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Monthly Archives: October 2013
“Where does brotherhood come from and what does it mean?
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, Brotherhood is defined as:
1 the relationship between brothers.
• the feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of people or all people: a gesture of solidarity and brotherhood.
2 an association, society, or community of people linked by a common interest, religion, or trade: a religious brotherhood.
• a labor union.
The word brotherhood has two parts, brother, and the suffix, hood. The word brother is defined as a male numbered among the same kinship group, nationality, race, profession, etc., as another; an associate; a fellow member, fellow countryman, fellow man. The suffix, hood, is added onto words to denote a state, character, condition, nature, etc. or a body of persons of a particular character or class. When put together the two mean a group of men joined together in a group.
So why have brotherhood? As humans, we are social by nature; we desire to be with other people. Brotherhood among Christians is a close connection with other Christian men. It’s a way for Christian men to help each other through life, face the hardships of life together, and sharpen each other through it. Proverbs 27:17 ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ This is the verse of our brotherhood; we are iron sharpening one another.
As Jeff has often said to us, the process of forging iron is a hard one. The iron must be heated and hammered, sparks fly, and the metal bends under the force of each blow. At the end of the painful process, a beautiful work of craftsmanship is completed. That is what we do in the brotherhood of IRON and FIRE. We are there for each other in the tough times; but we also sharpen each other, holding each other accountable and saying things that sometimes hurt, in order to become the fine pieces of craftsmanship that God intends for us to be.
For me, the journey of brotherhood began my freshman year when I first started in a small group with Jeff. We started with six brothers, adding a seventh my sophomore year. This band of brothers helped me through many tough times in my life: struggles in faith, relationship issues, poor decisions, and many more. I can’t imagine how different my life would be without this group of brothers. It wasn’t easy at times; as I said before, it can be a hard process. It hurt when they pointed out my flaws and when they called me out on my wrongs; but that’s not all they did, they were healing as well. They were there to pick me up and say, ‘You screwed up big time brother. I love you; now let me help you heal.’ These guys were there for me when it counted. The journey of life is tough. You need people around you to help keep you strong and keep you on track; those are your brothers. This is brotherhood.”
“In the summer of 2011, my pastor Randy Pope did a teaching on “The Ultimate” which he defined as the act of servitude. Months before I heard him speak on this, I always thought of the word “serve” as maybe, helping my mom take out the trash when she told me to, or giving some money to a homeless man so that God will be happy with me; but I soon discovered that I was looking at it in the wrong way.
It started with a trip to Bulgaria with an old man. I had always wanted to travel the world and this man gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Bulgaria and help him get around and play a little music with him while he preached to a community of a very small church. I thought, “Hey! How hard could it be just to move a few bags around and watch over this guy for two weeks?” Well, it was really hard.
Not only did I have to move bags, but I had to push him through the entire airport in a wheel chair, while making sure that I did not lose his or my passports or belongings, buy him food, deal with him getting angry at the security checkpoints, because he didn’t like having to take off his belt or shoes, which seemed to take about 30 minutes every time, and put some gross stuff on the bottom of his feet, just to name a few of the tasks asked of me. And yet, through all of the ups and downs of that trip, I learned that God was teaching me something great.
I got back from Bulgaria and at first I was just glad to be away from that man; but then I noticed how incredibly blessed I was to be living in such a great country with so many things that I did not deserve. In fact, with so many people serving me in so many ways, I almost felt ashamed at how I was acting. I should have been happy to serve that old man and help him spread the name of Jesus, even if it was uncomfortable for me. Weeks after that, I heard Randy Pope’s teaching and finally understood. I am here to reflect my savior Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate servant; and I must strive to be like Him every day of my life.”
“He must become greater, and I must become less.”
– John 3:30
“I have never really felt like I’ve been great at being manly. That is not to say that I am not manly; it’s just, often when I think of manly activities, I think of lumberjacks chopping down trees, building projects with your own two hands, benching 400 lbs, fixing cars, etc.. Yes, I do realize that my idea of manliness is extremely one-sided; but so is yours; and these are the first things that I (and maybe even you) associate with being a man.
Manliness has been incredibly skewed by our sinful nature; and as a result, we have created an army of physically strong, dominating, uncompassionate little boys who think they are acting like men. This is one of the trends that IRON and FIRE is trying to buck; but cultivating true manliness is hard because it goes against the flow of common culture.
