in the faith and he did up until his release. After his release, Devontay called me with some life issues I gave biblical counsel on how to handle. Then, began what became only our occasional phone contacts and more recently, e-mail exchanges until his death. In fact, we last exchanged e-mails this past August 31st in his renewed desire to live for Christ. I sent him a final follow-up e-mail on September 22nd.
My August e-mail to Devontay was like most of our previous phone conversations and e-mails with me providing biblical counsel on a life issue that went unheeded (Proverbs 19:21). In it, I addressed his ambition to be a bartender as a Christian and gave one reason it was incompatible with our faith being that serving alcohol to some led to intoxicated driving and tragic accidents. He died thirty days later ironically after a man charged with DUII crashed into his car on Oregon’s I-84. Devontay was eager for change in relationship with Christ, but was just not ready to do all of what He requires to obtain it! What about you? You only have so much time (Luke 9:23-26, 13:1-9)!
1 Subscription to the digital E-version of the newsletter is available.
2 Learn more about our evangelism and ministry among youth by visiting the Strong Man Minute Page on the Strong Man Ministries Web Site, The Strong Man Of God.Org.
3 Learn more about our ongoing national Books To USA Prisons Project on the Give Page of the Strong Man Of God Web Site.
4 This is the same Strong Man Of God Men’s Group Study available for purchase in the Strong Man Store and most major internet booksellers.
It is with great joy the Lord has allowed me to conclude my 2018 blog writing service to Him and our readers with a word of instruction on tithing. Writing a post on legalism this fall, I was troubled that I was not able to say more about this important, voluntary spiritual privilege and discipline for willing Christians that has been mostly foisted on us historically as a legalistic carryover requirement of God’s Law and commandments to Israel.1 I know some were worried I was against tithing. However, the footnote I would have written explaining the sin of teaching Christians to tithe as a matter of Law, rather than faith, free will love and worship would have been this post and too long!
Now, by the grace of our God, here in summary form is the teaching the Lord gave me early in my journey as a Christian over forty years that I also taught my family and church members as a pastor. Let me begin by saying I was introduced to the concept of tithing as a Christian babe in a traditional black American Baptist church by leadership that insisted it was God’s required will straight up out of Malachi 3:8-12. As a result, out of guilt, shame, fear and inadequate faith I wrestled with how to become an obedient tither and where to begin--off of my net or gross income that either way by sight left me short of my budget needs--as most other folk when introduced to tithing.
After much prayer, I took my first shaky steps toward being one who tithed off of my net (just keeping it real), then my gross and eventually whatever financial increase came to me in addition to giving my God offerings for whatever causes I was led by Him to sow into. Along the way, He took me deeper into His Word about tithing as giving not out of the Law for a Christian, but faith and love (that authentic, always involves the will and worship) as a voluntary spiritual privilege and discipline. Building faith and love are why I am convinced God does not harshly swoop down on us as babes right away to correct tithing wrongly introduced as legalism--but woe to the unrepentant legalist!
Giving a tithe (a tenth or more) in the Bible is first introduced some 500 years before the Law as the act of Abraham, the man of faith, when he did so to “Melchizedek, king of Salem” who “was the priest of God Most High.” Melchizedek had come out to bless Abraham after his successful rescue of Lot and others from marauding kings (Genesis 14:13-20, NKJV). In that blessing, the mysterious priest declared, ‘“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand.'” After this blessing, Abraham gave Melchizedek “a tithe of all,” (Genesis 14:19-20, NKJV).2 What made Abraham do this?
Making offerings to God goes back to Adam, who obviously taught his sons to do so (Genesis 4:1-7). Clearly too, the practice of making religious offerings to priests as intermediaries with a tithe being the norm was common in Abraham’s day. Beyond this, no doubt, the key to Abraham’s tithe given to Melchizedek was his faith recognition in the blessing that his successful rescue campaign and all of its spoils were the direct result of the Most High’s providence who owns everything in Heaven and on earth! Abraham then--though he refused anything for himself, was giving back a portion to the priest for God what He had already blessed him with (Genesis 14:21-24).
