Category: FAMILY

Written by Karen Hardin

If you are watching the political horizon, it is clear that our nation is in crisis. The two primary political parties have never been more divided. At the core of this battle is the determination to remove God.

Yet here in Oklahoma, something very different is taking place.

“We are getting the church and its people back into government rather than the silent posture we have taken over the years,” explains Jesse Leon Rodgers, founder and president of City Elders and chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council.

City Elders is a biblical, reformational form of city governance which is based upon the model of the governing elders of the ancient cities of Israel and the function of New Testament Eldership.

Jesse Leon Roders, Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Senator James Lankford, and Paul Abner

Over the past two years, Rodgers and his team have been working with leaders across the state and the transformation taking place has been nothing short of amazing. So far forty-two of the seventy-seven counties have embraced this new structure in which governing city leaders now sit at the table to work side-by-side with Christian leaders in their city to bring strength and transformation.

Who and what are city elders? “They are shepherds, civil servants and stewards,” Rodgers explained. “They are experienced, anointed and recognized leaders from the three primary spheres of God ordained authority; the Church, civil government and business.”

As Rodgers and his team continue working to introduce this model to every county in Oklahoma, they are already receiving requests to assist in other states as well. Why is this important?

“The truth is, we’ve been lied to that the Church and its people are to remain separate from government. It’s not in our constitution and it’s not in the Bible,” Rodgers continued.

Throughout the Bible, religious leaders took on the role to assist in the organization and governing the people and also interacted with governmental leaders.

When the task of governing the Israelites became too burdensome, Moses called upon the Lord who said, “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.’” (Num 11:16-17)

Daniel and Joseph of biblical days both served as advisors to government leaders.

And the Apostle Paul, as a religious leader of his day, referred to government laws and interacted with government leaders. (Acts 16:37, 22:25)

So as Christians how can we transform our nation? City-by-city. County-by-county. State-by-state.

According to Marc Nuttle, political consultant to Governor Stitt’s Campaign—

“We don’t need a revitalization plan. We need an infastructure plan. What we currently have is not sustainable. For example, in Oklahoma in many of our county seats, the government is the largest employer! Our constitution’s language is outdated and needs to be updated. Our school system needs to be reorganized and restructured to better utilize the funds available.”

Although Nittle was referring specifically to Oklahoma, this can be said for almost every state in our nation.

The reason our country is in crisis and on the verge of socialist takeover, is because the biblical example of Christian elders and leaders in government positions has been abandoned. When the Left introduced the false narrative of “separation of church and state,” sadly many bought into this lie, which is not only not in our constitution, but the phrase used by Thomas Jefferson was about protecting the Church and religion from the government, not the reverse. (For more on this go to: https://wallbuilders.com/separation-church-state/)

So as Christians how can we transform our nation? City-by-city. County-by-county. State-by-state.

So what can we do?

1. Pray.

2. Get involved.VOTE. VOLUNTEER.

3. Give. Prayer by itself is not enough. Faith without works is dead. We need to open our wallets and put our money where our mouth is. If there is a God-fearing candidate willing to put their name and time on the line to help bring about transformation, the least we can do is get behind them financially to help them.

4. Spread the Word. This is an area in which everyone can help.

How? Talk about upcoming elections. Be informed. Search out when elections in your local area are taking place. Go and take others with you.

Talk about candidates and why you support them to your family, friends and those you meet. Be willing to engage in conversations, rather than remain silent.

If you would like to know more or get involved with City Elders, go to: CityElders@gmail.com or call (580) 320-7188.

ABOUT: Karen Hardin is an intercessor, author, minister and literary agent. She is called to exhort, encourage and help raise up the remnant. She desires to empower those who have grown weary so they can reposition to walk in identity and destiny. Her work has appeared in USA Today, World Net Daily, Intercessors for America, Charisma, CBN.com, The Elijah List, etc. For additional information you can contact her at www.prioritypr.org or www.karenhardin.com

Written by Teresa Goodnight

In the July issue, I shared a story about nearsighted children. Dr. Chenoweth had my full attention, explaining how he could stop most nearsightedness for children in its tracks with CRT, potentially preventing eye diseases later in life that could lead to blindness. I was so amazed, I started asking parents who had children with glasses, “Are they nearsighted?” I’m not kidding. I did it across Epcot, Hollywood, and the Magic Kingdom. I wanted everyone to hear the good news. Then God kicked me in the shins. HARD.

Why in the world do I not have that same gusto (if not greater of course) for sharing Christ with people? When you have such incredible news—you just can’t HELP it. Right? You want to share it. I am not sure I ever have had that same gusto for telling folks about Christ. Why? I mean preventing potential blindness is big news. Don’t get me wrong. You should check out the July issue. But really? Knowing Jesus makes an eternal difference. Every single day people lose their life without knowing Jesus. Every single day, they are destined to be separated from God for eternity. How in the world is THAT life altering news not coming out of my lips with everyone I met? I have the information that could save their soul for crying out loud.

I used to stop at booths in the mall with the Campus Crusade Four Spiritual Laws booklet in tote. I USED to know sharing Jesus was THE most important thing I could ever share with anyone. If you’re reading this magazine, you likely already know Christ. (If you don’t—we need to talk!) So, you would agree what God did for us sending His son—it was a bit monumental. Life changing. It restores man to a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Why doesn’t it flow into my conversation with such zesty purpose as it did with the news about protecting a kid’s vision?

What in the whole big world is more important than sharing the life-altering, eternal redemption found in how He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?

