The Most Masculine Thing Ever

I come from a world of strong men.

Bold men. Brave men. Men of courage. Men of valor.

Warriors.

Fire-breathers.

Many nights, I accompanied such men as we descended from the black onto the unsuspecting heads of the enemies of righteousness, those who would tyrannize their fellow man with whichever brand of wickedness.

These are strong men, men who stare Death in the eye and unflinchingly demand, “Here am I, send me.” I can think of few things more manly, more masculine than closing with and destroying the enemy in battle…

…well, maybe one.

Masculinity Corrupted

Our nation starves for masculinity.

Amid the tumult about ‘toxic masculinity’ resonates a deep misunderstanding masking a deeper need. The term itself is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or French resistance or democratic socialism.

By definition, masculinity could never be toxic. From the curse of the Garden, men stray from the azimuth of masculinity in one of two directions, becoming one of two caricatures:

Caricature 1 (Brash Man): Brash Man takes the perceived characteristics of masculinity and magnifies them. Absent the foundation of these characteristics, Brash Man becomes defined by these same characteristics.

Brash Man exudes self-confidence. Manliness governs his actions.

My upbringing was defined by the action heroes of the 80’s. Think Arnold and Rambo. If you tell me Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, I’ll impugn your manhood right now. “Yippee-ki-yay,”—okay, I’m a pastor so don’t expect me to finish the quote.

          “Well, you gonna do something or just stand there and bleed.”

          “Remember when I promised to kill you last…I lied.”

          “Go ahead, punk, make my day.”

Brash Man exults in conquest, sexual and otherwise. Women swoon, men admire. Brash Man bends others to his unflinching will. Brash Man is capable. He can replace your alternator as easily as he can slap a mean rear-naked choke on your candy rear-end. Brash Man is what you want to be, until you don’t, or can’t.

We thrash young men with this caricature of who they ought to be, exposing deep perceived inadequacies. Some embrace it and pursue, others recoil and become…

Caricature 2 (Neutered Man): Again, from the Garden, Neutered Man simply yields.

Neutered Man gazes upon the worldly connotations of masculinity and rejects them wholesale. He yields his God-given role as the leader of the family and the church, surrendering them to the usurping woman.

Neutered man stands hapless as all that is righteous is stripped away.

The greatest treason of Neutered Man comes in his denial of the existence of his very masculinity and his championing of those who do the same. Gender-bending, gender-fluidity, trans-gender: these are all issues symptomatic of legions of men who’ve lost their way.

So Neutered Man meekly tucks his testicles between his thighs and does the only thing he can. He stands aside, lest he offend anyone with even a hint of testosterone.

Masculinity Demonstrated

I was reading, in the Bible, about the 30 and the Three.

King David had a crew of 30 mighty men, 37 actually, who fought for him, men of extreme valor and reckless courage. From within the 30, three stood apart.

Jashobeam, the chief of the three, killed 300 men at one time, with only his spear. Eleazar stood alone against the charging enemy as everyone else fled. Shammah too, stood strong against certain death as others fled. (2 Samuel 23, 1 Chronicles 11) These were men of renown, men of conviction.

David himself stood astride the fallen giant and removed his head with his own sword and then brandished the head for all to see. An emboldened army charged as the vanquished army fled. (1 Samuel 17)

So don’t hear me minimize courage or valor or strength or conviction. These characteristics ought to resonate from our masculinity.

Yet, masculinity is seemingly so much less than this, but really infinitely more.

Masculinity Defined

If you think you’re church is jacked up, read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church!

In his lengthy exhortation about how the church ought to run, Paul gets to a peculiar section on love, chapter 13, the love chapter.

           Love is patient and kind.

          “Love does not envy or boast.”

          “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Common to see these verses on Hallmark cards or quoted at a wedding. Yet, this is an exhortation to the church. In the middle of directing church-members how to conduct church, Paul exhorts them to love in this way, sacrificially and unconditionally. He concludes this section with one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Paul tells us that the business of a man is to love, sacrificially and unconditionally. Okay, yes, apply it to everyone in the church, but who elsewhere is commanded to lead the church and the family, to set an example but, the man?

It is the child who maintains concern for himself. It is the child who does not love in this manner. It is the child who demands the rights to himself. This is not the business of a man.

The real definition of masculinity resides in self-sacrifice on behalf of love.

This is the business of a man.

Masculinity Exemplified

As always, we find in Christ our perfect example.

Christ defines masculinity.

Consider. The Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Firstborn over all creation, the image of the invisible God, the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…willingly and humbly went to the cross to save sinners, those who would otherwise hate him.

This is masculinity exemplified, sacrificial love.

There is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Jesus exemplifies the words of Paul to the church at Corinth in His willingness to suffer on behalf of others, even those who would hate him, that they might live. Jesus epitomizes masculinity. Forget closing with and destroying the enemy. Forget cutting the heads off our enemies. Forget a thousand other images of manhood, some biblical, some not.

Self-subordination, the relinquishment of self to others on behalf of love, this is the mark of a man, masculinity, as seen in the work of Jesus on the cross.

Masculinity Demonstrated

O’ man, what do you fence off for yourself?

To which part of yourself and your own desires do you cling?

Have you set aside your childish ways and loved like a man?

Very few of you will ever close with and destroy the enemy in battle, even those of you in the service. Some of you don’t know which end of a screwdriver to hold, much less how to actually work on a vehicle. You can’t tell a truss from a rafter. Maybe you’ve never even (gasp) fired a gun in your life. You’ve never killed anything or even been punched in the face.

Maybe you’re a mid-level office-worker with a boring job and no upward mobility. Life hasn’t turned out how you thought it might.

Guess what? You have an opportunity every single day to be a man of renown, a man of courage and conviction, even valor.

Pour yourself out for those around you, your wife and your children. Give to them what they need and quit worrying about what you need. Find that in Christ and in Christ alone.

Turn off the video games. Cancel the golf outing. Drop out of the fantasy football league.

Quit worrying about “you” time and collapse into bed each night from exhaustion…with nothing left to give, nothing left to offer. Be willing to suffer in love, to relinquish your needs, on behalf of those God has entrusted to you.

Be every bit the Firebreather—this is God’s call in your life, as a man.

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.

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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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Save the American Church—Elect Pete Buttigieg

Maybe VP Biden would work, as a nominal Catholic. Infused grace is no friend to imputation, as history aptly demonstrates.

Senator Booker’s liberation theology could do the trick.

Kamala Harris married a Jew and was raised by a Jamaican Christian and a Hindu mother from India. We should shy away from her as she seems to lean baptist, though her ecumenical roots could push her in a useful direction.

So, let’s stick with Buttigieg. As a married homosexual and avowed member of the ‘religious left’, Mayer Pete is probably the American church’s greatest hope for revival…but maybe not how you think.

The western church needs revival.

Every year, the western church cedes a bit more.

Each year, the American church ebbs further into irrelevancy.

The only western churches growing are the large churches, the megachurches. Call it the Walmart effect. The large churches offer programs, resources, facilities, shiny objects, whatever, things that your typical smaller church cannot.

Hundreds of smaller churches shut their doors each year.

Each passing generation becomes more unchurched. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but very few are active in a church in any way. Few ever attend a Sunday service, the most basic of all Christian activities.

Look no further than Europe to see the brimming cesspool of a dead church, a church with no life, a church with no mission, no witness, no Spirit.

“We need revival!” you’ll hear some proclaim. Well roll out the tent, get the praise band fired up, and get to preachin’! If you’re not picking up on my sarcasm, please forgive me. Haven’t we tried this?

