Liberals…Conservatives…slaves to the god of confusion

We live in a sea of disparate voices.

Confusion colludes with superficiality to enslave a generation to the god of this world.

Confusion Displayed

Several months ago, a young lady contacted me requesting a visit. She wanted us to pray for her and her housemates, and to bless their home. They suspected a demonic presence had invaded their lives.

After trading a few phone calls, I agreed to the visit. Ami and I secured the assistance of a friend, met and prayed, and made the 20 minute drive to this particular home.

Confusion reigned.

Two young ladies and a young man welcomed us and we spent about two hours with them. “You called us, the church, so you know you’re going to hear about Jesus,” was my caution. They were perfectly open to hearing about Jesus.

“We don’t have a problem with Jesus.”

One of the ladies, the one who called us, ‘used’ to be a Christian but wasn’t anymore. The young man, an astute fellow, was fine with Christianity. He liked several different religions and Christianity was one of his favorites.

The other young lady, like an increasing multitude of young people, was confused as to her identity, who God made her to be. She had rejected the very foundation of her being, her DNA, the very fingerprint of God upon her life.

“If I became a Christian, will I have to change?” was her hesitant concern.

“If you become a Christian, there is no way you won’t be changed, for the better. That’s what God does. How that happens would be between you and Him.”

God is not a God of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Satan is the author of disorder and discord, chaos and confusion.

Unfortunately, this home was a perfect representation of the contemporary proliferation of confusion. What an effective strategy! Satan has muddied the waters with the proliferation of competing ideas, inundated the market with a deluge of seemingly valid views.

Truth is concealed beneath a mountain of ignorance.

Confusion

Contemporary concepts of God, even in the church, have deteriorated to the point of being unrecognizable.

There is no God.

God exists, He just doesn’t do much.

God is my friend, the Big Man upstairs.

God is a grandfatherly type character that really just wants us young people to have a good time.

All roads lead to Heaven. Your concept of God is what matters. All people generally worship the same God. Just be a good person. That’s what matters. Do good stuff.

God wants you to be happy. He wants to empower you to the be the absolute best version of you that you can be. He doesn’t desire you to languish in poor health or poverty. Why would He? If you don’t have those, then you must lack a measure of faith. Please confirm your faith by sending a check in the appropriate amount. Message me for my PayPal info.

I’m spiritual, I just don’t go to church.

I love Jesus, it’s just his people I don’t like.

Jesus loves everyone and would like to just, you know, hang out and get to know you and he would never, ever judge anyone. That’s what these ‘Christians’ do.

More Confusion

Social justice is not the Gospel.

Gay rights. LGBTQ rights. Reproductive rights. Minority rights. Women’s rights. Immigrant’s rights. Civil rights et. al. will one day matter not.

#metoo, #blacklivesmatter, ANTIFA and all other ‘movements’ will wither and die.

Egalitarianism, multiculturalism, globalism, socialism, Marxism, secularism, environmentalism, humanism. All will be blown away as chaff in the wind.

Income equality saves no man.

Nor does gun control.

Still More Confusion

The 2nd Amendment is not the Gospel.

Your guns won’t save you.

Neither will any Supreme Court justice, or President Trump.

The United States will one day be a footnote to the annals of antiquity.

The NRA will cease to exist. The American Dream will fade into obscurity. You might as well burn an American flag. One day it will be as meaningless as the fabric on which it is printed. Support the troops while you can, certainly. They will bear arms no more.

Capitalism will die. Veterans will have no more benefits. Abortion will end, but not because of anything you’ve done. So will welfare, taxes, and every union. No reform required.

Please do not be confused. I believe in some of these things but…

…God is not a God of confusion.

Clarity

There is one true God.

He is Yahweh, the great I Am.

He is Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha. He is El Shaddai, Adonai, Elohim. He is Abba, Father.

And His wrath burns in fury against the sin of men, as all men reject Him even though Creation testifies to His existence. Therefore, they are without excuse.

As such, I need a Savior. I need righteousness. I need that which I could never gain of my own accord.

In love, God sent His only begotten Son, Yeshu’a Mashiach, Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Firstborn over all creation, to be a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe, and to propitiate the wrath of a holy and righteous God.

In grace, God sent His Holy Spirit to change my heart, to replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, to regenerate me, that I might believe…

…and believe I did. I repented of my sin, confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from dead.

And He saved me, through no merit of my own, made me a new creation, breathed His life into me and imputed Christ’s righteousness to me as He imputed my sin to Christ. Forever more, when the Father looks upon me He will see the righteousness of Christ.

And as I walk in discipleship, grow in sanctification, I am ever molded into the image of Christ until I am glorified one day in death, as my faith finally becomes sight.

And one glorious day, He will return, the Lamb, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He will return, bodily, visibly, in power, to judge and make war. He will set all things right. The books will be opened, the dead will be resurrected, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life to eternal life, those not, the unregenerate, to eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.

The Heavens and the Earth will be consumed by fire and replaced by the new Heavens and new Earth.

May these truths destroy our confusion.

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

In Transition: I’m a Veteran…Quick, Tell Me How Great I Am

Affirmation is a powerful opiate.

Facebook knows this.

So does LinkedIn and Instagram and Twitter et. al. I mean, they’re all the same people, but Zuckerberg and company long ago deciphered the secret.

Napoleon knew it too. “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon,” he remarked while being taken into exile on St. Helena.

The U.S. Army knows it. What men won’t do for a bit of colored ribbon.

How might we act when the ribbons run out?

Military Affirmation

At some point, most Army officers begin to look like Mexican generals.

I was a freshly-minted lieutenant on my first assignment, when our unit had it’s battalion formal. Like a good LT, I assembled my uniform and brought it to work for inspection. 1SG McCool was your typical salty, old-school First Sergeant. He examined my uniform, nodded his head, pointed to my whopping total of 2 ribbons, and coolly remarked, “You’re some kind of f***’n hero, huh, Sir?” before strolling off, leaving me in a pool of my shattered manhood.

But the ribbons came…in bunches over the years.

I recall my excitement upon receiving an Army Commendation Medal 12 months later as a PCS award for doing my job. Many had to settle for an Army Achievement Medal which is, you know, like one less. A second PCS generated another ARCOM and even a Humanitarian Service Medal for, you guessed it, doing my job.

The war opened the floodgates. Ribbons flowed like wine and the medals flocked like the salmon of Capistrano. Air medals. Meritorious Service Medals. And the brass ring of hubris, the Bronze Star: all awarded for…doing our jobs.

And men jockeyed for them. Buddies submitted buddies for ribbons. Soldiers in unusual occupational specialties sought to “get outside the wire” for a bit of excitement and perhaps a medal. Ground guys hitched a ride in an aircraft, “performed duties”, and received Air Medals.

The Pentagon even invented a badge, the Combat Action Badge, the epitome of every-soldier-gets-a-trophy, the requirement being that the enemy “engaged” you. That’s it. Define “engage.”

          “So let me get this straight, the enemy mortared the base and you want a Combat Action Badge.”

          “Yes Sir. I deserve it.”

          “I guess we’ll have to submit one for the other 5,000 soldiers stationed here.”

Entitlement replaced expectation, so powerful is the need for affirmation.

The military ribbon is a symbol of affirmation, never mind if accomplishments are real or imagined. If they’re on the rack, it must’ve happened. Throw in some skill badges, maybe Air Assault or Airborne, and bam! Looking good. Instant hero. Let the praises flow.