Judging by my life?

EVERYTHING.

Anything.

Ugh.

I considered myself a spiritually charged evangelist when I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). It’s an organization built around Jesus’ basic ministry: You go share Christ. You bring in the new believers. You teach them. Then, you challenge them to go out and do the same. Discipleship 101.

I wasn’t as good as CRU founder, Dr. Bill Bright, at getting someone into a meaningful conversation about Christ, but I was learning. Watching. Trying to get better. It was an active pursuit while I was in college and while I was on staff. It mattered. Then somewhere along the way, it didn’t. It faded? Maybe having a job and other responsibilities took away my focus? Whatever it was—it faded until it was so close to non-existent, it simply moved from my priorities—from my heart.

Really, you have to wonder. How did a CORE message from Christ get pushed out from our daily duties as His followers? I can tell you for me, it was not a difficult push. I believe in reaching people for Christ. However, it was much, MUCH easier to slip into a complacent mode. In fact, I slipped so much that I can’t tell you when I personally shared Christ with someone in a one-on-one situation aside from mission’s trips. I can’t. It’s not that I’m shy. I’ve sold large multi-million dollar deals to the largest telecom giants out there. I can talk to a wall. It comes straight down from my grandfather to my mother in my DNA. I mean, come on—I’m asking strangers about their kid’s eye condition on the other side of the country. My limits aren’t exactly pressing me in.

You know what I think? I think I slowly shifted my focus onto things of this world. I spent my time like other things mattered more. I just kinda let the “Good News” of life everlasting, salvation from sins, and finding a way to live a more meaningful life under God’s grace and out of shame fall out of the front of my mind. Maybe Satan, the oh so powerful distractor, snuck in through a tiny crack and repurposed my focus? Seems like his game. He is quite the master. Regardless of how it happened—I’m still in control of it. It is still off track, but I’m repenting, confessing and hopping back onto God’s path. I can tell you this: It was NOT going to get back on track unless I purposefully moved it back.

The Great Commission is a direct command in its simplest form. The last Jesus shared before heading to Heaven. I guess it might have been important from his perspective?

Have you been there?

Are you there right now?

Have you let the passion for the things that matter most disappear? Let them get pushed behind everything else?

A Look Back at The Call

One thing Jesus did was to focus His teaching on the things that mattered. He didn’t waste time. He knew He didn’t have much time to train His disciples if they were to be the instruments for spreading the news of His death, burial, and resurrection. He poured into them. He lived out the “Great Commission” by example and then challenged them to repeat the process.

It didn’t take years in the church to train His disciples. He spent about 3 years with them. However, they were certainly a part of His ministry as they were being trained through doing life together. They were reaching people with Him. Some of the best training parts in the Bible are Jesus’ ministry days shared by the disciples. (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John). The New Testament shares the teachings as the disciples themselves learned more and guided new believers to keep them in line with Jesus’s teachings.

How long have you known Christ? Been in the church? Been receiving from head pastors teaching into your life? It’s quite likely you are more than well trained.

I suspect most reading are not super new believers. I bet many, like myself, have known Christ for decades, but somehow missed that following His command to go and make disciples wasn’t really optional. It’s certainly not a call for just the pastors of the church. In fact, I could (I will) write an entire article on the role of pastors in the Church. We put a large burden upon their shoulders they were never meant to carry alone.

Jesus called the 12 disciples because He needed to train up a group, who could share the good news. He trained the 12, who got to experience His teaching. Those 12, who after Judas betrayed Him became 11, did exactly what Jesus called them to do. Spiritual multiplication. In fact, through their obedience and of course God’s Holy Spirit, therein lies the path for how you and I came to know Christ. They are our spiritual forefathers.

So if I’m not doing it and you’re not doing it, then who in the world is reaching, teaching and training the next generation for Christ? Just the pastors? I need to break it to you. That kind of teaching does not fall on just the pastors of the Church to pursue. Goodness. They’ve been pouring into most of us for decades. They are probably worn out waiting for us to rise up and take on our role alongside of them.

It’s something we can do with Bible studies—Discipleship 101. We teach the basics of the faith (saved by grace, not works, nothing we can do to earn it) kind of stuff. Then, we take the new believers into the world and show them how to teach those studies. We show them how to share Christ. The greatest lessons are by example as much as by teaching from the Bible. In fact, I would put forth that the Millennial generation is constantly searching for people who do what they say. They want examples to follow.

We all aren’t called to use the Four Spiritual Laws kind of method. However, we should understand the Gospel enough and employ SOME sort of method. We should re-engage (or engage for the first time) with our God-given purpose shared by Jesus—to go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them, and setting them up to go and do the same. We should live a life that makes them want what they see we have—like peace that passes all understanding, love that gives when it’s not easy, and grace for when we miss the mark by a landslide.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19–20 (NLT)

If you are wondering: The time is NOW.

At the moment, Americans aren’t at risk of losing our lives for sharing Christ. We still live in a free country (for now). Others are not so lucky. I felt the fear while on a missions trip in China. I saw the guns in the hotel lobby. I knew to be careful what I shared. Here in America though, we are free to have those conversations without much fear of harmful persecution. There, they can be put in prison for having a Bible study in their home.

So, I challenge you, as I’m challenging myself, with Jesus’ command to go. Let’s get back to our CORE purpose. Let’s see what that kind of focus can do in our lives and in other’s lives. It’s a message that can change the world one lost soul at a time.