The western church needs…something. But what?

The church was born of blood.

The blood of Christ, specifically.

The Gospel has always been accompanied by bloodshed. To the unregenerate man, the Gospel message is a message of death, either way, so why wouldn’t he hate the message as well as the messenger?

History bears this out.

Stephen, standing before the high priest and shouting, “Brothers and Fathers, hear me,” (Acts 7:2) before proclaiming Christ and Him crucified and being summarily stoned to death, Stephen stood first in a long line of those chosen to die for their faith.

Saul went about “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1) He literally went door to door, dragging men, women, and children off to prison and death for being followers of the Way.

John the Baptist – beheaded

James – killed by the sword

Peter – crucified

Paul – beheaded

The list goes on. Despised and hated by both Romans and Jews, Christians wore a target squarely on their backs. The general persecutions of early Roman emperors gave way to the Great Persecution of 304-05 A.D. Christians were burned, stoned, crucified, and yes, thrown to the lions in the arena and amazingly…

…the Church exploded across the Roman empire.

Consider that within a generation of the Resurrection, there was a functioning church in Rome, the very seat of persecution.

Consider that the only thing that distinguished Christians from Jews, to the Romans, was the Christian refusal to rebel or resist. Rebellion doomed the Jews. Their third rebellion, the Bar Kokhba revolt, turned into a practical genocide.

Consider that the more Rome tried to annihilate Christianity, the faster it spread.

Consider that Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., shortly after the Great Persecution, forbidding all forms of persecution against Christians. In 380 A.D., the Edict of Thessalonica established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire. That turned out to be a nearly fatal blow to the church, but the point is, the harder Rome tried to kill the church, the more it thrived, the more it grew.

Persecution purifies the church. Persecution strengthens the church.

It’s always been that way.

Christendom is the enemy of Christianity.

Liberty, though a great blessing, always leads to collusion. The sinful hearts of men guarantee it. Coerced virtue is not really virtue, especially virtue coerced at the hands of government or perceived benefit from that same virtue.

Western Christians revel in luxury.

We benefit from a society founded on Judeo-Christian principles, a society and culture, until recently, largely in cahoots with the Christain faith. A majority of Americans still identify as Christian though the fastest growing demographic is the ‘religiously unaffiliated’.

I may say what I want, preach what I want, proclaim where I like…for now, anyway, and what is the yield?

Comfort. Contentment. Inertia. No urgency. The religious equivalent of a 98-pound-weakling cowering in silence while the bully kicks sand in our face and steals our girlfriend.

The western church is persecuted subtly.

Peter describes Satan as a lion, prowling around to see who he might devour. (1 Peter 5:8) A Lion does not always charge right in for the kill. Sometimes he stalks his prey, encircles it, leads it unwittingly into a favorable position. Sometimes he works in a team.

Satan steadily, obscurely, tightens the noose around the collective neck of the western church.

Daily we feed our children into the fires of ungodly and intentional indoctrination that are our public schools. We send them to the university where the conversion is complete. Young people abandon the faith in droves.

We drown in cultural wickedness, swim in licentiousness.

Much persecution in the west consists of reviling, as the enemies of God leverage LGBTQ+ issues, women’s reproductive rights, and other issues to mischaracterize Christians and slander the Lord. A Christian today can expect to be categorized as hateful, mean, bigoted, spiteful, close-minded, narrow-minded, and discriminatory. The enemies of God will even use our faith against us branding us Un-Christlike, Un-Christian, Hypocrites even.

They grow in their audacity daily as reviling leads to social, political, cultural, and inevitably, legal ostracization. Look no further than to our friends to the north to see into the future of religious liberty in our nation.

At some point, you will be forced off the fence. You will have to pick a side. They will demand it.

And perhaps that is exactly what we need, maybe the sooner the better.

I pray for revival in the western church.

Maybe we need a good dose of hardship to get us there.

I hesitate in saying we ought to pray for persecution.

I pray that we’d utilize the liberty God has afforded us to continue the work of our fathers before us. I pray that we’d embrace political freedom as a tool of spiritual freedom, a means to proclaim truth. In military terminology, we’d use the freedom of maneuver afforded us in the west to advance the Kingdom of God.

It seems like we’re moving in the opposite direction. Chinese Christians, under great duress, literally cry upon receiving the privilege of owning a Bible, the very word of God. Most American Christians would have to blow the dust off of theirs.

God will build His church. Jesus promises it. I believe it.

It’s always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. Why would today be any different?

Maybe Trump has been good for the nation. Perhaps. Perhaps Clinton would have been better for the church, or Kim Jong Un. Perhaps we could’ve moved past collusion and into obvious opposition, which maybe, just maybe, is exactly what we need.

Okay, okay, I don’t know if Mayor Pete would get us there. I don’t know if he would institute outright and obvious persecution against the church, but it’s coming. It’s coming here in the west. Make no mistake. The nets are drawing up around us, even as we speak.

And though I don’t anticipate it, perhaps a healthy dose of hardship and persecution is exactly what the western church needs, to filter out pretension, burn away the chaff, and usher in revival.

Are you ready?

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Jesus is NOT your homeboy…

Who is Jesus?

This is the most important question you’ll ever have to answer. Silence speaks volumes.

Who is the man, Jesus the Christ?

From prison, John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19) Before his beheading, he sought clarity on the most important question a man may ask.

Each man must answer for himself. Jesus demands it. His existence requires it. No one may answer for you, not a parent or a preacher or a spouse.

          “Who do you say that I am?” – Jesus (Matthew 15:15)

Casual Jesus

“I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.” – Cal Naughton, Jr. (Talladega Nights)

Though a silly quote from a blasphemous movie, this line epitomizes the western church’s casual view of Jesus. I can picture Jesus any way I like and I like him casual. Casual Jesus suits my needs.

Jesus is your friend, maybe your best friend. He is friendly and approachable, non-threatening, always smiling. He loves children, probably dogs too. He loves to walk around cradling a lamb, a gentle smile gracing his pleasant countenance.

Jesus is my homeboy.

Casual Jesus spawns a casual God. He is the Big Man upstairs. The Big Guy. You know, me ‘n God, we’re real tight. God is demoted to a grandfatherly type character who just wants us young people to have a good time.

Casual Jesus makes we want to vomit in my mouth.

Immediately following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the church was inundated with false teachings concerning Jesus. This was the spirit of antichrist. (1 John 2:18-23) The tradition of people teaching false things about Jesus continued throughout the centuries. Gnosticism, modalism, Arianism, just to name a few, all slandered the reality of Jesus.

In response, Paul tells the church in Corinth to destroy strongholds, arguments, and every lofty opinion that teaches false things about Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) Destroy them. Don’t acknowledge them. Don’t validate them…destroy them.

Today, shades of these heresies persist. We get casual Jesus.

Let us demolish casual Jesus.

The most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1. God the Father, speaking to God the Son says, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.

The Lord Jesus is presently sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and He is about the business of putting all things in subjection to Him. At present, we do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, but they are, and they will be.

Jesus will…

…“shatter kings on the day of his wrath,”

…“execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses.” (Psalm 110:5-6)

Jesus is not my homeboy. Nowhere in Scripture is Jesus referred to as my friend. He is not my buddy or my chum.

He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and one day, every knee in heaven and on the earth will bow before Him, either in submission or subjugation, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Who is Jesus?

          “Truly this man was the Son of God!” – centurion (Mark 15:39)

Let us bow before Him in reverence.

Tolerant Jesus

You’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it.

