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Yearly Archives: 2014
The reality of trying to find your identity can be a daunting task, at any age level. Wandering through life with no direction is frustrating, confusing, and lonely at times. Along with many others, there was a time in my life when direction was the last thing on my mind, and my identity was found in the mirror, in my stats, and how people viewed me. Because of this, I ran from structure, responsibility, friendships, family and even God. Especially God! But eventually, I had to come to grips with who I was and what I was created to do.
By God’s design and grace, I have had many men pour their life out in the attempt to improve mine; and with deep conviction, they have held me accountable for my failures and praised me in my victories. Through their interaction with me, I have found Christ; their example was a direct reflection of Christ’s love for me. But not all of these men sought me out. I had to realize that life is not a one-person game. You have to be intentional about who you spend time with; and through that, your direction and identity will be found. This is the essential aspect to a man’s life as a follower of Christ. This is how I was able to grow and learn in Christ, surrounding myself with mentors that pour into me, peers that will encourage me, and younger guys that I can pour into. I would not be who I am today without these men and their dedication to my pursuit of God’s Kingdom.
It all started with a simple letter that one of those men shared with me years before I was ready to accept it. I believe it was a personal arrow from God meant for my heart. This man didn’t sit me down and give me a long speech or try to make it an important conversation, he simply wrote it in a letter to me before I left for college. I read the note along with the other cards I had received from graduation, took all that money out and kind of forgot about it. It sat on my desk for almost two and a half years staring at me day after day, as I lived my life for myself with no direction or identity. After two and a half years of trying to balance the parties, football, military, school, and an outward Christian shell, I knew I had to find another way to live. The Holy Spirit was doing a great work in me and I didn’t even know it.
One day, I was cleaning up and began to throw an old journal away. This journal was a collection of letters written by my ex-girlfriend’s family (she eventually agreed to marry me); we had dated in high school and she thought it would be nice to have letters from everyone since I was going far away for college. She broke my heart at Christmas my freshman year; but don’t worry guys, it only took me three years to get her back! But that’s not the import part. Re-reading these letters was so amazing. Her two little brothers talked about how much they loved me and looked up to me; her mom told me how proud she was of me and how thankful she was for how I treated her daughter; Even her older brother said how impressed he was with me and how mature I was for leading his sister in the right way; But then I got to her dad’s letter (the one I talked about earlier) that I had totally forgotten about. Here’s what it said:
There are only three thing a man needs in this life.
A Man must have
a Master to Serve, a Women to Love, and a Hill to Die On.
Now at the time, at eighteen, that did not make too much sense. But at twenty-one, living in sin, desperately yearning for direction and identity, it made perfect sense. And yes, this man is now my father in-law; but at the time, he was a father investing in me to make sure his little girl was with the right man. When I realized this, sitting on my floor in my nasty room at The Citadel in tears, it was one of the most peaceful times of my life.
Finally I had clarity; finally I had direction; and shortly after, I finally found my identity in Christ. In doing this, I completed the first step in finding my Master to Serve, giving me purpose; and no longer was I aimlessly wandering. Christ gave me direction for my life and the passion to influence and impact others, like so many have done for me.
After about six months, by the grace of God, I was able to reconnect with my ex-girlfriend, now my future wife, and no longer was I searching for a “Woman to Love.” I being to realize that it’s all about the order of things. Any time in my life where my “Master” is not number one on my list, things don’t go well; relationships end; jobs are lost; hearts are broken; and life gets really off-course. There was a very good reason why my father in-law put a “Master to Serve” first. It’s a distinct reminder that Christ is number one; and even if your “Woman” leaves and your “Hill” is burnt to ashes, your “Master” that you serve will always be there.
To wrap this up, my wife and I are working on a “Hill to Die On.” And I used to think that my “Hill” was going to be a house with some land where the kids and dog can run and play. But now at 25 years old, I think of it more as our platform as a family. How are we impacting the Kingdom of Christ? Who are we influencing in a positive way? Is Christ glorified in our actions, words, and thoughts? Those questions are my “Hill to Die On.”
It’s not complicated; it’s not fancy; and it might take you a couple years to really understand what it means; but when that arrow finally pierces your heart, you will have direction and identity in Christ Jesus; and no amount of money, success, or fame will ever compare.
