Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

Few things consume a unit like a suicide.

My brigade had two in a span of months. One particular weekend, a young soldier full of heartache and alcohol hung himself in his barracks room. He and his girlfriend were having some significant relationship issues. Two months later, another young soldier hung himself with his belt. Hours before his death, he posted a picture on social media of him in his barracks room, alone…with a bottle of liquor.

Shockwaves roiled across the Brigade. Neither young man had previously displayed overt suicidal ideations.

Thankfully, they came from separate battalions, but in the immediate aftermath and for days and weeks following, the units were consumed. The chain-of-command was focused entirely, as it should’ve been, as it had to be, upon the care of the family and the unit. We sent teams to funerals, executed memorial ceremonies, and supported the families in any way we could.

More than that, we tore ourselves apart, seeking answers that never presented themselves. How could we have prevented this?

We were asking the wrong questions.

The Plague

As suicide proliferates the active ranks, it likewise afflicts our nation’s veterans. A popular narrative claims that 22 veterans commit suicide every day which translates to roughly one every 65 minutes. 22 suicides a day—politicians regurgitate it, veterans groups made it a banner, and sympathetic citizens demand answers.

Even one suicide is too many. Yet I wondered, if this is accurate, then this is an astonishing number!

Peeling the onion reveals some problems.

The statistic, 22 a day, is based upon the Veterans Administration 2012 Suicide Data Report which surveyed statistics from 1999 to 2011 across 21 states and then extrapolated for the general population. The researchers themselves cede the lack of veracity of the conclusions. Further, the average age of the victim was 60 years old, effectively undermining the popular narrative concerning the afflicted Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans. A more recent and comprehensive survey yields that roughly one veteran commits suicide each day, still too many but a far cry from 22.

As a young officer, I scarcely recall a suicide, not a single one. What has given rise to this phenomenon among active and veteran ranks? Do the current wars truly afflict our soldiers to the point of desperation whereby they view suicide as their only source of relief? Perhaps. Paradoxically, today most active duty suicide victims have not yet deployed. How do we reconcile this?

Value and Hope

We can trace the origins of suicide to a singular condition, trauma coupled with a distinct spiritual bankruptcy.

Numerous factors contribute—the nature of the trauma, demographics, upbringing, resiliency etc. Yet it is the absence of Christ that underscores it all. The proliferation of the unchurched in the ranks effectively sets the condition for numerous abominable practices, including suicide.

As the Gospel is suppressed, men lose value. Secular, agnostic, or even atheistic thought systems deny the inherent value of men as the Imago Dei. Regressing to evolutionary constructs, men become merely the latest and most adapted of all purposeless creatures. Men possess no intrinsic value. Life has no intrinsic worth other than to satisfy base lusts. Absent that satisfaction, life loses all value.

Only a proper understanding of the Image of God produces in a man’s heart a respect and value for all human life. All men’s lives hold sacred value, including his own and as such, it cannot be taken lightly.

Along with an understanding of the sacred value of life, with the Gospel comes hope. No matter the desperation, the believer lives with a hope not found in himself, rather a hope found in the risen Lord Jesus. I have the hope of things not yet seen, the glory of a future spent in eternity with the Lord our God.

A Tough Word

It is a hard thing to say and to those who have been affected by suicide, I apologize profusely for the following statement, but I feel it must be said.

Suicide is an intensely selfish act.

The victim becomes absorbed by the affliction of their existence, completely hopeless and ill-equipped to deal with the trauma, whatever it may be. The Christian life calls the believer to the opposite, to be consumed first by God and then with the life and welfare of others. It is hard to imagine a believer focusing on himself enough to commit suicide.

But it happens. I knew a chaplain once, a man of God, a man who loved the Lord and his family. He took his own life. He had been caught up in sin and the devil talked him into it. He left behind a beautiful family. The tragedy of suicide emanates from its irreversibility.

What do I know?

During a time of heavy rain, the darkest in my own life, I no longer desired to live. I truly desired that the Lord call me home and end the misery and pain of my present condition. Bleakness and despair ruled and I tried to flirt with it, briefly…very briefly. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even entertain the notion.

Thoughts of my God and my family immediately flooded my mind and my heart.

I serve a God who heals, a God who reconciles, a God who renews and revives and restores. It’s what He does. Knowing this, how could I not rest in His grace, His mercy, and His sovereignty? Further, how could I put those I love through such an ordeal?

To the Christian, certain thoughts become foreign, anathema to the regenerate mind. Taking one’s own life ought to bristle the believer’s conscience.

I acknowledge the generality of these themes, the moral and spiritual bankruptcy apart from Christ that generate the conditions whereby soldiers consider suicide as a reasonable course of action. I acknowledge the vast and infinite mitigating circumstances.

Yet, a direct correlation exists between the proliferation of the unchurched with the ensuing darkness and the increase in suicide and suicidal ideations both in our nation and the nation’s Army.

Frustration

I sat and listened in increasing frustration, scarcely able to contain my anger. My soul broiled in a near rage.

I seethed.

It was the quarterly Community Health Promotion Council or CHPC (pronounced Chipik for the layman). Here we sat and listened to all of the functional area reps speak to their programs and how we are “getting after” the various afflictions of soldiers, from obesity to misconduct and everything in between.

The suicide prevention team lead informed us of the existence of the imminence of the Suicide Prevention Walk. Here we would walk to bring awareness to suicide. There would be booths with handouts and reps to discuss suicide. We would A.C.E….Ask, Care, and Escort our buddy if we thought he had an issue that needed to be addressed.

“We’re really gettin’ after it, Sir,” the rep confirmed.

“That was it!” I thought sarcastically to myself. If only SPC XXX, who walked out of my headquarters, direct to his vehicle, drove to a parking lot and shot himself in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle, killing himself…if only he had participated in the Suicide Awareness walk!

My anger stems from the obvious treatment of symptoms. Intrinsically, nothing wrong with a Suicide Awareness walk until it’s treated as an actual solution. My frustration stems from the moral cowardice of a willfully blinded Army, unwilling to understand the issue and seek real solutions. Our secular overlords forbid it.

And so we are left to treat symptoms as men die by the dozens. Tragic.

And pragmatically, the Army still calls upon commanders to account for and deal with this plague at the expense of preparations for war.

I had another soldier, on the brink of being separated from the Army, who informed us that he fully intended to kill himself the first chance he got. Nothing personal, nothing against us. He just did not want to live any longer and no amount of counseling could convince him otherwise. We put him on a cot at the CQ desk for nearly a week until we get him enrolled in the Warrior Transition Unit. His company commander slept on a cot right next to him, refusing to leave his side.

This is what a commander ought to do but how could he train his unit for warfare with such an obligation? Were this an isolated situation, it’d be no factor but across the Army, commanders and 1SG’s are overwhelmed dealing with administration and the sins of soldiers leaving scant time to actually prepare for battle.

I long for the soldiers of this great nation to know Christ, to know the hope found in Him, that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This hope is unshakeable, immoveable, unchanging, and never fading.

I pray that the Spirit would move within these darkened ranks and call these men out of the darkness and into His marvelous light…what a blessed hope that would be.

The Brave Rifles Series 

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Gaiety of Men Loving Men


I love a particular man…we’ll call him John.