“Quit being so darn judgy. Jesus would never judge like that. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Besides, Jesus hung out with sinners, eating and drinking wine. He was the life of the party. Just for the love of God, quit being so judgmental!

Please allow me to destroy the latter half of this fallacy first.

Jesus did not “hang out”. Jesus, God incarnate, existed in the flesh to accomplish the will of the Father, to redeem a people for Himself. Yes, Jesus went where sinners and tax collectors were. He dined with them. He lodged with them. He spent time with them…for a very specific reason, to call them to repentance, to call them to faith. This idea that we should just hang around ungodly people just because that’s what Jesus did is anathema to the Christian ethic and if we’re honest, it’s merely an attempt to justify our own desire to continue sinful living.

By all means, be like Jesus. Go to sinners and tax collectors, but go in the name of Jesus, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel of salvation.

And quit marking out entire passages of Scripture to forge a Jesus of your own understanding, one who would readily overlook a man’s sin, and again, if we’re honest, overlook your sins.

Yes, “judge not”, comes from Jesus. He’s talking about hypocrisy and judgement with a right spirit. Don’t be looking for the sin in others. Examine yourself first, remove the log from your own eye before you are concerned with the speck in another’s eye, and then you will be able to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, to restore him from his sin. (Matthew 7:5)

Tolerant Jesus is the Jesus we want. He is the Jesus we seek to invent. He is safe, friendly, and married to casual Jesus.

Scripture knows nothing of this tolerant Jesus. He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42) One day, all men will stand before Him.

But, who is He?

          “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” – Nathanael (John 1:49)

Let the reality of Jesus drive us to our knees.

Pitiable Jesus

I hate pitiable Jesus the most.

From the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

From this, people feel pity for Jesus. They feel sorry for Jesus. Poor, poor Jesus…and this becomes a theology of a pitiable Jesus, a weak Jesus, a neutered Jesus…a pleading Jesus.

He’s yearning for you and he’s standing impotent, gently knocking on the door of your heart, begging you to open it and invite him in. He is a gentleman. He never forces himself upon anyone.

Please.

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, a psalm of trust that the Pharisees would have known cold. It triumphantly concludes that all shall bow before Him, that posterity itself shall serve Him, that His righteousness will be proclaimed to the people yet unborn!

One day, every tongue will confess that He is the Lord. Do you really think He needs your pity or even, gulp, your cooperation?

          “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” – Martha (John 11:27)

Liberal Jesus

Just as the religious right slaughters the person of Jesus, so too does the left.

They’ve invented a liberal Jesus to shame us religious zealots. Jesus was a brown-skinned rebel, an iconoclast, a socialist. He preached love and acceptance and tolerance and rebellion against authority.

I’ve come to hate this caricature of Jesus as much as pitiable Jesus.

Jesus is so much more than any of this. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3) Upon witnessing the reality of the glorified Christ, John “fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17)

One day, He will destroy any doubts. One day, He will return, in glory and power, and He will strike down the nations and rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. He will judge and make war! (Revelation 19:11-16)

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

          “Who do you say that I am?” – Jesus

           “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” – Peter (Matthew 16:16)

Let us surrender to Him today.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Sadly, Most American Christians Do Believe Good Works Will Save Them

It’s frustrating.

I didn’t want to believe it at first. I still don’t.

But me wishing it weren’t true doesn’t change the uncomfortable fact. Many American Christians remain imprisoned by the very idea Jesus came to demolish…

     …that we they may somehow earn the favor of God, our way into Heaven.

In recent weeks, I’ve become much more aware of the prevalence of this misconception. Rather, I’ve become personally aware of it.

It’s become personal.

What I’ve Seen

Photos of Jesus with KidsI’ve been blessed with wonderful church experiences.

I’ve been a member of three fellowships (two churches and the chapel while I attended Command and General Staff College). What I heard was faithful, biblical exposition. All three fellowships were led by faithful men of God who preached the full counsel of God’s word. They did not shy away from hard truths or tough topics.

At some point, I came to know the doctrines of grace, the beautiful and blessed doctrines that reveal the character of God, the heart of the Lord. The doctrines of grace describe the mercy and love by which a holy and righteous God saves men from their sin.

God saves sinners—the crux of the Gospel.

Once I came to know them, my desire to proclaim the Gospel, the true Gospel, became a blazing furnace in my soul. I could nevermore keep silent upon knowing and understanding the saving grace I had received some years before, though at the time of my conversion, I could scarcely fathom the depth or the source of the grace I had received.

Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – Jesus (John 3:3)

Jesus uses an appropriate metaphor to describe the new birth that is necessary for salvation, for seeing the kingdom of God.

Birth requires nothing on my behalf. I did not decide to be born. I did not seek to be born. There are no steps given to being born again. It happens completely independent of me. I am a recipient of birth. I am acted upon in birth. I am born or, in this case, reborn. This is the regeneration, the giving of the new heart, prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel centuries before.

God removes the onus for salvation entirely from human hands. It has to be this way. It’s supernatural. It doesn’t make sense to us, but my total depravity demands it.

The unregenerate heart hates it.

The idea of surrendering every shred of ability to save myself or even participate in my salvation grates against my human spirit. I’m sorry masses of evangelicals, but I don’t even participate 1% or .05% or less. You get the idea.

I am a corpse, was.

God breathed life into me. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

No dead man has ever willed himself to life, but that is exactly what many church-attenders believe.

What I Hear

I have not personally observed this, but I hear anecdotal accounts and it’s disturbing.

As we live in highly-transient military community, people ‘passing through’ frequent our congregation. By the time they get to us, many have visited numerous churches and the reports are similar. Watered-down, sugar-coated preaching. Shallow theology. Topical messages of personal empowerment.

You are enough. You are better. You deserve. You are powerful. You are worthy. And worst of all…you can and you will.

Be good. God would never condemn a ‘good’ person to hell. You know ‘good’ people. You are a ‘good’ person. You pay your taxes. You help people. You’ve never murdered anyone. You try to do ‘good’ things. You have a ‘good’ heart.

Why would God condemn someone as sincerely ‘good’ as you?

This is practical universalism and everything I hear tells me it’s growing in prevalence. The numbers back it up.

What Reality Says

Decades ago, the second best-selling book in the United States, after the Bible, was The New England Primer. From this short text, all children learned to read and write, but really learned the truth of the Gospel, reinforcing that which their parents were already teaching them.

Consider some of the sentences they had to write:

     – God having out of his mere good pleasure from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.

     – We are made partakes of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of it to us by his holy Spirit.

     – The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Children once learned to read and write by reading and writing the doctrines of grace, the truest expression of the Gospel message. In this way, they hid the sacred words of Scripture in their hearts.

The average Christian today could not articulate what these sentences actually mean. Biblical literacy declines continually as biblical error proliferates and perhaps the greatest error of all, a lie straight from the pit of Hell, is that a man can earn his way to Heaven or even that he must or may cooperate with God in that salvation.

False religions (all religions apart from Christianity) have this as the central tenet of their doctrine. I have to do things and once I do things, I may attain things such as the favor of God, even Heaven.

This teaching is anathema to biblical Christianity.

Yet, the numbers demonstrate a troubling trend. Increasingly, professing American Christians believe these lies:

     – Reincarnation.

     – Many different roads can lead to Heaven, including other religions.

     – If I do enough ‘good’ God will let me into Heaven, even without Jesus.

The last one, it’s what I want to believe, in my flesh. I want, at the very least, to have some say in my salvation. The idea of complete surrender of the rights to me and my livelihood is unsettling.

And the church cooperates in the propagation of this tragic misinformation.

Who I Know

A family member I love is caught in this trap.

