Category: FOR HIM

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Eric said, 

“The thing that happened at LaFortune. Crazy things that can’t be explained that happened leading up to capturing Saddam, mathematically speaking, they just don’t happen.  They just don’t.” 

God’s purposes are mapped out.  He has a plan.  He sets us on courses that make no sense to us at times, because we can only see what we see in front of us.  When Jonah was told to go to Nineveh, we all know what happened when he decided to go his own way.  It’s quite a whale of a tale.  When God tells you to go—you just drop everything and go.  At least, that’s what Eric Maddox did.

The Call:

In 1993, Eric Maddox was a typical 21 year-old running through LaFortune Park in Tulsa when he came to a bridge.  He heard what he said could only be a call from God.  He was a bit stunned.  He looked around for someone to get verification on what he heard.  No one.  Did God really call him to be an Airborne Ranger?  He didn’t even know what that meant.  He left the park and drove straight to a recruitment office.  He didn’t know much about callings from God except that if you got one, you better follow through.

Eric was about to embark on his final semester at the University of Oklahoma.  Yet, he knew God was calling him to take this path.  He never imagined God put him on a path, leading him to be an interrogator for the United States Army.  He certainly never envisioned being the one who brought down the Ace of Spades, Saddam Hussein.  How could he have known?  His story is a set of God-led one in a million kind of shots.  God landed him right there, right where God wanted him to be.  (You can read the whole story in his book, Mission: Blacklist #1 if you want the full version.  You won’t put it down!)

When I was in school with Eric, I knew him as a kind-hearted, funny guy in class.  He was super smart—just the kind of kid who makes their parents proud.  He was one of those guys everyone enjoyed being around.  We hadn’t spoken in decades aside from reconnecting on Facebook.  So, as you can imagine, I was spiritually intrigued to hear his story BEHIND the story on Saddam.  The part I already knew was that he felt God had called him into the army running in the park.  The part I didn’t know—well, it was even better than I imagined.

In my lifetime, Saddam was the first foreign leader I really understood as a threat to America and certainly to his own people.  I spent many nights praying for him to be caught, praying for friends who were called into duty straight out of college one week, These guys and girls were sent into the first Gulf War with Operation Desert Storm.  War and evil became very real to me fairly instantly as Saddam dominated the scene as a true terrorist.  Like most Vietnam vets, my dad told brief stories of being in the Infantry from memories he didn’t care to live through again, but he survived that war; I hadn’t personally lived through the terrors, as our young men and women were sent into battle.  This war was right in my face.  So, needless to say, I really wanted (or maybe needed) to know the details of Eric’s experience in God’s part in bringing that particularly heinous terror to an end.  

When we started, Eric shared, “So, you know, I grew up in Sapulpa. I don’t think I was saved. I went to church and I didn’t feel any connection to God. When I went to OU, like a lot of kids, I didn’t think about God in any way whatsoever.  I did wonder what would happen when you die, but that’s about it. I used to run in the summers. While living with my parents, I’d come home from work all day and in the evenings, I’d run around LaFortune park.”  Eric continued, “I was heading into my senior year at OU.  So, I’m running in the park as usual.  Then, there’s this one area over a bridge.  I’m telling you, Teresa, I was told to go join the Army and become an Airborne Ranger. I didn’t know what an Airborne Ranger even was. I never wanted to join the Army. I had never shot a gun before; I know, I grew up in Oklahoma, but I had never done gun or army stuff.  I just stopped in my tracks and I looked over the side of the bridge. I was like, ‘Who was that?’”  Then he went on, “I stopped running; I went to my car.  I drove to a recruiter.  I told him, ‘Hey I think I’m gonna sign up to be an Airborne Ranger.’  He said, ‘You don’t wanna do that.’ I said, ‘I don’t think I have a choice.’  I had to wait the whole fall and enlisted just before Christmas.  I joined the Army as an Infantryman in 1994 and eventually graduated Ranger school.”  

So Eric stayed on his path.  By 2000, he was trying out for Delta Force.  It’s the highest level in the Army.  Every six months, they accept 120 soldiers to try out.  Eric said, “It’s a demanding process just to make that cut.  So, I made it; they sent me to the mountains of West Virginia for the final one-month try-out.  It’s treacherous.  I’m in these mountains, pushing myself beyond any kind of normal limits.  We all were.  Every day 6-12 candidates just dropped out with injuries, blisters, and so on.  These are the baddest dudes just to get there.”  He went on, “I’m going through this tryout and I’m 10 days in and my body’s just shot.  Every night there are 40-60 soldiers going to the medic to bandage feet and so forth.  Many hear ‘You’re out.’ The medic just won’t let them go anymore.  I went to him with these horrible blisters.  He says, ‘I’m gonna let you go one more day, but you’re not gonna make it.’”  

Eric was super frustrated. He worked really hard to get this far.  It was such an achievement to be admitted to the tryouts, let alone to continue to pass the tests day by day.  He said, “I knew it was bad. So, I go to my bunk and got on my knees and I prayed to God. I was like, ‘God listen. (Really? I just told God to listen?) I can’t do this. I need you to fix my feet clean.’  I got up the next morning and the blisters were gone. They were completely gone. I was like, ‘How’d that happen?  I’ve gotta be able to remember this.’ They were so gone that just to prove it to myself, I didn’t wear socks for the remainder of the tryout.  It was probably the dumbest thing I could do to hike through those mountains without socks.  After all that, in the final stages though, I didn’t make it.  I just kept thinking ‘Why would God fix my feet if He didn’t want me to be a Delta Force member?’”  It just didn’t make sense.  

Understandably, Eric was frustrated with the results.  He pushed himself beyond the limits most of us would even dare to think about trying. Why he didn’t make it just didn’t fit.  He struggled to make all the pieces come together.  It seemed odd that God told him to be a Ranger, fixed his feet during Delta selection, yet he never became a Delta Force Operator.  He finally had to put the puzzle aside and concentrate on what was next.

Eric moved past wanting to be a Delta Force Operator.  His path led him to an opportunity to be an Army interrogator.  Again, it was nothing he planned—it was more an opportunity that seemed afforded to him with his performance and intellectual abilities.  However, he really became engrossed in the intel side of things.  It makes sense if you know him.  He was always a super sharp student, involved in the gifted program in school, with a notable IQ.  Eric was truly crafted by God as a multi-faceted player with reserve strengths equal to the ones he usually had in play.  So, this road seemed a natural fit.  Eric thrived in the role and was doing quite well.    

Then, three years later, in 2003, Eric received orders to go to Iraq to join Task Force 121, the unit who was responsible for tracking down everyone on the “deck of cards.”  In this deck, Saddam was known as the Ace of Spades.  Then the terrorist/criminal targets went down from there.  Eric said, “I show up in Iraq and this task force is a legit group.  Like, I always wondered where they keep all the really bad dudes.  Well, now I know.  These guys had superior intellect and just pervasive mental perseverance coursing through their veins. They were all right there in one unit.  So, during my inbriefing, I had to ask my Commander, ‘Why did you have me come to do this?  I’ve never been to war before.  I’m a Chinese-Mandarin linguist?’  (That was the specialty they trained Eric in as he shifted towards becoming an intelligence officer.)  Then his Commander answered, ‘Well, you’re the only trained interrogator who is former infantry and graduated Ranger School.’”  “After that,” said Eric, “things happened that no one could explain that landed me with the right skills at the right time at what felt like a preordained meeting.”  

Eric seemed the perfect fit for an open spot needing filled in Iraq.  He stayed the course doing his best at what he was trained to do.  He said, “Because of my infantry background, they sent me on a raid into Tikrit, Iraq.  I’m supposed to be there one night and then they are sending me back to Baghdad. So, when we get done, the team leader is looking at me.  He had that ‘Where do I know you?’ look.  The Delta Force Operators hold their own tryouts.  This guy remembered I was one of the last guys in the tryouts.  He knew I could hang with the intensity of their missions.  So, he kept me there.”  At that moment, Eric didn’t pause at that moment to remember how God made it possible for him to make it to that final point at the Delta Force tryouts.  It didn’t start to piece together until later how God healing his feet prolonged him at tryouts—long enough for this Commander to remember him, remember his fortitude, and most importantly, to keep him in Tikrit.

In 2003, at the beginning of the war in Iraq, CIA Case officers led the hunt for Saddam Hussein through the use of paid local informants.  They never used prisoners to be the front runners for information.  They just wanted prisoners to admit their guilt.  Then, they put them away.   By the fall of 2003, the CIA determined that neither Saddam nor any of the other high value targets were in Tikrit, where Eric was.  So, they left the Delta Force team with just one CIA agent.

Operations were still very much alive in Tikrit, but with no high value targets, things were slightly less intense.  One afternoon, while training with the Delta Force Operators, the CIA case officer left with the group was firing a 203-grenade round.  Eric said, “It detonated a couple hundred meters down range.  Although the kill radius of a 203 round is only about 15 yards, a speck of shrapnel flew all the way back into the abdomen of the agent.  The guy said ‘Hey.  Something just happened.’  For precautionary reasons, they had a medic look at the case officer’s stomach to make sure it was no big deal, but the speck eventually required them to crack open his chest for exploratory surgery.  The event permanently removed the CIA agent from the theater of operation. 

With the freak accident, the Delta Force group called the CIA team and asked for a new guy.  Eric shared, “They said ‘Nope.’  They weren’t sending anyone else out to Tikrit, because they were certain no high value targets were there,” Eric went on explaining how random things once again turned into opportunity.  Now, because the Delta Force Team was no longer supported by the CIA, they asked if he could do anything to gather information from the prisoners in the interrogations.  “I told them ‘Absolutely.  I think I can.’ and that’s what I did. The rest of the story is in my book, but people don’t tie it in together as a God thing, but I knew.” shared Eric.  