This is why Jeff is devoting all of his time to molding young men to be more like Christ. Many think that being like Christ is not manly at all; but they could not be more wrong. He is kind and compassionate; but he is also strong in power. He shows spiritual strength and loves unconditionally.
The reason I have been thinking about these things recently, is because I just got engaged, and this is where the rubber meets the road. This is the time that I must take all that I have learned, in terms of being a man, and apply it to being a husband and eventually a father. This is why people like Jeff are so important in young men’s lives. He has shown me, through Christ, aspects of what it is to truly be manly. He has shown me that strength not only comes in the form of physicality, but that a true man also has strength in terms of intellect, integrity and most importantly spirituality.
Although Jeff has played has played an important role in molding my idea of manliness, the person that has most shaped this idea, like most other young men, is my dad. My dad is kind, funny, strong in character, gracious, and loving. He has shown me that manliness must be shaped around the characteristics of Christ and Christ alone. He has shown me that a household that is centered on the Gospel is one that stands strong on a steady foundation. Does he fail in being a father? Of course he does. He isn’t perfect; but he goes to the one who is perfect so that Christ may be exalted. This is true manliness.
Young men, adapt the characteristics that exemplify Christ, which you have seen in those who pour into you. They can be hard to spot sometimes under the layers of faults; but, if you strive to know Christ, they will be evident. Mentors and fathers, you will fail your sons and those who you mentor. It is only how you react to those failures that will show whether your character and identity is in Christ. And if you find your character and identity in Christ, that is when you can give the greatest gift you can give to a young man; a picture of Christ, a picture of true manliness.”
The gospel is a horrible sales pitch. You are asking men and woman from all over to give up worldly possessions, die to the life they live, and go on and sin no more. Why? We have a savior whose love is so much more radical, scandalous, and ridiculous, that it calls people out of the darkness and to a place of grace and mercy. But what happens after? What happens after the honeymoon phase is gone; after the high of salvation is seemingly distant and all of a sudden you feel as distant or even further away from God than you were before? After being a follower of Christ for 3 years, I’ve realized that the one thing that is so hard to do, is to stand when your burden gets big.
Even after being saved, I always found myself trying to walk the line of Do’s and Don’ts. And after every don’t I stepped into, I would come to Jeff with my tail between my legs, whimpering like a dog caught peeing on the cross. So much shame and guilt came out in each meeting because I kept going back to pornography, or found I was looking for acceptance from my friends, or based my faith on how much I knew about the bible and how I served God. There was so much pride and arrogance in my walk because I didn’t realize the extra work that needed to be done in my own heart. Being a Christian is hard and it takes work. Being part of Iron and Fire and being discipled by Jeff has shown me this. This past summer, I left for Africa on a mission trip. During one of the last meetings I had with Jeff, I came to him like the guilty dog and confessed and repented to him. This time he wasn’t so gentle with his rebuke and told me this, “Cam, you need to relax because you are a lot worse off than you think you are.”
With these words in mind, I left for Africa asking God what he meant. He quickly revealed idols that were rooted deeply into my heart. These idols were keeping me away from God’s grace and the deep relationship that I was longing for. The first week in Durban, my team and I worked in an orphanage camp. I was so humbled by how these children had almost nothing but had smiles and so much joy. By American standards, these kids had no reason to be happy; but they had life so they had every reason to be happy. This shook me to the core and then my sin was so apparent to me. I found so much worth in approval, how I look, what I did, and how I served, that my focus was taken completely off the cross. It took God sending me to the other side of the planet outside my comfort zone to show me this. This is where working out your faith comes in and this brings me back to my initial point. The reason why the cross seemed so far away from me, is that I let it stay small. I gorged on His grace and didn’t see that I was getting comfortable laying in the idols that I had unknowingly made for myself.
After coming back to the States, I picked up my promised cross. It was heavy because I saw my weakness when I went overseas. That said, this season has been full of new trials and it’s been extremely difficult. It also has come with new joys and a deeper relationship with Christ because as my weakness has become more apparent, His strength and grace have grown all the more. I can count it all as pure joy like James tells us in chapter 1. Just like Jesus saw the Joy set before Him, I too see the joy set before me. It is beautiful and so worth working towards.