After nearly 23 years, my ribbon rack looked pretty decent despite the fact that I really only felt as if I’d earned one, my Army Commendation Medal for being a rear detachment commander. No matter.

Pride is a powerful motivator, with the need for affirmation as a willing accomplice. It wasn’t the ribbons themselves, it was what they symbolized, the acclaim of men. And it’s effective.

Never mind what I’m asking you to do—deploy repeatedly and be absent from your family for years on end—here’s a ribbon. Now get on the plane.

Seeking Affirmation

Social media is a powerful influence in our society.

Affirmation is it’s fuel.

Consider the idea of ‘likes’, until a few years ago, a completely foreign concept. Harness man’s innate desire for the approval of other men, give them a platform for obtaining that approval via a tangible ‘like’ or even better, a ‘share’, and watch usage skyrocket.

Brilliant.

They’ve marketed affirmation as a commodity and like any commodity, some attempt to acquire it illegitimately.

You can buy ‘likes’. Did you know that?

I’ve always felt sorry for the stolen valor dudes.

You’ve seen these guys. They dress up in military uniforms, despite never having served or having served in a ‘lesser’ capacity, and then parade themselves seeking, you guessed it, affirmation.

An entire cottage industry exists in ‘outing’ these guys. Some veterans are so offended by the idea of ‘stolen’ valor—as if true valor could be stolen—that they confront the offenders and publicly shame them on the internet.

But men desire acclaim. It is natural to seek the praises of other men.

Men need affirmation, particularly in their vocation, from where so many find their worth in the first place.

A New Reality

In some ways, the civilian sector is harsher than the military.

The bottom line rules. The ability to generate revenue drives everything in our capitalistic system.

There are no service awards, no awards formations. You’ll not receive the acclaim of men by what you wear on your ‘uniform’. No one cares what you did yesterday, but what have you done for me lately.

For years, you’ve been told how special you are. You’ve been lauded for your sacrifice, honored for your service, praised for your commitment. You have the ribbons to prove it.

For years, you’ve received a healthy and regular dose of affirmation.

What will you do when that is no more?

True Affirmation

Let’s talk about acclaim.

As I have died to sin and self and been raised to a newness of life in Christ, I no longer serve myself. I do everything unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:23) Ultimately, I labor on behalf of the Lord. I love on behalf of the Lord. I father on behalf of the Lord.

As Paul writes, “we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) We reject the empty and hollow praises of men, knowing that the fickle hearts of men often reject that which they have previously praised. We reject the need for worldly affirmation and rest in the promise of one day hearing the gentle words of our Father, “well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

Knowing this, what more could I need?

I recall feeling similarly about football helmet stickers.

I was a decent high school player and our team awarded little white skull stickers to paste on our maroon helmets for good plays. At the conclusion of Thursday practice, the coach would assemble us and hand out the stickers in front of the entire team. Then, you could wear the stickers on your helmet for everyone to know what a standout you were.

I was decent, but not as good as Woods. He battled through a knee injury and missed the first few games of his senior season. His first game back, he killed it, terrorizing our opponents, worthy of more than a few stickers. I sure bet he was excited to start filling up his otherwise plain maroon helmet.

And sure enough, he received several stickers and as the coach dismissed us, I looked over at Woods who had casually dropped his stickers to the ground and was grinding them into the mud with his cleats in disgust. I was shocked.

Woods had no need for the acclaim of men. As my coach used to say, he let his pads to the talking.

May we all let our pads do the talking.

Now, if you’ll just share this post please and maybe even comment about how excellent it was, I’d be very appreciative.

In Transition: Series

Time and the Transitioning Warrior

I wanted a mission…

Veteran, It’s Not All About You (me)

Round is a Shape

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

5 Things Adoption/Foster Care Did to Our Daughters

What about my biological children?”—a common refrain from those considering adoption.

What about birth order?

What about family dynamics?

How will my biological children respond?

The fears are palpable, based upon both realistic and conjured concerns.

Ami and I pondered foster care and adoption with three young daughters. They must’ve been around 10, 11, and 15 at the time, and we had many of these same concerns which drove us to impose restrictions. We wouldn’t take boys with sexual issues.

Outside of that, we’d trust in who the Lord would send…never realizing for a second, the journey He was about to take us on.

I never anticipated what adoption would do to my daughters.

1. It blessed them.

As much as I cannot fathom life without my sons, my daughters feel the same regarding their brothers.

Shortly after becoming a certified foster family, I deployed to Iraq. Two weeks later, I checked my email to see a message from Ami in my inbox. I clicked on it and was greeted by the dark, serious eyes of a little brown guy, peering out at me from the folds of a blanket in my wife’s arms.

“This is your son,” the Holy Spirit whispered.

True to His word, the Lord had brought him, and he never left, later becoming my first son. The Lord sent others, 20 or so in all, slowly, steadily. Some stayed for a few months, some a few weeks, a handful for as short as a weekend or a few days.

Others never left. Six in all. My sons.

My daughter’s brothers.

Sure, they have the same issues as any siblings. The boys eat all their food, sometimes in the middle of the night. They get in their stuff. They argue with them, annoy them, get on their nerves.

As their brothers are all system kids, they have some other issues, perhaps not as common.

My daughters have been stolen from, all of them, repeatedly. They’ve witnessed turmoil that they’d likely have never witnessed, been exposed to things they’d likely have never been exposed to…all that comes along with kids from the system.

Yet, they unanimously proclaim the blessings of their brothers. They embrace them, cherish them, love them. They’ve never once expressed, at least openly, any regret in having them.

From my oldest daughter:

          There is a reason I moved out as soon as I turned 18, but only moved a fourth of the mile down the road. I deeply love them all, but dear Lord I don’t know how mom keeps her sanity.

         “Without them I would have never had to teach my 2 yr old she doesn’t have a ‘hog’ [our family word for male genitalia].”

          And there’s this, “If the sock looks hard, use a glove to pick it up…

You can see that it also blessed them with a sense of humor!

2. It united us as a family.

Early on, we made adoption and foster care our family’s ministry.

Our daughters became my wife’s right hand in caring for our boys. They changed diapers, wiped butts, learned to deal with boy issues to include guns, swords, “hogs”, and such.

We made decisions as a family, openly discussed each situation as it arose. As I was deploying with regularity, my daughters were indispensable in caring for them. 

My sons and the other kids we’ve fostered became the rallying cry of our family, the nexus of our call. The plight of the orphan united us in action in a way that few other things could’ve.

They became so intertwined into the fabric of our existence that I just cannot even imagine how dull our life might’ve been without them.

3. It taught them selflessness.

They’ve gone without, my daughters.

Seeing the system up close and personal, seeing the affliction wrought by the sins of men, impressed upon my daughters that it wasn’t all about them. And they were asked to sacrifice, repeatedly.

The boys and the others consume(d) vast resources of time, money, and emotional energy. With up to ten in house at a time, my daughters certainly received much less attention than they would’ve otherwise…and they’re better for it.

One incident highlighted this.

After several years, I decided ‘we’ needed a ‘break’ from fostering. Everyone agreed, sort of. That night we got the call. Two boys were at the DCS office with nowhere to go. In anger I declared, “No, absolutely not! We knew this would happen.”

Later that night, they were still there so I reluctantly allowed them to come to our home to spend a night or two until DCS could find a permanent placement. One night became two and my frustration grew.

In desperation, I sought out my two younger daughters.

