Malachi 3:8 - Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
I was born into a divided family:
· My mom was Italian and dad was German
· My mom was born in the USA and my dad was an illegal immigrant
· My mom was a Catholic and my dad was Lutheran
And I was a success driven 16 year old when I left my home at 401 East 88 Street, in New York City to begin a professional boxing career at Lou Stillman’s Gym with Whitey Bimtein and Emil Monteverdi. Whitey was Jewish and a world famous boxing trainer, Monte was Catholic and my fight manager, and that combination added to my spiritual confusion, but not my boxing ability. I retired from boxing undefeated at 19 (10 wins, no losses: undefeated)
New York City was a city of many places to worship in the 1930s and 40s. One block south of our 6th floor apartment was a huge Catholic church and school that had all kinds of programs for the neighborhood kids and teenagers. About 100 yards west of our apartment was a Presbyterian church that had a Basketball Court and Gym that was open all day to anyone in the area regardless of religious persuasion. However, Immanuel Lutheran Church was the church I knew best. The church was within a short walking distance from where we lived and had a 3 month Confirmation Program that met every Saturday morning for a few hours. Completion of the program allowed students to become members of the church and call themselves “Christians.” Pastor Kleps was a wonderful teacher and I’m sure he taught about Jesus, but I left those classes as lost spiritual as when I entered.
New York City was also a great adventure for education and I transitioned from boxing and the military to computer programming management with NCR. NCR promoted me to Director of their Computer Customer Service headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, and then to Manager of their Computer Sales division in Houston, Texas. Houston was a “hotspot” for computer sales with NASA (Space Center Houston) and the Petroleum Industry (Exxon, Texaco, Tenneco) headquartered there. I got very rich in Houston, Texas because of my computer management experience.
It was in Houston that I joined the Methodist Church. I had left NCR and Honeywell and started my own computer company, and the church was a great place for business contacts. I was invited to the senior pastor’s home for dinner, his son joined my company and managed our downtown Houston office, and a young lawyer in our Sunday Bible class became our corporate attorney. We were on a roll: fancy house and cars, money in the bank, private airplane travel, and then it all crashed! BOOM!
I made some new friends: angry stockholders (we had become a public corporation with 2500 investors), the IRS, and the SEC. It all began when our public stock went from “ way up there to down to the bottom”.
The Security & Exchange Commission (SEC) were the most interesting and dangerous. They could put you in Federal Prison for a long time, if they could prove stock fraud. We met with them for about a week and at the end of their investigation, the SEC Regional Director (an old guy who walked with a cane) said some of the nicest words I had ever heard. He said, “Ludwig, you are stupid, but you are honest.” My wife occasionally says the same thing.
The IRS were not as friendly. Our Financial Vice President had not paid the last six months employees’ benefits and taxes to the IRS, so the IRS took my house in River Oaks, Cadillac cars, and bank accounts as payment. Experience is a stern teacher.
Some friends suggested that I should visit First Baptist Church, in downtown Houston. The church had just called a new pastor named John Bisagno who had once played the trumpet for Jazz singer Peggy Lee. They thought that he might have the answer to some of my problems. People were traveling 180 miles, round trip from Beaumont, Texas, to hear him preach on Sunday mornings. I needed help and I was willing to try anything, even a Southern Baptist preacher who had never gone to seminary. To this day, Brother John is my favorite preacher. The Lord Jesus Christ used him to change my life.
My first Sunday morning service at FBC was not a great success. The place was packed solid. They had to bring in folding chairs to try and seat the over flow crowd. The guy on my left smelled like he had not taken a bath in years and the couple on my right wore clothes from Lord & Taylor, with jewels flashing everywhere, and smelling like a “rose garden in full color.” Crowds of people gave their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ that morning. But I was mad! I had not come to church to hear a sermon on TITHING!
Malachi 3: 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings.9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
I was mad, but interested. My mathematics mindset said “hey, this is a chance to prove that this religious stuff is one big scam.” Next Sunday, I returned to First Baptist Church with my 10 percent of this weeks gross earnings and waited to disprove their hoax. I was wrong! Things began to change!
I had left my 20 plus years in the computer industry and tried owning restaurants, art galleries, real estate, and nothing made any sense, or offered any real promise. But the next day (Monday), I got a call from Aetna Insurance and the sunlight burst through the black clouds and I was excited again about the future.
I kept going to Bisagno’s church and tithing, but now I was listening more closely. I had missed the meat of his sermons. Every message he preached had story after story of lives that had dramatically changed as a result of making Jesus Christ the Lord of their life. Jesus is God in human form who paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross at Calvary. We could have a new life with Jesus. Hmm, a new life with purpose and hope. I had always wanted to be a “good guy” and do the right thing, but somehow It never worked out that way.
John 3:1616For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Those were a few of the Scripture verses that Pastor Bisagno used in his sermons that confirmed the many examples of lives that were changed when they trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I got to know and be friends with two who had changed: Freddie Gage and Jay Strack. I’ll tell you their story and others like Linda Swindell and Old Joe; and the paralyzed black lady (who preached the best sermon I ever heard), and the Jewish Rabbi Jacob Rabinotz (plus the guy across the street from Oakwood Baptist Church: David Williams) the next time we meet.
Well, you probably guessed the end of the story. I repented (turned away from my old life) and gave my life to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized in January, 1971 at FBC. Jesus is my boss. I don’t do anything unless I get an OK from Jesus (Pastor Bisango gave 5 steps to determine God’s approval). Life has never been more exciting since I learned to trust the Bible and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Hope to talk to you again and share more of the miracles and adventure of believing the Bible and following Jesus