Eric immediately started seeking valuable information from the prisoners with his interrogation technique.  He was strategic.  Formed relationships.  Listened.  It was really a detour from any kind of interrogation the Army was doing at the time.  Eric shared, “The funny thing is the guy who recognized me from the Delta Force Team didn’t even like me.  One of the Delta Operators liked me and we spent time together doing these interrogations; the other guy was the Deputy Commander, and he just did not like me.  I’m not for everybody,” Eric chuckled. 

As Eric kept gaining more and more interesting intel through the prisoner interrogations, he was using the translator all of the time.  Eric said, “We only had one translator.  We were preparing for a huge raid of 20 houses and we really needed an additional interpreter.  Fortunately, there was an interrogator back at Baghdad, who was also a native Egyptian, who of course spoke Arabic.  He was sent up to join us in Tikrit.”  When he arrived, the Delta Operator, who didn’t like Eric, requested that he permanently replace Eric in Tikrit.  He made a logical case that the native linguist would allow the team to preserve the energies of their interpreter.  Eric shared, “The team leader didn’t really like me.  He didn’t like that I was wasting his linguist.  He said he was going to trade me and keep this guy, because the Egyptian didn’t need a translator.  There was nothing I could do about it.  So, I was scheduled to leave for home that night.  I was done.”  That’s how things looked at that moment.

As tales of God intervening go though, this story wasn’t over yet.  Eric shared, “We’re on this last raid before I’m to leave.  That interrogator then has an accidental discharge of his weapon.  That’s when if you accidentally pull the trigger the gun fires.  I had never even seen one, but this interrogator had one.  It’s bad.” Eric went on, “They train you over and over to make sure that never happens obviously, but he had one.  They immediately sent him back to Baghdad and I stayed.”  Eric said humbly, “I’m not saying God just messed up this guy’s gun—but the odds of that happening, exactly when it did when my time was up—they are nearly impossible.  It’s just one in ten million or something. It’s just not gonna happen.  It’s just not.” 

That was the path that God put Eric on that led him to Saddam.  Eric said, “I have no question in my mind as to His involvement in my path.  The bridge at LaFortune.  My Delta Force trek with my feet healing, extending my tryouts and allowing me to be in the final group with this Delta Force Operator.  The odds of the piece of metal in the guy’s chest is like one in 100 million.  The accidental discharge on the exact right day, just before I was leaving that night—not impossible, but it’s just so unlikely to happen.”  Eric added, “Someone who isn’t a Christian might not pull those pieces together the same as I would—but I know God had a plan.”  Then, he paused, “I don’t know what the pinnacle is of your job (whatever job that may be), but if you’re an interrogator, tracking down the ‘Ace of Spades,’ that’s it.  You would think that would be the best moment you could experience.  That’s just not what happened.”

The Fall from Glory 

Political factions have a certain way of turning something incredible into something else.  Everyone has a stake in the game.  For many, the good of America falls further down the list than the betterment of self.  So, although most all of America heralded Eric as an amazing hero, many of those with intelligence acquisition skin in the game did not.  After all, they were the ones deemed with the task of finding Saddam.  They were also the ones who dismissed Tikrit as having no value toward his capture.  

In order to more effectively utilize Eric, he was immediately pulled out of the Army.  That move gave the government a lot more flexibility with interrogators. For Eric, it was a much better situation.  It paid more.  He was back in the States.  It certainly felt safer.  However, what he didn’t see coming was the world of competitive intelligence—the political factions.  The CIA, FBI, DIA, and all these groups with their own special interests were supposed to be responsible for tracking down the most wanted people in the world.  They just weren’t happy about the way things went.  An army interrogator was not supposed to find Saddam.  He just wasn’t.

They soon started with campaigns about how Eric just “got lucky” or was “in the right place at the right time.”  By Eric’s estimation, they were right in the fact that God had placed him there at the right time.  At this moment, these campaigns were detrimental to Eric’s demeanor.  It was frustrating to him, as he was feeling pretty proud of himself.  I understand.  I’m sitting here typing up the story in Starbucks and I want to explain to everyone sitting around how important what I’m writing is.  I almost just told the clerk when I went for a refill.  I had to stop myself.  So, I think I kinda get it.  It would be pretty easy to be feeling a bit high and mighty if I did what Eric did.  Even if I thought God got me there, which by the way, is how I know this story is happening. Still. It would be a minute by minute battle to keep myself in perspective.  

The factions were making comments to minimize what Eric had done.  They needed Eric to just have been lucky in order to maintain their positions as the authorities on intelligence that information.  From the government’s perspective outside these agencies, we just needed to do more of it.  So, they decided to get 30 of these interrogators and make them specialists.  Eric said, “The agencies though, were basically standing in the way.  They were not going to give over that power.  These struggles lasted until 2009-2010.”  While it was all transpiring, Eric continued with his struggles with pride.  They started to overtake him a bit.  He became a little bit obsessed with wanting to show his abilities to anyone he found.  He found himself spiraling a bit out of control.  His only bright spot in the middle of the spiral?  Reconnecting with his friend Heather.

Heather and Eric got married in 2008, which gave Eric a whole new sense of purpose.  He was still going through these struggles when they married, but Heather gave him a ray of beautiful light in what felt like a gaping hole of darkness.  He found himself experiencing a lot of angst and depression disengaging from such an intense set of battles.  The mental anguish from the political pressures was also intense.  He just needed to escape it a bit.

Heather and Eric had their sweet baby girl in October of 2009.  Eric felt he should want to stay.  He should want to be home, but he decided his best escape was to remain deployed. He was leaving just three weeks after she was born.  If he were overseas, he wasn’t in these pointless political struggles.  He could serve his country and find some form of purpose again or so he thought.  

Before his marriage to Heather in 2005, Eric was in a raid where an enemy hand grenade blew up in front of him. He took some shrapnel.  It definitely freaked everyone in his family out.  Eric shared, “So, when I was going out again in 2009, those happenings she had heard of haunted her. Heather was a little nervous.  She was a brand new mom.  The realization that I go on these dangerous missions kind of sank in for her for the first time.  Heather had known about it, but she certainly had never dealt with it.”  Eric needed deployed.  His wife needed him safe for her and for their daughter.  It’s a whole scenario most of us don’t experience unless we have loved ones serving in our armed forces.  I think if we did, we would appreciate our freedom a whole lot more than we do.  

Eric was now heading out, being deployed.  He said, “When leaving, I was super excited.  I’m in the Baltimore airport.  She’s in Oklahoma.  Our sweet daughter, Mary, was about 3 weeks old.  A normal person should be sad they are leaving, but here I am excited. I’m acting like I’m going to the north pole to see Santa Claus.  Things were just off. I was just off.”  The whole scenario ran the gamut of emotions for everyone involved.  Nothing was in sync.  Nothing.

A “Come to Jesus Meeting” with Another Type of Interrogator

Eric was boarding the plane.  He said, “Heather calls me right when I’m walking on.  She says, ‘So, I’ve gotta ask you.  Are you saved?’ And I’m like, ‘Are you talking about church? Yeah. I think I’m good.’  She’s Baptist. So, you can imagine a Baptist-minded woman talking to someone who is like ‘Yeah. I think I’m good.’ So, she says, ‘Eric Maddox. I’m serious.  Are you saved?’ and I’m like, ‘I think. I found Saddam.  What is God looking for?’  Then, she’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.’  I said ‘Heather I went to church as a kid. My mom goes to church every Sunday. You pray. I think I’m good.’  Then she says, ‘No. Are you, yourself saved?’  Then I answered her, 

‘Heather there’s a lot of screwed up people out here and I’m not one of them. I’m probably good.’ Then, she’s like, ‘Don’t get killed.  I’m going to send you a bunch of tapes.’ 

I’m thinking ‘I’m probably all square.  What’s God looking for?  I go to war. I like America. Doesn’t that count?’” he finished.  

When you hear a conversation like that, you start to think we need to be having it with everyone in our churches.  It’s a pretty common misunderstanding that God is looking for us to DO enough to make it in.  Many of us just think like Eric that we’ve done enough.  We’re nice enough.  We’ve walked enough little old ladies across the street, so to speak.  However, Eric quickly found out that was just not enough.  There was actually no amount of good he could do, not even tracking down a powerful enemy like Saddam Hussein, that would give him a pass through those pearly gates.   

Heather started sending Eric tapes from a Baptist preacher named Adrian Rogers.  Eric shared, “So, I’m over in Afghanistan and I’m listening to these tapes.  It wasn’t like they were just changing my life, but I thought they were pretty good.  Then, he goes into Ephesians, into verse eight, and starts talking about grace through faith and not good works and I’m telling you it was a revelation.  I was like ‘What? Oh my.’  It completely penetrated my heart.  It was so needed.” Eric said. Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT says “God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Eric was blown away by the concept of grace.  He said “I felt I was losing my mind.  I was in this cycle. All I wanted was to prove I was the greatest interrogator in the world.  I had become slightly arrogant.  I wanted to travel the world and tell people, ‘Give me the hardest prisoner. I need to know who stunk it up first and I’m gonna shove it in their face and break the prisoner with my interrogation techniques.’  It wasn’t THAT bad, but I’m a bad dude and when you get to be called interrogator, it’s kind of a cool title.”  

Eric continued, “You get to be with this task force; you can break anybody, and you do it in a way that’s smarter.  Well, it’s very consuming.  I couldn’t get away from it.”  