“You know you’ll have to move back in together,” I appealed to them, as they’d recently just gotten their own room after years of cohabitating.

“Dad, we already did,” they chorused.

“You did?”

Yes, these boys need a home.” I swallowed a lump and made a call.

Years later, I call these two boys sons.

4. It demonstrated Christlikeness.

Other than my wife, I’ve no more urgent mission field than my children.

The Psalmist reminds us that, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:4) Children are not a hindrance or a nuisance. Children are a blessing, “a heritage from the LORD.” (v.3)

I really have nothing but my legacy.

Immediately following my death, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about me, covering up any trace of my existence. Only in the eternal kingdom work of the Lord, do I find any perseverance of my existence.

The Lord entrusts us with our children and commands us to make disciples of them, to teach them, to raise them up in the way of the Lord that when they are older they will not depart from it. (Deuteronomy 6:7-8, Proverbs 22:6) This is the primary design for the spread of the faith, the propagation of the Gospel and since becoming a Christian some years ago, I’ve sought to honor this call.

Congruence between word and deed is the most effective method to proclaim. Speak the Gospel. Live the Gospel. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict.

As I’ve sought to teach my daughters, perhaps nothing has better proclaimed Christ and Him crucified than adoption.

Adoption enabled me to proclaim far beyond my sanctification.

As an adult convert, I carried intense baggage into my walk and yes, the Lord has faithfully delivered me from affliction after affliction over the course of these years. Yet, adoption displayed for my daughters the love of the Lord Jesus in a way that I never could of my own regard, despite my deep flaws.

Perhaps nothing we’ve done, my wife and I, has demonstrated better the glorious riches of the grace of our Lord Jesus than our family’s willingness to take one born of another, declare them our own, and lavish love upon them.

As such…

5. It inspired them.

At least two of my daughters desire to adopt, maybe all three. One of them is actively taking steps to establish a home/ministry for older foster kids. All of them have intensely selfless hearts and a love for the downtrodden and oppressed, particularly the orphan.

I can think of no greater testimony than this.

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

In Transition: Round is a Shape

Transition yields transformation.

For years, the warrior conformed himself to a certain standard, been pounded into the mold. Now, with fewer constraints, he is free to make himself into that which he desires. Many plan for years prior to retirement, creating a vision of themselves and then reshaping themselves into that image.

Often it’s vocationally driven. Some commit to a particular profession and conform to a new standard. I have a couple of friends on Wall Street, suits and all. Some enter law enforcement and adopt their quasi-military standards. Small business. Industry. Coaching. Teaching. Private sector. 

Whatever the field of endeavor, interestingly their first order of business is often to grow out their facial hair or all of their hair, fostering a distinct homeless vibe. Testing the possible, I reckon.

For 26, nearly 27 years, I conformed to the image that the Army demanded of me, begrudgingly. Upon retirement, I entered full-time ministry, as I had prayed about for years.

And what did I become?

Fat.

I became fat.

This was my transformation.

Is that appropriate for a pastor? Easy!

Fat Origins

Ever since this kid pushed me in homeroom in 7th grade, I wanted to be big.

A naturally wiry kid, I wrestled the 98 pound weight class in 9th grade and didn’t have to cut weight. So I stopped wrestling, started lifting, and ate everything I could get my hands on. Everything. Shakes were my thing, peanut butter shakes, with ice cream, and five raw eggs, and a scoop of protein powder, two scoops.

I recall a 22 taco binge once.

Amino Acids. Weight gainer. Creatine.

I didn’t try juice because of cowardice, not any moral convictions. I was afraid I might get caught, but my efforts worked. In three years, I doubled my body weight, in a good way, and earned a starting position on the football team as a reward for my labors.

And I never got pushed in home room anymore.

New Fat

I believe I’ve handled the transition pretty well thus far…or am handling it, rather. You’ll have to ask my wife to be sure.

From the army to the pastorate of a small church, I went from structure and rigidity to having absolute flexibility in my life. I possess near complete autonomy with few external demands. I help homeschool my sons, minister to my congregation, write a bit, get a lift in when able.

I’ve definitely felt a little lost at times as I’ve written about previously, but seem to be coming out of that as I’ve reshaped my priorities. Rather, the Lord has been doing a work in me, conforming my desires to His.

We even successfully negotiated housebreaking a new puppy with no meltdown from me. A few close calls, but no meltdown.

But food.

I’ve always had a pretty big appetite, tempered by a modicum of necessary self discipline, but since retirement, I’ve noticed an unusual condition.

I eat every single thing I get my hands on. Everything!

An entire large pizza. No problem. Chips and salsa until I’m on the cusp of yacking. Sure, I’ll eat a salad, but I’ll chase it later with an entire can of Pringles. An extra sandwich at Chik Fil-a. French fries and did I mention pizza. I actually eat, inhale really, a double Bacon King from BK and then go home and eat dinner. Two chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks. Not one. Two.

Cheat day after cheat day.

My generous daughter left two candy bars on my desk the other day. Without hesitation, I destroyed them both in less than a minute.

I can’t explain it. I’m not sure why, but my gluttony seems to know no bounds.

Army Fat

I’ve never been a runner.

In fact, I hate running, distance that is. Doesn’t contribute to my objective. Detracts even.

The only thing I hated more than running were scranny Army officers who made me run. While serving in the division, our commanding general was one of these runners (I say as I spit onto the floor and wipe my mouth unceremoniously!). He weighed about a buck thirty soaking wet and could run till the cows come home and took great pride in taking his officers out for a leisurely jog at a nightmarish pace.

Run for your job, literally.

Nearly vomiting, white foam forming at the corners of my mouth, stumbling, gaggling—I always managed to keep up, barely. I used to fantasize about locking this man in a sweet rear-naked choke or lining him up on the deadlift bar, seeing how much gumption he possessed when confronted with his own weakness.

But standards are standards. Requirements are requirements.

And so I ran, some, and I maintained a bit of discipline in my food consumption, as I must. Had to make body fat standards—I never even sniffed the height-weight standards—and had to score reasonably well on the APFT.

Much as the common grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ restrains sin, so the Army actively restrained my gluttony, though I wasn’t even aware of it. I should’ve seen it coming, especially since…

Future Fat

God gave me a precursor.

After my second knee surgery, I finally relented to a permanent profile. Run at your own distance and pace which, for me, meant never.

“Train me like an aging defensive tackle,” I directed my strength coach. If it was within a 10 meter radius, I wanted to be able to close with and destroy it as rapidly as possible. Outside 10 meters, I’d concede for another day. My body began to respond accordingly and I began to look…like an aging defensive tackle.

If I thought the Bod Pod was devilish, the trainers’ new electrical impedance device was an absolute nightmare.

Whereas the Bod Pod utilized air displacement to let you know just how much blubber you were carrying around, this new device actually ran a current through you and could tell exactly where your blubber was located on your body.

There’s nothing like being confronted with cold, hard data.

Here’s your percentage.

Do the math.

Realize you are carrying around the equivalent of a 4 year old child’s worth of lard…and the majority of it resides in your gut.

“It takes mass to move mass,” Mike, the head strength coach, tried to console me. After a bit more cajoling, he talked me off the ledge and I headed back to the weight pile. Still gotta get a lift in.

The Dream: Fat no More

6 months.

25 pounds…not good pounds.

The collusion of gluttony and idolatry—my worship of physical strength—inflamed by the absence of restraint yielded the expected result. All of this masked the prideful heart deep beneath my newest layer of blubber.