I had suspected this relative of only being a church-attender for some time. Whenever he spoke of his faith he spoke of ‘it’, as in religion, instead of ‘him’, as in Jesus.

He is a good man. He helped build the new fellowship hall. He played in the worship band for years. He helped out whenever possible. He worked in the community on service projects. He attended, religiously.

He could not articulate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

This man had been a regular church-attender for the last thirty years or so and He could not tell me the first thing about grace and mercy. He felt no burden of sin. He saw himself as a ‘good’ man, a righteous man. He saw the sins and shortcomings of others and declared, thank God I’m not like that other man.

In short, He doesn’t know Jesus and as he is nearing 80 years of age, time is of the essence. He articulated to me the gospel of the western church when he said,

     “I try to be a good man. I try to do good.”

     “I feel like it [religion]  has made me better.”

For over two hours we talked and I shared Christ with him in any way I could. If nothing else, he heard the Gospel at least once but how could a man attend the same church for thirty years and at least not understand the grace of God on an academic level?

My spirit tells me this is far from unique to him.

This is the new/old norm, the elevation of works, even if in a seemingly minor way, that slanders the grace of our heavenly Father. May the true Gospel demolish these strongholds in our nation. May we repent of allowing this false gospel to flourish.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Mount Everest, Mercy, My Friend Ken

I love it when people get what they deserve.

So do others apparently.

“Instant Karma!” the video title trumpets. Scan Youtube or any social media and consider the wealth of uploads portraying people getting exactly what they deserve.

There’s the young disrespectful punk getting knocked out by the old man. An angry dude yells at a woman and promptly walks into a stop sign headfirst. A motorist cuts in line only to get pulled over by a policeman.

We love comeuppance. We gloat. We bask. We tingle inside. We love it when people get exactly what they deserve…

…except when it’s us.

A Deserving Son

We all have that friend with that son, or maybe you have that son, or maybe you are that son.

My friend Ken’s son had been straying for years, decades even. He fell into drug addiction and all that comes along with that. He committed crimes to support his habit, spent time in jail. He impregnated his girlfriend and abandoned his daughter.

But this wasn’t how he was raised.

Ken raised him in a loving, Christian home. He gave him everything—love, discipline, affection, opportunity—and he rejected it all in the name of sin and self. Yet, time and again, Ken was there.

His son would come back from a season of affliction and he’d hire him to work in his shop or help him get back on his feet only to be rejected and betrayed again. Time and again, his son received and then rebelled.

I cannot fathom his sense of betrayal, maybe his righteous indignation, certainly his grief. He deserved so much more.

Or did he?

A Deserving Father

All men receive either mercy or justice.

There is no injustice.

Peter writes for believers, “once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10b) Consider the mercy of our heavenly Father.

In my sin, I rejected Him entirely. I knew there was a God and was therefore without excuse but still I exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator. (Romans 1)

I deserved justice, eternal justice for rejecting an eternal Creator.

But still, in His mercy, He reconciled me to Him by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. God saves sinners. God saved me. I did nothing to deserve it, nothing to merit it. I never could have earned it by any ‘good’ deeds. The only thing I deserved was justice, condemnation…

….but in His mercy, He gave me infinitely more than I ever deserved.

God is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6) I have lived this truth, known it, rested in it. If you are of Christ, you have as well.

My friend Ken lives these truths. He knew exactly what he deserved and in light of that, exactly what he had received—everything!

What could he himself give, but mercy?

No Mercy on the Mountain

Who ever thought mountain climbing would entail moral considerations.

Eleven climbers have perished on Mount Everest during 2019’s climbing season, a record, and why? They perished because of mercy, or a distinct lack thereof.

The world’s highest mountain presents climbers with some unlikely challenges. It takes roughly two months to make the ascent and weather only allows a handful of opportunities around the middle of May.

The last base camp is around 26,000 feet. From there, climbers make a brutal push into the “death zone” and the final summit at 29,029 feet. The one narrow path to the summit, the severest conditions on earth, and the demand for oxygen to survive provide a tiny window to attain the summit and descend. Only the slimmest of margins separates climbers from death.

Severe crowding complicates the issue.

The unscrupulous Nepali government issues hundreds of climbing permits, with no qualifications required, to anyone who can afford the $11,000 fee. Everest is a cash cow and the result is an ascent flooded with people who have no business being on Mount Everest.

This year’s ascent saw a several hour delay to get to the summit, a flat area roughly the size of two ping-pong tables, where climbers jockeyed for position, snapped selfies…stepped over dead bodies. People died waiting in line to get to the top.

Eleven people succumbed to the elements this year, many on the way down. They ran out of oxygen or became too fatigued to continue and collapsed on the path.

Many of them died of arrogance or hubris. Their Sherpas urged them that they were going too slow, that they would run out of oxygen, that they wouldn’t make it, and still they pressed on until collapse…

…and people stepped over them to continue.

If they stopped to help, they might risk their own lives or worse…not make the ascent, not get the selfie from the summit, not be able to say, “I did it!”. Besides, these people should not have been there in the first place. They were warned. It’s their own fault.

They needed mercy, in spite of their faulty actions, and did not receive it.

I wonder if you are as troubled by this as I am.

Mercy Received

My relationship with God governs my relationship with people.

My relationship with people testifies to my relationship with God.

What is God’s will for my life? Should I buy the blue minivan or the red one? Should I work here or should I work there? What would God have me do?

I cannot comment definitively on all of these questions. However, the word of God offers explicit commands, expectations God has of His people.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:26)

Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5:7)

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, Hosea 6:6)

As God has poured out His mercy upon us and lavished us with love, love that we did not deserve in any way, so too ought we to pour out mercy upon others. We who have been forgiven much ought to, in the same way, forgive much, forgive quickly, forgive often.

Our words, our actions, our thoughts ought to drip with mercy, just as the Bible drips with the mercy of our heavenly Father. And every single human interaction we have is an opportunity to show mercy.

We ought to give that which others need, even if they don’t deserve it. What are you worried about, your rights? Our rights no longer matter. We’ve given the rights to ourselves over to the Lord and as such, can pour out mercy with no regard for self.

Who needs mercy in your life?

A lazy husband. An unappreciative wife. Your needy children. Your incompetent boss. A hateful relative. A gossipy neighbor. The rude dude at the grocery store.

A wayward son.

Mercy Given

My friend celebrated his birthday recently by posting to social media a video of him talking.

Amid the ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ and other comments, one stood out. His son remarked, “Happy belated birthday pops” followed by, “I look very bad.”

What would the world say but, “Well man, it’s your own fault”? You had everything, you had a father who loved you. You’ve had a home and opportunity. You are the one who wasted this. You are the one who has walked away from what you know to be right, time and time again.

What did you expect? When will you learn?

It serves you right.

My friend looked at his son and his affliction, his suffering, and responded…in mercy

          I see you as my son!

This is the exact thing my heavenly Father said to me, as I turned to Him in my sin and affliction. May we all be moved to mercy.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Fight for your Country—Die for your Brother

No man dies for his country.

Forget about it.

It doesn’t happen.

Despite what the powers that be, the forces that shape attitudes and opinions in our country, would have you believe, patriotism only gets you so far. At some point, the glaring red rockets fade, the bombs no longer burst, and Old Glory falls limp in the dwindling breeze.

Patriotic fervor may drive a man to sacrifice…to a point.

Yet, no man dies for his country.

He may fight for it.

Why Fight (part I)

I’ve fought for our country, certainly.

It’s a train wreck. A dumpster fire. A disaster. Still I’ve fought.