The more Eric contemplated grace, the more relief he found.  Eric shared “So, when I realized this verse, it was like this huge weight came off my shoulders.  I don’t have to do anything.  As a matter of fact, I can’t do anything.  And, God knows I’m jacked.”  (call out) He went on, “I knew I was screwed up.  I thought somehow these interrogations and this service to my country were going to make it ok and that I could get to heaven,” said Eric.  

“I had never heard this verse before. I told Heather, ‘Does anybody else read this thing?  This Bible?  This is incredible. This Jesus Christ, he’s just something else.’ 

So, from that moment on, Eric said, “I had a completely different look on life. I was different with Christ.  It’s way better. It’s not arrogant.  Then, I just kept thinking, it was great God chose me and pretty much handed this opportunity to get Saddam to me, but I didn’t do it.  He picked me.  I feel great He chose me, but I just didn’t do it.  It’s impossible.  It’s impossible that all of these things could have happened without God intervening.  There’s just no way.  God wanted me there.”  

Eric then moved into a new area of thinking.  He thought, “What I know more than that God landed me there on purpose is that God did not do all those things just so that I could find Saddam.  My gift is to talk, well, it’s my mom’s curse,” he chuckled, “but it’s my gift.  I’m excited to see how God will continue to orchestrate His plan for His Kingdom.”

Right now, Eric is on a journey with God.  He’s ready to understand how all this experience God gave him is meant to serve the Kingdom of God.  He shared, “It’s certainly how I pay the bills.  I have a gift and do know God gave me a purpose.  But, we are here to serve Jesus Christ and to grow His Kingdom—to serve people.  So, I’m ready to see what’s next.”


“One part of Eric’s Chazown 

(Hebrew for Dream)”:

Chazown is a Hebrew word communicating that we were each born with a dream or vision—our own Chazown.  Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life.Church has a book titled “Chazown,” which helps God’s people find their God-given dream.

Eric, like each of us, has a plan already crafted by God that he can be a part of if he chooses.  I found it ironic that Eric was so drastically changed by Ephesians 2:8-9, because when you continue the passage, into verse 10, God tells us, (NLT): 

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  

Planned long ago. Someone, who accomplished something high on the list of worldly victories, seeking how God plans to use that God-ordained accomplishment for the Kingdom of God.  That’s Kingdom perspective we all need.  Funny enough, God already has it all mapped out for each of us.  We just need to answer His call.

Eric shared “I know one part of God’s path is children with Down’s Syndrome. I’m completely drawn to them. When I’m around one, it’s all I wanna do and all I wanna be. If I could ask God where to put me—I hope part of His direction puts me on that path.  It would be helpful to my soul to support those amazing kids.”  Eric finished the interview with his hope for Down’s kiddos.  He said, “I need people to look at Down’s Syndrome kids and go ‘Thank God.’ I need parents to celebrate that super special baby.  One thing I know, if you get me on it—I’m just telling you…”  

Yeah, I can only imagine Eric. #GoDoBe


What’s Your Chazown?

When you put Eric’s story into a framework of God’s purpose and plan—it would seem from an earthly perspective, Eric had reached the ultimate worldly achievement being the guy who got Saddam.  After all—the “Ace of Spades” didn’t make the list of America’s most feared terrorists/enemies for nothing.  However, Eric’s mission?  He’s ready to see even further reasons God orchestrated this path for him.  He’s looking to follow into God’s Kingdom purpose for his path, his pursuit, and his victory.  Sometimes people mock this hero’s credit to his Creator for this path—but I agree with him.  I can’t wait to see where God uses him next.

What about you?  Are you pursuing God’s plan for YOUR life?  Are you actively seeking how he can use your experiences, gifts, and talents in the Kingdom of God?  You don’t have to get Saddam to have an equally fascinating story of God weaving together your experiences in a way to be used for his Kingdom. In fact, we all have the promise above in Ephesians 2:10 that He’s prepared these Kingdom works in advance for us to do.  In some cases, God might be using you before you even realize it.  In others, you may know exactly how God wants to use you, but you might not be answering “Yes. Here I am. Send me.”  Take it from Eric, who followed God’s orders before he knew much more than that God was someone you just obey.  Regardless.   

You might already be aware of your skills.  You might know exactly how they could  be used if you just said “Yes.”  If so, let this be a challenge to you.  No matter how great your earthly achievement, YOUR pinnacle that marks success, it pales in comparison to the work God has for you in His Kingdom, in HIS plan.  If you aren’t quite sure.  Don’t worry.  There are so many great methods.  One is in Pastor Craig Groeschel’s book mentioned above, Chazown.  The book is available on Amazon or you can participate in a Chazown experience at Life.Church.  Focus on the Family also has a great set of articles available at www.focusonthefamily.com with “Discovering your God-Given Purpose.”  The articles share everything from discovery, to setting up your goals, overcoming fear of criticism, to your purpose having eternal significance.

In my own life, I have found God’s purpose almost thrust upon me with this magazine.  It certainly wasn’t on my radar.  It wasn’t thriving in earthly financial value in a way that would justify purchasing it from an earthly perspective.  It’s a print magazine in a digital age. However, God has shown my husband and I great purpose in having a community publication sharing the message of Christ.  We see the magazines vacating the shelves across town all the way to Grand Lake.  We talk with random strangers, who contact us, touched by a message God had us write on.  

You explain to me a plan of how a girl ends up with an English degree, on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), a web designer/marketing/trade show person, managing marketing/events around the country/world and selling high end fiber optic networks to the biggest telecom companies.  That path doesn’t seem crafted.  However, from a Kingdom perspective if somehow God lands you with a Christian magazine, working on events with non-profits, selling some ads trying to help pay for it, and writing about whatever God brings my way – then you have an interesting set of experience. I’m more involved in His plan than I have been in such a long time. I could go on, but you get the idea.  I don’t get it.  I just know God has plans bigger than me and I don’t always NEED to get it.  I just need to follow through.

What’s His plan for you?  Find it.  If I’ve learned one thing, life is way too short to waste on things that won’t matter.  God has a plan.  Hop in it.  Fall in it.  Just get in it however you can.  If you’ve fallen out of it a bit, don’t worry.  God still can pick you right back up and plug you right back in.  After all, Philippians 1:6 NLT says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” #GoDoBe


Maybe Heather Maddox’s inquisition also pierced your heart as you read?  Can you relate to Eric’s responses?  Have you ever felt you were “good enough” to make it in?  That other people being in church is probably enough to get you there? 

God didn’t write a plan for us that leaves us wondering.  We actually get to know for sure.  Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) says:

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

So, like Heather, let me ask, “Do YOU know Christ?  Have YOU, YOURSELF, accepted Him as your personal savior?”  If not, you can pray something like this:  “Father, forgive me as I know I’ve messed up.  I’ve been trying to get to you on my own.  I can’t do it.  I don’t even have to do it.  You came to me.  Sent your Son to die for me so that I could live.  I declare Jesus is Lord. I believe he rose from the dead.”  If you do pray it–reach out to your church and let them know!  If you don’t have a home church–email me at teresa@communityspiritmagazine.com and I can help you get plugged into one.

Written by R.A. Goodnight

DO YOU ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM OR DO YOU VALUE IT?

I spent most of 2007 living abroad in the Philippines.  Prior to leaving, I had to take a class that taught me important cultural and lifestyle guidelines: what I could and could not say, what I could and could not do, as well as where I should and should not go.  Even before leaving the United States, this was a new experience, as living here, most of us never have to give much consideration as to what we can or cannot say and do.  At least in 2007 we didn’t.

Once I was in the Philippines, I would attend weekly meetings with a security detail, as they briefed me on current threats I had to keep on my radar.  Each morning, when I returned to my hotel, I would be greeted by soldiers with automatic weapons.  A K9 would sniff me down and I would be searched.  My backpack would be emptied, as they checked for explosives or other weapons.  Sometimes I would be questioned; I even experienced the beginnings of a violent coup d’etat.  Could you imagine living in such an environment every day of your life?  You might not have to use your imagination. It is actually starting to happen here.

On the weekends I joined  with missionaries from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. as we took the Good News into the shanties and the villages on the outlying islands.  In predominantly Muslim villages, we had to be cautious on how we shared the message for risk of violence.  During these trips I would witness utter poverty, victims of human trafficking, malnutrition and illiteracy.  When I returned at night my food, water and per diem would be depleted having given it to the children.  My eyes would be tired from reading the Bible to those who couldn’t read it for themselves, even in their native tongue.  Can you imagine having your family try to survive in conditions such as these?  Some are dealing with a few of these circumstances right here in the U.S.  

During these experiences, I remember a thought that kept going through my mind – “You are complacent, and you take for granted too many freedoms you have back home.”  I have experienced similar conditions and this same convicting thought in other countries as well.  Upon my return home, I always find myself thankful for the freedoms my family can enjoy.

All of us ENJOY our freedom, some of us maybe too much.  But, as you read this article, ask yourself – do I really VALUE, and not just enjoy, the freedoms that I have?  There is a difference.  If you do value them, what are you doing to protect and keep them?  Several of them are already being targeted.

THE CROSSROADS

It is an obvious statement, but the secular freedoms we have are not experienced in most countries around the world.  Despite their rarity, more and more of our countrymen are showing their disregard for the freedoms they were born into as American citizens.  With a few exceptions, most have never experienced life without the present degree of freedom we have; many have never had these freedoms come at a personal cost.  We must remember, these freedoms were not achieved by chance.  To the contrary they came at great cost.  The stark reality is we will not retain them if we do not give them the respect they deserve.  At this point in American history, “We the People” stand at a crossroads, struggling to make up our minds on which direction we should choose.  Do we move to the right or to the left? 