Not Equipped? Need a Refresher?

Don’t let it stop you! You are not alone. Come with us. If you aren’t in a situation to get the basics of our faith from your church for discipleship purposes—reach out to us. We will help plug you into a church. You can email me at teresa@communityspiritmagazine.com for more information.

Don’t Know Christ? Let’s get that introduction started. Just send me an email and we can help you understand that we are all lost—every one of us, until we choose a relationship with God. That relationship is made possible by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. He died in our place for our mistakes. He takes away our shame and our guilt. He raises us to new life with God when we claim that gift in a prayer to Him. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can just read these few sentences to Him. He just needs our hearts.

“God—I know I’ve messed up. I can’t get to you without Jesus so you came to me. You sent him for me. He paid for my sins. I accept that payment. I can be born again as a new creation with you. In Jesus name I pray—Amen!”


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Matthew 25:34–40  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

In the church, we TALK A LOT about loving our neighbor. In fact, we talk about loving them like we love ourselves. Those are some pretty BIG WORDS. I wonder though, what good are words without action? I think they are like faith without action. Dead. I know, because too many times I have found myself thinking that someone else had it. That the needs I saw would be met by someone else. They probably were. However, how many chances have I missed to be God’s hands? God’s feet?

I’m a writer. I like words, but not this time.

This time I’m keeping it short. I’m asking you to get up and do something with me.

Matthew 25: 29–30 (NLT) “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness . . .”

With the families who lost everything in the floods still trying to figure out how to find solid ground to stand on, there’s a great opportunity to start putting your actions where your words are. Just read below what a handful of churches are doing in Sand Springs to help . . . and HOW MUCH IS STILL TO BE DONE. These Christians are pouring love all over the place and they need some folks to come give them some relief from the bench.

LOVE IS A VERB.

LOVE IS A VERB.

Here’s what it looks like.

A Requested Report from Rusty Gunn, Pastor, Church that Matters: Coordinators of Flooded Family Relief in Sand Springs

We have had a crazy busy weekend (and about 3 weeks preparing) out here with flood relief. We had a furniture/appliance swap meet where people were able to drop off donated furniture and appliances from 8–11 am and then flood affected families were able to pick up items from 1–3 pm Saturday. We had pallet loads of Tempur-Pedic pillows, makeup, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, air dryers, pots and pans, coffee makers, and food boxes as well. We served over 100 families.

Then Sunday we had our church’s “Don’t GO to Church Sunday” where we had over 225 people out doing about 15–20 community projects. One of those projects was providing new bicycles for the flood affected kids on Sunday. Our kid’s ministry put on a brief kid and family program with a gospel presentation and then distributed 65 bicycles to kids who lost theirs in the flood. We fed the families lunch after as well.

Then at 2 pm we had our community “Back To School Bash” at Tulsa Technology Center’s Sand Springs campus, where we distributed over 500 backpacks filled with school supplies and had free haircuts, dental exams, eye exams, blood tests, food, games, etc. 

All that to say we are fairly exhausted at this very moment.

We have provided sheetrock with mud and tape, insulation, brand new refrigerators, dishwashers, stove/ovens, and cabinets for about 40 homes so far and the needs are still being realized just about every day. There is still A LOT of work to be done. I met a man yesterday who has not even begun his rebuild process. I met a family, whose children are in counseling because of the trauma from this event. People are having to try to rebuild the insides of their homes from the sticks up and at the same time try to maintain their yard work along with their full-time jobs. We have 2 cancer patients we are working with, who are also having to balance their treatments with all the work they are doing.

We are incredibly thankful to those who HAVE sent support, people, and resources. Victory Church has really been a huge blessing to us specifically! We are so grateful for the help we have received but just need more. Our own community is experiencing what is apparently known as compassion fatigue. So much still needs to be done.

It’s our turn.

Grab your wallet.

Grab your church, Sunday School class, your Bible study group—whatever group you can get to join you. If no one wants to come? Just grab yourself.

Let’s get Church that Matters (and the other churches in Sand Springs helping them) what they need. Let’s volunteer to join them in loving our neighbor . . . as ourselves. Email us at info@community
spiritmagazine.com or reach the church directly at info@churchthatmatters.com or call 918-512-1486 to offer what you have. Let’s help these amazing Christians feel supported in their efforts to love their neighbors and give them some love of our Lord and Saviour!

Make your LOVE
A VERB.

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 Teresa Goodnight, Thesis By Natalie Stitt Regent Preparatory – Student, Guest Author

Help Connect the Dots:  

God likes to display His mastery of His plans sometimes.  Without me, He literally just aligns things for the magazine that leave my mouth hanging open in awe of His intricately laid plans.  When we first laid out the subjects for this issue last year, we planned on talking about Freedom in July.  I immediately thought of Eric Maddox’s Saddam story and the story in LaFortune Park.  I wanted him in this issue.  In retrospect, I had no idea why he would be such a perfect fit. I reached out to him quite a while ago and he agreed.  There was so much of his story I didn’t know, since we hadn’t talked since high school.  It blew my mind as he pieced it together for me (and certainly you should buy the book!  I did.).  Interestingly enough, a few days before I interviewed him, God intervened with this next story.