Daily our country marches deeper into godlessness, abandoning the very foundation of the fabric of our society. Some cling desperately, but in vain, to a fading ethic. Others cling to the outworking of the Source, while denying the Source itself. “Righteousness” apart from He who is righteous, is no less godless than the outright rebellion of those who openly reject God.

America is a post-Christian nation, and has been for some time.

Still I fight.

America systematically slaughters the unborn to the tune of more than 60 million to date. Convenience and the abandonment of the biblical sexual ethic drives the slaughter. Can you imagine the deception of mothers fighting for the right to murder their babies? Still I’ll fight.

America defies the Creator and His created order at every turn. We reject the basic tenets of reality. Who could’ve foreseen pervasive gender confusion, this Orwellian idea that I can “identify” as whatever I like? God speaks early and clear, “Male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) How could we have anticipated the normalization of sin and the desecration of even marriage. I must actually stipulate when talking about it…a union between one man and one woman. Sheesh.

Still I’ll fight.

We don’t normalize sin, we celebrate it…and you must too. Tolerance is not an acceptable middle-ground. We won’t accept a you-do-you-and-I’ll-do-me compromise. Nope. Not gonna work. We demand acclaim, not acquiescence. Laud them. Shower them with praise. Give them awards. Revere their courage. This is the only acceptable end-state.

Our nation sits under the judgement of God in our collective resolve to worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator.

Our nation sits divided by an impossible ideological chasm, several of them actually. Yet, many remain convinced of God’s favor, a lingering manifest destiny that ignores the reality that America will one day be but a footnote in the salvation history of men.

And I’d fight again. It’s my country after all.

But die…C’mon.

Why Fight (Part II)

Where else you gonna go?

Seriously?

Granted, my world travels have taken me to quite a few garden spots around the globe, but I remain convinced of America’s greatness and why? My family lives here, for starters.

I don’t know much about the rest of the world, but I do love this nation. I just don’t like what she’s becoming. It’s not a sin, you know, to love your country. I love biscuits and gravy and country music. I love that we actually have tractor pulling contests. I love our great cities and vast countryside. I love that English spoken in rural Louisiana might not sound anything like English spoken in Boston.

I love the idea of America, the great hope she embodies. I love the American dream, that if I work hard I can become whatever I set out to be. I cherish rugged American individualism.

For all her flaws, all her warts, all her imperfections, I remain convinced of America’s greatness. Perhaps I’m biased.

But I’d fight for her again.

No matter your thoughts upon America’s greatness, wicked men conspire for her destruction. Evil men plot continuously to visit their destructive beliefs upon our families, our neighborhoods, our society and we have a choice, either stand opposed or yield. They’ll not relent.

I have fought, willingly, and would do so again.

Many others also may fight for their country.

No man dies for it. It’s much deeper than that.

Why Die (Part I)

I’ve never felt more alive than when marching lock-step into combat with my brothers.

The gruff, guttural chorus of engines coming on line. The whirring rotors. The driving sand. The airframes trembling in anticipation as the throttles are advanced to fly. The boys loading up, casually climbing aboard as if they were not about to descend from the dark sky onto the unsuspecting heads of our enemies, visiting death and judgement. Radio checks complete and the uneasy silence as the cocked fist of martial supremacy prepares to unleash hell and hellfire.

But it’s the men.

It’s the quiet confidence of the man on my left, the man on my right. It’s the company of heroes, the community of steel, the legion of warriors, those past, present, and future, warriors that embody an ideal, a code, a distinctive.

It’s the brotherhood.

It’s cliché, but it’s the brotherhood.

I recall, vividly, the details of a handful of combat missions. The rest blend into a nebulous morass of fuzzy memories punctuated by a few surprising details.

I recall the best stick of chewing gum I ever chewed, given to me by one of the boys while blasting across the Afghan desert, heading home after a long and hot day marauding.

Ice cold Rip-its taking the dust off an uber-sticky night. When hitching a ride in the back of a Chinook, the Ground Force Sergeant Major grabbing my cluelessly wandering self, sitting me down exactly where he wanted me, and plopping unceremoniously right into my lap. The wonderful taste of a ham-and-cheese omelet at the end of a long night.

Sleeping like the dead on an Army cot in an ice-cold sleep tent in the middle of the bright, desert day.

But, it’s really my brothers.

Why Die (Part II)

How could I ever capture the bond between fighting men?

How could I ever do justice to the sanctity of shared hardship, the mutual shedding of blood, the sacred fetters that these men have always known?

The kids name was Justin, a former infantryman, and now, for this mission, my crew chief. Put the boys in. Simple. Panjwai district, broad daylight, on top of 6-foot-tall hedgerows. No-so-simple.

Less than an hour later, we descended from the bright, desert sky onto the hedges, only one wheel down, maybe. Maybe we hovered. The boys jumped and disappeared into the foliage below. Less than a rotor disc away was one of those weird mud structures, easy to shoot from.

“Steady, steady,” Justin soothed over the ICS. “Hold, hold.” I could see nothing. My entire world shrunk to the few inches surrounding the flight controls. My eyes fixed on the building, a single plant blowing in the rotor wash. Time froze.

At that moment, at that time, Justin became my eyes. His bounced from the descending boys to the surrounding terrain, mini-gun ready to unleash fury. He was my eyes, my ears, my conscience, the rock of my existence.

My life rested in his hands…and his in mine. Completely, unambiguously, without hesitation.

I waited for the tell-tale crack, the spiral of an RPG. An eternity.

Those few eternal seconds embodied the sacred trust between men, the lifeblood of the brotherhood. I never doubted for an instant. I never waivered, what if Justin faltered? No. Our shared fellowship transcended concern for personal welfare.

In that moment, our country was the furthest thing from my mind. My only thought, in that instant, was to do my part for my brother, who was doing his part for me.

You see, no men die for their country. That’s for sentimentality and ceremonies.

But he may just die for his friend…or maybe his brother.

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

Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

 

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

We Need More Shame, not Less

“Sports Illustrate Swimsuit Features Obese Model” trumpeted the headline.

As obese model Hunter McGrady explains, “Exposure to diversity is the catalyst that will ignite tolerance, acceptance and understanding.” She goes on to speak of inclusivity while denouncing her haters, those who would shame her for her weight.

She’s not going to take it. Maybe you won’t either.

Can we just quit with the shaming already?

About Shame

Our nation wages a full-out assault on shame.

Merriam-Webster defines shame as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” The verb form is “to make (someone) feel ashamed.”

A quick internet search reveals numerous types of shaming. I never knew there were so many. Two that I’d heard of:

Fat-shaming—making people feel poorly about themselves for being overweight.

Slut-shaming—making women (I guess it’s reserved for women, but in this day, what is a woman anyway?) feel bad for how they dress, too revealing, or how they act, too promiscuous.

There’s more. There is LGBT-shaming, casting derision at those merely living out who they were made to be. Mom-shaming—making mothers feel inadequate at how they raise their children or casting aspersions at working mothers or stay-at-home mothers. Other forms of body shaming. Breast-feeding shaming. There is mental-illness shaming. The list goes on.

And everywhere you turn, someone is combatting shame, taking a stand against shame, standing up to those who shame.

          “We won’t be ashamed!” is the unified cry of the victims of shaming.

Resolutely our nation rallies around them. We hold them up as examples of virtue. We laud their courage. We stand by them. We put them on the cover of magazines and proudly declare our shamelessness. We give them awards, think Bruce Jenner.

The problem is…

     …we need more shame, not less.