It was love at first sight.

When I saw him, my soul was immediately knit to his and I love him as my own soul.

I delight in him.

I choose him over others…to the shame of my mother’s nakedness.

And he loves me in an extraordinary way.

His love for me surpasses the love of women.

Men in Love

Based upon the above exchange, you’re probably thinking I’m gay. Right?

You can say it. It’s okay.

At the very least, these expression of affection toward another man made you uncomfortable.

What if I told you these things after slaying the biggest, baddest dude on the battlefield, cutting his head off with his own sword, and brandishing it for all to see, driving an entire enemy army to flee in terror? Would you still think I was gay?

See the tension?

I can think of few things more masculine than closing with and destroying the enemy in battle. David, a man after God’s own heart, was a warrior through-and-through. Born of the crucible of conflict, his triumph over Goliath introduced him to the nation, to the king, and to his best friend, Jonathan.

Their friendship—their love—ran deep and strong. I appropriated the above quotes concerning the man I love. These are all from David concerning Jonathan. Throughout David’s rise to power and amidst his conflict with Saul, Jonathan’s father, their love persisted. Following Jonathan’s death on the battlefield, David mourned and wept and fasted until evening. (1 Samuel 1:11)

David lived with passion.

He exuded intensity: intensity in his pursuit of God, intensity in battle, and intensity in his love for his friend. And in that love between men, his love for his friend, he found refuge, strength, solace, and comfort.

O’ that we might find the same.

Stoic Manlove

The pendulum of error in men loving men generally swings from one extreme to another.

On one hand, at some point we began to equate masculinity with stoicism, the absence of affection and emotion. Maybe we should thank Josey Wales or John Wayne for propagating the strong, silent image of the American man.

I was raised, like many men my age I suspect, in a somewhat emotionally distant home. I recall my mother expressing affection toward me. She called me Pumpkin and loved on me when I was sick to the point where I became kind of a mama’s boy.

My relationship with my father was different.

I don’t recall my father ever telling me he loved me. I don’t recall him ever expressing physical affection toward me or my brother. My brother and I have certainly never shared the sentiment with one another and I never recall embracing my brother. That would be just weird

I don’t recall ever telling my father that I love him.

My father loves me. Of this much I am sure.

He worked very hard and always provided for our family. He was my biggest fan and my biggest cheerleader. He celebrated my successes with me and I loved making him proud. In his mind, I’m sure that this was the best way for him to express affection and love, by his actions.

But I grew up absent male affection, not even understanding it. It left a gaping hole in my heart that I never knew was missing.

For me, raised in this manner, overt displays of affection between men was, well…gay.

Perverted Manlove

Satan loves to high-jack godly things and wield them for evil.

He has done exactly this with love between men, on the opposite end of the spectrum from the stoic, man’s man of yesteryear.

Some misguided Christians claim that God will one day judge American because of homosexuality. Romans 1:18-32 tells us that He has already judged America.

At some point, we traded the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator even though, because of Creation, every person knows in their heart that there is a Creator and are therefore without excuse. Because of this, God has placed our nation under judgment and given us over to our sinful passions.

As such, men exchanged natural relations with women and were consumed with lust and passion for one another, committing shameless acts with other men. Though we know God’s righteous decree concerning such sin, we not only do them, but celebrate those who practice them.

As such, we receive the due penalty for this error.

The penalty is paid in the form of the debasement of society wrought by the homosexual lifestyle, a lifestyle characterized by debauchery, licentiousness, addiction, and violence.

Just as he perverted love between men, Satan likewise misappropriated the symbol of gay pride, the rainbow. God originally gave this as a symbol to the world of His righteousness, that He would never again judge the world with water. A symbol of God’s judgement and righteousness has become a symbol for unrepentant sin. Let that sink in.

For nearly 800 years, the word “gay” meant happy or lively or joyful. Only in the last century was it attributed to homosexuals to the point whereby the latter application usurped the former. I’ve never heard anyone use the word “gay” to mean anything other than homosexual unless it was used in a derogatory manner to disparage something or someone.

In every conceivable way—how it’s considered, our language, our culture, our symbols—the world has corrupted the notion of men loving men.

The Power of Men Loving Men

Men need to love men.

Most grown men I know have very few friends. Once a man gets a job, gets married, and has children, he has very little time for friends. Friendships tend to coalesce around shared mutual interests. We have golf buddies or workout partners or friends at work.

What we have are acquaintances, casual friends whose company we enjoy. What we lack are men we love, who love us, men with whom we share our deepest and maybe darkest feelings, fears, and failures, men with whom we can share our struggles and triumphs, men with whom we have knit our soul.

Absent men truly loving men, most lead a lonely existence. 

Brotherhoods develop, certainly. I spent 22 years in the military, 14 of those in special operations and I’ve lived the bonds of brotherhood, alongside men who did lay their lives down for their fellow men. This is the exception though and there is no reason love ought to be driven by shared occupational hazard.

We ought to deliberately love other men.

We ought to love them unashamed, unabashed, unperverted, and unconstrained.

We ought to hug and kiss our sons, teaching them how men love men.

My truculent 17-year-old son was sitting at our dining room table the other day. I walked up and wrapped my arms as tightly around his head as I could and squeezed, for all I was worth, while rocking him back and forth. I then kissed him on the top of his head and told him, “I love you, son.”

He brushed off my awkward display of affection but smiled wryly in doing so.

Consider the power of men loving men, of men knit together at the soul. It’s only been in the last year I’ve come to understand this. I have brothers who love me, who pray for me, who hold me accountable, with whom I can share anything knowing that they will never forsake me. I am blessed with men that I love, that love me. I’ve only discovered this recently and it has truly changed my life for the better.

And so I proclaim…

I love a man named Joe…two actually, two men named Joe that is.

I also love a man named Scott. And Chris.

I love another man named Ken.

There are others.

Would you love another man as I do? You’ll be surprised by the power in such gaiety.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Wealth with no Production—the New(er) American Dream

Perhaps Solomon had it right.

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. Proverbs 12:11

The Dream

If I could start a Youtube channel or an Instagram account or some other forum and record myself doing…stuff…then I could get views! And maybe, just maybe over time, I could get subscriptions!

The brass ring: I could have so many views and subscriptions that people, either the platform itself such as Youtube or Instagram or a vendor, would pay me to do stuff or to use their stuff as a marketing tool! I could get paid just for recording myself doing…stuff.

There exists a Youtube channel to suit any endeavor but there exists an equal number that support absolutely no endeavor. People film themselves doing whatever, being cute or ironic, acting goofy or silly, being themselves…and other people watch them by the millions!

My sons are infatuated with a handful of you-tubers who do such profound things as stay all night in the McDonald’s playground, do flips at the local trampoline park, or make forts of toilet paper rolls at Sam’s Club or Walmart until they get kicked out. These are fairly PG rated but others delve into more risque content even to the point of generating controversy.

But that’s not the point. The point is they produce, generate, and create absolutely nothing. They contribute nothing to society.

But that’s not the point either. Millions of Americans spend millions of hours tuned into this mind-numbing, soul-eviscerating form of entertainment.

But that’s not the point either.

The real issue is the captured aspirations of legions of young men, a seductive side-effect of such endeavors.