I confided about my struggle to some brothers, ex-military themselves. Seems this isn’t unique to me. Change wrought this unexpected development. My vigilance, focused elsewhere, failed to anticipate something so simple, but so unsurprising.

Though if this is the extent of the struggle, I’ll count myself blessed. My wife likes me big. My kids don’t really care. A hefty Baptist pastor seems appropriate. As long as I can maintain physical domination of my sons, or the appearance thereof, then we’ll call it success. I have a few years to that regard.

Yet, Monday will be six months exactly. Perhaps it’s time to get tighten up the shot group…but not till Monday. My daughter made cheesecake tonight.

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

In Transition: Veteran, It’s Not All About You (me)

Maybe you’ve bled, literally.

For years, maybe longer, you’ve sacrificed.

You’ve toiled countless days under the bright heat, trudged the jagged Konar, patrolled the filthy Baghdad streets, never knowing when death might call. You’ve eaten dirt and eaten like a king, squeezed in a few minutes sleep on the floor of some foul-smelling crapatorium, all while being crushed to death by a thousand pounds of miscellaneous kit under the harsh desert sun.

You’ve sweat and wept and bled and taken a dump under the most impossible of circumstances. You’ve lost. Friends maybe. Any lingering innocence, certainly. A few poignant moments haunt your conscience—an unspoken word, an ill-fated decision, the unmistakable smell of charred flesh.

The blood-soaked sand forever testifies.

You’ve served.

You’ve given.

Now the system is telling you it’s time to receive.

You lay down your arms to a bevy of voices trumpeting the consideration you’ve earned, bestowing honor and praise…and benefit. You merit special handling.

I affirm this. I affirm your earned stripes. I’ll buy you a beer in Valhalla, if there were such a place, but the mindset troubles me. There is a prevailing attitude among many(some) veterans that betrays the attitude that shaped their service from the beginning.

It is an overwhelming desire to be served.

I’ve given, now it’s time to receive, no matter what it may cost another.

A Right Heart

Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, details true, biblical love.

Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

In other words, love, true biblical love, involves sacrifice, putting your own needs and requirements after those of another. Paul, curiously concludes this section with this, one of my favorite passages 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)

In other words, the business of a man is to love…to love in a biblical way, to love sacrificially, to love selflessly. The way of a child is to issue demands, to impose requirements, to place self ahead of others.

Paul exhorts the men of the church to…be men, to act like men, to love like men.

What if we exhorted one another to the same, even after leaving the profession of arms…especially after leaving the profession of arms.

Another Look

Allow me to level the bubble.

Your wife, your children, they’ve sacrificed as you have…possibly more.

My oldest daughter seemed to get it the worst. Every year, despite my best efforts, I’d be deployed on her birthday. Year in and year out, more of the same. She’d cry a bit and then get over it. She’s a good army kid.

The last time was the worst.

It must’ve been the third or fourth year in a row when I found out. Once more I’d be deployed on her birthday. I couldn’t believe it! With dread, I sought her out to break the news. Expecting the usual tears, what I got was infinitely worse, a shrug and a slight, sad smile, “That’s okay, Dad. I understand.”

Ouch!

I hated deployments, every one of them, every time. I longed to be home with my family. I resented the lost moments. I begrudged the dreadful months. I hated every single day away. Every. Single. Day.

Except I didn’t.

You know.

          “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

                    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

The higher call gifted me a reason. My brothers delivered me a purpose. Engaging the enemies of righteousness in battle drove my ambition. I trembled at the prospect, enamored of our audacity, descending from the darkness alongside my brothers-in-arms onto the unsuspecting heads of wicked men, standing as sword and shield against the tyranny of oppression.

My wife was left behind. Period.

The Tightest Grip

“Hold the rope.”

This was William Carey’s plea to Andrew Fuller before embarking upon his mission trip to India. As the father of modern missions, Carey’s plea was for support. He would go. Would Fuller and his church support him, prayerfully and tangibly?

She’s held the rope.

While you’ve sucked down the desert sand, she’s cleaned a thousand runny noses, wiped a thousand butts. She sat up all night with sick kids and tear-streaked cheeks knowing she had to rise early the next morning. Exhausted, she put on a smile each morning, not wanting the kids to see her struggle, only to sit with her head in her hands the second they left for the bus stop.

And she wondered about you. Okay, she didn’t wonder. She agonized. 

What were you doing? Were you okay? Were you safe? Who were you with? Why hasn’t she heard from you in awhile?

Did you meet somebody?

She had to hold it together, hold the rope. She had no other option. Maybe she put her life, her hopes, her dreams on hold…for you. Maybe she did it gladly. Maybe she did it begrudgingly, but she did it.

Must she do it once more?

A New Look

Conflict beckons. Bitterness knocks. Families disintegrate.

Many warriors struggle off the battlefield and perhaps it’s because of the message.

We’ve trained them that they have a right to feel disenfranchised. We’ve communicated to them that they have a reason to misbehave, that it’s normal, it’s okay. And most of all, the system trains them to feel entitled, to desire to receive. We’ve taught them to exchange the spirit of love and service for a regard for self. We’ve taught them that they are the center of concern, the focus of affairs.

I’m convinced that many of the problems our veterans face stem from this clash of intersecting and competing attitudes.

Let us reshape the narrative.

Quit emasculating the veteran and empower him. Exhort him to continue to serve, to continue to give, as able. Let us reject the notion that he is automatically damaged and incapable, requiring special consideration.

Consider your family, your wife.

Instead of focusing on your struggle, on your affliction, on your needs, see this as an opportunity to be strong for her, an opportunity to love her unconditionally, to put yourself in the backseat and let her reach for her dreams and goals. Consider this opportunity to serve once more.

What if, upon sheathing your sword, your call was to lift her up, to empower her to become who she always wanted to be? What if, upon laying down your guns, your wife and your children became your mission?

Would you be satisfied with that?

Should we shelf our heart for service just because we’ve removed the uniform?

We must reject being shaped into a caricature of who we once were by forces concerned with political expediency and social leverage.

Noble warrior, with all urgency I plead with you to take your turn at the rope. They deserve it. Indeed, they always have.

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

In Transition: I wanted a mission…

and for my sins, they gave me one. (CPT Willard, Saigon, 1969)

Clarksville…shoot, I’m still only in Clarksville.

Each time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the desert. I hardly said a word to my wife…until she told me to take out the trash and play with the kids. When I was there, in the desert, I wanted to be here, but now all I can think about is the desert…and what’s for dinner.

I’ve been here six months now…retired…waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I spend in this house I get weaker. Every minute the muj squats in the desert, he gets stronger.

Each time I look around, the walls move in a little tighter…the kids scream a little louder…my pants get a bit tighter…

First Call

I always felt called to be a soldier, even before I knew Who was calling me.

As a young boy, I played war in the woods, shot bottle rockets at my friends, and led legions of imaginary men into battle. I bayoneted bad guys, crushed my enemies, saw them driven before me, and heard the lamentations of the women…well, in my mind anyway.

Between sports, my play existed in recreating battle scenes and heroic last stands, fighting robots, Cobra, Russians, or whoever I deemed worthy of battle.

As a teenager, while my friends decorated their walls with rock n’ roll pinup girls, I had a single poster bearing an image of Eisenhower, Lee, MacArthur and Grant. I liked pinup girls, don’t get me wrong, but military service resonated with my soul.

