tlsm maggio

Jennifer Maggio, executive director of The Life of a Single Mom

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A jewelry box and a "Rambo" knife were the tools of choice for Robert Miller during his message Sunday afternoon at Central Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

Miller, 60, has used other tools to do service around the church since 1981, but his main task has been director of the church's bus ministry. On Sunday, he was called upon — or rather volunteered his services — to share the word of God to a church in transition.

"I'm just a layman up here preaching," Miller joked at one point during his message titled "When Lefty Killed Hefty."

Miller's message came in a week in which the Rev. Bob Buchanan Jr. resigned after 1½ years as the church's lead pastor. The church moved quickly to vote in Alan Bartlett as its new interim pastor. Bartlett has served as an assistant pastor and music director at the church at 17017 Florida Blvd., as well as the administrator of Central Baptist School.

The large jewelry box and big two-edged knife served as props for Miller's message about the daily fight believers face between the spirit and the flesh.

"All Christians have those two natures. The flesh wants to run the show," said Miller, a Cincinnati native.

The main text was taken from Judges 3. It tells the story of the assassination of Moab's King Eglon by Ehud, a judge sent by God to help deliver the Israelites from the Moabites.

The Moabites, along with the Amalekites and the Ammonites, oppressed the Israelites for 18 years, and each year, the wicked King Eglon demanded a tribute offering of gold, silver, jewels, money and other riches.

"It wasn't a present because they loved Eglon; they hated Eglon. They were slaves to him, and they would have done anything in their power to get out from under his bondage, including killing him," Miller said.

Ehud was part of a contingent to deliver the tribute to Eglon. Because he was left-handed, Ehud was able to conceal a knife on his right thigh. Ehud got alone with the "very fat" king, stabbing the dagger into the king's belly, leaving it there and escaping.

"Talking about a deep cut, stitches weren't going to help him," Miller said. "(Ehud) just put the dagger all the way inside the man, and rolls closed on it. And Eglon was trying to grab it, but there was nothing to grab left. I like the way Ehud took care of business."'

Miller said Eglon is representative of our flesh, the knife represents the word of God that kills the flesh, and Ehud is a symbol of a deliverer saving us from the flesh.

"Eglon is a perfect picture of the flesh," Miller said. "Eglon was huge. He was nasty. He was out of control. … Eglon's defeat is a picture of how we can defeat the old sinful flesh nature in our lives."

The Bible says when Eglon tried to pull back the dagger from his flesh, only dirt came out.

"When you're following the flesh, it is dirty," Miller said. "Whatever flesh problems you've got, it's dirty. Nobody's going to want to have that in their lives if they don't have to. When your wife finds out about it, she's going to say it's dirty. When your kids find out about it, they're going to say it's dirty. Basically, the flesh is a dirty and ugly business."

The fight with the flesh doesn't stop once a person is saved.

"There's some things I've battled since I've been saved," Miller said. "Not everything seems to get conquered. And just when you think you got it, something else pops up. It's a constant battle. I don't want to walk in the flesh. If this church is going to go forward, we have to walk in the spirit."

Believers can win most of those battles through God and his word, Miller said.

"Maybe you're a young Christian," he said. "You may not be able to fight that from years ago. You don't have to lose the battles. Israel, did they lose? Yes. But then Ehud came along and got the victory."

The victory would have come earlier if God's people would have repented of their sins sooner, Miller said.

"If you're willing to cry out to God and say, 'Dear God, I cannot get victory over this,' God will point you to the word and the two-edged sword will take care of the problem," he said.

Miller closed his message by emphasizing that the word of God is the key weapon for overcoming the desires of the flesh.

"The flesh is chiefly in this story defeated by the word of God, the two-edged sword," Miller said. "We must hide it in our hearts as Ehud his dagger," Miller said, citing Psalms 119:9 and Hebrews 4:12. "God's word can go deeper than Ehud's dagger."

After wielding a sharp knife for much of his talk, Miller turned his attention to his jewelry chest.

"Israel had to give up something they didn't want to surrender while they were in bondage to Eglon. They brought this chest, and it was filled with treasure," Miller said. "They didn't want to give up precious stuff. It wasn't like he was asking little tributes. He wanted money and gold and lots of it. So every year they had to give up stuff. You and I don't realize that the flesh, if yielded to, is going to require you and I to surrender some things also. You're going to have to give up some things you did not want to give up."

Reaching into his jewelry box, Miller pulled out several pieces of paper.

The first sheet of paper was "gossip."

"If we gossip, you might have to give up your testimony," he said. "How precious is that to you? Nothing can make me sadder than losing my testimony to people in this room. If you gossip, you may lose something very precious to you."

Another piece of paper was "covetousness."

"You might have to give up your wealth," Miller said. "The UPS truck always stops at your house but the offering plate never stops. You live in a fancy house, but you don't have any money to give to anything. Fortunately, in this church that's not a problem. I am so thankful for your trusting and giving lately; it's just been a miracle."

Yet another piece of paper had temper.

"You lose the respect of others," he said.

Miller said he could have learned a lot from his stepfather but loss respect for him because of his temper.

"There's some things we're going to give up. I didn't want to give up those things to the flesh," Miller said. "In the book of Judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes; that's not what we need to do. Let's fight the good fight to live victorious in Jesus until he comes again."

Special honor

Jennifer Maggio has been recognized — along with nine other outstanding leaders nationwide.

Maggio, chief executive director of The Life of a Single Mom of Baton Rouge and a former homeless and single parent, has been named as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Leaders in America by The John Maxwell Team.

The John Maxwell Team's mission is to influence and recognize leaders worldwide. The team is led by Maxwell, a respected pastor, speaker, leadership authority and best-selling author who has sold more than 25 million books in 50 languages. Maxwell has trained more than 5 million leaders around the world.

"Dr. Maxwell's books have brought great wisdom to leaders across the world for many years," Maggio said. "To be among a group of leaders he considers influential is unbelievable. Any opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges single mothers in our nation are facing is quite an honor."

An award-winning author and speaker, Maggio will be honored at a recognition ceremony on Aug. 26 at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida.

Maggio founded The Life of a Single Mom in 2011. The nonprofit connects more than 50,000 families annually to a local support group and serves more than 1,500 support groups in 19 countries to better equip single parents in their communities.

A native of Mississippi, Maggio has experienced homelessness and abuse. At 19, she was pregnant for the fourth time, living in government housing on food stamps and welfare. Maggio overcame those obstacles to climb near the top of the corporate ladder, but she gave up the corporate world to start her company.

On Sept. 22-23, Maggio will see the realization of a dream when her company holds a national conference at Healing Place Church, 19202 Highland Road, Baton Rouge. Comedian Kevin Fredericks ("Kev on Stage") will host the conference that features Maggio and keynote speaker Crystal Tullos, pastor of StoryHeights Church in Boston.

"This conference has been a dream of mine for more than eight years," Maggio said. "It is exciting to see single mothers from around the country gather for this event. We want all single mothers to know that they matter and they do not walk alone."

The conference will showcase parenting resources and companies with products and services that appeal to women.

For more information on the conference, call (225) 341-8055 or go to thelifeofasinglemom.com.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com