Origin of the Dream

MTV debuted The Real World in 1992 to minimal fanfare.

The first reality show I remember, it centered around placing a group of 7 to 8 young people from different backgrounds and different demographics in the same home and filming every aspect of their interaction, which often became volatile and increasingly sexual over the years. Initially described as “painfully bogus” or “too phony”, the show ended up running for 21 seasons with great commercial success.

Though the cast members received a small stipend, the show often served as a springboard for greater success. Many went on to careers in entertainment, journalism, and other fields.

Yet, it was initial notoriety from merely existing, and filming that existence, that spawned their success.

An industry was born, reality television, which gave rise to a wave of people who were famous merely for being famous. Ever since we’ve been flooded with Hiltons, Kardashians, Honey Boo Boos, Real Housewives. And of course we were introduced to the Jersey Shore. Excuse me while I vomit a bit in my mouth.

Yet, everyone understood that this wasn’t us. These weren’t actually real people. They couldn’t be and even more, I could never be one of them.

The internet and social media changed all that. Young men now have the opportunity, in their minds, to be exactly that, famous for being famous.

Anyone can start a Youtube channel, an Instagram account, a Twitter account etc. and anyone can become the next Logan Paul or Roman Atwood or Eh Bee Family or any one of the countless other people who have become famous for being famous and generate absolutely nothing.

Careful Criticism

It’s tempting to enter the generational fray.

My friend’s son is 24, lives at home, and makes money by selling hand-painted video game controllers on the internet. It would be tempting for me, as a form of generational contempt, to declare him a slacker for 1) not leaving home and 2) not having a real job.

Yet, as the world changes, why would our manner of generating revenue not change?

But he doesn’t go anywhere to work. He doesn’t clock in. He has no, gasp!, schedule. To my generation and I’m sure the older generations, this type of existence seems shiftless bordering on lazy.

He is artistic and leverages that talent to create, to produce. He is entrepreneurial, leveraging technology and the passions of others (video games) to generate revenue. He is diligent as he works another retail job to enable this passion.

Let us not allow differing views on the suitability of work to drive contempt or lack of regard.

A Pendulum too Far

My father is the hardest working man I’ve known.

Raised the son of a bricklayer, he entered the nuclear industry without a college degree sixty years ago and through sheer hard work over time (decades) became a leading guy in the field. He even patented several items—articulating dingle arms, flux capacitors, and so forth.

When it came time for college, he informed me matter-of-factly that he would pay for me to attend college but I was not going to get some wishy-washy, touchy-feely degree in basket-weaving or political science or communications. I was going to get a degree in a hard math or science or something that would ensure me employment in the future.

In hindsight, I respect his intent, but what happens is a shift in the pendulum too far whereby we declare all pursuit of dreams as invalid.

“Stick to the plan son, you’re not going to be an actor.”

The desire we should feed is the desire to generate, to create, to produce. Okay, have a backup plan in case your artwork doesn’t sell, but if you have a passion, kindle it, fan it, stoke it.

The desire we should crush is the desire to be rewarded absent the above.

The Seduction

Aspiration once involved production. Ambition involved generation.

Men were concerned with substance over style, function over form. They sought to create things, to build, to produce things. There is intense joy in creating, in doing, a satisfaction of the soul in introducing something into existence that never existed before, of shaping raw materials, whatever they may be, into a new form. And I am speaking of equally of all acts of creating: writing poetry, building a custom car, establishing a business.

Such endeavors requires skill, perhaps necessitating training or education. They demand hard work, discipline, creativity, ingenuity, fortitude, a willingness to fail.

The reward is in the production or the end-item itself. Compensation is ancillary and even if it becomes a priority, it never outpaces the intrinsic value of the creation and the associated efforts.

But what if the compensation came absent the effort?

This desire is symptomatic of a deeper flaw.

Intense narcissism feeds this desire for wealth and fame and all of the trappings associated with status merely for who you are, not for what you produce, not for what you create, not for what you’ve done, but just by your sheer existence.

It’s like entitlement on steroids.

Not only am I entitled to my free cell phone, my health care, my college education…but I am entitled to prosper, to achieve renown and regard again, just by being me. It’s amplified self-esteem, anathema to the core underpinnings of the Gospel.

Yet, it demands a piercing question. Who taught these young men where to find their value anyway?

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Food and the Foster Child

It was corn. A single kernel of corn.

“I won’t eat it! And you can’t make me!” the little boy screamed.

“Just a bite, buddy…whaddaya say?”

“I’M NEVER GONNA EAT IT! NEVER!”

Yikes!

I had never really dealt with an outburst like this before. Food is an issue for many families. I suspect that for many foster families, food is a major issue.

An Introduction to the Issue

One of the difficult aspects of parenting a system kid is that they look just like any other kid.

It’s not as if they carry a neon sign, “Trauma! Trauma!” It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand the level of trauma merely being removed from their home may have induced, much less the neglect and abuse that often accompany a kid from the system.

Not having lived it, I know I can never understand.

Lawrence arrived, age 5, the picture of the foster child, showing up on our doorstep in the middle of the night clinging to the caseworkers leg, clutching a dirty stuffed animal and a single Walmart bag with a toothbrush and a change of underwear. He looked like a typical boy, head full of blonde hair, fair skin. His appearance belied a deeper trauma, inevitably betrayed by his behavior.

The honeymoon period lasted for a few weeks but dinner first exposed the breach.

He absolutely and resolutely refused to eat anything even remotely healthy. Meals devolved into a diabolical battle of the wills. Corn brought it to a head. Corn.

“I’m not gonna eat and you can’t make me!” became his stance.

A Clash of Culture

Culture presents a distinct challenge in fostering.

They train you in the classes to respect cultural differences and to be ready for them. Be sensitive to them. Food provides great insight into a family’s culture. You can tell a lot about a family by what they eat.

I know that all kids would rather consume garbage. I’ve met very few, if any, who would willingly consume vegetables or salad. When fostering, you really have no idea of the biological family’s eating habits and how they might compare with your own.

We’ve seen this. We’ve lived this.

Take my 14-year-old son. Unless it comes from a fast food joint or a gas station, he’d just assume not eat it. 

Lawrence was just as picky and I don’t mean picky like, “I don’t like onions” or “I don’t like meatloaf”. I mean picky as in “I like bacon and I like eggs but I won’t eat my eggs if they are cooked in the same skillet as the bacon” picky. A new level of pickiness.

Does it stem from culture? Perhaps.

Perhaps there’s more.

Equality

I’ve noticed that many foster kids share eerily similar traits.

Many possess a tendency to not see past the next 5 minutes of their life, in any regard. Their minds seem to warp the very fabric of the space-time continuum. This is an actual conversation with my oldest son:

    Dad, can I go to the gym and shoot hoops?

    Son, we have to be at church in 20 minutes and the gym is 15 minutes away…

    Okay…so can I go?

They all seem to possess a distinct sense of justice or rather, injustice.

Any kid(s) will always be on the lookout for any situation whereby they might receive less of something than a sibling. This is amplified in the mind of the foster kid. My sons will go to extraordinary lengths to verify that one of the others is not receiving something more than them. Food provides an opportunity for a potential disparity.

As such, they maintain a constant vigil over allotments.