We had a reader bring it to my attention that our Christian schools do not accept children with Down’s Syndrome.  I’ll admit, I thought she was not possibly correct.  Sure enough.  One by one, as I found a free moment, I called through my list.  I promised her I would look into it.  Not one.  My heart was breaking, as I understood her plea.  If you are looking for a Christian education for your child, then something like Down’s just shouldn’t stand in the way.  The reader said, “When I call, they tell me it’s a funding issue.  Then, I see stadiums or buildings being built.”  She continued, “One school even had a really large multi-million dollar donation made that completely changed the entire campus.  Yet they didn’t add a plan for Down’s children either.  So, I just think that’s something they all might say.”  

I was so shocked.  In fact, I say it out loud to people just to see their reactions.  No one else knows either.  I thought it must just be here.  Surely.  So, I checked with my sweet friend in Texas.  Her son, Adley is maybe one of the funniest kids I’ve met.  There’s not enough room to go into the air guitar singing he does in the kitchen.  I mean wow.  It’s so flipping hysterical.  But alas, nope.  He’s in a Charter School.  I just couldn’t believe it.  

These kiddos are a great fit in a classroom for so many reasons.  For one, it helps them to be a part of the world and to understand the world better.  For another, it helps students in these classrooms learn from these amazing kiddos.  Not to mention, can you imagine siblings attending different schools for this reason?  Wouldn’t that just break a child’s heart?  The last thing that child would need is something else to challenge them emotionally in life. 

So, it kept haunting me.  Finally, I was on my last call to find a school with a program—Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa.  I just knew they would have an answer I needed to hear.  When the woman called me back from the school, I told her the reason for my call.  She said something to the effect that this had been on her heart lately.  There was a young lady who did her senior thesis on inclusion for those with disabilities in the Christian community.  She said it was so moving that it had the staff talking in the halls.  Regent didn’t offer school acceptance for these students either.  However, she offered to connect me to the student.  She thought we would want it.  I couldn’t wait to read it.  I was hoping she would agree to let us publish it in the magazine.  We talked and she agreed.

I wanted to edit her piece in order to fit it nicely in the pages we had reserved. However, I couldn’t.  It was so well written as it was.  It was a testament to her heart and certainly to the education she received at Regent.  More importantly, if her premise was right—just publishing it might open the eyes of our readers causing change. She and I decided to do a two-part series with her piece.  We want to stoke the fire.  Then, we’re hoping we can find churches and resources by our next deadline for September to help us fan the flames.  Maybe we might find schools, who might say yes to stepping up to the call to make a difference in the lives of these kiddos.  

Then, God threw in a fun twist. Something on the heart of this Rockstar Army Ranger, the interrogator?  He wants to play a part in helping children with Down’s Syndrome.  How does that fit?  I don’t know. I expected his very cool story would get the magazine passed around from person to person.  It will get us more clicks.  More people will read and become aware!

In addition, I was introduced to City Elders, the guards seeking to govern the gates of the city.  These guys are intense.  Plus, they are recruiting pastors and business leaders from all over the state and nation.  They had agreed to be a big story in this issue as well.  As they take the magazine from county to county—this message will be spreading through the state of Oklahoma to pastors and Christian leaders.

If that doesn’t strike you as a bit of divine planning, then you should have been there when I read the student’s name.  Natalie Stitt.  It didn’t strike me immediately.  Then, I realized her beautiful heart and powerful thoughts were fathered by our Governor, Kevin Stitt.  (and mothered of course, by his lovely wife, Sarah.)  Most will read her story because it’s amazing.  Others will read it simply because of her name.  All those reading WILL be stirred by God in some way.  You can’t help it when you read it.  

I couldn’t have recruited this group myself with such interesting connections.  What’s God going to do with it all?

I have no flipping idea.  

However, I CAN tell you I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting on what’s going to be in the September/October issue.  It’s too much fun to watch without letting everyone in on God’s work.  He’s working.  He’s waiting for us to be a part of what He’s already prepared in advance for us to do. It’s beautifully majestic.

And with that introduction, I give you Natalie Stitt’s senior thesis.


The Image of God: a concept that has been discussed in theological circles for centuries; it is a factor that is common to all of humanity, and, specifically in the biblical sense, gives each and every individual on this planet inherent value that can never be taken away, but sometimes our vision of the image of God in others is obscured. Even in the church, we sometimes fail to discern this basic human gift. Last summer, I spent three weeks at Camp Barnabas, a camp for individuals with special needs. During that time I was introduced to Emilia. When I first met her, we instantly started talking about our favorite animals, our favorite places to go, and our favorite activities. Like me, she loves the outdoors, music, and spending time with her friends and family. She is bright, kind, and an amazing listener, yet, despite our lively conversation and blooming friendship, she faces completely different problems than I do, because of her physical condition. 

Emilia was born with a spinal defect, and was paralyzed shortly after birth, leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. I could feel myself pitying her, and in my pity, I felt like I was doing good, but as our friendship grew stronger, I realized that there was no room for pity in our relationship. Pity is not wrong, but to truly be a friend to someone, there must be a basis of equality, a recognition of one’s intrinsic value, honoring the fact that they are made in God’s holy image. The ultimate end of a relationship with anyone, whether or not they have disabilities, must be established on this equality. Once I overcame my pity, I saw Emilia as she truly was, in her godlikeness. 

The Bible, although seemingly vague when it comes to individuals with disabilities, is the place where any theological inquiry must start, but first, terms must be defined. Expressions such as “disabled,” “handicapped,” or the recent “differently abled” are contemporary expressions used when addressing or describing an individual with disabilities. These terms, however common they are in the English language, do not appear in the Bible. Instead, the Scriptures use specific terms such as “crippled” or “diseased,” yet, however straightforward the texts are literally, the connotations are much harder to decipher. In order to have an adequate understanding of disability and its relationship with the Bible and the Church, we must examine both the Old and New Testaments, and the ways in which its adherence followed holy commandments. 

