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).

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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.

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