When confronted with a situation to select a portion, my sons will always, without hesitation, choose the largest possible, unless it’s something they truly don’t like. They will even select the largest of something even if they do not even know what it is.

    I want some! I want that piece!!!

    Do you even know what it is?

    Well…no, but I want it!

The thought that a brother or sister would receive more, or even worse, something that they did not receive, is excruciating to them. It induces agony. My 14-year-old, on the cusp of self-awareness, will smile guiltily when I notice him angling for the largest portion. If I remark about it, he’ll steadfastly deny it. Then he’ll do it anyway. He literally cannot help it!

Control

At some point it’s about control.

The foster child lives in a continual state of uncertainty and flux with very little/absolutely no control over their future. They did not choose to be born into an afflicted family, to be removed from what they know. Whether you or I would judge their family life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is irrelevant at some point.

No matter the conditions, it’s what they know and is therefore good.

Then, without warning, they are ripped from their lives and thrust into the lives of another. Despite the assurances, they must wonder what is happening, if they’ll see their parents again. The case workers do the best they can, but many are overworked, handling multiple cases and at some point, placement supersedes suitability.

Just get the kid placed.

Adding even a newborn biological child to any family can completely upset the fraternal order, the group dynamics. Envision adding a child with an already developed sense of self and culture and righteousness, a child used to things a certain way. At some point, a clash occurs.

Food provides a platform for just such a clash. They have lost control of everything…but what they eat.

Priorities

I can tell, at any point, what my sons are thinking about. Perhaps this is normal to all sons, but for mine, from the system, they are always thinking about food.

Always.

    “When is lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

    Even more importantly, “What’s for lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

One of my sons will visibly squirm, I mean visibly writhe, at the uncertainty of an imminent meal. “I don’t know,” is not a satisfactory answer. They must know and they must know now and can they have pizza or cereal or chips or whatever.

As an example of this, during church, they sit in a constant awareness of the potential to go out to eat after church, an exquisite torture in the uncertainty. Immediately following the service, I am bombarded by queries and maybe some not-so-subtle manipulation to try and shape events to not just go out, but go to a desired location.

    “Hey Dad, the so-and-so family is going to the China King Buffet and want us to go!”

    “We haven’t been to Taco Bell in awhile,” one will casually remark.

    “Kids eat free at Dickie’s Barbecue,” another will inform me.

Again, as I see this from my biological children, I know it is not unique to my sons. It’s just amplified, taking on a heightened sense of urgency.

Perspective

We got through it.

I don’t remember exactly how or what we did. There’s no magic answer, no trick. We just got through it and so did Lawrence. His mother got clean, got a job, got well and after about six months, Lawrence went home.

His mother remains a family friend to this day.

Lawrence and his mother represent what is right with the system, how it’s supposed to work. For all of its flaws and absent the engagement of the Church, the system is what we have.

I have a few vivid memories of Lawrence’s time with us but most all, seared upon my conscience, is the image of a little boy pouring out his rage at a single kernel of corn. For him, that kernel of corn must’ve represented all that was wrong, things that he could never fathom, things he will never fathom. He unknowingly raged against injustice and the tyranny of affliction all while nursing a gaping wound to his soul.

I don’t recall if he ever ate the corn.

 

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Dear Brothers-in-Christ, Please Stop Yelling at the Gay People

Maybe we ought to quit yelling at the gay people.

Pride on Parade

I saw a video of a man at a gay pride rally in Texas. The man wielded a bullhorn, aggressively reprimanding the crowd.

      “This is sin…turn from it!”

      “You are under the judgement of God!”

     “You will burn in hell!”

     “This is perversion, turn from this perversion…turn to Jesus.”

Only one young woman chose to engage, questioning the reliability of the Bible to which the man responded even more aggressively, citing the logical fallacies of her counterclaims but not affording her an opportunity to respond. Every time she began to compose a statement, he cut her off and the fact that he was amplified made it no contest. She fled in frustration, his chastisement following her down the street.

Two observations. The majority of the people this man yelled at were young women and nearly all of them ducked their heads and moved as far away from him as quickly as possible to get back to their parade. Second, this video was edited, overdubbed with dramatic music, and widely distributed on social media.

Now, I’m quite sure this man saw himself as the defender of the faith, valiantly confronting the horde of evil homosexuals.

I thought he acted kind of like a douche.

I wondered if he would have taken any of these people to lunch.

LGBTQ Clarification

Okay, allow me to clarify. Homosexuality is a sin. Only a severely dishonest exegesis of Scripture will yield any other conclusion. It is a sexual sin, viewed identically by God as say…pornography use. Ouch.

Jesus’ words to the crowd determined to stone the young woman caught in adultery resonate. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

I wonder if this man would invade the homes of the majority of Christian men who indulge in pornography and yell at them from his bullhorn. Imagine the otherwise moral Christian man sitting down in the dark at his computer for a dabble with lust when…

     “This is sin…turn from it!”

     “This is perversion! You are under the judgment of God!”

I suspect not. Statistically speaking, though I do not know this man and it’s quite possible he is in the vast minority of men who do not view pornography, it’s likely he would have to direct his bullhorn back at himself. Why doesn’t this man feel led to go to the local Gold’s gym and castigate the men for subtly ogling the scantily clad women, lusting in their hearts, the exact same thing as adultery according to our Lord?

Sexual sin is sexual sin, no?

What is the thought process that motivates a man to single out a particular group of revelers for condemnation while neglecting other much larger groups?

The Tone of Jesus

Much defense is made of methods in citing Jesus.

Jesus flipped over the tables in the Temple and whipped people with a cord—I wish I could’ve been there! Jesus called people names, confronting them as fools, blind guides, hypocrites, vipers, whitewashed tombs, sons of the devil.

Trudat.

Yet, consider for whom He reserved His public rebuke…the religious, the Pharisee, the self-righteous religious authorities. Jesus spoke with the woman at the well as a person. (John 4) Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery. (John 8) He invited Himself to dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector. (Luke 19)

Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus saw the people as they were, as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion on them. (Matthew 9:36)

He wept because of their sin and rebellion. (John 11:35)

Instead of publicly berating these homosexuals for their sin, a more appropriate stance would be to mourn their betrayal and imminent judgement, to reach out to them, to love them, to tell them of another way…out of love.

Would this man have invited these people to his home for a meal?

A Common Thing

I’ve seen this before.

Years ago, B.C. (before Christ okay!) I spent a fair amount of time on Bourbon Street in New Orlean engaged in all manner of debauchery. I distinctly recall the wackos on the street corner with their signs, warning me of impending doom and judgement I suspect. Yet, as my brain was clouded by different things at the time, I truly didn’t hear a word they said.

Several years ago, a group of Christians led by ‘pastor’ Terry Jones appeared at a series of Muslim festivals in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a sizeable Muslim population. This is the same Terry Jones who attained global notoriety by putting a Koran on trial and then burning it.

Muslims predictably rioted. People died.

To what end?

Needless to say, the protesters at the Muslim festivals were not greeted well…and why would they be? The Muslims, angered by their presence and their provocation, responded unkindly, pelting them with profanity, spit, and eventually stones and garbage.

From the aspect of civics, this is a horrid encounter, that men cannot even walk down the street in a city in America with religious signs, and not be harassed.