To the right, a path lies before us remembering and honoring things for which honorable men and women fought and died.  It protects the mainstays to freedom – our ability to believe as we choose, to worship as we choose and to have access to unbiased information.  If we choose the path to the right, we will retain our ability to select from among the people, the individuals that will respect our opinions and represent our will as citizens.  That path will allow us to have a say in our own lives instead of being subject to someone else’s agenda for us.   This path does come with costs though.

Regarding the costs of freedom, President Ronald Regan reminds us, 

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.  

Yes, to remain free we must be brave, willing to take a stand and to be involved in our communities.  It asks each of us, as individuals, to be willing to teach future generations the importance of freedom and sanctity in protecting it.  It requires sacrifice from each of us to be personally accountable and responsible for our freedoms.   Sigmund Freud stated, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  

Perhaps that is why the path to left seems appealing to so many.  This path entices the population to a life without personal responsibility–a new nation where everyone can be and do whatever they want.  After all,  the government will take care of the rest.  It advertises with words such as equality and tolerance.  It even promises a release from accountability to financial burdens such as education costs, healthcare costs and mortgages.

But when we pull back the curtain and examine what is really being offered, we find frightening compromises.  The financial freedoms they promise will come at the cost of three inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  To achieve the world’s definition of tolerance and equality you will be asked to turn in your freedoms of religion, speech and press (as well as others).  That path asks you to renounce your allegiance to key elements of God’s word.  In its place, you will  bend your knee to man and fear.  There’s not enough time to get into all of the costs of socialism.  In many ways though, our country essentially become slaves to sin.

With the two paths having been identified, does the Bible give us any direction to consider on freedom and our responsibility regarding it?

FREEDOM AND THE BIBLE – 

THE GOOD

Throughout human history, we have seen God liberate His people from worldly governments 

such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Rome.  In most examples recorded in The Bible, humans (both men and women) played a part with helping God’s servants become free, as well as interceding on behalf of His people before the rulers of the time.  We have examples such as:

Moses and Aaron (Exodus 5:1,2)

Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4,5)

Esther (Esther 3:8; 4:12-17; 7:3,4)

And Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-7)

Understanding that neither God nor His purpose has changed, we can be confident that He still desires for His people to be free. (Malachi 3:6) Additionally, we should gain courage from seeing Him bless the efforts of those who work for the good of His people in the political spectrum.  But most importantly, we should understand that freedom is a gift given to us from God. (James 1:17) Knowing this, it only makes sense that He expects us to value the freedoms we have.  However, He will not force us to take it if it is not wanted.  He will take it away if we toss it aside.  Let’s discuss this more.

THE BAD

We find an important lesson that God teaches those paying attention in the story of Samuel.  The Nation of Israel had been liberated from Egypt; they were now in the Promised Land.  They had seen God take care of them in many miraculous ways.  But, after all He had done for them, notice what they asked Samuel to do.  “They said to him, ‘You are old…now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’” (1 Samuel 8:5) Yes, the Nation of Israel came to see little value in the freedom God had given them; they had lost respect for those that had sacrificed for them.  They wanted to be like the nations, like everyone else.

How did God respond?  He told Samuel, “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:9 NLT) Samuel did as God directed and warned them of the political decision they were making; telling them that they would come to regret their choice. (1 Samuel 8:10-18) Even though they were warned, they proceeded anyway. (1 Samuel 8:19, 20) History shows that God was right.  Think of all the turmoil Israel went through due to many wicked kings and the decisions they made.  

What lesson do we learn from this?  

God may warn us against taking a certain political path, but He will not stop us if the people’s hearts are set upon it.  How wise it would be to listen to the warnings in advance.

Does this not remind us of today?  Many are clamoring for something different.  We are watching the divide begin to occur, some choosing the right while others choose the left.  Some of what they say might seem appealing to us, but we have been warned – by history, by true leaders bold enough to speak up and by God himself via The Bible.  We have been told, as good as it may sound, do not go down the path being pushed by the left.  But, He will not prevent it…even if we ultimately regret it.

We need to give serious consideration to which path and which leaders we are supporting.  We need to pray for those elected, as well as our fellow citizens, that they make the right choice as it affects all of us. (1 Timothy 2:1,2) While time remains, each of us should show we value the freedoms we have.  Do not allow them to be stripped away freely by the lunacy of the world.  We should be involved in the capacities each of us have been given, making it known that we choose God and His gift of freedom.

THE UGLY

Compared to the world in general, it should be crystal clear that each of us as American’s have been given a great gift in freedom.  The Bible, through Jesus’ words,  gives admonition to people who have been entrusted with such gifts, “For everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 NLT)

Our gift of freedom demands our continued action.  Right now, we are being asked to protect the freedoms entrusted to us.  By our actions or our inactions, we will prove if we are worthy of what has been given to us.  There is a second scriptural principle that applies as well, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much”. (Luke 16:10) By no means am I suggesting freedom is a ‘very little’ thing.  What I am stating is this: if we want God to continue to bless us with more, to trust us with more, we must be faithful stewards with what He has already asked us to oversee.  For The United States of America, freedom is part of what has been given.

We must pay attention to this important principle, as there is an alternative outcome for those who are not good stewards.  In the parable of the talents, Christ issues a warning to those who do not value the gifts that God has given to them. (Matthew 25:14-30) He says, “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside…where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:28-30) If we continue as a country to show disregard for the freedoms that have been given us, they could be taken from us all together.

We are the stewards.  As much, we must take a stand against what we are seeing happen.  Your current freedoms, and maybe even more importantly, the freedoms of the next generations are dependent upon your actions today.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

At the outset, I asked if you could imagine living in such an environment where freedom was limited or non-existent.  As each day passes, this country appears to move further in that direction.  Will you spectate while this is occurring?  Will you not have any involvement?  Being “neutral” in the issues of our time gives way to victory for the side you likely oppose.

And what about our children and grandchildren?  

Can you imagine them afraid to speak? 

To believe? 

To learn the truths that God gives?  

Time is still on our side.  The ability remains for us to hold back what would transform where we grew up into something unrecognizable.  As Nehimiah said to those helping him rebuild Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14) 

If you more than just enjoy,  if you truly value what you have, then help ensure an inheritance of freedom for the next generation. Each of us must be responsible.  Each of us must get involved.  We must hold fast our stand with God and His views on freedom no matter how unpopular, and we must do our part to secure freedom for our future generations.   

#GoDoBe

Written by R.A. Goodnight

 “So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free…” Galations 5:1 (NLT) 

At this time of year, Americans celebrate the secular freedoms that were won at a great price, as well as the birth of The United States of America.  Since 1776 until now, we give honor to all who gave, as well as for what they have achieved.  

It is of no doubt that our secular freedoms are of great importance.  But our spiritual freedom should not be overlooked, as it far surpasses the freedoms we have at home.  I would summarize the overall theme of The Bible as ‘The King and His Kingdom’.  From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals to us who The King will be, how The Kingdom will be established and what it will accomplish for us.  And in two words, what it will achieve is ultimate freedom–freedom from sin and death, freedom from slavery to supernatural forces from which only one man had the power to save us.  And, the same as our secular freedom, our spiritual freedom came with great sacrifice; it came at the cost of another’s blood.

Understanding what it took to redeem us, we should use our lives to show that we value the price that was paid.  How can we do this?  One way is found in our opening verse.  There It states, “Now make sure that you stay free.”  What did Paul mean when he wrote those words?

HOW TO STAY FREE

In Romans chapter six, Paul helps us see the relationship between God’s grace through Christ sacrifice, sin and spiritual freedom.  In verse 14 he tells us, “Sin is no longer your master…Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14 NLT) How great our God is for providing us a release from the power of sin in our lives.  But there is a catch.  Even though freedom has been provided for us, it is up to us to avail ourselves of it.  Paul goes on to say, “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free…does that mean that we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin…or you can choose to obey God.” (Romans 6:15, 16 NLT) God wants us to be free; He took the first step by providing the path to freedom.  But it is up to each of us to become and remain free by choosing to accept Christ and obey God and not our sinful tendencies.

It is interesting that Paul uses the words “make sure” that we stay free in Galatians 5:1.  We don’t just trip into freedom.  As Paul helps us see in the spiritual sense, freedom is a choice.  It requires action from us to ensure our freedom remains intact.  When we make active decisions in our life that protect us from temptation, we are “making sure” that we stay in the freedom God has given us.  Freedom is not passive; it requires us to be deliberate in our life choices.

THE FREEDOM KILLER

In a world controlled by Satan, there are many sin’s that can compromise our freedom and enslave us as men.  Today, one of the biggest freedom killers among men is addiction to pornography.  Notice some of the recent statistics regarding pornography use among Christian men:

(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)

• 57% of pastors say they have struggled

(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)

• 64% of youth pastors say 

they have struggled

(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)

• 45% of Christians admit pornography is a problem in their home

(Focus On The Family – https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/pornography-and-virtual-infidelity/virtual-infidelity-and-marriage)

• 16% of those Christians say they are trying to quit but have been unable

(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)

How can we consider ourselves free if we are unable to break free from something that entangles us?  What steps can we take to become free or to remain free?

