I Was a Soldier Once

I was ready to serve him with everything that I had... Finally I was free from my hopeless existence, I was now full of vision and purpose! I always wanted to know why I had been born. At last it all made sense! We had been created in God's own image in order to reveal His character to the world! Of course we could never do it if love had not first been shown to us. So there it was, I could read all about the love of God in the Bible. Jesus* was just the man I would follow anywhere. He was clearly calling His disciples out of society and into the new way of life that would transcend this world and its passing ways.

Whatever words of Jesus that were unclear to me were further explained by the apostles Paul, Peter, and John (those who knew Him personally). These men had apparently given everything they had in order to build His kingdom on earth. I wanted to do the same! I could feel the excitement in Paul's words as he laboriously groped to convey the awesome magnitude of what God had done for us. Always exhorting us to be "good soldiers" for Christ, Paul painted a detailed picture of a life full of love and total devotion! I couldn't wait to experience this vibrant life together with all those who believed.

Unfortunately, it was obvious to me that much of what was professed to be from Jesus was nothing more than the same old religious hypocrisy rampant in His day. By the words of the Teacher himself, there would be many insincere people claiming to be His disciples. Yet soon, I found myself intimately involved in a variety of Christian ministries among a multitude of denominations. With zeal I gave myself to the distribution of food to the poor and service of the saints. I attended several different Bible studies every week, eagerly anticipating the moment we would all just "cast off" everything that hindered us from really living out the gospel. We were always reading and talking about love and forgiveness.We would study how, why, and to whom the scriptures were written. We even spokeof how Jesus was going to "rapture" his people from the earth atany given moment. We talked and studied a lot.

"The ministry" always focused on "more believers," but somehow the substance of life together was missing. Attending weekend church services and weekly Bible studies had a form of fellowship, but seemed to deny the power to really love. Long, "in-depth" studies and sermons were informative and all, but I just wanted to serve my new King in the midst of his people, to simply obey His commands and suffer together alongside my brothers. Yet, I was still just trying to make a living, and put myself through college like everyone else my age.

The "Church" didn't really seem to have any concrete solutions to life's very real problems. I knew Jesus was "the Way," but "Church" often seemed to be more of a country club for people who were content with this life. I was tired of playing Church and pretending that everything was just all right. I had to do something real. I knew that I had to serve somehow and that servants suffer to do good. So I joined the United States Army.

As a bond servant of the United States Army, I made my confession and was immediately "baptized" into a new way of life, a new culture. Military culture. My rights as "Joe Citizen" under the U.S. Constitution were replaced by those of "GI Joe" under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The President was now my king, and my "chain of command" allowed me to understand the authority under which I stood.

On top of the "general orders" which should never be broken, our commander gave us specific orders, demanding absolute obedience to his word, ensuring a complete victory over the enemy. So many were these various commands that virtually all of my time was spent either carrying them out or preparing for the next one. A soldier wasn't caught up in the affairs of civilian life -- the military was a culture "set apart" for a special purpose.

I was no longer "I," but I was now "we." For there is no "I" in "Team." I was now a part of something greater than myself. Any personal agenda that I had must first submit to the greater needs of my country. I no longer had to worry about what I should eat or what I should wear, for the Army cares for its own. Food, clothing, and shelter were part of the contract. Anything more than my basic necessities could be purchased from the Post Exchange with money that was allotted to me for my service, or could be ordered through appropriate channels. I would never have to earn my own living. Working a side job in order to provide for my own food, clothing, and shelter, spending hours a week shopping for my own groceries and personal supplies, laboring every day in my own kitchen, fixing my own meals with my own tiny little pots and pans would be a complete waste of government time and money. These things would distract me from doing my part in building up the "body" of the Army. I was finally free to only serve my country!

You see, other soldiers who were not serving in the same "combat arms" unit as I was were also busy day and night, building tents, cooking food, fitting boots, sewing uniforms, trucking bullets, making bombs, testing equipment, plotting routes, scouting territory, raising flags, scrubbing tile, buffing floors, shining boots, pushing up, pulling up, running, screaming, digging, teaching, training, and recruiting for the sole purpose of supporting those of us on the battlefield, that we might be completely engaged in warfare with NO DISTRACTIONS WHATSOEVER...

My duty was to become efficient with my comrades (through the tight bond of military life and service) in accomplishing whatever task was before us. We'd eat together, work together, rest together, fight together, laugh together, and cry together. Whatever we did, we did it together as one man.

Oh, how I had longed to be in such unity with my Christian friends. Why couldn't the Church learn from such an example? If the Army was capable of bringing about such unity through mere human will, why could not the "people of God" be even more united through faith in the One who had laid his life down for that very purpose? I had always wondered why the so-called Church was so divided, unable to bring about any "unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."1 It was so clear from the scriptures that the unity that comes from true love would allow the world to know that God loves to save his people from their sins. Yet, there was no visible proof that God even sent His Son into the world at all.2 Where was the resurrected life I had been told about countless times? I had read and heard enough. Now I needed to see and experience the reality of this transcending life. I was determined to find God's Army!

One day I finally stumbled upon a people who had truly surrendered all to their King, Yahshua, the Messiah. I joined my heart and my life to them and their God. Together we've obeyed His commands to forsake everything and love each other just as he loves us.3 To be His disciple means to actually "come out" from civilian affairs (the things of this world)4 and out of the camp of organized religion (Christianity)5 into the place where His Spirit dwells -- the place where brothers and sisters dwell together in unity!6 Together, we overcome all the enemies of our God &emdash; those selfish thoughts, desires and inclinations that have destroyed relationships and marred the name of our God since the beginning.

Now we are inviting everyone to come and see this wonderful life we have together as we obey the Son of God. We are becoming a special people for God's own possession -- a new set-apart culture founded on self-sacrificing love, one for another. The life of men and women set free from the bondage of sin in order to live together in unity is the joy that was set before our Master Yahshua, which gave Him the courage to fight the good fight.7 Come and be a part of the army He is gathering in these last days!

~ Joseph

  • 1. Ephesians 4:3
  • 2. John 17:20-23
  • 3. John 13:34-35
  • 4. 2 Timothy 2:4; 1 John 2:15-17
  • 5. Hebrews 13:12-13
  • 6. Psalm 133
  • 7. Hebrews 12:2; Isaiah 53:10-11

The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.

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