The foregoing principle of giving was preserved by God as motive and requirement in the Covenant Law and commandments He gave Moses for Israel to support the priesthood, Levites, His house and benevolent causes among the people (Numbers 18:7-32; Deuteronomy 12:1-19, 14:22-29, 26:1-15). Later, king Solomon declared God’s principle and the associated blessings in instructions he as a father gave his son (Proverbs 3:9-10). After this, it is only for their disobedience in not giving as required in His Law and commandments that God rebukes Judah before and after their Babylonian captivity. In the New Testament and under the New Covenant there is no divine command to tithe!
The Lord Jesus commended the Jewish religious leadership of the time for their obedience to tithe, but failure in other, “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23, NKJV). In conformity with the divine transcendent principle, He also taught the blessedness of giving of one’s substance to God (Luke 6:38, 9:10-17, 12:13-21) to support His Kingdom workers, work and benevolent causes; receiving such support as did His apostles with but one exceptional exception (Luke 8:1-3, 10:1-7; Acts 20:33-35; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 1 John 3:16-18). In the likeness of Melchizedek and the priests of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ is also our High Priest and formal Intermediary when we give to God.3 He receives our tithes and offerings on behalf of the Father and is also honored by us with them (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-5:10, 7:1-8:6).4
Thus, even though there is no New Testament command to tithe of our income in giving as Christians, the principle--reaching all the way back past the Law to Abraham our faith example in everything, commends it to us as normative and certainly, as I can testify, a spiritual privilege and discipline (like regular Bible study, prayer and church attendance) God blesses as a matter of walking by faith in Him (Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:6; James 2:20-26)!5 So, then, let any professed Christian leader attempting to get God’s people to give through tithing by falsely and legalistically making it a requirement of the Law repent now if you will please God. Teach His Word faithfully!6 I wish all a blessed and prosperous New Year especially as you make giving to God a spiritual priority.7
1 Read the two-part post, Let’s Talk Legalism, under the category, Instruction, beginning September 23, 2018.
2 So much for the net versus gross question!
3 Melchizedek and our Lord Jesus also very significantly share in common being bearers of “bread and wine,” (Genesis 14:18; Luke 22:14-20; John 6:31-59).
4 As the apostle Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 8-9, Christ’s churches and Parachurch ministries have a stewardship responsibility from Him to receive any kind of offer-
ings as His agents and to disburse them at His direction in support of His Kingdom workers, work and causes. Woe to the churches, ministries and their leaders that do
not do so (Matthew 23:14; 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11)!
5 Learn more about the concept of spiritual discipline for the aspiring strong man and great woman of God in the image of Jesus Christ from my book, The Strong Man Of
God: Back To Basics. It is available at all major internet booksellers, by order at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore or in the Strong Man Store.
6 Teaching God’s word faithfully does include examining the spiritual, moral, ethical and transcendent truths embodied in the Old Testament Law and commandments to
understand His good intent in them and to make a proper application as the Lord led me to write in the post on legalism. So, for example, we can look at Malachi 3:8-12
and see how God wanted the Israelites to obey His Law and commandments on tithing to be blessed of Him while also fulfilling His support plans for the priests, Levities,
the Temple and community benevolence. God stresses His willingness to bless their obedience to the point of inviting them to put Him to the test! The application for
Christians is to see the consistency of God in His transcendent principle of blessed giving through the proportional discipline of tithing that reaches all the way back to
Abraham which also our Lord Jesus Christ affirms. Then, out of faith and love, to act out of it to benefit both us and God's Kingdom priorities!
7 Please remember Strong Man Ministries in your giving among the ordained Kingdom workers (me--Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 3 John 5-8), works and causes of
God in this generation. Give securely on our Web Site at https://thestrongmanofGod.org/Give. You can also mail your cash, check or money order made out to our or-
ganizational parent, Open Door Communication Ministries, Inc. and send it to P.O. BOX 56704, Portland, OR 97238.
This Resurrection Sunday, I will celebrate my fortieth year as a born again follower of Jesus Christ; a Christian--glory to God and praise His exalted name! Technically, my day of salvation and new birth took place on Resurrection Sunday, April 10, 1977 which is tomorrow. So, with the Lord’s blessing, I am celebrating my spiritual birthday all week long! And why not do this? Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me (c’mon James Cleveland with a little help from Gladys Knight and the Pips)! I am overjoyed; can you tell? Yes and I am mighty grateful to God too.