WAYS TO MAKE SURE

One of the first steps to help gain control of any addiction is to identify your trigger.  If you have ever been able to speak with someone battling an addiction, most will tell you of some external trigger that causes them to struggle with their addiction.  Some examples of such triggers could be:

• Stress

• Depression

• Guilt

• Marital problems

• Even boredom

Once you have identified your trigger(s), you can begin addressing the underlying issues driving you toward your addiction.  For example, if boredom is your trigger (common to younger Christian men) then find something wholesome to do with your time.  Volunteer in your church, take up a hobby or even fill your down time with prayer or Bible study.  Fill the voids and remove the boredom.  The same tactic would apply with other triggers.  Find a wholesome ‘de-stresser’, talk with someone about the depression or focus on your marriage with your spouse as opposed to fueling the problems with an addiction.  The addiction is a symptom; address the underlying reasons behind the symptom. 

An accountability partner can be of immense value as well.  A fellow Christian man, someone whom you can talk to and be honest with, can be a powerful ally when temptations are high.  When feelings of stress or guilt occur, talking to another man in Christ can help you get through those moments when we may feel weak.  Technology can also serve as an accountability partner.  Software such as Covenant Eyes helps provide support while we take control of the addiction.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer.  Philippians 4:6 (NLT) advises us, “In every situation, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God.”  Take your struggles to Him and identify them by name in our prayers.  Remember, we can accomplish all things through Christ. (Philippians 4:13)

THE IMPORTANCE OF REMAINING FREE

Losing our freedom will eventually lead to spiritual inactivity or even death.  Along the way, it will limit our effectiveness at helping anybody else attain freedom in Christ.  How can we lead others to freedom if we ourselves are a slave to sin?

Accordingly, for those of us in leadership positions, it is important for ourselves and for those we lead that we remain free.  As husbands and fathers, how can we help our children or our families through trials and assaults on their freedom if we are choosing to be a slave to sin?

Stay aware; pay attention to our choices and make sure that you stay free.  Honor the sacrifice that was given for us, and do not lose sight of others we can help if we ourselves are free.  Never forget, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)


I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 

@omegaleagueman

Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

Christ set us free. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” John 8:36 NASB

Freedom and Work

Do you feel free in your work? I mean do you look forward to your job or thank God for Friday’s? Do you feel empowered by your occupation or chained to your job? Work or situations we dislike can contribute to our feeling trapped in our work.

Studies I found online suggest as little as 15% or as high as 30% of the American workforce are engaged in their work. Trapped or disengaged employees go through the motions. They’re not present with energy. Engaged employees bring more energy, produce more, and stay longer. 

If you feel chained to your job, but you follow Jesus, are you free?

Freedom is ours for the taking because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But many people, whether they follow Jesus or not, work chained into situations we dislike serving people we dislike. If Jesus made us free, why don’t we change? 

Could it be we fail to understand the freedom given to us by Jesus?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NASB

Christian Freedom Looks Like Love

Paul suggests our freedom will produce a love through which we can serve one another. I often thought “one another” meant other Christians. When I first became a Christ-follower, I worked with people in the trucking and logistics industry. Many didn’t seem to follow Jesus. And most were from a different background and experience than me. Instead of even trying to understand them, I just decided I didn’t like them much. It’s easier to dislike someone than it is to get to know them. So, without seeing myself as the solution, I often chose instead to beg Jesus to get me out of that career in that industry. 

How often do you catch yourself hurrying to get out of your workplace? It is work, right? If the term “one another” in Galatians 5:13 means other Christians, it would be easy to follow this command. When I get around other Christians, I find it easy to serve them in love! If everyone I was around every day was “my kinda person” this would be much easier.

But what if Paul’s “one another,” meant everyone? The Greek word can mean “fellow man.” In the next verse, Paul references the 2nd half of the Great Commandment, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” Galatians 5:14 NASB. Paul seems to equate “one another” to my “neighbor”. And Jesus already said my neighbor is anyone and everyone, whether I like them or not. (See Luke 10:27-37.)

God’s Freedom

God created Adam free, but ever since that first sin, we have each given up our freedom as slaves to sin. Jesus purchased our freedom again when he paid for our sin on the cross. But we may still live like a slave to sin and to myself. The difference, maybe even the answer, is my willingness to serve my fellow man. God makes me free to do what’s in the best interest of everyone I interact with. Regardless of my situation, Jesus makes me free to serve others. And when I do, I get a new energy and a new passion. 

Want some proof? Pray for your coworkers for the next 30 days. Ask God to bless them and do whatever he knows they need for their best interest. And ask him to use you to bless them. Avoid the temptation to pray that God make them likable. Rather, get to know them better so you can pray for them better. 

Two Results

If you sincerely pray for your coworkers, supervisors, or customers, you will experience 2 outcomes. The first is that you will see God at work. God actively works in their lives already, but often we focus on ourselves and never see it. As we connect with Jesus on behalf of our coworkers and customers, we will see his miracles in our ordinary, daily life.

Second, we will experience Jesus’ freedom. He frees us to serve others. When we give our freedom away, it multiplies. When we keep it to ourselves, or if we deny the freedom and continue in sin, our freedom withers and dies. Jesus’ frees us to serve others. We gain new strength from God as we serve others and wait on him. And we see him working in everything we do. 

We receive freedom in our situation instead of freedom from it. Jesus’ freedom makes us free in any situation. And he makes our freedom visible as we serve others, too.

Take the Challenge

Does this sound too good to be true? Try it for 2 weeks and see what happens. Our Marketplace Mission Trip (www.marketplacemissiontrip.com) is a 2-week trial serving others at work. Each “trip” has produced miracles and energy in the lives of those involved. Whether you sign up for the “trip,” or you enlist 1 friend and pray for your coworkers daily, Jesus will show you the freedom he bought for you. Either way, you will gain a new appreciation for the freedom we have in Jesus.

Written by R.A. Goodnight

I had a chance to meet with Brandon Outlaw, owner of Commercial Fitness Concepts.  Brandon is a local business owner with a drive for giving back into the community.  Brandon’s business began in 2003; since then, his business has grown from an e-commerce model based out of his garage to five warehouses he uses as distribution points.  Today, CFC is the largest warehouse of new, refurbished, cleaned and serviced, as well as “as-is” fitness equipment in the Midwest.

During our talk, Brandon expressed to me that he recognizes how Christ has blessed his business throughout the years.  Because of how he has been blessed, Brandon likes to use his business as a blessing for others.

Brandon works regularly with The Wounded Warriors organization, donating exercise equipment to help get the country’s finest back on their feet.  Speaking of his partnership with Wounded Warriors, Brandon said, “If someone requests a machine, we are going to try and fulfill that request.”  Brandon expressed to me that regardless of its use, for rehab centers or personal homes, they do their best to help when called upon.

From there we moved on to other organizations with which CFC likes to partner.  Brandon shared, “We donate as much as we can to The Boys and Girls Clubs.  We also partner with Planet Fitness; they donate some cardio and we donate some strength.  The fire department is another.  We donate as much as possible to them.  Just about anybody that needs help.”  

Brandon mentioned other fire and veterans’ associations he partners with as well.  He said, “Anybody that comes to us that needs help, I am willing to go the extra mile.  If it’s a legitimate organization, if someone needs something, we like to help if we can.  Recently, we just did a deal with Make a Wish foundation.  A girl here in Tulsa had a wish to give some fitness equipment to a school.  We were able to help them get what they needed within the allowance they had to do it in.”

From Community Spirit’s point of view, we need more of this is the kind of guy and company in the community.  What a great example of emulating Christ, not just in personal life, but even through his business practices.

Outside of Brandon’s altruistic activities, he is also happy to work with local gym owners.  Brandon said, “We can do everything–from kettlebells to barbells, rowers to rigs or squat stands.  We can get anything for them.” CFC can also help individuals with home gyms, “Anybody who is looking for an individual machine at home – spin bike, treadmill, elliptical – anything.  They should reach out to us.” said Brandon.

What about us lowly gym goers?  He didn’t leave us out either.  I asked Brandon if he had any recommendations as far as the health club scene in Tulsa goes.  Brandon shared, “Sky Fitness. I think they are great.  Lifetime, if you want amenities, they are incredible.  For lower cost memberships – 10 gym has great ownership and great management.”  He added, “You really understand the judgment-free zone when you attend Planet Fitness, then go somewhere else.  Many people feel comfortable over there.  The YMCA’s have great facilities and great management as well.”  

He finished up by giving a call out to some local shops as well, “Body Masters on Memorial is a great place, with a great guy.  There is a great personal training facility down on 111th and Memorial called Journey Fitness.  They are great people.”  Community Spirit did a story on Journey in April and we agree; they are a great group of people.  They even give free memberships to pastors. That alone is pretty cool!

All said and done, Brandon is one outlaw that we are glad to have in the community.  If anyone knows of a charitable cause looking for a partner, a local business owner in need of some equipment or you’re looking to upgrade your treadmill – hit up Brandon (brandon@commercialfitnessconcepts.com) or Dean (Dean@commercialfitnessconcepts.com) at CFC! Tell him CSM sent ya!

Written By: R.A. Goodnight

Tolerant.  Pro-choice. A new age of human rights.  The world of today has done a good job at making a life separate of God appeal to many by using nothing more than an effective marketing campaign.  They have been so successful that they have been able to re-label who men, women and Christians are in society.   Due to their success, I would argue that all important aspects of modern-day American life have moved to the left of center.  If we are being honest, though, the world itself is not solely guilty for the environment in which we now find ourselves.  There is a second reason this is occurring.

I can remember as a boy and young man, that men were expected to be men and women, women.  There never was discussion or debate about what those two sexes meant.  Additionally, there seemed to be an understood definition of what a Christian was, and what they did or didn’t believe.  There was a unified defensive that existed to help protect individuals and church congregations when it came to our personal and Christian identities. That defensive was made up of parents, mature individual Christians and The Church itself.  It was always there; active and vocal when it came to expounding God’s definitions while, simultaneously, combating worldly ideas.