Something about combat drew me…the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the shared sacrifice, maybe the purpose or the mission.

At some point, I graduated from sticks and fireworks to rifles and helicopters. At the age of 22, the nation entrusted me with the lives of 20 or so young men. My first platoon! I exalted in the call. Preparing for war was our mission.

All that changed on September 11th as Al Qaeda handed us a mission… “brought it up like room service,” you might say in your deepest, gravelly Martin Sheen voice. As such, I spent the next 17 years leading men in and out of battle and it was glorious. The crucible of combat, of a shared mission realized, drove my purpose, channeled my existence.

Fighting the bad guys. Defending our nation. Confronting evil. Destroying tyranny. It defined me, combat did, gave me a mission, a mission that resonated with vitality. Who was gonna do it, you? So don’t stand there in your ****ty white uniform and tell me what you think you are entitled too!…sorry, I get carried away.

And then it was gone, leaving me one very important query.

Now what?

A Worthy Call

Every man wants to matter.

I was reminded of the fleeting and fragile nature of life this week. A friend of mine from college died unexpectedly, at the age of 48. He left behind a wife and three kids and his death reinforced Paul’s words to the Ephesians, to make the best use of the time because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)

Why are the days evil?

The days are evil because time, if left unspent, will spend itself. If not spent deliberately, time will still pass. And tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and be 40 or 50 or 60 or older, wondering where the days have gone. My 45 years, a mere vapor, attest to this reality, our inevitable march to the grave.

Approaching the end of life, all men must reconcile their legacy. They must answer for themselves a very critical question. Did my existence make a difference to anyone? Was it worthwhile?

Did I even matter at all?

Soldiering gave me many things—direction, structure, education, motivation. Most of all, it gave my life meaning, a purpose that mattered.

A Passing Call

I never wanted to be Joe Paterno.

Joe Pa roamed the Penn State sideline for 45 years! setting the record for most wins by a Division 1 coach (409). 45 years! As long as I have been alive, Paterno held the same job, coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions and the longer he coached, the tighter he seemed to cling to the job.

He came to define Penn State football.

They were inseparable. One could simply not imagine Penn State without Paterno. Unfortunately, the opposite became glaringly true. Without Penn State football, who was Joe Pa?

On November 9th, 2011, due to fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, Joe Paterno lost the defining aspect of his life. He was fired. He died 74 days later, ostensibly due to lung cancer. Yet, I wonder about despair. The thing that had come to define him, Penn State football, had been torn from his life and the disgrace of the scandal threatened to forever tarnish his legacy.

Without this, who was he?

Who could he possibly be?

A Fleeting Call

At some point, you gotta drink the kool aid.

About the time you are eligible for retirement, the Army dangles a sweet promotion in front of you but you gotta buy in. It is this time that you make a call, either all in or not. The upper echelons of the Army demand a “new level of service,” to quote a former commander of mine who attained the second highest rank in all of the military.

At some point, you become a company man, and buy in lock, stock, and barrel.

And they own you, all of you.

I asked a General Officer I worked for once how much control he had over his existence. “About 5%,” he joked, “and that’s an illusion.”

Not that I would’ve qualified for the upper echelons. I was doing decent enough, but did I want to buy in for another decade? And even if I did, at some point, it would still be taken from me, leaving me still to answer…

Who am I?

A New Call

Men need a purpose.

Men need to do, to conquer, to attain, to move, to engage. I joined the military and found my purpose and took great satisfaction in closing with and destroying the enemy in battle, locked at the elbows with my brothers-in-arms.

In this purpose, I found honor. I took pride.

What could I do without it?

Thankfully, in March 2005, God called me to the true fight, the battleground of souls.

In Christ, we find our ultimate mission, an enduring mission, a mission that spans continents and countries, a purpose that supersedes boundaries and borders, a call that endures across epochs and eras.

The battlefield of the soul surpasses the most contested battles in history. Stalingrad, Antietam, Verdun: mere skirmishes compared to the battle for the eternal destiny of all men. Our enemy is not the flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12) He is organized and motivated, showing no quarter to even those claiming neutrality.

It is in serving Christ, loving my wife, discipling my sons, pleading with the lost to be reconciled to God, taking the Gospel to the nations, that some might be saved, it is in this that I find a mission, a purpose that transcends any previous call.

This purpose can never be taken from me. This mission can never diminish or change.

The fields are so white for the harvest, as the workers are so few. Beyond my former call to arms, the newer call, the superior call, it consumes me.

Absent such a call, I’m just not sure what I could do…or who I’d even be.

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

#MeToo: Please, Keep Your Hands Off My Daughter

What do I tell my daughter?

She’s young, pretty, and just started her favorite job ever…

…and she’s being sexually harassed.

What do I tell her?

He probably doesn’t mean anything by it?

He’s old and that’s just the way things used to be.

The man in question is in his 60’s, certainly a product of a different era. Admittedly, I was not in the workplace 30 to 40 years ago, but from what I understand, that’s just how things used to be, or at least that’s how it has been explained.

Women could just expect occasional unprofessional conduct in the workplace, callous jokes, maybe even a wandering hand. After all, boys will be boys. He doesn’t mean anything by it. Don’t take it too personal.

I recall my offense, 20 years ago, at what I perceived as the neutering of the military. I remember my indignation when the Post Exchange stopped carrying pornography. I recollect the institution of sexual harassment training and having to remove our pinup girls and inappropriate calendars from the crew chief hootch.

How dare the powers that be make us behave like…uh, gentlemen.

In my younger years, in my naiveté, I associated audacity, boldness, and masculinity with crudeness and vulgarity. I associated refinement and restraint with weakness. Amazing. Juvenile. Immature.

Apparently, this man feels the same.

And it’s textbook sexual harassment/hostile work environment. He holds no authority over her so it’s not Quid pro Quo. (See how my training paid off!)

Remarks about her looks. Inappropriate comments. Open ogling. And did I mention he’s in his 60’s and that she’s in her 20’s? She is creeped out and I’m just not sure what to tell her.

Tell your supervisor?

She’s new to the job and new to the vocation, fresh out of school and ready to stake her claim on life. With a twinkle in her eye, she set out on her first day of work, her initial training, only to have this douche crush her spirit over the next few weeks.

She’s resilient. She just wants to work.

She doesn’t want to make a fuss.

She doesn’t want attention.

She doesn’t want to get this dude in trouble.

She wants to work…but this dude won’t let her just work. And he put his hands on her, the classic hands on the shoulders while standing behind her while she’s seated thing, commenting about her looks.

I am literally snapping this dude’s neck in my mind right now and I still don’t know what to tell her.

I’m sorry, but this is something you’re going to have to deal with?

Men excel at the oppression of women. We’re gifted in this regard. I didn’t have to teach my 3-year-old son to be mean to my little granddaughter. He knows how to do it automatically.

It’s been this way since the Fall.

God declared the curse on Eve, for all women, in Genesis 3:16, that her desire shall be for her husband and he will rule over her. From the curse, the woman will seek to usurp the place of the man as the spiritual leader of the home and the church while the man will rule over the woman in an ungodly manner.

Men oppress women in one of two ways, generally speaking.

Many succumb and gladly yield, abdicating their responsibilities in leading the church and the family. These men become flaccid and hollowed-out caricatures, mere shadows of that which God intended for them. Other men lash out and dominate women, ruling over them in a malevolent fashion.