One helpful way to examine the Old Testament practices as they pertain to disability is through the lens of contemporary Judaism. Despite all of the curses that are often misinterpreted, Judaism is an extremely inclusive and welcoming community, and they take the rights of individuals with special needs very seriously (Jewish Values). Their mindset is not that of healing or charity, but rather an inclusive model that strives to follow the example of the Israelites in in the wilderness, a body of extremely diverse people serving under one God; in their eyes, Yahweh spoke at Mount Sinai because His people were gathered in unity. They believe that the “religious life of every Jew and the religious life of the entire community is deficient when not everyone is able to be present. That is why it is so fundamentally important that historically marginalized groups are treated with dignity, respect, and honor just like anyone else in the community” (Inclusion is a Jewish Imperative). 

The early Church adhered to Jesus’ commandment to “go out. . . and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” and blossomed as people of all forms grew in a community of love (Luke 14:21). As Jesus’ words echoed through their hearts, Jews and Gentiles, wealthy and poor, strong and weak, all partook in a community that strove to serve God and others. Having followed Jesus while he walked the earth, the disciples went out, sharing the gospel with all people, even those with disabilities, and they recalled Jesus’ teachings of providing for the widowed and orphaned, caring for the downtrodden, and bringing in those with disease and disability. Inevitably, as the Church grew, it became easier for it to be distracted from its original mission. 

Now, there is a disconnect. Within the Christian faith there are several different ways in which churches include those with special needs. To illustrate this fact, one must examine the sacramental life of several Christian denominations. Let us consider the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist churches’ positions on baptism and communion. Who do they say is allowed to partake in these sacraments? The Orthodox policies for inclusion of individuals with disabilities seems to be extremely similar to those of the Jewish tradition. They embrace the “uniqueness and dignity” of each human being, and recognize them as bearers of God’s holy image, therefore, fully including them into the body of the Church by encouraging full participation in their congregation’s sacramental life (Orthodox Theological Perspective). 

In the middle, Catholicism is very quick to include, but not on the basis of one’s individuality in disability, but rather on the basis of salvation. The Catholic faith views the sacraments as playing an extremely important role in one’s salvation, so they do not like to take any chances. People, no matter if they are cognitively aware or not, are allowed access to the sacraments in a Catholic church. 

Finally, on the other side, Protestant traditions such as Baptists, hence their name, elevate baptism as an extremely vital choice in the life of a Christian. Although this is not wrong, it lead to the exclusion of people who are incapable of making a cognitive choice, due to their profound intellectual disability. The topic of sacramental inclusion of those with disabilities is an extremely complex and multi-faceted theological dilemma; I am neither qualified nor able to provide a solution to this particular problem. I am simply pointing out the difference in practice within the Body of Christ for the purpose of examination, while asking the question, “Where do people with disabilities fit in a place of worship?” 

For centuries, the Church has struggled to accept those with disabilities. They have been seen as vessels of charity, as objects to be healed, and even as witnesses to the wrath of God towards sin. These misconstructions have clouded the Church’s eyes to one of the greatest commandments, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4). Now, the ‘policies’ for dealing with those with special needs vary from denomination to denomination, but assuming that every church follows Christ’s example and welcomes everyone, physical accessibility of a church is common in the United States. Following the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, the American Disabilities Act ensures anyone the right to enter any building. Although this may be a vital step to inclusion for one with physical hindrances, “rights cannot open up spaces of intimacy,” that is, the ability to enter a building does not ensure acceptance from the people inside the building (Reinders 43). In other words, true inclusion into a community of love cannot be accomplished by the mere ability to enter a building. 

Think of your church: how well is the special needs community represented in your congregation? 

One or two members, although much better than many congregations, does not constitute the diverse image of the Body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. In Oklahoma alone, about one in every six individuals has a disability of some form (Admin), meaning that statistically, churches with gatherings of six or more members, should have at least one person with special needs in their community (Religion in America). Yet, nationally, eighty to eighty-five percent of churches do not have any form of a special needs program (Five Statistics). This is because not enough people with special needs attend those churches to warrant such programs. 

Statistics such as these contradict Jesus’ teaching in the book of Luke, to “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (14.21). Where are all of these people? Why do they not attend a church? In a 2014 study, George White asked these very questions in a survey of 166 people, from eighteen different denominations. The purpose of his survey was to get an internal view of the “current status of people with disabilities within the Christian community” (White 21). His questions ranged from general to specific experiences, all of them inquiring about inclusion and the barriers to inclusion in the Church. Many of the answers he received were both eye-opening and heartbreaking: of the 166 responses to the questions about the barriers to inclusion, 39.8% reported it to be on account of ignorance, lack of training, or faulty theology. Another 40.9% reported the attitude of the congregation as an inhibiting factor to proper inclusion into the church. 

Whether or not this general attitude is intentional, it has still proven to be a factor that inhibits inclusion. As his study continued, those surveyed also noted several actions that proved to enhance inclusion. In their experience, those had been with training, increased awareness, and welcoming attitudes, all of which begin in the heart’s ability to recognize intrinsic value above disability. When God breathed life into Adam and Eve, He instilled within them His own image, instantly bestowing upon them inherent value that is irrevocable; in some circles, people are referred to as “Icons of God” in order to preserve the scared nature of the term and the image they bear. Although this worth can never be changed, the original perfection that God created Adam and Eve with is marred by original sin: a consequence that reaches all of humanity (Hoekema 20). 