In our collective lack of a proper biblical worldview, we frame the problem completely wrong. It’s like asking, “what’s two plus two?” and answering, “stereotypes” or “papas fritas”.

When it comes to shame, the world speaks a much different language than God.

Hating Shame

Men hate shame, and why wouldn’t they?

They hate God.

Men love their sin, they revel in it and though they know that God exists—creation testifies loud and clear to His existence and therefore they are without excuse —they reject Him, trading the truth about God for a lie. They worship and serve the created thing (us) rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:18-23)

We want to sin…without consequence, without judgement, without guilt, and ultimately, without shame.

The idea that my actions that I love or the things that bring me pleasure might be shameful bristles my sinful heart, my rebellious spirit. The definition proves useful. I am conscious, I know that what am doing is wrong, and I don’t like it.

Paul, in the same passage, speaks to “men committing shameless acts with men” as a God-given judgment upon the rejection of Him. Shamelessness, a lack of shame for things that we know are wrong, wickedly reflects the elevation of self above God.

Shame undermines our idolatry, and we don’t like it.

Our only possible recourse is to go on the offensive, to declare that which is wrong right and to resolutely and publicly defend it. I hate sinning in the shadows, so I’ll drag it into the light and declare it virtuous.

Needing Shame

Shame is good, necessary. Godly shame that is.

All this chatter merely distracts us from this critical truth—there are certain things of which we ought to be ashamed. Where the action violates a biblical command, reveals a sinful heart, or otherwise goes against the word of God, we ought to be ashamed.

We need shame.

Paul tells us about “godly grief” that “produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Shame, understanding that my sin grieves God, yields godly grief that drives me to repentance.

Consider David’s view of his sin. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4) He sees his sin for exactly what it is, an affront against a holy and righteous God.

The very word “confession” is telling. Confession is not telling God about my sin. He already knows. Confession is agreeing with God about my sin. I see it the same as He does, and I am ashamed, and it grieves me as it grieves Him…and it drive me to repentance…

…and to restoration!

David pleads of God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:13) Paul writes about “the things of which you are now ashamed”. (Romans 6:21) Once, they were not ashamed, they sinned without shame, but the Spirit convicted them of their sin, their shame drove them to grief and ultimately, repentance.

Here is joy.

Once forgiven, as God promises to those who confess, I no longer bear the burden of shame and guilt. I can set them aside and run with endurance the race set before me and like Christ, despise the shame as He did, free to love and to serve, in purity. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Absent shame, I’ll never get there.

Be Ashamed

Back to Hunter McGrady.

Let us unpack this contemporary example and see it as God sees it. Should Hunter McGrady be ashamed? The answer is simple. Yes…but not for the reason you may think.

She ought to repent and put on some clothes and reserve the sight of her near-naked body and sultry poses for her future husband. She’s not alone. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue itself is a display of unadulterated pseudo-porn and always has been.

But should she be fat-shamed?

She proudly flaunts her obesity, but I don’t know the origin. Does she have a medical condition? Is she genetically predisposed to be heavy-set or does her obesity stem from gluttony and a lack of self-control when it comes to food? If so, then her obesity is but a visible and obvious manifestation of the sin in her heart and yes, she ought to be ashamed for this.

And she ought to repent and resolve to treat her body as God would have her treat it.

Should we slut-shame someone? Again, it depends upon what you mean.

Should women (or men) who flaunt their sexuality through their appearance and how they dress be ashamed? Yes. Modesty is a cherished biblical virtue and when we willingly discard it as so many are wont to do, we ought to feel shame…and we ought to repent and cover ourselves up, reserving the site of our naked or near-naked bodies for our spouses.

What about promiscuity with regards to slut-shaming? Just like with the other issues, the action is a clear violation of God’s commandments, forbidding sexual liaison outside of a marriage—sigh—a marriage between a man and a woman.

So yes, sluts ought to be ashamed…and players too, and porn-consumers, and men ogling Hunter McGrady and her curves in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Let shame drive us where we need to go.

Be Restored

Perhaps my favorite verse in Scripture, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Examine your actions. Examine your heart. Allow God through Scripture to do the same and reveal to you the ungodliness in your life. As you feel the weight of conviction of the Holy Spirit, feel shame for that which is shameful…and repent, and be restored!

It’s what God does.

He is in the business of calling people out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.

Yield to that today. Let shame be a vehicle to bring you there.

Now here is something worth celebrating.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Stop Kidding Yourself…Nothing is Neutral

The woman simulating masturbation should’ve given it away.

The racist penis rap pushed me over the edge.

“Get up, we’re out,” I hissed at the students.

I had forgotten one important truth— nothing is neutral— and led my motley crew straight into an L-shaped ambush. I prayed that what we had seen and heard over the last half hour had fallen upon deaf ears.

“Nothing they haven’t seen before,” one parent consoled me. It didn’t work.

We desire neutrality.

It’s easier, neutrality.

It’s nicer.

I like what I like and who I like. I really don’t want to change and if we’re completely honest, I don’t intend to change. I bristle at the notion, in fact. The idea of division scares me a bit. The thought of the basic goodness of people comforts me and frees me to engage with whatever I desire and whomever I like in whatever fashion I see fit.

Besides, if there were division, I’d have to choose a side and I really don’t want to choose a side. I like being right in the middle, free to drift to either side at whim.

Neutral.

How’d that work out for Belgium? Or the Netherlands?

No one is neutral.

The Bible knows nothing of fence-sitting.

Like a sword, the word of God penetrates and divides. (Hebrews 4:12) Jesus—that cultural icon of inclusiveness and toleration—shocks us with divisive language.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51) You’re either for me or against me. (Matthew 12:30)

John and Paul agree, reminding us that we are either of Christ or we are not, and if we are not of Christ, we are of the world and our father is the Devil. We are either slaves of Christ or slaves of sin (Satan). (1 John 5:19, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:1-3, John 3:19, Romans 6:16)

Consider the implications.

Jesus demands that we choose. You are either a disciple of Christ, or you are not. And if you are not a disciple of Christ, you are an enemy of Christ. Application generates further discomfort.

My daughter’s boyfriend was not a believer, but a nice-enough fellow. He didn’t impede her practice of the faith and even seemed to encourage it. “So that’s good,” she explained to me.

On the surface, yes. Yet, at his core, this young man was not just not a follower of Jesus. He was a follower of Satan, a hater of God, an enemy of God, a child of wrath. Though he portrayed benevolence to the faith, his heart belonged to another.

She and he had different fathers and could never have true fellowship, real intimacy. Now, God may one day call him out of the darkness and into the marvelous light, but until then, they serve different masters.

We talked about it some. She agreed it was an issue. Inevitably, like Judas, his outward actions betrayed his heart and they broke up.

The neutrality of men is a fantasy, a myth.

As such…

Nothing is neutral.

Nothing generated by men is neutral.

Okay, my coffee table is neutral. My truck is neutral. You get the picture.

Nothing that reflects ideas, nothing that reveals the human spirit, nothing that communicates the heart, is neutral. How could they be? Just as no men are neutral, the things they produce that reveal who they are, could likewise never be neutral.

Music is not neutral. Television shows are definitely not neutral. Books, no way. Movies, forget about it. What else do we consume that men produce?

This is the dilemma for the believer.

Things glorify God or they do not glorify God.

My friend Joe, saved as a young man, began his spiral into drug addiction at the behest of Slayer, Metallica, Megadeath. He loved heavy metal music and began attending heavy metal concerts where they do heavy metal things. The fury of the music generated anger in his heart. Someone handed him a joint…and then another…inevitably a bazooka. He plunged into addiction and nearly death, spawned by his love for ungodly music.

