Proverbs in Light of The Cross; My First Black Friend

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I wanted to share a story that happened while I was living in this house in Tulsa, Oklahoma circa 1971.

Rodney and William Cerca 1971

My Friend Rodney and I, playing cowboys circa 1971. I would love to see him again if anyone recognizes him in this picture who knows him now.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…Proverbs 18:24 KJV

My Tribute to Rodney, My First Black Friend

I originally wrote this in February 2003

 “First black friend” probably sounds silly to a child of today, but when I was a young kid in 1970 we lived in a white neighborhood. A white neighborhood in Tulsa, the city famous for the Race Riot of 1921. My kindergarten class had not been integrated yet.  We went to the white Seventh-day Adventist church while the “black” church was across town.  I had nothing against black people I just didn’t know any. That was until Rodney and his mother showed up at my front door step on a Summer Evening in 1970.

I had seen him before. My family watched them move in across the street a few days before. My mother suggested I go across the street and say hello and welcome the new black boy to the neighborhood. I was too afraid to. Afraid of what? I have no clue. Had no clue back then either. I wasn’t racist, I was prejudiced. Prejudiced is just another word for stupid. I can remember more than once riding home seeing him across the street, mother telling me to go over and say hi. No way! Why? Who knows? Fear of the unknown?

One evening as we were getting ready for an evangelistic meeting at our church there was a knock on the door. We answered the door and there stood a black woman and a little black boy. My parents said “hi” welcomed them into our house.  I said nothing. Just stared. Why? I don’t know. Everyone introduced themselves and said “hi.” Everyone but me, I just stared. Rodney was the little black boy. His mother said he wanted to come over and meet me. I just stared. He looked at me. I stared at him. Even at my age I could sense the loneliness in his eyes. He took a step towards me and reached out his hand. Everyone watched as I took a step back, still staring.  Everyone sensed the awkwardness. My parents and sister were embarrassed by my reaction to his gesture. His mother was the only one who was not surprised by my rudeness.  He took another step towards me and tried to touch me! I took another step back. Why? That’s what I have been asking myself ever since!  To ease the tension my parents said we were getting ready to go to church and invited them both to join us. Join us at the white church? Yes, the white church.

They politely declined and my parents told them they were welcomed back  anytime.

On the way to church my sister asked me why I was so rude to that nice little boy. I told her he was black. She said that didn’t matter. My parents agreed. Finally I got the nerve and went over to his house and said hi. Before you knew it we were best friends. Playing Cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers and everything else that kids played in the early 70’s.  When we moved a few years later Rodney and his mother came over to visit us in our new home. It was great seeing my friend again.

The reason I want to tell this story is because of something that never dawned on me until I was much older, and I put myself in Rodney’s position. A young black boy moving into a white neighborhood in the early ‘70s, just a couple of years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination when racial tensions were high. I could have been a great ambassador for world peace right there in my neighborhood by just walking across the street and extending my hand to the new black family. Instead I took a step backwards every time he mustered up the courage to take a step forward. Rejection. Fear. Hatred? After being rejected by me the first time he musters up the courage to take another step forward. I took another step backwards. Rejection…again. Why? Who knows? All I can say is I am so glad he was persistent enough to keep stepping forward when I kept stepping backwards. He turned out to be a great friend! I turned out to be a great friend too after the prejudice (stupidity) wore off.

My little friend Rodney reminds me of some one else who came to make friends with the world but was rejected. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11 Thank God for people like Jesus and Rodney who look past the rejection, prejudice and pain and keep loving anyway!  Where would I be without them? If it wasn’t for the persistent love of people like Jesus and Rodney I wouldn’t have developed the wonderful friendships that I enjoy today with all kinds of people, red and yellow, brown and black and white.

I have not seen Rodney in several years, but I think about him every time I meet some one new. I take a step forward and extend my hand. I smile and say “hi.” I remember that Summer Evening in 1970. I won’t make the same mistake again.

Thanks Rodney wherever you are, for moving into my white neighborhood and mustering up the courage to cross the street and meet me. I’m sorry I did not have the courage to cross the street first.

Witnessing and Evangelism as a Lifestyle

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. 2 Kings 13:21

There was no magic in the prophet Elisha’s bones. The Israelites were in distressing times, and hope came to Israel that God was not dead and could revive them if they would heed the words of the prophet. Thus, even after his death, while resting in the tomb, Elisha was still influencing people’s lives for good. That is one of the things I love about writing. Granted I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but even when I am gone what has been written can continue to speak and hopefully bring comfort.

This reminds me of my uncle Bud. He has been gone about 20 years or so now. He had a sense of humor much like mine. He could really make me laugh. I remember he and my aunt Ellen visiting from Seattle, when I was about 15. When he left he smiled and said “I am glad you got to see me.”  I was expecting him to say, “I am glad I got to see you” instead of “I’m glad you got to see me.” The surprise made me laugh. Like me, he had a dry sense of humor that pretended to be arrogant but not really. I have been telling the same joke ever since, and for the last 31 years it brings a laugh most every time.  A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with some friends and when I left I did it again. I repeated Uncle Bud’s line, “I’m glad you got to see me.” Everyone laughed and told me how glad they were I could see them too. When I got in my car and drove off, it dawned on me. The smile on my friends face was caused by my uncle who has been sleeping for over 20 years! Then I thought of all the other people who have laughed after I passed his joke on, and realized all those smiles and laughs were caused by something my uncle told me 31 years ago.