The term “Imago Dei” is something that is so often tossed about in theological discussion that it seems to have lost some of its potency, but it is not something to be taken lightly. When God created the world, he crowned mankind with His image, distinguishing them above all other creations, and instilling within them a value that would never be taken away. Christians understand that this term holds weight, and distinguishes humans above other creatures, yet, when topics pertaining to disability arise, the factor of the Imago Dei, and all that it pertains to, is sometimes forgotten. Humanity, in Christian theology, is predominately defined as an icon of God: it is the basis for the intrinsic value that all human beings possess despite status, intelligence, or physical ability. 

As humans, we innately desire community; the Church functioning as the Body of Christ should be the fulfillment of the communal need that God instilled within us, until we stand in His presence. If people with disabilities are made in the image of God, then they are fully human and share the need for community and relationship with the rest of the human race. Those with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual challenges, are individuals not only deserving of the love and support offered by a Christian community, but, because of their intrinsic value, they have every right to be a member of the Body of Christ. In order for these inclusive needs to be fulfilled, we must biblically redefine inclusion and reorient our hearts to view all individuals, with or without disabilities, as Jesus would.


THINGS TO PRAY ON:

• What is your atitude toward those with disabilities?

• Your church’s attitude?

• Your school’s attitude?


WHAT DOES INCLUSIVE LOVE LOOK LIKE?

If we aren’t expressing that love towards all, we might consider 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” Are there areas such as this, where you have slipped into becoming this loud, obnoxious instrument? Even the loud obnoxious cymbal can become an instrument of beautiful music.

Should you consider making a difference in your life/church/school to be more inclusive?

Stay tuned. In September, we will highlight some groups exemplifying the love of Christ who will give us some practical steps to becoming the full Body of Christ. As we know, God has gifted each of us and we each have a place in His body. 


Were you aware that all Christian schools we’ve checked from Oklahoma to Texas will not accept those with Down’s Syndrome?  I’m trying to imagine the face of the child not allowed to attend school with their brother(s) or sister(s). Is there a case for non-inclusion of these children? 

Should it continue?  Email 

downs@communityspiritmagazine.com and share your thoughts.


-Works Cited in Thesis 

Admin, Gardens. “Oklahoma Disability Statistics.” Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, 13 Aug. 2018. // Cross, Richard. “Aquinas on Physical Impairment: Human Nature and Original Sin.” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 110, no. 03, 2017, pp. 317–338. // Edwards, June. “Children with Learning Difficulties and the Sacraments.” Children with Learning Difficulties, 1994, pp. 70-81. The Way, 17 Jan. 2019. // Eiesland, Nancy L. “Sacramental Bodies.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, vol. 13, no. 3-4, 2009, pp. 236–246. // “Five Statistics We Can’t Ignore: Disability and The Gospel.” The Banquet Network, 4” Sept. 2018. // Greenberg, Ben. “Inclusion Is a Jewish Imperative.” My Jewish Learning, 8 Apr. 2015. // Hoekema, Anthony A. Created In God’s Image. 1st ed., Eerdmans, 1994. Print. // “Jewish Values and Disability Rights.” Religious Action Center, 3 Dec. 2015. // Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. HarperOne, 2017. Print. // Moss, Candida R. “Disability in the New Testament.” Bible Odyssey, 1 Oct. 2014, www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/d/disability-in-the-nt // “Orthodox Theological Perspectives on Disability.” World Council of Churches, 21 Oct. 2015. // Reinders, Hans. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008. Print. // “Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public // Life Project, 11 May 2015. The Bible. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Bible Gateway. // White, George. People with Disabilities within Christian Community. 2014. // Yong, Amos. The Bible, Disability, and the Church: a New Vision of the People of God. Eerdmans, 2011. Print


Written by Teresa Goodnight

My four-year old daughter was in awe of Captain Marvel.  The show was much too old for her, but I had wanted to take my 17-year old niece to inspire her.  When I described the show over the Bluetooth in the car—my kiddo insisted it was a movie for her.  I decided to comply and took them both. 

I’m not a superhero junkie, but Captain Marvel exemplifies an oppressed person with amazing power.  Because she was convinced by the world she lived in that she was less than she was, her strength was buried by lies.  She was imprisoned by rules crafted to control her, as well as emotional manipulation used to dominate her.  When she finally realized the truth and shed the deception, she set free the strength and power suppressed inside of her.  When she did, the whole theater about flew out of our seats with excitement. 

Seriously.  

Does her power being minimized by her world remind you of anything today?  Are you seeing Christians being pressed back into a corner?  Told our beliefs in the Bible aren’t correct?  Told we need to modify the Bible to fit the culture today?  Sound familiar at all? 

This morning at the City Elders meeting, I heard a description of who we are meant to be as the Body of Christ, the capital “C” Church.  It painted quite a picture.  Being in the midst of some of the most devastating floods our state has known—we can see firsthand the power of the force of water.  I can see it in the movement of the risen rivers.  Their immense forces were set free a bit, but still controlled by the flood gates and levies.  We were reminded that when the river starts to show its real power, we are forced to step back and get out of the way.   

However, imagine the waters from all of the rivers and lakes rising so that you could no longer identify the origination point of the water.  Imagine those smaller entities flowing together as a massive, powerful force, sweeping across the land.  The power of those waters would be definitive as a body but really unidentifiable as a specific source.  They would just be the massive floodwaters—full of strength, unleashing their power.  