Yet, civics takes a back seat to the Gospel.

How should we expect Muslims to act? Or gay people? Or the lost in general?

Consider that many/most Muslims are raised into the religion, that it dominates every aspect of their existence. They are given no option to NOT be Muslim, it becomes their identity. Islam is a system that enslaves billions across the world, a perfect system of bondage that leverages the sin nature of men and declares it pious. It is powerful in the strength of its binding.

Can we not have compassion on those thus imprisoned?

Look How Righteous

At some point, it’s about attention.

Jesus berates the hypocrites who pray on the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (Matthew 6:5)

He tells the parable of the Pharisee who prays, telling God about all of the righteous things he does saying, “thank you that I am not like other men.” (Luke 18:11) Meanwhile, the lowly tax collector’s prays, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (v. 13)

The video produced of the man at the gay pride rally was obviously intended to produce an effect, to paint a certain picture, to portray him in a certain light. Why the need to distribute it so widely?

Stratification of Sin

The natural tendency amongst men is to compare sin, levels of wickedness.

The fact that this man chose to single out these young women at the homosexual rally is significant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Why is he not at the local Golden Corral lambasting the gluttonous? Can you imagine him confronting the overweight man at the buffet?

     “Sinner! Glutton!”

     “Do you really need two pieces of fried chicken?”

     “Didn’t you just have meatloaf?”

     “You are under the judgement of God!”

Why is he not at the local sports arena admonitioning the people for their idolatry?

     “Sinner!”

     “Take off that jersey!”

     “Tom Brady is just a man; worship only God!”

     “You are under the judgement of God!”

Not only that, but he made a monster presumption, that none of these young ladies were actually Christians. Is that valid?

What if there was a Christian in the crowd and perhaps she was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but had not yet responded? God sanctifies each of us in a different way, at different times. What if they were newly saved, and had not yet felt the weight of conviction for their homosexual sin?

Often, following salvation, the newly-minted believer is quick to shed surface-level sin. The deeper the sin is ingrained in the flesh, buried under layers of scar tissue and time, the longer it seems to take for it to come to the surface and be dealt with.

I am 12 years into my Christian walk and am just now, in the last year, addressing sin that goes back to my youth.

What if it is as this, with some of these young women?

Should we still shout condemnation at them?

A Final Admonition

Those who publicly berate those reveling in sin frequently turn to the words of Paul for ammunition. “Neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Three points on this:

     1. They leave out a whole slew of other sins listed by Paul to include idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, and swindlers. Again, why are these men not seeking out these sinners to publicly “call out”.

2. This letter is for the church. Paul is writing this letter to the church at Corinth admonitioning them for tolerating sexual sin…in the church! These are not words to confront the unregenerate.

3. They conveniently leave off the very next line, “And such were some of you.” (v. 11)

Such were some of them. Such were some of you. Such was I, but I was washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most offensive thing there has ever been. It certainly doesn’t need me wielding it in an offensive manner.

Maybe we should stop yelling at the gay people.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Don’t Put Me in Coach—the Plea of the American Christian

I hated the nursery. For real.

My agreeing to work the nursery reflected sheer mechanical, religious duty. I had kids in the nursery so I felt it was my duty, and as the nursery coordinator assured me, “it should be less than once a month.” Okay.

Three weeks later, arriving at church, I received the expected, but dreaded news. My turn. Nursery duty. I got through it, but it was painful. I don’t even really like kids but…less than once a month. I clung to this assurance.

Next week though, arriving at the church, I received a shock.

“We need you in the nursery again.”

“Seriously?!”

I couldn’t believe it. I was irate, angry even. One hundred feet away, nearly 500 people prepared for the worship service. I nearly scooped up an armload of kids and stormed to the stage to make a scene.

“Hey! All you people with kids!”

I entertained this fantasy for less than a moment—I am that audacious only in my mind—then tucked my tail and sulked to the nursery. The kids wanted to play Speed Racer. Thank God for goldfish crackers.

This encounter, though humorous, reflects a typical, not-surprising lack of engagement of the American church attender, a plight shared by every fellowship I’ve known.

A Team Affair

Envision a football player that attends an occasional practice…yet still wants to wear the jersey, get invited to the team dinners, be listed in the program, maybe tell chicks he’s on the team. The American Christian presents an equally ludicrous display of membership.

A player, a real team member, attends every practice, plays in the games, thinks about the team and the game. He does off-season conditioning. Maybe he watches film or gets with his teammates for some extra work. He attends a camp or multiple camps to refine his skills. He cares about the game because he loves the game.

He knows the stakes.

He wants to play.

He wants to win.

When they win, he exalts.

When they lose, he cries. He cries because he gave it his all and still came up short.

He celebrates his team and his teammates.

The American Christian couldn’t care less. The American Christian remains content with his spiritual mediocrity, happy to wear the jersey, be listed in the program, be on the team…and let other people play. Whether they win or not is of no concern to him.

Stir Us, Lord

I wish that people would get stirred up a bit.

God stirred the heart of the pagan king Cyrus to send the Jews back to Israel. God stirred the hearts of the people to respond and to follow. (Ezra 1:1,5) God decreed and the people responded.

Sitting in church at least weekly for the last 12 years, I’ve listened to literally hundreds of sermons even as I started delivering them myself. It’s the glaze. The man in the next pew begins to nod, looks at his watch, nods again, jerks awake. Some are more blatant than others, scarcely attempting to conceal their utter boredom at hearing the proclamation of the word of God. My own father has given lessons to my children on how to sleep in church without being noticed. Now, he’s speaking tongue-in-cheek, sort of.

But I want to stand and confront.

          Did you hear what that man just said!?

          There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

          If you but repent and believe, you can be saved!

         Christ loved you so much in that while you were yet a sinner, He died for you!

          Did you hear what was just said!?

These amazing words of God seem to barely register and even more, illicit no response, compel no action. This requires to some necessary but troubling conclusions.

A Given Grace

The grace of God manifests itself in numerous ways. His common grace toward all men display His mercy, as He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, the rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45) His saving grace presents the pinnacle of His love, that He redeems men for eternity apart from any merit of their own.

A neglected grace is that He gifts men for service. (Romans 12:6)

As He has gifted us, we ought to serve.

Paul likens the Church to a body, the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12) And like a body, it has different parts with different functions. And like a body, no part is more important than another part. The hand is as important as the eye, the ear as important as the feet.

General McChrystal unwittingly captured the sentiment well. He used to say, “Never judge your importance to the mission by your proximity to the target.”

So it is with the body of Christ. And like a body, it does not function well, or at all, when one part does not function. Let me strengthen that up a bit.

God calls every single believer to serve. God equips every single believer with spiritual gifts to serve. The Church requires every single believer to serve.

Every. Single. Believer…is gifted to serve,

                                …ought to serve,

                                …needs to serve.

The Reality

A majority of Americans, upward of 80% depending upon the source, profess Christ, claim to be Christians. Yet, on any given Sunday, less than 20% of them attend a church. Very few Christians accomplish even the most basic aspect of Christianity, church attendance. Even fewer serve in any meaningful way.

This sheds some concerning light upon Rainer’s statement, “An inactive church member is an oxymoron.” Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a church member who does not desire to serve.