In a draft of my second book, No Higher Call: A Biblical Treatise on Adoption, I quoted Clint Eastwood from the movie, “Gran Torino”. It’s Clint Eastwood, so it must be good. One of my editors asked me about it, “You know God hates that movie, right?” Of course he was right, but it’s Clint Eastwood! I prayed about it, and then removed the quote.

No one is neutral and nothing is neutral.

But Shakespeare?

There I was.

“Perfectly fine for high school kids,” the lady assured us before we ordered tickets.

I tutor 9th grade homeschoolers and was planning an end-of-year event, dinner and a show. Our local theater happened to be showing “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Unabridged]”. Perfect.

“All 37 plays in 97 minutes!”, the website promised. An “irreverent, fast-paced romp”, it boasted. To be fair, the receptionist did say there was some “innuendo” and it was rated PG-13. Our youngest student was 15, but it was Shakespeare! C’mon.

It was smut. Garbage. Filth…pornography.

At first, I was amused. The actors were indeed talented and funny. Their witty improv captivated. At the first off-color joke, I squirmed a bit. Okay. Another off-color joke, this time a bit more provocative. Hmmm. I looked at the kids. Everyone was still laughing so…

The female jumped on stage and began twerking. If you ask, “what is twerking?”, you’re dating yourself, but I’ll humor you. She put her rear-end to the audience and bounced it up and down in a highly sexual and provocative fashion. I squirmed visibly and thought, “we need to leave,” but how? We were in a small theater with only one way out, the other side. We’d have to walk in front of everyone.

The woman simulated ejaculation. They made wordplay about sodomy. They began rapping about Othello, as a black man, and the size of his penis. Again, all very talented, all very funny…and all highly vulgar.

We stood up and paraded out, twenty high school kids and handful of adults, a sizeable chunk of the audience.

“I thought it was good enough to stay,” one actor chided us as we walked.

On the sidewalk, I apologized profusely to the students and the parents. They all understood and we laughed and discussed it for awhile and then went and got some ice cream and talked about it some more.

I felt betrayed, numb. I’d walked into a Satanic ambush with my guard down and been hammered.

I’d neglected something I know to be true.

Nothing is neutral.

Be vigilant.

In hindsight, it’s so obvious.

A friend informed me that the local theater was run by people who were no friends of God who, in fact, were openly antagonistic. Theater itself is awash in hypersexuality, homosexuality, and rampant worldliness. Theater companies pursue edginess and push boundaries.

Prudence has no primacy.

There is much going on here.

From the second we set our feet upon the floor each morning, we are embroiled in a vicious, cutthroat spiritual battle, a battle for the hearts and souls of men. The battle rages whether you fight it or not. You may not be Belgium.

And we have an enemy, Satan, who prowls like a roaring lion, seeking anyone he may devour. He is crafty and wicked and shows no quarter to the sons of God. And He is a liar.

          “It’s no big deal.”

          “Jesus hung out with sinners.”  

      “It doesn’t really matter.”

Conversely, God calls us to fill our minds and hearts with that which is true, honorable, just, and pure, that which is lovely and commendable. (Philippians 4:8) Dwell upon these things. Meditate upon these things and discern.

You cannot partake of the cup of the demonic and the cup of the Lord at the same time. This is the promise of our Lord.

Nothing is neutral.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

My Christian Friends, I Know I’m a Good Dude…Please, Open Your Mouth

I am a “good” dude.

You know me.

We’ve known each other for years.

We went to college together. We roomed together. We served in the military together. I introduced you to your wife, was the best man in your wedding. We were stick buddies in flight school. We were ranger buddies in ranger school. We rode motorcycles together.

Remember those days in Panama City? Well, some of them anyway.

We went to war together. I fondly recall marching lockstep into battle with you on my right and you on my left. We bled together. Remember our lost brothers. Remember the bright desert heat, the blazing desert sun, the brotherhood, the camaraderie. I’d have taken a bullet for you, no question.

I am your father. I am your brother. I am your next door neighbor. I am your commanding officer. I am your first sergeant, your supervisor. I am your best friend from high school. I am your old boyfriend who told you whatever I needed to get from you whatever I wanted.

I am a “good” dude.

You know me.

I’m dying.

It shouldn’t be this way.

I’m a good dude, right?

You and others would describe me as a good “f’in” dude. “Smith is good people.” My resume speaks for itself.

I come from a wonderful and loving family. No dysfunction here, at least obvious dysfunction. No divorce. No abuse. No addiction. Only affirmation and affection.

I am a high-performer, a self-starter, a mover and a shaker. I graduated near the top of my class from college and have steadily risen to the top of my field. I got promoted below-the-zone and have excelled in leading men in combat. I am unflappable in battle. Nothing seems to bother me. When everything goes to heck in a handbasket, when others around me seem to crumble and fall, I always keep my cool.

I am physically fit, an avid cross-fitter, cyclist, marathoner, triathlete. I ride a chopped up Harley-Davidson. I drive an awesome car. I have an awesome house.

I am a family man. I have a beautiful wife and family. I love them. They love me. I work hard to provide for them. I sacrifice so that they can have a better life. I sometimes work 70, 80 hours a week so they may have what I never did. I take my family to Disney World each year.

I exude confidence, competence, and charisma. I am engaging. Chicks dig me. Men want to be like me. There seems to be nothing I cannot do or accomplish. I am generous and caring and I love you, my friend, my brother, my son, my sister, my daughter.

I think the same as you, look the same as you. I am what you aspire to be. I’ve got my stuff together. Man, do I have it together.

I have everything.

I have everything and more.

Yet, I have nothing.

I’m dying.

It really shouldn’t be this way. I have so much, but sometimes it all feels like it’s slipping away. I cannot explain it.

I own a jet ski, but I have no peace.

My son has a college scholarship, but he hates me.

I am an upstanding member of my community and haven’t been intimate with my wife in months.

Something is wrong and I just cannot grasp it. No matter how hard I try, how much I pursue, how well I do, how much I gain, how high I rise, I ultimately lack joy. Even after I’ve arrived. I’ve obtained what I sought after and found it to be lacking, forcing me to reinvent myself. Maybe a new car…or a new spouse will satisfy my longings.

My emptiness consumes me.

I cannot see.

You look just like me.

We both pay our taxes. We both love our families. You’ve never murdered anyone nor have I. We are both morally upstanding citizens, so why do I feel like I do?

I know you go to church and sometimes I sense you want to talk to me about it and you’ll probably tell me that religion is good and that I should become religious and that going to church will make me happy.

Yes, I know you’ve invited me a couple of times, but I just don’t see it. I cannot see how going to church will change anything.

And I like to sleep in on Sundays and watch football in the afternoon. It’s the only day I get off, sometimes, and I don’t want that taken from me too. And I like to play golf and Sunday’s are the only days I get to do that.

Besides, you “Christians” are just so hypocritical. The last thing I need is some wimpy dude in a robe telling me how to act and all the things I’m doing wrong, all while he’s asking for my money. Okay, I get it…God needs my money. Really? And I’m probably better than him anyway. Who is he to tell me what I should do?

And what about God anyway? If God is so good, then why is there so much suffering in the world? If God is so good, then why did my mother die from cancer? Why was my father killed in a car accident? What about bone cancer in children?

Kind of seems like a crutch to me, this whole religion thing…

…which is why it’s kind of surprising that you’re into all of that. I mean, I know you, or at least thought I did. You’re my brother, my best friend.

Do you know something I don’t?

I’m tired of sports and weather.

If you have something to say, just say it. Please.