The question at the meeting?  What if the Body of Christ approached God’s work for the Kingdom with such united strength and power that it could only be credited to that capital “C” Church?  (as opposed to church x or y or denomination a or b). 

It’s a concept that seems a bit foreign to us, as the size of communities has grown to give thousands of smaller church groups their own form of a “kingdom” inside of the Kingdom.  However, looking at the Bible, we read the smaller church groups addressed from the same leadership of the Church.  They were all very much a part of the Capital “C” Church but were grouped together to spread the word and to disciple as smaller groups.  Since there were fewer of these smaller groups in the disciples’ time, it was much easier for them to know in their core that they were part of the larger unified Body of Christ.  The Bible clearly points to the disciples and Paul as those charged with leading that capital “C” Church.  Paul went from church to church with guidance and direction, which was put into the Bible to give that same guidance to each of our churches today.  

The Bible is full of books written specifically to the churches by the governing authorities put in place by God.  My favorite, Romans, was written to the churches in Rome by Paul.  Peter writes his book First Peter, as a letter to the Jewish Christians who are spread around the Roman Empire.  First and Second Corinthians; Paul writes to the churches he planted in Corinth.  Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians are all written directly to churches or groups of churches in a geographic area.  It was quite clear these churches were very much a part of the Body of Christ.  They were teaching and training while being a part of the bigger picture.  They were growing the Kingdom of Christ and not just their specific churches.  These letters were also assembled into the Bible, God’s word.  That alone gives that stronger unification as their role was in the capital “C” Church.

As instructed, that Church spread throughout the world doing exactly what God instructed them to do.  

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

Lip Service to the Capital “C” Church 

With those smaller entities growing (some quite massively) in size and being separated by greater distances, the sense of simply being a local governing entity of a group of Christ’s followers became lost in the shuffle.  Don’t get me wrong.  We like to say it.  We speak of being a part of the bigger capital “C” Church, but we honestly move about in our own affairs with very little time to pull our thoughts out to the original Kingdom entity created in the New Testament.  The result?  The separation of church and church and The Church.  

Sure, there are different worship styles, prayer styles, preferred worship times, places, and spaces but at the end of the day, all of the Christian churches are the Body of Christ.  We are united, as one, on God’s word.  We are inseparable by the adoption as the Children of God through the sacrifice God made of His Son Jesus Christ for the WHOLE world. 

We are all sinners saved by grace.  People who have messed up in one way or another and were separated from God by those mistakes.  People who have accepted that Jesus Christ died and rose again, paying the price for our mistakes.  By accepting his gift, we all became united as Children of God, the Body of Christ. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, full of power, full of might, to advance for the Kingdom of God.   Together, we are HIS capital “C” Church.

No Division in the End 

It’s certainly not going to be a divided house in heaven.  God’s Kingdom will most definitely unite, but what if God is waiting on us to come together now?  What if we went back to the roots of THE Church to find the position of “our” church in that Kingdom?  Wow.  We would transform into THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ.  We would operate in such a way that we know the Gates of Hell (the powers) could not prevail against us—just as Christ said they would not.  We would be a mighty force sweeping across this land, coming into the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us.  There would be no levy, no flood gate, and no dam that could stop us.  Not one.  Can you even imagine it?

Back to the Avengers

I’ll circle back to the Captain Marvel story to bring it all together.  She finally found who she was and came into her incredible power bursting out of the control of those who tried to put her in a box. 

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)

More than we might ask or think?  There is so much power promised to the children of God in just those 6 verses than we can even imagine? Hmmm.  As we cower back, we slip into a comfortable place giving away our freedom, surrendering our God-given powers.  We have yet to break free and rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who will not be shoved into a corner.  With all of the thousands of churches around the world, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remember who we are.  We are the children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  With that identity comes great power–”more than we might ask or think.”  Can you imagine every church finding God’s power inside of us?  What would that even look like? I can imagine quite a bit. So MORE than that?

So, hold on.  

Imagine even greater things with me.  

After all, God says it’s more than we can even think of.  As incredible as Captain Marvel’s day of awakening was–in the last Avengers, I can draw a parallel to the Body of Christ, the Church that might blow you away like it did me.  In the end of the movie, each of the hundreds of superheroes realized they were not meant to do this battle alone.  They couldn’t win.  They discovered a plan set in motion long before they knew there would even be a war of such great proportion.  

The bigger, more popular hero guys we know and love were losing the battle.  It was nearing the end.  Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with a force of might—“they” showed up.  “They” being the rest of the united heroes in the land.  They combined in their fullest forms and power to defeat their ultimate enemy.  You could see each one playing a critical part.  When they converged—there was that mighty feeling that this war was over. The enemy would be defeated. You just knew.

Rest assured, I’ve read Revelation.  God will unite us as a mighty force with heaven and earth in the end.  What a day that will be.  However, what I read in the Bible calls us to remember that unification and who we are today.  I don’t think we’re supposed to wait.  We are in the battle right now.  On some fronts, in our great country, we are losing, but my heart almost explodes with excitement to think of what a force we could become if we united as the Church of God.  Can you imagine?  United, with His power working in us that is more powerful than we might ask or think? did you read what I just thought of?  More powerful than even that??? 