Think about it. 

If God has saved you, if He has shed His own Son’s blood on the cross for your sins in a miraculous display of mercy and grace, if He has indwelled your very body with the Holy Spirit of God and gifted you for service, if all this is true, you will serve. You will desire to serve.

There is no way you could not serve.

The fact that so few men do serve demands two possible conclusions.

One, it is possible that the leaders of the church are not diligent in helping the people discover and activate their own gifts. The leaders are consumed by other work, not realizing the necessity, the urgency, of this endeavor.

Or, most of the church is not truly the Church. Our church pews are populated by church attenders, not necessarily redeemed children of God. Perhaps this is why so few will serve, so few will say, “what can I do?”

I have trouble not envisioning the power of the Holy Spirit activated in the lives of engaged believers firmly committed to the work of the Lord. If you are a believer, God has gifted you for a unique work that He ordained before the foundations of the world, further evidence of the majestic grace of our Lord.

He doesn’t need us, yet He redeems and He validates. Let us respond.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Quit Telling Me About Your Macros and Pass the Bacon

I love bacon.

I mean, I love it. Pepperoni pizza. Chips and salsa. Biscuits and gravy. French fries. The only way to stop me from consuming is to remove. Sometimes, I will eat so much or so many, that I’ll actually get angry with myself.

Ridiculous. Pitiful. No one should eat that much of anything.

I desire to eat well, whatever that means. I desire that for my family.

Is there a struggle more pronounced than what we eat? Is there a family that does not wrestle this issue? Is there a family unaffected by the things that they eat, that is happy with how they eat?

To tell you the truth, I get sick of hearing about it.

The Struggle

The standard American fare is an abomination.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family which went right along with our white picket fence and 2.0 children. Most meals included a meat, a potato/starch, and some sort of vegetable, normally corn or green beans or succotash, bread on the side. Plain old white bread, often with butter, margarine actually.

I came through it okay, I guess. My father just turned 85, decent health considering.

Yet, 160 million Americans are classified as obese—nearly 35-40% depending on the source. Five percent of American adults are morbidly obese—a 400 percent increase since 1986. It’s going to get worse. Nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight, up from 19% in 1980.

It’s killing us.

Heart disease slaughters Americans by the bushel, far and away the leading cause of death for both men and women. It causes 1 in 4 American deaths, a whopping 610,000 a year! For comparison’s sake, heart disease kills each year about the same number that AIDS has killed since 1981.

A major cause of heart disease is lifestyle, primarily a poor diet and inactivity.

More than 100 million Americans wrestle with diabetes, roughly 10 percent of the population. A major cause of type 2 diabetes is lifestyle…primarily a poor diet and inactivity.

Yet I wonder, is the issue really about what we eat?

Which Way

I used to carb up. I know you did to.

In college, I kept a hot plate in my barracks room and would consume mass quantities of pasta. The night before an athletic event, gotta get my carbs in. That’s how it went. Now, it seems that carbohydrates are anathema, or are they?

I had a commander introduce me to the Atkins diet some years ago. We went to get lunch at the chow hall and I watched aghast as he consumed four hamburger patties with a handful of boiled eggs. “All the protein and fat you can eat,” he exclaimed between mouthfuls. I threw up in my mouth a bit.

At some point, Paleo came along. Never mind the fact that there’s really no such thing as cavemen, but we must eat like one I’m told. If it doesn’t grow, don’t eat it. Eat tons of plants and some meat. Sounds simple. Paleo became de rigueur in the Crossfit community, an incestuous relationship that persists to this day.

At some point, someone declared Paleo antiquated. To the best of my knowledge, people do their “Macros” these days. I’m not sure exactly what that means, only that it sounds wack.

I am reminded of a conversation in Iraq some time ago. One of my crew chiefs was lamenting about how he couldn’t seem to lose any weight.

“Maybe don’t eat so much, exercise a bit more,” was my Platoon Sergeant’s sage advice.

The Struggle Typified

My family eats okay, I guess. Again, I don’t really know what that means.

Our diet waivers consistently from Paleo to standard American (meat and potatoes) to outright gluttonous blasphemy. We’ll start with meatless Monday culminating with a nice salad giving my children another reason to rue the day. Tuesday’s became Taco Tuesday. By week’s end we normally devolve to pizza night and whatever we can muster to get the kids off our backs.

Haste and busyness lead to poor food decisions. As the stewards of a large family, my wife and I often find ourselves required to be in several places simultaneously.

“Kids, time for bed.”

“What about dinner?!”

Crap! At that point, I’ll run to the dollar general and grab a handful of $1 frozen sandwiches—ribs, cheeseburgers, chicken patties—or fall back to Ramen noodles. My children laud me as a god when I come bearing such gifts. Let me arrive with a gallon of milk and a cheap bag of cereal and they practically faint with gratitude.

“Father, could we perhaps partake of the cereal tonight…”

We seldom buy much junk food, not out of any altruistic reasons, but purely because my sons make short work of it. A bag of chips will last an hour or two, ice cream, maybe overnight, cookies, forget about it.

And we have night eaters. We are as yet uncertain as to who the nighteater(s) are, whether its an organized effort or the spontaneous work of a lonewolf, but the 17-year-old looms large in our aperture of suspicion.

My wife will attempt to sequester the goods. I’ll frequently happen across a two liter of soda or bags of junk food stashed in the most unlikely of places…seldom-used closets, a desk drawer, the garage behind my tool box.

Still, we’re all pretty healthy considering. The boys play sports. We run around and wrestle and struggle to get them off the couch and away from video games. But, I think we do okay.

The Issue

Is there a sin more ignored than gluttony?

Is there a sin more damaging than gluttony?

Is there a sin less preached about than gluttony?

My wife did home nursing for a while. One of her patients was a morbidly obese woman who could literally walk from her bed to her chair in the living room and not much further. She was a literal prisoner of the flesh. Had she been a believer, which I have no idea if she was, she’d have been unable to obey that most basic of commands, to go. Had she been an unbeliever, she’d have been sequestered from the world, from the church, only having hope that someone would come to her to bring the life-changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I heard that she died recently.

The believer’s body is the temple, the resident of the indwelling Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) We ought to treat it accordingly, as the vehicle which carries us to take the Gospel to the nations. We ought to eat and drink to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Scripture condemns gluttony. (Proverbs 23:21) “it is not good to each much honey.” (Proverbs 25:27) All things are lawful, but all things are not helpful. (1 Corinthians 6:12) At the same time, as all foods are allowable, we should not condemn or pass judgment on those who eat differently from us. (Romans 14) It is what comes from within a man that defiles him. (Mark 7)

As such, what if we just ate with restraint?

Eat a sandwich, a cheeseburger even. Just don’t eat five or one every day for a month. Eat a salad one day. Have some pizza the next. If you feel like eating Paleo or doing your Macro’s, then do it, but quit making food an idol.

Enjoy food. See it for what it is, fuel for the machine and fuel for fellowship.

Now, I think I’ll go make my boys some pancakes with gluten in them…breakfast for dinner rocks!

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Message…not the Messenger

Preach the Gospel. Die forgotten.

I don’t think Zinzendorf could’ve said it any better. 

It’s the Message…not the messenger.