Truly, as I recently wrote about in the four-part blog, God Of Restoration And Judgment under the category, The Cause with three others, I am thankful that the divine cause to proclaim the Gospel to the ethnicities, races, tribes and tongues of men upon the face of the whole earth, one day, in the 20th century, reached me; even thoroughly sinful, wretched and no account me! Just as lost, empty and without purpose as I could be; God used one of His dedicated daughters, Mrs. Altamese Lee of Jacksonville, FL (a family friend since my childhood) to share the Gospel with and lead me to pray to receive it in repentance and faith that Resurrection Sunday 1977 after church in her home.
I have shared all or part of my testimony in various blogs and writing platforms, so, I won’t share it all today.1 However, reflecting back on that day, I feel pretty dumb to think at the time I was doing momma Lee a favor to drive up to Jacksonville from Orlando to go to church with her for the “holy day.” No, in her sincere devotion to God and obedience to His Word to “tell it,” she did me the favor for which I will be eternally grateful! And while I do not remember every single word she said to me that day, among her words was that sweet, simple Gospel of Scripture I now also freely share with the soul reading this that may not have heard it plainly stated (Matthew 10:7-8).
Mankind are sinners and condemned before a holy God no matter the station, problems or experiences in life. The Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ is that He came into the world to die on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day to secure God’s forgiveness for and save us from His just condemnation. If one will repent (turn from embracing his sins) and receive the Person (Jesus) and message of the Gospel in child-like faith, then that one will be saved (Acts 2:22-40; Romans 3:9-31, 10:4-13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)! This is not about religion, but relationship restored at God’s initiative out of love and grace (John 1:12-13, 3:1-21; Ephesians 2:1-10)!
Again, how grateful I am to God for His love, grace and mercy that came to me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the new birth and resulting incredible journey I have been on forty years that continues into eternity! My journey, thus far, has had tears of both grief and joy. Grief has come to me from struggles with sinful thinking, attitudes, conduct and habits that God, the perfect Father, has been at work dealing with in me. My, my, how we love our sins! Yet, we born again Christians have a Father that works a discipline plan for us that includes painful chastening to bring us into conformity with His will and seeing our progress, we love Him for it (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:1-11).
Beyond grief from my struggles with Satan, sin and self to grow in Christ-likeness over forty years, it has come far too often from professed Christians in the pews and pulpits which to this hour I still find amazing since supposedly, we are all on the same journey as brethren in Christ. Yes, I know as the willfully weak are always so ready to explain, we are all at different levels of maturity in Christ. But really; professed Christians that remain comfortable and immature in sin? According to God’s Word, this is not of Him (Romans 6; Ephesians 4:7-16; Philippians 3:12-21; Hebrews 5:5-14). Such an attitude is of the many corrupt and inferior displays of manmade Christianity the religion deceitfully raised up by Satan to destroy the soul possessing it (Romans 2:1-16, 8:12-13; Galatians 6:7-8).
Oh, but the joy of the Lord in the journey has been so much more than any grief! For the Lord has never failed to meet me in every circumstance good and evil to lead me out and forward in His perfect or permissive will. Daily I have overflowed in the abundance and superior quality of His life by the Holy Spirit. Daily I have experienced the inexhaustible riches of His love, grace in blessings, forgiveness and regularly His deliverances and healings! Because of His mercies and forgiveness new every day, it should be no great mystery why I love my risen Lord so; why I am so sold out and devoted to His service and causes in the Gospel (Luke 7:36-50). Indeed, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and commend Him and His great restoration in the Gospel to all reading this especially of the generations behind me (Psalm 34:8-22)! Thank You, Lord, for forty years to date!
(Since I will be celebrating my spiritual birthday Resurrection Sunday, this post will stand until my next on Sunday, April 23, 2017--Lord willing. Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday 2017!)
1 I share my testimony of coming to Christ in the most complete form in the final two parts of a five part Journal article entitled, Releasing The Strong Man! in the
Journal Archives at The From Slavery To Victory Education Project (FSTVEP) Web Site.
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