Almost all sexual assault is committed by men.

Almost all domestic violence is committed by men.

Almost all sexual harassment is committed by men.

Yes, I am aware that there are exceptions but I’m speaking collectively. There has never been a maternal society. Women have historically existed at the mercy of men, at the mercy of their weaker bodies and gentler natures—please don’t hear me say that women cannot be as wicked as men, it’s just different, less violent, more subtle. But only in societies based upon a Judeo-Christian ethic do women find protection and equality, stature, regard and even acclaim.

And every man possesses, in his sin nature, the capacity and at some deep level, the desire, to sin against women in some way. It’s there. Scripture affirms it and reality bears it out. Only the common grace of the Lord Jesus restraining sin or the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, changing hearts and giving men a new nature, confront this wickedness.

Trust Jesus. Trust no man unless that man likewise trusts Jesus.

This man may not know Jesus but he may soon meet Jesus and I still don’t know what to tell my daughter.

Confront him?

This guy forced my daughter to make a decision she should never have to make.

She looked inward, summoned her supervisor, and asked if her clothing were inappropriate, if she needed to change. She didn’t. Her supervisor informed her that her clothing was more than professional.

She subtly let her supervisor know that there was a problem and as if on cue, this man walked up and put his hands on her. The supervisor called an immediate ‘come to Jesus’ meeting but again, she never should’ve had to make this decision.

She never sought her own #MeToo moment…but this man gave it to her.

I’m torn some by these accounts and the #MeToo movement in general. I have a hard time with Hollywood women who brazenly leverage their sexuality for personal gain and then cry #MeToo when men respond inappropriately to their inappropriate behavior. Beyonce or some other celebrity crying #MeToo after dry-humping the air clad in little more than her imagination in front of thousands, including many impressionable young women, does not necessarily stoke empathy.

The pornification of our nation and the Sexual Revolution, instead of freeing women, has only solidly enslaved them to their sexuality. If their empowerment comes from their sexuality, then absent their sexuality, there is no empowerment. When we’ve trained an entire generation in this manner, should we be surprised that a generation of men has a lack of regard for women who lack regard for themselves?

But the unscrupulous pandering of some opportunistic women cannot allow us to discount either the nature or the extent of the problem.

Jesus was the greatest advocate for women that ever existed and only in the shadow of the Gospel do women truly find refuge from the hostility of men. Yet, as we are confined to the secular, the notion that women may require refuge meets only hostility. We are left to merely apply band-aids to the hemorrhage and hope that somehow, it’ll work itself out.

And I still don’t know what to tell my daughter.

I’ll be right there.

As I envision myself striding into the office and solidly planting the flag of my flock into this man’s chest cavity, I am saddened that my daughter had to learn of the evil that men do in this manner, that this man had to take another chip out of the idealism of her youth.

She confronted him, professionally and rightly.

I didn’t have to tell her anything, it turns out.

And the man apologized profusely, claiming not to even realize what he had done. I cannot see into a man’s heart so this may be true but I wonder if he would’ve conducted himself in such a manner in front of his wife.

You’d have to be a fool or insanely ill-informed to not realize, in today’s highly-charged work environment, that putting your hands on anyone, much less a woman, is essentially begging to be disciplined or even fired.

I’m not sure what to tell my daughter about the next time it happens as sadly, there will likely be a next time. Maybe kick him in the junk and scream “Rape!”

Outside of that, I just don’t know.

 

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

Metallica, Rage, and the Holy Spirit

I love hymns. I love singing Scripture.

I love gangster (gangsta?) rap.

Garage Days, revisited

I likewise love to lift. I hate to run. That about sums it up.

After my second knee surgery, I ceded anything outside a 10 meter radius. Inside 10 meters, I desire the ability to close with and destroy as rapidly as possible. Outside that distance, we’ll save for another day.

I’ve always associated music with lifting. Always.

In my early garage days, I used to blast the Rocky IV soundtrack. The “Training Montage” that accompanied Ivan (pronounced ee-van’’ not eye’-van) Drago and Rocky’s inevitable confrontation became my theme as I clanged (sort of) sand-filled plastic weights.

I became Rocky Balboa.

In my high school years, I affiliated with some bodybuilders who loved to lift to heavy metal music. I was hooked. I made Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” my anthem. Tony Mandarich inspired me with a blend of Guns N’ Roses and obscene amounts of iron.

At some point, I discovered Metallica.

And Public Enemy.

And NWA.

I fed off the anger, the intensity. It inspired me, generated power, induced adrenaline, equipping me to move the maximum amount of weight possible.


God gave us music that we might glorify Him. (Psalm 95:1, Hebrews 2:12, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19)

          Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;

               break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Psalm 98:4)


Seek & Destroy

Then came the Animal House.

In college, I joined the powerlifting team, a gang of jacked rebels who eschewed most matters of a military college in favor of iron…and heavy metal music. They dwelt in the Animal House, their domain.

Imagine descending into the bowels of an aged stone building. As you descend a darkened and worn staircase, the temperature steadily climbs and at some point, you hear it, heavy metal music. It steadily increases, culminating in a full-out sonic assault as you peer down a dimly-lit corridor at a worn and darkened wooden door. Enter the Animal House at your own peril.

The powerlifting team favored screamo-type heavy metal, not something I was a fan of, and Manowar, a fantasy metal-type band that sang about swords and gods and dragons. Again, not something I was a fan of, but there was the ever-present standbys: Black Sabbath, Pantera, Judas Priest, and of course, Metallica.

At some point, the Army officers who taught in the facility descended into the Animal House and painted a black line on the volume knob, seeking to restrict the reverberations. Still, the music remained ear splitting, prohibiting all but shouted conversation.

And I loved it.

Creeping Death

After coming to faith in Christ, I backed off heavy metal music and Metallica. I started listening to praise and worship music while lifting and to my surprise, found no corresponding drop-off in my lifts.

I was lifting overseas once and as “In Christ Alone” came on, I raised my hands in praise. I turned to see four curious SEALs giving me an odd look. Yet I persisted. Working out became closely associated with worship until…it happened.

I don’t know what (who) led me, but a year or so ago, I created a new Pandora station…
…Rage Against the Machine.

RATM was, in my mind, the pinnacle of lifting music. They combined angry leftist rantings laid over top heavy, driving guitar in a metal-rap blend of power and anger. I loved it.

I became Zack de la Rocha.

And as I listened, others re-emerged from the recesses…Black Sabbath, Public Enemy, and of course, Metallica.


The believer should seek to glorify God in all that he does. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23

          So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)


Trapped Under Ice

This time, something was different.

The Holy Spirit tugged on my ear, whispering, convicting, chiding…God hates this. You know that, right?

In my first published book, Scourge, I quoted from the movie Gran Torino, a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed when I first saw it. A brother that reviewed my book before publication, among some other comments, asked why I chose to quote this movie.

“You know God hates that movie, right?”

He was right, of course. In addition to vulgar language, Gran Torino is rife with idolatry, outright blasphemy, and even a false, works-based Gospel. Of course God hates this work but hey, it’s Clint Eastwood, and Clint hates liberals, so it must be good and godly, right? Sheesh.

What could I do? After about a year, I deleted my Pandora channel, turned off RATM forever and all the others that accompanied it.

How could I listen to things that God hates?

Disposable Heroes

Music is powerful, insanely powerful.

Music has the ability to drive the emotions of men, to mold hearts, to generate passion. Music has the ability to motivate and inspire, to galvanize and embolden.