The Biblical Messenger

A non-believing friend of mine was reading through the Bible, go figure. He came to me astounded at the nature of character of the people that God used, particularly in the Old Testament. He found it preposterous that God would use a philanderer, a polygamist, an adulterer, or a prostitute to accomplish His will.

In my friend’s mind, as a moral man who paid his taxes and didn’t beat his kids, God should use “good” men. What he really meant was that he himself was a “good” man, virtue by comparison.

God’s messengers are but men, fallible men.

Paul’s murder of Christians prior to his conversion is well documented. Even after conversion, we see glimpses of his sin, his flesh. He himself speaks of his own weakness and fear. (1 Corinthians 2) We see his abrasiveness, his arrogance. He not only confronted Peter “to his face” but felt the need to tell the Galatians about it. This would be the equivalent of calling out your pastor “to his face” and then bragging about it on social media.

Peter was fickle, indecisive, falsely humble, then shamed by his denial. God raised him up and empowered him to proclaim boldly, fearlessly, though we still see evidence of his weakness.

Thomas doubted.

Yet God raised each of them up, in their weakness, to deliver His message to an unbelieving world.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

The Frailty of Men

In the Message delivered of the messenger, we see the contrast between the power of God and the weakness of men.

We see the power of God contrast with the fear of men, with the limited minds of men. Luke writes that the Pharisees were astounded when they saw all that Peter and John did. They knew that they were common and uneducated and because of this, they knew that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) Peter and John were not religious leaders, not Pharisees, not Sadducees. They were fishermen with no training, no advanced degree…but they had been with Jesus.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

Other religious leaders measure up the same.

Martin Luther opposed the Catholic church at his own peril and spear-headed the Reformation. He even translated the Bible into German, one of the first versions in a popular vernacular. Yet, Luther maintained distinctly controversial views. His very last sermon, preached days before his death, resonated with anti-Semitism. He also struggled with mental illness: depression and anxiety and was known for being cantankerous and confrontational.

Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, preached the Gospel to thousands upon thousands over the years. Yet, he himself suffered with depression, anxiety, and obsessive guilt and shame. As he reminds us, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

There are no mighty men of God.

There are no great men of God.

There is but a great God, who raises up men to accomplish mighty deeds in His name.

Any supposed mighty man of God would agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

Validation

We want to validate a message by the messenger.

This validation is legitimate in some instances. I would never take the orthopedic advice of my friend in ministry but if my other friend, an orthopedic surgeon, recommend me for an MRI, I’d listen. His credentials as an orthopedic surgeon validate his message to me.

A lawyer in court seeks to discredit a witness and thus discredit their testimony.

Yet, we seek to apply this validation in other ways, particularly with social issues.

I cannot comment on abortion because I am a man. I’ve never been pregnant nor had an abortion. I cannot comment on racial issues because I am not a minority. My opinions on many topics hold no sway because I possess no advanced degree in the associated field.

This is a subset of the ad hominem logical fallacy.

The problem becomes when we try to validate God’s message by the messenger.

In 2005, I attended my first church in many years as a New Year’s resolution. They were between Pastors, so someone called an elder, whatever that was, gave the message. They had no pastor, no minister, no reverend…no professional. I subsequently discounted everything this man said. I validated the Message by the messenger or in this case, invalidated the Message by the same.

This is the same phenomenon that gives rise to the celebrity pastor.

I attended a friend’s church a few years ago, a mega-church satellite campus. As we sat their listening to the piped in message from the pastor at the main campus, I couldn’t help but wonder that from the several hundred folks sitting there, they couldn’t find a single man to preach the Gospel. They seemed focused on the messenger, not the Message.

It’s the same mindset that leads churches to refuse to hire a preacher without a PhD behind his name. This man could preach the wallpaper off the walls, love God and people, be an effective communicator, an organizer, an inspirer. Yet, without the validation of a doctoral degree, they discount any Message delivered by him. 

But it’s the Message, not the messenger…and thank God for that.

Validation with Purpose

The Message, the word of God, is enduring. It is imperishable. It is unchanging. It is never fading, unstoppable, good, ultimately life-changing. (Psalm 119:89, Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 13:8, Isaiah 40:8, Job 42:2, Acts 12:24)

It requires no validation.

The Resurrected Christ, the Risen King validates the Message for all time. It requires no further authentication.

And because of this, I can rest in my own frailty, my own weakness.

Every single time I stand to deliver the word of God, the Enemy whispers in my ear. “You’re not worthy. You’re not worthy. If these people only knew what you had done, they’d never listen to you. You are covetous, an idolater,” to which I respond…

I was never worthy.

It’s the Message…not the messenger.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Suicide of Reason in a Transgender Teen

Eric Verbeeck, 17, took his own life this week.

Tragic. Unfortunately explainable, understandable even, able to be accounted for. And just as tragic, soon to be forgotten by all but those who knew and loved him most.

The news report is telling, Orwellian in its doublespeak,

“Eric Peter Verbeeck was only 17 when she died on March 6. The smiling, bespectacled boy who grew up in Key Biscayne was a month shy of her 18th birthday, which would have been April 14.”

Eric Verbeeck was a transgender teen.

The Root of Affliction

The folly of men is evident in their self-destruction.

The folly of men exists in their denial of God, whom they know in their heart exists. (Psalm 14:1, Romans 1:19)

As men suppress and deny the Life-giver Jesus Christ, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18) Few people intentionally live wrongly. Most sane people live in a way that seems right…to them. But the way that seems right to a man leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

There are exactly two ways to live, God’s way and man’s way though man’s way takes innumerable forms, exists as countless aberrations, all equally destructive.

Affliction Personified

I can scarcely consider the struggle of a young man such as Eric, the confusion.

Your biology, your DNA, your literal cellular structure, the General Revelation of creation, the bulk of society screams truth, competing with the increasingly strident cries of affirmation from progressive society, your family and loved ones, those who would seek to exploit you to further an agenda, together in a demonic and harmonic chorus.

The cacophony must deafen, eventually madden. Your brain rages against your soul, to the death.

Satan himself could not have crafted a more effective ploy. Imprison a young man in his mind. Convince him of an impossibility upon which his very being relies. Enslave a society and an entire family to affirm the impossibility which confronts him every single time he looks in the mirror. No matter how hard he tries to be what he cannot, no matter to what lengths he goes, the absurdity confronts him. Hopelessness looms.

“Dear Mommy, I am so sorry to do this but I have killed myself.”

Rejecting a Narrative

Eric was not bullied.

Eric was not discriminated against.

Eric was never physically abused.

Eric maintained the support of his family and friends. He and his mother were busy working with a local team of surgeons and doctors to plan the next steps of his transition. His mother had stopped using male pronouns. They were busy visiting colleges and planning for the future. They had bought a new house in South Carolina where Eric was busy designing his new bedroom.

Eric destroys a certain narrative, that culture is to blame for the alarming suicide rate among the transgender community.

Consider that 4 in 10 (40%!) of transgender people have attempted suicide, an alarming figure.

The narrative would tell us that an antiquated and religious society is to blame, that unsupportive and condemning family are to blame, that bullying and discrimination are to blame. Yet consider black people, historically the most discriminated against people group in America. Their suicide rates have remained consistently low, the lowest of all ethnic groups. White people commit suicide at a much greater rate.