Unfortunately, the opposite seems to have occurred over the last decade.  With the coming of age of the current generation, our collective voices have started to lessen.  On some topics, our individual voices and the voice of The Church have fallen all together silent.  To a large degree, we have stopped teaching God’s view of men, of women and even of children (both born and unborn).  We have fallen silent on topics such as sexuality; and our absence on topics like abortion has resulted, in part, with the continued erosion of family values.  Now, throughout the country, members of both sexes no longer hold a Christian view of each other’s roles and responsibilities, marriage, or the protection of life.

So, to all men and leaders in any position, I make these statements – it is in our silence that the perversions of the world have taken stronghold.  It is through our silence that we will share responsibility for what individuals believe and for the adults our children grow into.  It is not this world’s place to define sexuality, what is considered life or Christianity.  As God created all of these, it is for Him to define.  It is our responsibility to train others in His ways.  Understanding that this is how we take captive and overcome the definitions the world has created; we should not remain silent.  

In the recent weeks I have spoken to individuals responsible for various roles.  I have spoken to teachers, parents and church leaders.  In almost all cases the responses I received gave the impression that there is a general sense of inability to discuss these with our congregations, with individual’s or our children.  In two cases, I was even told some churches have made deliberate decisions or rules to not address such issues at all.

Is it really that big of deal to remain silent on such matters?  In order to carry this discussion further, here are a few statistics that should be considered:

• More than 4 out of 10 women who had an abortion stated they were active in their church while the decision was being made and at the time the abortion was performed.

(Focus on the Family – Survey: Women Go Silently From Church to Abortion Clinic)

• Of those 40%, 76% said the church had no influence upon their decision (meaning it wasn’t discussed).

(Focus on the Family – Survey: Women Go Silently From Church to Abortion Clinic)

• About 3% of the population do not identify as heterosexual.  Think, then, how many family members, friends or fellow Christians are affected by extension.

(Gallup Data – In U.S. More Adults Identifying)

What is my point in sharing such statistics?  Although these topics are uncomfortable, we are mistaken if we believe they are not having an impact in our church, on our friends or on our children.  So, why aren’t we speaking about them?  Think about it – some of our multi-site/multi-service churches in Oklahoma easily see 1,000 people per weekend per location.  This means that a potentially large demographic of the audience is affected by the topics previously mentioned.  Think of the opportunity this creates for us to be a positive influence and a source of encouragement for these individuals.  But, that will be difficult to accomplish if we will not speak about such matters.

Despite the negative statistics I just shared, 64% of pastors (and a similar number of individual Christians) feel unable to address such topics. (Barna – Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture)

Generally, the reasons cited were that they were too political or unpopular.  Due to this fear, there was an expressed concern on how audiences, congregations or individuals, would react to these discussions.  I understand the concern.  But I would argue that we are looking at the situation backwards.  We are looking at it from the point of view of men and have forgotten God’s point of view. Allow me to build upon this this idea using scripture.

In Bible history we learn of a man named Jonah.  Like modern day Christians, Jonah was tasked by God to deliver a message to the city of Nineveh. (Jonah 1:2; 3:2) However, Jonah believed that no one wanted to hear the message that he had been given.  He believed they would not listen.  Jonah was convinced that the message would be so unpopular that he attempted to run from God and the task he had been given.  He went so far as to board a ship and travel in the opposite direction of where Nineveh was located. (Jonah 1:3) But who was Jonah to decide this about God’s message? 

Eventually, God reminded Jonah of his responsibility as His messenger. (Jonah 1:4-2:10) Because of this reminder, Jonah proceeded to Nineveh and delivered the message as God expected of him. (Jonah 3:3) How did the people respond?  Was the message as unpopular as Jonah had convinced himself it would be?  Notice the outcome as recorded in The Bible, “The Ninevites believed God.  A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” (Jonah 3:5) Even the King responded to Jonah’s message. In the end the scriptures tell us that more than 120,000 people were saved by what was thought to be an unpopular and unwanted message. (Jonah 3:6-10; 4:11)

What is today’s application?  There are few of our messages as Christians that are viewed as popular in today’s fallen world.  They may be deemed as old fashioned, unpopular or politically incorrect.  There will always be those that do not want to hear God’s views.  It is true that addressing some topics could result in people unfriending you.  It is even possible that some might not come back to your church.  All these possibilities are unfortunate.  But what about the ‘120,000’ that are waiting to hear what God has to say?  Notice the lesson God gave Jonah while he was struggling with his negative, and incorrect, viewpoint, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people…?” (Jonah 4:11) Perhaps there were some in Nineveh that did not want to hear.  But God was concerned with those who did want to listen, and he taught Jonah to be concerned with this as well.  A timely message for us in today’s complicated world.

That’s the viewpoint I would suggest we need to consider, God’s viewpoint, not man’s. There could be someone you know or someone sitting in the audience that needs to hear, even wants to hear, what God has to say.  If we remain silent Satan’s voice will be the what people hear.  He will try to define them, mold them and convince them that things God defines as sin are acceptable.  The only questions that remain are, will you deliver the message?  Or, will you play a part in preventing them from hearing it?  Think of the experience your future could hold – one where you positively impacted a person in crisis and introduced them to God. Or one with a whale of a tale.


I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories.

man2man@omegaleague.com 

@omegaleagueman


Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

The Offense

The Human Resources director of your company called. Suddenly, today is your last day. There’s a reorganization and your job is no longer necessary. You’re a great person and this isn’t personal. There’s nothing you could have done, but they don’t need you anymore. There’s a little severance, but you know it won’t last long enough. Meanwhile, it’s time to pack. 

Initial Reaction

“They” did it and it wasn’t fair. Or “They should…” The word “they” is a key.  When we focus on the past and we hold someone else responsible for what happened, we build walls of bitterness because we haven’t forgiven someone.

The Command

‘And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Matthew 6:12

Can we forgive others in the workplace the way we want God to forgive us? Do you want God to forgive you the way you forgive others? The way I forgive others often falls short of the way I ask for forgiveness. When I’m honest, I appreciate God’s forgiveness. I’m glad he created forgiveness and I know my efforts don’t measure up. 

Three Steps

Even though I’m no expert in forgiveness, I still practice. And in my practice, I’ve found 3 activities that help me move toward God’s command and away from my natural reaction. 

Name the offense. Often, we need to make ourselves aware of the offense we feel so we can forgive properly. Think about this event. Step into the pain. Think about the costs. Get it out there where you can deal with it. Some people think they’ve forgiven someone, but they still harbor ill feelings. They still blame their former employer for debt they incurred while unemployed. Or they blame their boss for a poor review or a less-than-expected pay raise. When we name the offense, we begin to manage it.

Give it away. Once you name the offense, give it away or give it to God. Ask God to give you a heart for the person or people who offended you. Then ask God to make it right. Unforgiveness keeps you stuck in the past. When you can trust God to make something positive out of your offense, you experience the benefits of forgiveness.

Make it unconditional. We didn’t earn God’s forgiveness. I’m unaware of many of the offenses I’ve caused. None of us truly understand the vast scope of the unconditional forgiveness we have each already received. Don’t revisit the offense months from now when something else happens. Remember that you unconditionally asked God to restore you from this offense. Remind yourself everything related to this offense bills to the same account.

Perfect Job

I have always wanted to work where I could screw up BIG without fear of penalty or job loss. When I turned my life to follow Jesus, I got my wish. But I often saw only the temporal. While the pain was fresh, I did not see my eternal boss give me repeat chances. I did not see my career as what God was doing in my life. Whatever offended me was visible, not eternal.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Keep it Real

When we focus on visible things, we can find offenses everywhere. For work-oriented problems where we were let go, laid off, or we lost money or status at the hands of someone else, these steps can be a quick guide for how to focus on the future. An unforgiving spirit keeps us locked in the past. We continue to bear the misery of the past rather than giving it away, or even using the offense as a springboard to a new future. We know God uses our stories. Let God use your offense. Name it. Give it to Him. And make it unconditional.

God willing, I will continue to work on my weakness forgiving others. I hope to one day be willing to ask God to forgive me the way I forgive others. For now, I’m grateful he forgives better than I.

_________________________________

Note: Often, issues at work are much less painful or costly than the others discussed in this issue of the magazine. But our workplaces are regular, daily places where we interact with others. Conflict and offense live there too and every grudge or bitterness we hang on to costs us daily. 


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“Stand firm then… with the breastplate of righteousness in place… Take the helmet of salvation…” Ephesians 6:14, 15

THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS

For ages, human philosophers have pursued answers to life’s biggest questions.  Thankfully, a degree in philosophy isn’t required to find explanations for most, as the scriptures provide satisfying answers to all such questions.  Let me give you an example. 

It is a problem as old as war itself. During a war, the invading force needs a strategy to defeat the defending force, but also a plan to minimize resistance from the local population. Additionally, being able to shape the ideology of future generations is strategic to the long-term success of the conquering army. But how do you control resistance from the indigenous people as well as their children? By targeting their hearts and their minds.

With physical warfare there is, generally, a psychological war that is fought simultaneously. One of the earliest secular references to this comes from India, around the 4th century B.C. In a book that was written the writer gives advice on how to wage Gudayuddha, or “silent warfare”. The invading force would use propaganda campaigns that attempted to convince the people that they were the force for good. They would try to sway the population (and even the opposing soldiers) that the invaders have the people’s interest in mind, that they were liberators and not enslavers. In the end, they offer some form of freedom to the people with the hope of winning them over to their ideology. For if you can win the people, you have a greater chance of winning the war. But, depending on who the invading force is, the ‘freedom’ they entice the population with can be dangerous lies.