And it is not neutral. Biblically speaking, nothing is truly neutral.

It’s doing something.

A friend of mine was saved as a young man but as a teenager, started listening to heavy metal music. Before long, he was attending concerts, rebelling against his parents, smoking weed which turned into coke which turned into whatever he could get his hands on. His life descended into decades of chaos and destruction and though the Lord eventually delivered Him, the consequences of a life spent in rebellion against God resonate and will continue to resonate.

And it started with the allure of angry music.

Leave it to Satan to twist that which God has given us to glorify Him into something wicked.

Blackened

This year I made a re-discovery.

Searching for music to accompany my lift I had an epiphany and quickly created a “Rocky” Pandora channel. The “Training Montage” greeted my ears. Instantly, I was transported to my primitive garage gym of yesteryear and my sand-filled weights and my dreams of glory and power. I added a ten pound plate to each side of the bar and as the adrenaline surged…

I became Rocky Balboa yet again.

When “Eye of the Tiger” followed the montage, my heart practically burst right out of my chest. I added more weight…

This was it! The “Rocky” channel.

But what about Metallica? No RATM, the Spirit had firmly trounced that leaning, but could I listen to Metallica? Black Sabbath, obviously evil. Public Enemy, wicked. Judas Priest, don’t ask…but Metallica.

I dare you to find a better album than And Justice For All.

Not gonna happen.

In Metallica, I find a perfect blend of intensity, skill, anger, and passion. When “Harvester of Sorrow” comes on, or “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” or “Wherever I May Roam” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, stand clear. One note, and I’m jacked, ready to move some steel.

I love all classic Metallica but And Justice For All surpasses them all. The Black Album is pretty good. Did they even do anything after that?

The Shortest Straw

The things we consume delineate the front lines between our new nature as believers and the sarx, the flesh, the old man, as Paul calls our sinful human nature. As believers, God gives us the desires of our hearts, that is, he implants His desires into us. Our desires become His desires.

God desires that He be glorified in all things and in progressive sanctification, a believer ought to increasingly desire the same.

As we continually examine our hearts for things not of God, as we continually allow the Lord and Scripture to examine our hearts for things not of Him, He draws us ever closer. The closer we get, the less we can tolerate of the world. To do otherwise is to violate the new nature given us.

My prayer is for holiness, personal holiness, that God would continually conform me into the image of Christ…

…and that the Holy Spirit would not convict my heart on Metallica…but I have a feeling.

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

Cowardice and the Hijacking of Church Language

Perpetual surrender characterizes the moral cowardice of much of the modern, western church. Concession.

Would we even surrender our language?

The opened a new worship center right up the road from our church.

In the other direction is a ministry. There’s an outreach right around the corner. A fellowship has been operating down the street a ways. There’s a house of prayer, a house of worship. There’s an assembly, a company, a group.

Does anyone plant churches anymore?

It’s not the Name.

I am not talking about the ridiculous deluge of trendy church names chronicled here, or here.

With over 400,000 churches in America, it’s tough to be original and let’s face it, pastors, unless they plant the church, likely inherited a church that already had a name. You likely had no say in the naming of your own church and I’m quite sure there is a solid and biblical PointDoorHeartJourneyEmboldened Church out there somewhere.

A trendy and superficial name does not automatically imbue trendiness and superficiality.

I’m speaking to language and really, surrender…motives, actually.

The Church are the Called-Out Ones

Jesus, talking to Peter, declares,

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Peter is not the rock. Jesus is the rock. Peter’s confession of Jesus as, “the Messiah, the son of the living God,” (v. 16) this is the rock. Jesus’ mission is the building of His church, the ekklēsia, literally, the called-out ones.

We ought to esteem the church.

We ought to hold the church in the highest regard.

God is about the business of calling a people to Himself, out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. The church is the bride of Christ, the unified body of believers. And the local church is the hands and feet of Christ in the local community.

The Bible calls every believer to submit to the local church, to be under headship. (Hebrews 13:17) The Bible calls us to unity, to not neglect the assembly of God’s people. (Hebrews 10:25) The Bible calls us to walk our Christian walk in terms of community and fellowship. (1 John 1:5-10)

The Bible calls us to be the church.

How could we have a low view of the church, that we shy away from the very word.
It speaks to intent, reveals a troubling motive.

Why?

The vexing trend is the desire to appeal to the unbeliever.

It’s the same desire that drives churches to install coffee shops, worship leaders to squeeze themselves into skinny jeans, and pastors to neglect solid, biblical preaching or even neglect the Gospel altogether.

God forbid we make the unbeliever feel unwelcome.

We don’t want to “push anyone away” from the church and so…we just won’t call it a church.

Here’s the rationale. The world has come to associate ‘church’ with judgmental ‘churchy’ people. These are people who judge everyone and tell us we are all a bunch of sinners and all they talk about is hell and they are all a bunch of hypocritical stuffed-shirts anyway. They do the same stuff we do, they just don’t admit it.

And a lot of people have been hurt by ‘church people’ so we just won’t use the word.

We’ll get you into church. You’ll be more likely to attend, you just won’t know you’re in church. You’ll think you’re in a fellowship, or a ministry, or an assembly. Our numbers go up. Everyone wins.

The natural end state is the even more ridiculous notion that the church (those who have been saved!) can be for lost people.

I’ve heard ‘pastors’ say…

…If you’re a church person, this isn’t the place for you.

…If you’re anxious for me to get into the Bible, this isn’t the place for you.

Yes, we must seek to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to all men of all nations. Yes, we must contextualize, we must become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Yes, we must urgently and passionately seek the lost and be God’s voice…in calling them into our fellowship, into the church!

But the church IS the body of believers.

This is the Church.

The surrender reveals a low view of that which God esteems, the church.

Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. I’m one of them. There are swindlers, adulterers, fornicators. There are cheats and thieves and liars. There are blasphemers and idolaters, slanderers and misogynists. It’s got you doesn’t it.

I acknowledge that the church has hurt people.

But don’t believe the hype. Don’t surrender the term.

I acknowledge all of the above while still affirming that my brothers and sisters in Christ are the kindest, friendliest, warmest, and most generous and genuine people I know.

This last Christmas, a struggling single mother contacted our church for some help. We put it before the people and they poured out love and support, for weeks. And she, apparently thinking it was conditional, promised to attend our church in our return. We made it clear that it was not conditional and that we wanted to give to her because of Christ, and Christ alone. She never attended and were she to show back up, I’m confident our people would love on her the same.

Several years ago, a young couple in our church gifted their pickup truck to our financially struggling pastor. When an elderly lady moved to be with her grandkids, a large portion of our church body showed to help her load the moving truck. It’s always the same.

A group of brothers came alongside another brother struggling with an addiction. No judgment, no condemnation. Only, we are here for you. Some of us have struggled similarly. We love you and at the same time, will never quit you, but also call you to repentance and to turn to that which you know is better.

This brother rejoices in his deliverance and restoration and the love of his brothers.

We cry together, laugh together, rejoice in the sheer presence of one another.

This is the church.

This is the fellowship into which God calls men, from the darkness.

Motives revisited

I want unbelievers to feel welcome in our church…to a point.

Yet, if an unbeliever hears the message proclaimed, a message that speaks literal death to his soul, and is not at all uncomfortable, then something is wrong. The Gospel is the most offensive thing that there is, and if the unbeliever is not a bit uncomfortable, then perhaps he is not hearing the Gospel.

