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.
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.
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).
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.
Happy New Year! By God’s wonderful grace those of us alive to see it have come into 2021! In Christ, there is cause for great optimism as we are yet closer to His return and otherwise, enabled in His strength to live for Him and serve His Kingdom purposes! Continuing to be filled with gratitude to the Lord for all of His blessings in 2020--not the least of which was His providing for my full-time salary while we also celebrated the Ministry’s 35th year, I am pleased to announce that as of January 1st I now, serve the Ministry as a part-time employee until such time as our finances in the Lord’s will can support my return to full-time status. I also labor as a volunteer.
I praise God who has marvelously made both my employment with the Ministry and volunteer labor possible through retirement. I also thank our Board of Director members Messrs. Alvin Johnson and Richard Anderson for discerning the Lord’s hand in all of this; unanimously deciding this was the right course of action as opposed to further crowdfunding considering how people are presently hurting financially. As a result, I will continue my day to day oversight of the Ministry as before. However, there are changes. I will be cutting back on some of the activities I have personally engaged in such as making social media posts. This blog will see more short posts like this one. I will announce other activity cutbacks when appropriate.
The Ministry is cutting back on some activities requiring my personal engagement to make timely room for new ones. This includes my entering the world of online instruction with the roll out of our Strong Man Virtual Institute this February.1 The institute will periodically offer short-term studies I will teach “live” via our chosen online meeting vehicle to the end of building up Christian participants. I will also occasionally pop up recorded or even “live” by way of our YouTube channels or other outlets to preach the Gospel and any other word from the Lord to save souls and call the disobedient to repentance. We have a thing or two more planned I will disclose in the Lord’s timing.
Again, I praise God who continues to make a place of service for me in the Body of Christ as He has done in 2021 even when men do not! I also thank Him for His blessed provision! To my God always be all the glory!
1 For more information subscribe to the Strong Man Of God E-Newsletter.
As a matter of final reflection on being a Christian forty years, I want to glorify God for my many positive experiences as a member of the Body of Christ on earth! For the sake of brevity in this blog format, I will confine myself to the company of the saints, biblical multiculturalism and music as areas of experience in the Body of Christ that have greatly contributed to the joy of my forty year journey thus far. Though I have written much about how religionists and spiritually immature believers weak in willful sin have brought me grief, I rejoice that occasionally in the journey, I have been truly blessed with being in the company of authentic and faithful saints.
These faithful saints were to me exactly what the Bible teaches: filled with faith and the love of God, obedient and true to His Word, unselfish, ready to give, encourage, edify or help, thoughtful, kind, considerate and eager to serve (John 13:34-35; Romans 5:5, 12:9-21, 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3). They have been an oasis of refreshment to me at strategic moments in my journey; appearing by divine providence at times like a man making his way across the desert who has seen mirages of water and finally comes upon its reality after many days. They shall remain nameless (lest any should be unnecessarily offended), but precious to me--bless them, Lord!
While I have left these saints nameless, I joyfully declare they are from both genders, different ethnicities, races, tribes, languages and cultures! The experience of this reality has been especially enriching for me due to understanding and fully appreciating God’s global, Kingdom cause in the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, as I wrote about recently in the four-part blog, God Of Restoration And Judgment under the category, The Cause with three others! What an absolutely amazing experience to meet a brother or sister in Christ from a place on the other side of the world who as a sinner, has come to Christ in repentance and faith and loves Him with a passion just like me.
As I wrote in another blog, I was prepared for this biblical form of multiculturalism growing up in Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula of California.1 While racism was extant, the forcibly integrated school system was such that many different ethnicities, races, languages and cultures were brought together. From this experience, I learned to appreciate and navigate among those that were from different ethnicities, races and cultures. What a joy to do this when the opportunities have come in the Body of Christ! However, the operative word here is “when” since a major share of grief in my journey has come from among racially bigoted professed Christians.
To this hour, a number of white Southern Baptist pastors here in the Northwest remain cold toward me for insisting that racism no longer be tolerated among their ranks. I made personal appeals, addressed meetings and wrote about how tolerating racism was unbecoming of those professing such high regard for Christ and the Gospel. Even in this 21st century as a continuing link to the days of America’s secular and church sanctioned practice of racism, my word as a black pastor still carried less weight than that of a white one. This led, for example, in one sad case to having others also receive my correspondence sent to an official so my words would be accurately known.
I agree with anyone that would say this sort of thing should not be among professed Christian brothers. However, until racism is dealt with as the sin it is and truly no longer tolerated in the Body of Christ, such actions will continue to be taken by blacks and other minorities that love our white brothers enough not to allow the guilty to reflexively force us into a less than equal place. Instead of being embittered toward me, such men should have godly sorrow and be deeply repentant realizing that a brother in their midst felt compelled to take extraordinary measures to be heard accurately in the multicultural Body of Christ charged to represent Him (Matthew 23:8; 1 John 3:10-15)!
Another important way I sought as the Lord led to build a bridge of multicultural love among Southern Baptist brothers was through an event called “Praisefest.” Out of what is supposed to be our common love for the Lord, we brought worship teams from churches of various cultural groups together to praise Him through the universal language of music. I never heard anything negative about those sweet times in the Lord which is good. Indeed, some of my most joyful experiences of the Body of Christ as His purposeful, multicultural construction have been marvelously through music! Being an appreciator of all kinds of music came from my departed mother as well as through school days experiences in choirs, bands and later in college and seminary, a radio disc jockey (DJ).
From the European Reformation and church hymns that followed along with the spirituals and work songs of my Christian slave forefathers to Black and Southern Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music my soul has been fully blessed “through it all” (the title of an André Crouch classic) by the multicultural music of the saints. As a DJ in Dallas/Fort Worth, how my spirit soared executing multicultural music sets that ministered to listeners and me! I feel so sorry for professed Christians that have never gone beyond their culturally preferred music to enjoy that of brethren from another culture.2 Thank You, Lord, for the foretaste of eternity with You I have enjoyed thus far, in the multicultural company, love and music of Your Body (Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:12-17)!
1 Read the December 6, 2015 blog, Celebrating God’s Racial Diversity Initiative, Call To Repent.
2 While I fully understand the worldly idea behind radio music formatting, what a lost opportunity to build a bridge of brotherhood in the Body of Christ and give a multicultural
witness Christian music stations have missed following this model that essentially mimics segregated Sunday morning church services. I am available on a professional
consulting basis to assist any Christian music programmer that would like to do a better job of offering a culturally diverse music mix.
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.
Strong Man Of God Resources
Get Your Copy Of The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics
Your purchase supports restoring men, families and communities through Strong Man Ministries!
Purchase It Now