THE LIES OF TODAY

It should not come as a shock that our invader, Satan, uses this tactic in his war against God’s people. The scriptures tell us, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) The Bible also refers to him as the father of lies. (John 8:44) Through the ages he has proven himself to be a skilled liar and an effective propagandist. At the beginning of human history, Satan employed lies and propaganda to target the mind of Eve. He presented himself as a liberator and promised her ‘freedom’ that he claimed God was withholding from her. Once he convinced her of his lie it infected her heart causing her to act on the idea. (Genesis 3:4, 5) So began human sin. It is an effective tactic that has won many over to his side. Due to its effectiveness, we should not expect him to have abandoned its use.

Bringing the application to our day, thousands of years later, Satan is still employing this tactic. He persists in his efforts to “lead the whole world astray” by use of lies and propaganda. (Revelation 12:9) Even today he builds his lies on the same fundamental deception – that God is holding us back. That we are not free. That we can have more, and that he is offering it. His ideals are embedded in the constant barrage of data offered to us by Hollywood, news outlets and politicians. The ideals we encounter include stances on sexual immorality (homosexual or heterosexual), abortion, idolatry (many times not recognized as idolatry), spirituality and religion along with many other hot topics in the world today. He tries to convince us that these are not bad. He tries to persuade us to adopt an ‘anything goes’ attitude toward life; he presents that as being free, as us being in control of our own lives.

Sadly, many of our fellow humans have given into these ideas and now find themselves in a precarious situation. Those who accept (and more importantly promote) these popular lies, knowingly or unknowingly, have become agents in Satan’s war. 2 Corinthians tells us, “It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (11:15) God pronounces woes upon individuals in this state, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” (Isaiah 5:20) This is not a situation in which we want to find ourselves or our families–taking a stand against God and his truths through the belief and promotion of Satan’s lies.

Understanding that the assault is more intense than it ever has been, how do we protect our minds and our hearts?

THE HELMET OF SALVATION – OUR MENTAL DEFENSE

Just as a physical helmet protects the head and brain, the source of our intellect, our hope of salvation can protect our minds. The distractions and lies presented to us by Satan’s world can have an intoxicating effect upon us. Interestingly, Paul admonished first century Christians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8) In this verse, Paul establishes a connection between spiritual sobriety (or mental protection) and our hope of salvation. Instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted by the promises and ‘wisdom’ of Satan’s world, a focus on our hope of salvation can help ensure that our minds are strong, aware and filled the truths from God as opposed to the lies of Satan.

However, our minds require constant attention. As the flow of Satan’s propaganda exists 24/7 our consideration of God based truths need to occur daily. This counsel is given to us through scripture as well. The Bible admonishes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) Yes, a regular renewal of our mind convinces us of God’s truth and reinforces His will as opposed to Satan’s lies that our minds encounter. Meditating on what is true, right and pure is the only antidote to the information offered to us through Satan’s world. (Philippians 4:8)

THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS – DEFENSE FOR OUR HEARTS

The defense of our heart begins with protecting our mind, as the path to our hearts is through our minds. This is one of the most important aspects of Christian warfare. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) What is in our figurative hearts defines who we really are, the inner person. Our heart is our seat of motivation. Everything we do, love or hate comes from our hearts.

The breastplate of a soldier’s armor protected his heart. So how can righteousness protect our figurative hearts? First, we must understand and accept that righteousness is only defined by one person – God. Not ourselves, not a politician (or other public figure), not our friends – not this world. Once we have accepted God’s standard on righteousness, this will cause us to reject any ‘wisdom’ we encounter in the world that changes, removes or disputes His standard. Over time this will develop in us a heart that hates evil but loves good. (Amos 5:15) Once our hearts have been conditioned to love what God loves, it will govern what we say and do. Speaking of Christ, Hebrews 1:9 tells us, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” As our exemplar, we should strive to have a heart of Christ. It will define who we are as a Christian.

CHILDREN ARE PRIME TARGETS

The defense of our own hearts and minds is of utmost importance. In the outset of this article, I mentioned that a strategic initiative of an invading force would be to change the ideology of future generations as well. This means the minds and hearts of our children are prime targets.

Men, the attack upon our children is as fierce as I have ever seen it. Satan is using music, movies, TV shows, even children’s books to hack their little minds and pirate their precious hearts. More importantly, through school and colleges they are taught many ideas that directly conflict with God’s standards of righteousness. Whether through poor choices in friends or through the school curriculums, there is an active campaign against our children. Are you aware of who your children’s friends are? Do you know what is being taught in their classrooms? If we do not choose to fill their minds with the pure thoughts of God and to shape their identities as Christians – Satan will do his own filling. Do not test him. The Devil would love nothing more than to have his way with our children’s minds.

Our children need us to fight for them. Their futures depend on us forging child-sized helmets and breastplates to protect their minds and hearts. Let’s consider for a moment the example of a Christian youth – Timothy. Paul said this of him, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) It was Timothy’s grandmother and mother who shaped his mind and conditioned his heart. Further counsel from God’s word admonishes us as fathers, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

What are some practical ways we can apply this counsel? Bedtime stories are a great way. When fishing, hiking or involved in outdoor activities – use these moments to teach your kids about our Great Creator and God. When you drive them to school, impart God’s truths and wisdom with application for their day. If practical for your family, prayerfully consider a Christian school or college for your child. If not practical, be aware and involved in what public schools are actively putting into the minds of our kids. We are their fathers. As far as it is in our power, let’s make intentional choices what we allow into their minds and hearts.

CONCLUSION

t is our responsibility to start forging for our children a strong faith and passionate love for God’s standards from the moment we see their eyes the first time. Fight with a ferocity that the Devil has never encountered before. Fight as if their futures will be shaped by the effectiveness of the defense you mount because they will be.

We now have a full suit of armor that we can use to defend ourselves as well as our entire families. In this series we have considered:

• The sword of the Spirit
• The shield of faith
• The belt of truth
• Feet fitted with the gospel of peace
• The breastplate of righteousness
• The helmet of salvation

(www.communityspiritmagazine.com or www.issuu.com contains back issues of CSM to read the set).

Equip your armor men and scream back at the Devil, “You cannot have them! Not this child, not today!” Strike you swords against your shields and fight like men, in Jesus name, Amen!


I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 

@omegaleagueman


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” – Ephesians 6:14, 15 

“WHAT IS TRUTH?”

For ages, human philosophers have pursued answers to life’s biggest questions.  Thankfully, a degree in philosophy isn’t required to find explanations for most, as the scriptures provide satisfying answers to all such questions.  Let me give you an example. 

Contained in the inspired words, we find a conversation that Christ was having with Pontius Pilate during his trial, just before his death.  Let’s pick up the conversation at John 18:37 (NIV), where Jesus says to Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.”  Pilate then responds to Jesus in verse 38 with a question, “What is truth?”

This is a powerful question.  It is a question that affects all humans who have ever lived, are living, or will live in the future.  Using Christ’s statement in verse 37, he tells us that the truth was the reason he came to Earth.  Because of Christ’s statement, the answer to Pilate’s question is central to the Christian faith.  If you were standing in front of Pilate, how would you have answered his question?

Interestingly, Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question after he asked it.  But, prior to his arrest and trial, he did provide the answer in a prayer that he was offering to his Father.  Praying for his disciples, notice what Jesus requested, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NIV).  He gave a plain, uncomplicated answer to a question that many find (or try to make) complicated.  God’s word is the truth, the source of truth.  If any doctrine or theology is not in agreement with God’s word, it simply is not truth.

Christ’s statement should help solidify in our minds the importance of God’s word.  Now that we understand what truth is, why is it a component of our spiritual armor?  How does it protect us?

TRUTH AS A BELT

Just as a literal belt is firm around our waist, encompassing our body, so should be our reliance upon God’s word.  It should shape our thoughts, our beliefs and finally our actions.  Psalms 119:105 (NIV) reminds us of the help God’s word can give us in our daily lives.  The psalmist states, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  The world has become a ‘gray’ place, where good and bad have become subjective.  However, with the truth of God’s word lighting our way, it becomes clear what a Christian’s stance should be on matters debated in the world.

Along these lines, 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 (NLT) gives us this advice as well, “but test everything that is said.  Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.”  The Bible tells us we need to sort through all we hear to filter out what is good or evil.  Christians encounter opinions expressed as truth every day.  Do we just accept these or do we test them out?  How can we test them if we are unfamiliar with God’s truth contained in scripture?  If we just accept them and then share them with others, we are simply spreading those untested concepts.

Even when it came to Paul’s teaching, a group of first century believers did not accept them on face value.  Acts tells us that they “examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) If the words of a prominent apostle were put to the test, how fitting an example for us to use today with opinions coming from all directions.  The Bible should be central in our lives, examined by us every day.  It should be our litmus test to prove if what we hear is true.

This leads well into our next component of spiritual armor.  How does truth play a part in having our feet fitted with readiness of the gospel of peace?

A SOLDIER’S BOOTS

Let’s go back to Jesus words from John 18:37 (NIV).  Jesus stated that he came into the world to testify to the truth.  He reinforces this again in Mark 1:38 (NIV), “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”

When we think of what Jesus did while on earth several thoughts may come to mind – he healed the sick, raised the dead and gave his life as a ransom sacrifice.  But, using his own words, these are not the reasons (the primary reason) he came to Earth.  What did Jesus spend most of his time doing?  Preaching.  Teaching.  Testifying to the truth.   He shared it with disregard to his own needs with anyone who would listen to the lifesaving message of The Good News.