Attracting them by becoming like them and denying who we are is not a useful endeavor.

At the end of the day, the world hates Jesus and by association, hates the His people, the church. The world hates the church because the church represents the death of the world. As such, why on earth would the church concede anything to the world?

I am determined to reclaim that which the world has co-opted, so much of our language.

Let us reclaim the very word, so meaningful in its inspiration, that defines our very existence and let us pray that God would call out some more, that He would build His church!

** cover photo is members of the Way praying over a deploying soldier and his family.

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

In Transition: Time and the Transitioning Warrior

As I approach six months of civilian puke life, I thought some self-reflection might be in order.

I’d heard of men having trouble transitioning out of the military and I couldn’t quite fathom the issue. I would now have plenty of time to square everyone else away, get the family up to standard, maybe improve the foxhole a bit. I’d have so much time, I’d likely have to go to 2-a-day PT.

I could practically hear myself getting even more jacked!

Could I still drink Rip-It as a civilian?

Approaching Retirement

Ami and I didn’t exactly waltz across the finish line.

Our reality was a bit different from what I’ve perceived to be the norm. Usually, the man desires to continue to serve and it is at the behest of the spouse that he reluctantly resigns or retires. She just cannot take it anymore—the pace, the optempo, the uncertainty.

For us, it was the opposite. Ami implored me to stay in.

“You’ll make a horrible civilian,” she advised. 

“How hard can it be?”

Up until the end, she held out hope that I’d reconsider and remain in the service not realizing that the ship had sailed over a year prior when I announced my intentions to retire to my boss. My subsequent evaluations reflected this decision. At that point, retirement became imminent.

How I See Time

I see time in rectangles on an Outlook training calendar. I do.

It’s impossible for me to see it any other way.

As I consider the coming weeks and days, I visualize a calendar with rectangles on it annotating what tasks I’d be accomplishing during any given period of time. Where the blocks overlap, that connotes a friction point of over commitment that must be reconciled. White space, space not covered by a rectangle, designates “free time” and must be fenced with a rectangle labeled, “Block”, if I desire it to remain “free”.

Gotta protect the white space.

I served nearly 23 years in the military, really 22 and a half if you consider the sham time following my final deployment including block leave—thanks Uncle Sugar! Add in 4 years of military college and I have 26 and a half years of militarization!

My Reality

Some men retire and continue to dabble.

They join the National Guard or Reserves and play Army on the weekend. In my circle, many folks retire and become a mercenary, working for one of the numerous firms that provide para-military service overseas while affording the government the ability to tout lower troop levels. The pay is great but no thank you.

When I hung up my boots, I hung them up for good.

I don’t even have a 9 to 5.

As the pastor of a small church, I have no imposed structure to my life. I am completely free to do whatever I like. I have a few external demands here and there, but by and large, I am unregulated. I went from complete structure—most days in the Army, I would be booked from start to finish—to a complete lack of structure.

So what could I do but…impose structure?

I created an Outlook calendar for myself and began getting things together.

I generated a weekly battle rhythm for the two other elders in our church, one meeting with my worship leader to synchronize the message with the worship, another with all three to conduct an AAR of last week’s service and finalize the details for this week’s service.

I put myself on a PT schedule.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the rectangles returned…and with it, stress.

I began to miss some requirements. My calendar began to look just like it did previously. I began to have to routinely reschedule events. So let me clarify.

I was getting stressed about missing self-imposed requirements that had absolutely no bearing at all on anyone or anything external to me.

Seems reasonable enough.

Time Management

I’ll proclaim it.

I’m an expert at time management.

Years ago, I discovered the value of time and I began to pour myself into the study of time management. I consumed books on efficiency—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People remains near the top of my list. I tried different methods and techniques. I actually resisted digital calendar synchronization initially as I am, by nature, an analog type of dude. However, once I realized the power of synchronizing my calendar with other people and organizations that have bearing on how I spend my time, I was sold.

Routine became the engine of time management.

“I’ve got a 95% efficiency on my morning routine,” I once boasted to a colleague.

For years, I honed my morning routine, balancing the termination of my rest period with an orderly, productive, and synchronized transition into the day’s activities. My morning routine included daily hygiene, in a prescribed order of course, fueling the machine for PT, getting dressed, a devotion time of Bible reading and prayer, culminating with a hands-free walk to my truck where I already had my bag and uniform pre-positioned.

I discovered that preparation the night before was absolutely critical to a successful morning routine.

I tweaked it for years, always adjusting and seeking to squeeze more out of the morning. If I shave before I shower, I can save a bit of time by rinsing in the shower. If I stack my clothes in order of putting them on, underwear on top, I can expedite getting dressed. I found intense satisfaction in being able to get dressed in absolute darkness without waking my wife—my clothes in the prescribed order on my dresser.

Walking into the kitchen to the smell of the pre-programmed coffee pot already boiling brings me absolute delight.

I at the exact same breakfast for years.

Once I find something I like and that contributes to my overall efficiency and effectiveness, I stick with it.

My wife thinks I’m a bit of a psycho.

Christ and Time

Do you know that not all people see time the same as I do…unfathomable.

Whereas I see rectangles on an Outlook calendar, Ami sees time as a glob, a nebulous pool of opportunity that she manages from an inherent priority list (IPL?—whew, that’s better). I struggle to articulate her non-process process.

She is one of the busiest people I know, but operates with very little in the way of obvious structure. And she will admit that her technique is not without its flaws. She is frequently challenged by punctuality, but what she has is flexibility and priority.

If one of our girls needs to talk, she will stop and talk as long as they need to.

If someone has a need from the clothing closet, she will forgo all other demands to meet that need.

If a foster kid shows up in the middle of whatever, she will cease work and go to receive the kid.

How did Jesus see time?

Looking to Scripture I see that most ministry took place in terms of “as they went”, with no planning, gasp! The Holy Spirit placed men and opportunity in front of believers and they saw it for what it was.

Jesus stopped and chatted over a drink of water with a “random” woman at a well. Many Samaritans from the nearby town believed as a result. (John 4) “As he passed by,” Jesus stopped and healed a blind man, changing his life forever. (John 9) Peter and John were on their way to the temple (church) when they stopped and healed and ministered to a lame man. (Acts 3)

They immediately cast aside whatever they had planned for what the Lord had planned.

“But how on earth did they ever get done what they had planned?” 

True Effectiveness

Among other things, I consider myself a life-long learner. In transition, the Lord has impressed upon me some points concerning time.

Not all things that happen must be scheduled to be considered effective. And is effectiveness and efficiency the best Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) when assessing our time management?

Is there a better way to honor God in this?

The other morning, my wife got home from work—she works at night as a nurse in an assisted living facility—and needed attention. She wanted to talk and then she wanted some affection. One of her love languages is touch. She wanted to snuggle.

It wasn’t on my calendar. Instead, I had a long morning of sermon preparation scheduled. She would’ve understood but the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks.

And I took a risk…and I lay down and snuggled with my wife.

I accomplished nothing. I achieved no clearly defined goals. I checked nothing off my to-do list…and it was absolutely fantastic, the best thing that I accomplished that day. Unplanned intimacy with my wife, how could I have ever planned for something better?

Maybe I’m getting the hang of this civilian thing after all!

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

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

THE 413 REPORT

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

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

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

   Janice S. Garey  

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

  Anne Rightler

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

  Scott Doherty

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

 Chad Chasteen

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