It would far surpass any unification of the bodies of waters into a massive force.  It would eclipse any show of power in the Avengers.  I can’t sit still even as I’m typing this as the excitement of just a hint of God’s power rises up inside of me.  That power by the way–it is already inside of any of us following Christ.  It’s just sitting there, masked by confusion, deception.  It’s shackled by chains put on by others or even by ourselves in some ways.  Satan has us in some sort of trance with the things of this life, but it is RIGHT THERE. Whatever way you want to think about it–it’s right there.  It’s RIGHT THERE WAITING.  God is waiting.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

May each church find its strength.  May it rise up to take it’s part in the Kingdom, God’s capital “C” Church, the “Body of Christ,” whichever name He gives for that unity that you want to use.  Because, when we do come together, when we do put our stake in the ground and draw our line in the sand, we will come into that Kingdom of God as His Children and the Gates of Hell WILL simply NOT PREVAIL against us.  They won’t win.  

Come on. 

What are we waiting for?  #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 Andrea Stephens

The other day I wasn’t feeling so good/well.  I had just come through an intensely busy time at work that left me drained of energy. I had a dull annoying headache, and didn’t even want to go out for lunch with a friend—you know I don’t feel good when I don’t want to eat out!  Therefore, I declared it a sick day and stayed home. Well, while I was lying in bed feeling sort of sorry for myself, I started thinking about the word joy—probably because I needed some right then.  

I thought about some of hard things that happen in life that try to snuff out our joy.  We all know about some of those, maybe a broken relationship, being gossiped about, bills that are piling up, an illness, issues at work—the list is never-ending.  And then, there is the everyday stuff that tends to wear us down causing joy to leak right out of our heart; you know, things like laundry, making dinner again, picking up after the kids, cleaning the house, car trouble, yard work, and an endless list of errands.

We can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and anything but joyful.

Yet, in the Bible, Jesus talks about us having joy no matter what is happening around us.  Though some confuse joy with bubbly emotions that come when things are going their way, which is better defined at happiness.  Happiness is generally based on one’s circumstances which are ever changing thus sending emotions on a roller coaster of ups and downs. But joy, especially as a Christ-follower, is different.  Real joy doesn’t fluctuate.  It is not based on our current situations or feelings, but on something deeper.  Something solid.  

So how do we have that kind of joy?  A joy that is solid, steadfast and unshakable?

First, spending some time every day in the Bible and talking to God gets us started on our journey to joy.  That may sound like such a standard answer, but it is just the truth.  We are spiritual beings with a spiritual Father.  Intentionally connecting with Him through scripture reading and prayer is essential.  The quality of time is more important than the quantity.

Second, making sure we have a clear conscience before God is vital.  Dealing with guilt or shame over something will definitely steal one’s joy.  One of the things I appreciate about the program Celebrate Recovery (A Christ Centered 12 Step Program) is that it teaches people to end their day by asking God to show them where they missed the mark (sinned) that day—so they can ask God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  And when necessary, ask someone else’s forgiveness.  So, keeping a clear conscience before God, is essential to our having joy.

These first two are areas where Satan will try to trip us up.  He wants to kill, steal, and destroy—including our joy (John 10:10).  He wants busy and distracted from our time with the Lord.  He wants us feeling guilty and less than enough in our own eyes and the eyes of others.  Shame is one of the first things Satan used against Adam and Eve and he still uses it today to keep us hiding instead of walking in the fullness God has for us.  Let’s not let that be our story.  Let’s pay attention to protecting our time in the Word, prayer, and confession.

Next, choosing to focus our thoughts and lives on the truths in the Bible will provide the solid foundation we need to build our steadfast joy upon.  They are facts.  They are promises of God.  They are unchanging and unbreakable based on God’s inability to lie or break a promise.  Now that’s good news!

Though there are hundreds of promises we can find in the scriptures, here are just a couple to get us on the road to joy, deep joy which the bible refers to as inexpressible and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8 NLT “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you don not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have become children of God.

We have been adopted into the family of God and are co-heirs with Christ.

The Holy Spirit has sealed us for eternity—we are heaven bound.

This life, with all of its issues, is temporary but heaven is eternal. 

The best is yet to come. God is with us!  

We are never, ever alone. Never abandoned, never rejected, never

forsaken, never put on hold while God is busy doing something else.  He is actually in the trials of life with us giving us wisdom for our difficulties and strength so that we do not grow weary in our well-doing. 

God’s love is unending!  Think about it.  We have never lived one unloved day in our entire lives.  

Wow.  Every single day of our lives we have been loved and will continue to be loved no matter what.  Now that will make your heart happy!  

Jesus’ forgiveness is available for the asking! 

Scripture tells us that if we confess our wrongs to Jesus, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  Instant gratitude and joy.

Jesus is praying for us!  Seriously.  

He is currently seated at the right hand of God and 

is making intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).  We so easily forget this awesome reality.  Jesus sees us, He knows the details of our lives, and He is speaking up for us to our Father.  He is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor.  He understands us because He was human—He can help us because He is divine.

These are just a few of the truths found in God’s Word.  When we take time to close our eyes and meditate on one truth at a time, it will begin to infuse our spirits with a fresh joy—the kind of joy that is sustainable and never to be taken away, even on our hardest or most frustrating days.  Joy benefits us in many ways.  Most importantly, it gives us inner strength which is something we all need (Nehemiah 8:NLT “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength!)  Our joy will benefit others—those whom we are called to minister to as well as those we work with and live with.  

Let’s not lose sight of the joy that is ours when we keep the promises of God in the forefront of our hearts and minds.  We can do this!