As soldiers in God’s army, our testimony to the truth is part of our warfare as well.  Just as a pair of boots helps ready us to run into an battle, our knowledge of truth readies us to proactively preach it or reactively defend it.   Paul reminds us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (1 Peter 3:15) Notice he stated – ALWAYS BE PREPARED.  Readiness, willingness to stand up and testify–what better way to wage spiritual warfare than to testify to the truth, provide a defense and show others the truths Satan attempts to hide.

The same question from above applies here as well.  How can we give testimony?  How can we provide an answer to anyone who asks us?  If we ourselves are not familiar with God word we hinder our ability to do these things.  The study of God’s word must be a central part of our lives for us to be capable and ready to provide such a defense.

As a test to our readiness to defend our hope, ask yourselves if you could use the Bible to answer these questions:

Who is God?

What are his primary attributes?

What is the Holy Spirit?

Who is Jesus Christ?

Why did Jesus Christ have to die?

There are obviously other questions important to our faith, but a comprehending these fundamentals gauges our readiness to do what He has called us to do.

CONCLUSION

For those who have been following the Call to Arms series, we can see that there is a continuing thread in these articles:

●In January, we learned how God’s word serves as our sword.

●Last month, we discerned that the study of His word strengthens our faith to use it as a shield.

●This month we see that inspired word is the source of truth to test out thoughts, ideas and objections to our faith.  Further, a working knowledge of this truth equips us with “boots,” to share the Gospel and defend those truths with a response. 

●In April, we will conclude how the truth of God’s word helps forge us a helmet of salvation and a breastplate of righteousness to protect our minds and hearts.

God’s word – The Bible – is ‘the metal’ from which all the components of our armor get their strength.  Without this ingredient in our daily lives our armor will not be able to stand up as well to the battles we face.  When we think about its critical role, I wonder, are we giving the study of God’s word the real attention it deserves? 

I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 

@omegaleagueman


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16

A BATTLE WITH FAITH

By the time I was twenty-one, I strayed to a path that led me far from God. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I had been to a church, read the bible or said a prayer. I was addicted to multiple drugs and had a heavy smoking habit. I had no job, no way to feed myself, and no way to pay for next month’s rent. To make matters worse, at the end of the previous month, my roommate told me he was moving in with his girlfriend. I would have to figure out how to pay for the apartment on my own. As it got closer to the end of the month, I knew I was going to be evicted. Negativity and darkness grew in my mind. The depression, intensified by withdrawals, was so severe that I would run a razor blade across my body believing it kept my mind focused. I carry those scars on my arm to this day.

This path wasn’t what I wanted. It never was. I kept asking myself how I had become so bad and so lost. But there was nothing in my power I felt I could do about it. It became frightening, as I did not know how to fight what was happening in my mind. I felt alone and helpless.  

One afternoon that mental battle reached an apex. I told myself I strayed too far and there was no way back. There would be no forgiveness, because I knew better, yet chose to do bad things. I began to tell myself there was no help, that I had been forgotten. I started to give in to the idea that there was no reason to fight as I would not be able to change. But amid the mental chaos and darkness, there was another thought that echoed in my mind.

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him.” 

I couldn’t remember exactly why I knew that. But it had that ring of truth and provided a calming effect on my mind. It made me ask myself – if He wouldn’t forget the works I had once done, then how could He forget me? Even though I had turned from Him, I wanted to believe that He was still there. After all those years and a mountain of sin on my shoulders, I had retained a grain of faith. Though small, it was powerful enough to defend me against the attack my mind was under.  

With my feeble faith, I fell to my knees in the middle of an empty apartment. Through tears I said my first prayer in years. I apologized for what I had done and admitted that I needed help. If it was true that I was not forgotten, I begged Him to please send someone to help me.  No sooner than the word ‘amen’ left my lips, there was a knock on my front door…

FAITH DEFINED

I would rank faith as the most important piece of our armor next to our swords. Understanding what faith is and its importance in our relationship with God will help us understand how it can be used as a shield.

Let’s start with the question – what is faith?  Faith has been defined by many as belief, or confidence.  It is the conviction that what we say we believe in is true and real. To illustrate, you turn on your TV and see a weatherman reporting on a hurricane approaching. He is describing the incoming storm as a category 4 and that you should expect heavy rains and strong winds. He is warning everyone to get out of the path of this storm while time remains. You step outside and look to the horizon, but you cannot see any storm. Does this mean that the hurricane is not really coming? On the contrary, you have confidence the hurricane is approaching because of what the weather report said.  Similarly, Paul said this when speaking about faith, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1). It is through our faith that we believe in God. As our faith grows, we then come to believe truths about God. We can have confidence in such truths as: 

  • He loves us – 1 John 4:16
  • We are individually important to Him – Matt. 10:29-31
  • He will never leave us or forsake us – Duet. 31:6
  • That He wants us to succeed – Jer. 29:11

Armed with confidence, we can use those truths to defend against lies, fear or worry that my come into our lives – the “flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Another common arrow is doubt, the opposite of faith. The writer James warns us that “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). Without faith we run the risk of being tossed about by believing anything or being paralyzed by fear. This will cause us to doubt ourselves and even God himself.

There is an event in the Bible that helps us see firsthand what doubt and fear can do to the strongest of Christ’s followers. In Matthew 14, we read the familiar scriptures of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus. Peter became afraid, taking his eyes off of Jesus, and began to sink. Jesus asked him one simple question, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Peter’s lack of faith allowed fear to come in. Fear lead to doubt which led to trouble.

Because of the danger doubt can pose to a Christian, Paul admonishes us to “throw off…the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1). The sin he speaks of is a lack of faith which leads to the introduction of doubt. It can be one of the most fatal conditions for a Christian to experience. Our faith is what reassures us and convinces us to keep moving and to keep fighting, regardless of what our enemy may say about us. It shields us against doubt, fear and worry.

FAITH – ITS IMPORTANCE

This leads well into our next question – how important is faith? Faith acts as a great motivator in our lives.  Once we come to believe something, that belief should result in an action. Let’s use the example of the hurricane from earlier. Our confidence that the hurricane is coming causes us to act – to pack up our family and to get out of the way of the storm. If we don’t believe the hurricane is coming, why act? Applying this to our lives, God is a God of action. He expects his people to be people of action (Matt. 25:14-30). It will be impossible for us to be active in God if we do not first have faith in God and who He is. This would include the spiritual defense of our families and ourselves. How important and powerful this makes even the smallest of faiths (Luke 17:6).  

Paul helps us understand the connection between faith and action in Hebrews 11. He mentions many examples:

  • Abel sacrificed
  • Noah preached
  • Abraham went
  • Sarah gave birth

Abel’s faith made his sacrifice acceptable to God. Noah spent many years building the ark. Do you think doubt ever entered his mind? Perhaps, but his faith overcame his doubt. Sarah thought she was too old to give birth to a son, but her faith gave her confidence until she realized the promise. It convinced her that what God promised was true. It was their faith that led to their actions.

Accordingly, Paul states in the same chapter, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). We must have faith in order to stand firm and to do in God. Our faith is what keeps us strong, secure and ready for action.

FAITH – A FAMILY AFFAIR

Our individual faith as men, as husbands and as fathers is essential. Seeing how effective the faith of a single individual can be, imagine the defense we can muster if our entire family was a faith filled army.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he likely had in mind the armor that a Roman foot soldier would employ. A shield was a mainstay of that armor. Roman soldiers were proficient in the use of their shields, both individually and as a group. When their enemy would start firing arrows at them, the soldiers would close ranks and join their shields together. The soldiers on the outside of the formation would form walls with their shields. The soldiers in the middle of the formation would raise their shields above their heads to protect the rest against airborne attacks. This formation (called the testudo formation) was formidable and difficult to defeat.

Similarly, the combined faith of all members of our family can be difficult to penetrate. As family heads, part of our responsibility is to help our families grow in their faith of God.  How can we help our families grow in their faith? Some common ways would be:

Pray together as a family. As you pray as a family, you will experience God answering your prayers together and your family’s trust and confidence in God will grow. Trust replaces doubt.

Have a family study schedule together. It doesn’t have to be a formal reading of bible verses. Make it fun. Play a Bible-based game that teaches them events in the Bible or tell them stories.  Let them see how other people’s faith kept them strong. Tailor your study habits to your children’s age and interests.

Do not give up the habit of meeting together with our extended family. Regular attendance at worship is important to keep our faith strong. Remember, others faith can act as a protection for us as well.

Conclusion

…when I opened the door, a man was standing there. He was involved in a door to door ministry in the apartment complex, bringing the good news to people in the community. Interestingly, the man that was standing there knew me. We had not seen each other or spoken for several years. But he knew who I was. He knew where I came from. He knew the works that I had once done in God.

I believe that seeing a familiar face, having a friend stand beside me, was part of God’s plan to help me. It strengthened me for the battles that had not yet begun – to overcome addiction and rebuild my life. This person’s knowledge of my past allowed him to help me break free from my present and step into my future.

All of this began with a small amount of faith. That faith helped battle thoughts. That battle resulted in a prayer. That prayer, offered through faith, changed the direction of my life.  

Take up your shields men! Do not doubt or fear. Strike with your swords and defend with your faith.

What battles has your shield of faith or your swords of the spirit helped you fight? I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories.

man2man@omegaleague.com

@omegaleagueman