I’m dying.

I get it.

I love football. You know I do. I love the Buckeyes. Even without Urban Meyer or Dwayne Haskins, we could win the Natty. Maybe I’ll get up for a game this year, but is there more?

Yes, our camping trip got rained out this weekend, but Saturday looks nice. I haven’t cut the grass yet this year, but need to. I’ll get the lawnmower out of the shed and get it started, but is there more?

No, I didn’t get the promotion at work and my boss is still a complete jerk. I’m not sure I want to work here that much longer and I don’t think I’ll be able to retire early like I had wanted, but is there more?

Do you love me?

Do you love me enough?

You went on some sort of a mission trip, to an entirely different country, to talk to strangers. What about me?

I am your father, your sister, your brother, your friend. Do you love me enough to risk mild discomfort? Do you love me enough to, as you say, step out in faith? I’m waiting to hear from you. I need to hear from you. Do you know something I don’t?

Do you know about hope?

and peace?

and joy?

Can we have a conversation that matters? I’m getting desperate…maybe I don’t have that much time.

 

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Die Like This

I’d like to die a good death.

You?

I’ve thought some about death over the years, how I would go.

At some point, the self-centered immortality of youth gives way to the shocking realization of the imminence of death.

As we live, friends die, parents die, brothers and sisters, classmates, maybe even, God forbid, our own children, each reminding us of the inevitability of our own death. Each life, each death, drives home certain truths regarding life and death.

Visualize your funeral, not as some kind of morbid exercise, but as a testimony to life intended. A man’s funeral is a good indicator of a man’s life, how he lived.

The manner in which a man dies is just as instructive.

I had a chance to watch a man die a good death.

A Man and a Promise

Harold Witmer knew the promise.

The Psalmist tells us, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” (Psalm 119:50).

God’s promise, the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written before the hands of time, etched onto the foundations of reality, the promise is a simple promise, eternally profound in its implications.

The Bible tells the promise in the well known verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

And, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) As God grants me repentance and belief, I am saved. Period.

This is the promise.

The promise is eternal. It cannot be changed, shaken, or moved. It will never perish, diminish, or die. God will keep His promise, of this we have such a blessed assurance.
Harold Witmer knew this promise. He lived it.

For decades, after the Army brought him to Clarksville, Harold Witmer labored on behalf of the promise. He helped found The Community Church which he pastored for decades. He started The Christian Servicemen’s Center and The Youth Challenge for Boys and Girls.

He poured himself into Clarksville, his family, and the service of the Kingdom.

He did this because of the promise and nowhere did his knowledge of the promise become more apparent…than on his walk to the grave.

Absent the Promise

Consider death, that condition which men fear most.

Consider the lengths to which men go to prolong vitality and put off death. There exists a series of cottage industries centered around this very thing.

The health and wellness industry. If I eat right (Paleolithic, Ketogenic, Macros, Whole Thirty), if I exercise well (crossfit, running, lifting, yoga, etc.), I may just preserve my youth. The beauty industry sells oils and lotions and creams that I can slather on my face to maintain the illusion of youth.

The plastic surgery industry. With a nip and a tuck, a stretch and a pull, I can further prolong my appearance of youth. No one ever said, “You know doc, I’d like to look a little older and wiser. Can you help me with that? Maybe some crow’s feet?”

Our nation worships youth and collectively detests aging.

It’s a losing battle.

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144:4)

Each day, we draw one step closer to the grave. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, how well we take care of our bodies—and we ought to take care of our bodies—they will one day fail, maybe sooner than you think.

And perhaps most troubling, the second we are under the dirt, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about us. Don’t believe me? Who was the most popular man in town thirty years ago? You don’t know. That man is dead and buried, long since forgotten…as you also shall be.

But death, physical death, is a lesser concern. Paul writes that, “the sting of death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56) Upon my death, I’ll stand before the Lord and He’ll see one of two things. If I know the promise, having been forgiven of my sin, He’ll gaze upon me and see the righteousness of Christ, as He welcomes me to eternity.

If I don’t know the promise, I will stand under judgement and be found woefully lacking. The second death, eternity in hell apart from God, will be my deserving fate.

And as men, absent the promise, draw close to the grave, draw ever closer to standing before a God they do not know, they tremble in fear, quiver in anger, even rage in self-righteousness. We see a physical manifestation of Hebrews 10:31,

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Proclaiming the Promise

As much as Harold Witmer spent his life proclaiming the promise, his death perhaps, proclaimed it louder.

I had the privilege of spending a few minutes with Harold’s beloved wife Faye and his sons the evening of his death. They relayed to me that as Harold approached death, he never faltered in his call, he never wavered in his mission. Nurses, doctors, and other caregivers heard the promise.

Finally, the Lord spoke to him saying, “You’ve done enough. It’s time.” After discussion with Faye, he entered hospice and returned home to die.

Here he died a good death.

Faye made his favorite meal for him. Family and friends flocked. They laughed and talked, cried. He summoned his family members, laid hands on them, blessed them. He slept more. Death drew near until on he gently closed his eyes, drew his final breath…and then opened them in eternity, to the reality of the promise.

Well done good and faithful servant.

It didn’t stop.

From the grave, Harold Witmer proclaimed the promise, his funeral an extended Gospel presentation. Hundreds of mourners joined together to celebrate his life, his death, and the promise. We sang Great is Thy Faithfulness. The Gospel was preached. We sang and cried, sang some more, laughed, rejoiced, and revelled in the knowledge of life lived well, a good death.

If you could say a funeral was awesome, it was an awesome funeral.

They closed with an invitation.

Comfort from the Promise

Many die poorly.

My wife works in the death industry. She’s a nurse in a nursing home where her patients die regularly, often lonely, sad, and painful deaths, tragic. Many of them die not knowing the promise.

One little old man—“her man”, they were all her men—declined steadily. He was a hateful, bitter, and angry man, abusive toward everyone…except my wife. She lavished love upon him in the face of his hatred and won him over. He hated God. Whenever the local pastor showed up for a service, he’d rail against all that “garbage”.

As he declined, he became more bitter, more hateful. He was physically aggressive, biting and spitting, scratching and clawing. The imminence of standing before a God that he knew existed, but that he didn’t know, was becoming a reality, and he raged against it.

Eventually, he became unresponsive, except to Ami. On his last night, she checked on him repeatedly and repeatedly assured him of her presence and her love for him.

“Sonny, you know I’m here and that I love you?”

“Yes,” he could barely whisper.

Finally, as she sat with him, she kissed him on the forehead, put her mouth to his ear and told him of the promise. “You know I love you, Sonny,”

“Yes.”

“Do you know that Jesus loves you, and that He died on the cross for your sins?”

“Yes,” barely audible, his final word.

The last words he heard, before Ami kissed him on the forehead and told him it was okay to go, were the beautiful and sweetest words in the world, the words of the promise. His final word was an affirmation of this. This side of eternity we’ll never know, but can you imagine my wife’s joy one day, when she opens her eyes in heaven to see…“her” little man waiting on her.

Glory in the Promise

On that night that Harold Witmer died, I sat in his kitchen and listened to Faye talk on the phone. She was describing his physical decline to someone when she made a statement that is forever seared onto my soul.

“We’re just praying that God is glorified in all of this.”

“We’re” praying. She and Harold, the man soon to die, were praying together that his death would glorify God. You see, she knew the promise.

She knew that death had no victory. Death had no sting, for Harold or for her, for that matter. Though she mourned the imminent separation, she celebrated the risen Savior.

I’d like to die like this.

I’d like to live like this.

You?

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

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