Life is not all jokes and my uncle knew that. Life wasn’t always a joke to him either, but he loved putting a smile on people’s faces. I wish he knew that he is still putting a smile on people’s faces today every time I tell his joke. Elisha had words that could still give life even after his death. Uncle Bud can still make people smile today when I remember his words. I want a witnessing lifestyle that will continue putting smiles on faces and hope in hearts, even while I am still sleeping and waiting for Jesus’ return.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. You may download the Sabbath School lessons to your cell phone here.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 10


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:17

In Acts 26 Paul stands before King Agrippa. King Agrippa is decked out in all his royal splendor, while Paul stands in his chains and prison clothes. Agrippa tells Paul he is almost persuaded to become a Christian. Paul says, I wish you were such as I am but without these bonds. What Paul is telling Agrippa is, “I wish you had what I have.” Paul did not want the Kings glory, splendor or riches. Paul wished the King could have what he had, which is Jesus! When see the love of Jesus poured out for us on the cross, and have the peace and love that only Jesus can give, we will no longer want what the world has. We will want the world to have what we have!

A thankful heart cannot covet. A thankful heart is too full of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to be thinking about the rubbish that the world has to offer.

God promises me in the tenth commandment that He will supply the desires of my heart, and that I won’t be wishing I had what others have.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 8


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thou shalt not steal. Exodus 20:15

God promises to take care of all of our needs. If God did not give it to me then I don’t need it. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32 If I steal then what I am saying is that God does not really love me, because if He did He would have allowed me to have the thing that I want. David trusted God’s love when he said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalms 23:1. Sure there are things that we have to work to earn that we may not have right now. When we steal we are saying that God should have allowed us to have it by now.  David realized he would not be in want or need when he said, “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. “ Psalms 34:10

God promises us that He will supply all our needs so we wont need to steal.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 7


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14

In Ephesisans 5 Paul tells husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church so much He gave His life for it. That is what love is-others first, and on the cross Jesus put others first and sacrificed His own life. In Paul’s time many marriages were pre-arranged. Regardless if there was any passion or butterflies in their stomachs when they looked at their wives, they could love them by simply putting their wife’s interest and welfare above their own.

Did you know you can commit adultery without there even being a third party? If you put your own interest or welfare before your spouse you have just committed adultery by loving someone more than your spouse, when you love yourself more than them by putting your interest and welfare above theirs.

Jesus said,  “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 Did you know you can lust after your own wife and commit adultery with your own wife? How so? Lust is Satan’s lousy counterfeit for love, but it is actually hate.  When we lust after something or someone we are thinking of what they can do for us instead of what we can do for them. In 2 Samuel 13 it says that Amnon lusted after and hated a woman. He lusted after the woman but was putting his feelings above her feelings. There for since love is others first, and Amnon’s lust had him putting himself first, his lust was actually hate. From time to time I have had married couples ask me if it is okay to have sex on the Sabbath. I tell them that if they are doing it please the other person than it is quite appropriate as the Sabbath is a day to think of others and not seek our own pleasure, but if they are doing it for their own pleasure than it is wrong any day of week, as love does not seek its own pleasure. Lust seeks its own pleasure, love seeks for the good of others. See 1 Corinthians 13.

When we trust God’s love, and that He gives us everything we need for our happiness, we will not be lusting after a spouse that is not our own.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 6


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thou shalt not kill.  Exodus 20:13

The Hebrew word for “kill” is “ratsach” which more specifically means to murder.  Murder includes malice and self serving motives for killing. This commandment is clearly not forbidding capital punishment as that would conflict with the rest of the Bible. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Genesis 9:6

In light of the cross all selfishness leads to murder. In John 8 Jesus says Satan was a murderer from the very beginning. In heaven Lucifer, now Satan, wanted the throne of God. Isaiah 14 The only way you get the throne is to eliminate the person on the throne. Many of the angels did not realize that Lucifer actually had murder on his mind while in heaven, but on the earth, at the cross, he did to God here on earth what he wanted to do to him in heaven-murder Him! The cross is where both Satan’s and God’s characters were manifested. At the cross we see Satan willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of getting what he wants, and we see God who is willing to die and say goodbye to life forever if He can just save someone else.

Self will always try to rise to the top and eliminate whoever gets in its way. This is why Christ took human nature to the cross and crucified self for us all. “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Love is being centered on the welfare of others. Hate, which leads to murder is being centered on self. The only way to overcome putting yourself first is to put others first. The only way to overcome hate is to love.  So “Thou Shalt not kill” could actually be translated, “You will not put yourself first.” At the cross Jesus put others first. At the cross Satan put himself first, and showed the universe why he was a murderer from the very beginning, when he first started putting self first.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 5


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth theeExodus 20:12

Why should we honor our parents? The same reason we love, respect and honor God. Not because He is bigger and stronger than us but because He loved us enough to die for us. This is the same reason we honor our parents. If you were taken to the hospital today and the doctors told your parents you needed a kidney or liver transplant in order to live, you parents only question would be “how soon can you take mine?” Your parents would gladly give their life for you! Even though we may or may not always agree with their decisions they deserve our respect and honor just because they love us.

It breaks my heart to see children talk back and sass their parents, not just because it is rude and disrespectful though that would be reason enough to break my heart, but even more so because I know those parents love their children enough they would die for them. So please, always remember when talking to your parents always be respectful if for no other reason than they love you enough to die for you. And really, that is reason enough.