Consider that transgender suicide rates in progressive European countries remain consistent. Acceptance and affirmation do not lower the rate.

Eric was ill, deathly ill.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, confirms that which everyone already knows. Transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment. Sex change is a biological impossibility. Those who promote sexual reassignment surgery collaborate with and promote a mental disorder, never a wise thing to do.

This is the way of men. What greater way to reject the way of God, the created order, than to reject male and female, that which He created. (Genesis 1:27)

And Eric’s life and sadly, his death, perfectly illustrates the fruit of rejecting God’s way.

The name he chose resonates with irony…Hope.

A Christian Response

We ought to mourn.

Jesus surveyed Jerusalem that was still to betray Him and He wept at their impending treachery and subsequent judgment. (Luke 19) Our tears ought to mingle with Christ’s at the present collective rebellion of men and the rejection of His righteousness.

We ought to see young men such as Eric Verbeek as they are, the Image of God, afflicted and tormented, desperately needing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You see, a further folly of men exists in our refusal to see others correctly. We see the outworking of sin, frequently considering another’s struggle as baser than our own. We see a struggle such as Eric’s that is visible and somehow more reprehensible. My sin I can quietly tuck away and those I know are none the wiser.

We ought to see those locked at the horns in such a struggle for who they are, as those being taken away to death, perhaps stumbling to the slaughter, and we ought to have compassion, we ought to love, we ought to rescue. (Proverbs 24:11) Our hearts ought never be glad when they stumble. (Proverbs 24:17)

Perhaps Eric never knew a fundamental truth, you are who God has created you to be. No one ever impressed this upon him and the enemy exploited that gap in his heart to his destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Our godless Army is an addicted army.

The ever-present demon of chemical addiction exacerbates the plight of soldiers. Alcohol and drug abuse scars the souls of these young men and women. With ease, I envision one of my young soldiers in his barracks room all weekend, alone with Satan himself. Satan, always whispering,

       “Do it, there’s no hope. Do it. It’ll make it better.”

     “I don’t want to.”

       “It’s the right thing.”

     “I’m afraid.”

       “They’ll call you brave.”

     “I don’t want to.”

       “Have another drink.”

I mourned at the consideration, that the blackness in a young man’s heart was deepened by the consumption of alcohol to the point whereby the demonic could convince him to cinch his belt around his neck, secure it over the door jam, and literally sit to his death. I still mourn at the sheer emptiness that led to such an act, the spiritual bankruptcy enabled by chemical enslavement.

An Epidemic

I felt compelled to write my inaugural work, Scourge: Confronting the Global Issue of Addiction, before ever setting foot in the Division. I noticed, via the foster care system, the surprising prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse.

We live in the Bible Belt yet, every single foster child we’d sheltered over the course of eight years—numbering nearly 30—dealt with the impacts of addiction. Many were taken into custody due to the sins of their birth parents in terms of addiction. Some birth mothers afflicted their children in the womb, consuming drugs and alcohol while pregnant. My seven-year-old son, our first foster child nearly seven years ago, suffers from a litany of physical ailments due to his mother’s crack use during pregnancy. Another of my sons suffers from partial hearing loss due to his mother’s prenatal alcohol abuse.

Physical and emotional abuse frequently accompany addiction. One of my sons witnessed drug abuse and drug related violence…against his mother. Another son of mine spent time in a crack house with his biological parents some years ago. It’s a wonder he can even function.

Prescription drug abuse flourishes. One of my sons lost his father to prescription drugs. We took in another young man who had just turned 18. For several weeks he just kind of moped around the house in a funk. At some point, I took him to the doctor for a checkup. He walked out shaking a bottle of pills at me.

     “At least I got these.”

     “Anti-depressants?”

     “Yep.”

     “You ought to flush them down the toilet.”

A wretched physician had prescribed anti-depressants based upon him merely saying he was depressed. No follow-up with a psychologist or otherwise. Just a, “here’s yer pills, now go away”. Ridiculous, but common. A week or so later, he got a full-time job and the change in his demeanor was palpable. He no longer had time to be depressed.

As he and I later discussed, he wasn’t depressed. He just was not fulfilling his God-given desire to be productive, to work. Yet, our entire system revolves around treating symptoms, often with narcotics.

Is it any wonder we have a nation of addicts?

Is it any wonder we have an army of addicts?

An Addicted Army

As such, I should not have been surprised to find the same issue in the Army. I’m not even sure how to adequately capture the extent of the issue, how to adequately do it justice. I recall reading about the ‘Hollow Army’ of the 1970’s and the rampant drug abuse that permeated the ranks.

Binge drinking was the order of the day in my younger Army years. I showed up to Korea in 1996 and the first night found myself doing naked carrier landings in the O-club…with my battalion commander…and all the other officers…while drinking heavily. I distinctly remember the Top Gun theme song blaring loudly. Some from my generation look back fondly upon such antics. Yet, I wonder how many closet alcoholics later self-destructed.

Things have changed.

Consider that the Army is sending kids as young as 20-years-old to in-patient rehabilitation. Consider that the vast majority—not all—of rapes and sexual assaults occur within the context of binge drinking. Cocaine, marijuana, spice, prescription drugs—they are all present and prevalent. The statistics paint a surprisingly bleak outlook concerning the widespread abuse of chemicals in the ranks and as I said, it normally accompanies other afflictions, weakening minds and eroding the will. People will simply do things under the influence that they might not otherwise do.

The van ride to Fort Leavenworth must’ve seemed to take an eternity for my young sergeant convicted of raping a junior soldier. He was drunk at the time, as was she. Three young soldiers, two males and a female, return to the barracks in a drunken stupor and have a sexual triste. The next morning the female cries, ‘Rape’ while the young men cry, ‘Consensual’. Either way, lives are ruined.

Another young soldier, on more psychotropic medications than any man should be, due to a laundry list of behavioral health diagnoses, weeps feebly at the slightest demand. He is literally, incapable of working. A young sergeant shoots up a local nightclub. Cocaine and alcohol are involved.

The deviant creativity of the enemy ensures soldiers will remain one step ahead of the authorities. As fast as the army responds to one type of abuse, someone invents another. Recently, soldiers started spiking their ‘vape’ e-cigs with all manner of chemicals in pursuit of the high, undetectable to any current methods.

Multiple Issues

Other than the obvious destruction of young lives, chemical abuse wreaks havoc in another way.

Chemical abuse weakens the force.

The moral bankruptcy in the hearts of these soldiers drives their pursuit of worldly satisfaction. Apart from Christ, godless soldiers—godless men, really—will seek the high in any way, including chemical abuse.

Every soldier battling drug and alcohol abuse is a soldier not available to close with and destroy the enemy. Every Commander and First Sergeant spending inordinate amounts of time dealing with soldiers battling drug and alcohol abuse is a Commander and First Sergeant not training their men to close with and destroy the enemy.

This problem will only continue to worsen. The increasing godlessness of our soldiers should cause great concern as the scourge of addiction will likely continue to grieve the ranks for the foreseeable future.

For this reason, I pray that our civilian masters keep us from the high intensity conflict that would demand so much from our Army, perhaps more than we could ever again muster.

The series

Brave Rifles: The Theology of War

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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