When I think of one of the biggest struggles within Christianity, I am immediately brought to the issue of our image of who God is. There is a certain desire among Christians to disregard the Old Testament entirely because we want to believe in a God who is only loving, comforting, soft and safe. Well, the inherent flaw within this line of thinking is that God will always be and has always been the same. This is bad news for those of us who want a God who is safe. He is not and never has been safe. However, (to steal an amazing line from a great book) He is good.
I sometimes find myself desiring this soft and safe God who only loves; but this comes at a great cost. I have omitted the traits of God that can be hard to deal with or even talk about. When I ask for and desire a God who only coddles me and gives me what I want and not what I need, I am missing out on his goodness in discipline. I am missing out on the seasons of sorrow that seem bleak in the moment but lead to unimaginable growth and understanding. I am missing out on my protector and provider. I am as Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup to quench his hunger. When I am in the moment, I forget that there is always a plan for the pain. There is always an end goal that is for good. I forget that God has view of all things in time and space while I only have a point of view. In my seeking a loving God, I am actually seeking a God who is less loving than the living God.
Now, this may seem like a rant about a single random thought, but I believe there is a reason Christians are trying to omit certain aspects of God’s character and it is a tough pill to swallow. I believe that the specific parts of Gods that we are avoiding are the parts of his image he has specifically molded into men.
When I think of marriage, I see a more complete picture of God than in any other place on this side of heaven. Women embody the more gentle-natured and caring side of God’s heart while men are more of protectors of their family and providers for their family by nature. These qualities of God, specifically placed in men and women, are to provide us with a better image of who God really is. I believe that we men have failed at embodying our half. We have missed the mark by either being too overly authoritative, too passive, or too absent.
This is not all men, as I personally could list off many names who do embody these qualities well, but as a whole generation of men, we are failing. This is why I believe IRON and FIRE is doing amazing kingdom work in the hearts of men. We need to succeed as men. It is not only important that the next generation have fathers that love them well, but it is also imperative that we give the world a better picture of how God loves us, without being weak.
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. 10 Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, ‘Where is the LORD your God?’ My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.”
Micah 7: 7-10
In our day and age, even as young men, the obsession with dating has reached an unprecedented level. Nowadays you rarely meet a middle-schooler who hasn’t “dated” anyone. These so-called dating relationships last a few weeks to a month or two at most. Now, personally, I believe, and this is my opinion, that when you can drive someone somewhere and then go eat or go to a movie and then drive them back to their house, that is a date. The word dating doesn’t implicitely include make-out sessions, sex, or total exclusivity, by any means. But these relationships almost always end in anger, heartache, broken friendships, and two people who are worse for wear. And that’s just middle-school.
Then you move to high school relationships, where it is worse. These relationships are almost solely based on physical highs and emotional entanglement with flimsy boundaries that are easily exploited. I’ve read stats that only 2% of high school sweethearts get married. I believe this is due to most dating relationships being based on infatuation or puppy love. On top of this, I bet if you ask a friend in a relationship what their goals are or why they like that person, they will stare blankly back at you or say they have never thought of that before. My dad challenged me to set goals in my relationships with people, especially girls, and especially when I start dating. In my opinion, I don’t feel like dating is a smart idea until about freshman year in college. This doesn’t mean I’ve never liked a girl or had feelings for one before; I have just seen where these young relationships lead: decreasing grades, obsession, and usually gradual seclusion from friends and family. This is not healthy for anyone, especially a maturing Christian man, so I have resolved to not date until later in my life; because at this point, I don’t see the wisdom in it at such an early age.
At this point, I have never kissed a girl. I feel like it gets you too emotionally entangled with her and leads to other, more risky things. Some words of wisdom from a friend to me were that kissing leads to babies… meaning that once you open that door, you put yourself on a downward slide of more compromising behaviors. I am lucky to have such a wise and Godly father who has been able to guide me down this winding road and has set me up for success to avoid the same traps that he experienced, and I am forever greatful for that. I have been fortunate enough to read books by great Christian authors on dating by Biblical standards as well as on girls and what they want deep down inside. These have given me a different perspective on what God wants and what girls want. At times I feel like I am hopelessly alone in my convictions and wonder if I am doing the right thing; but I am continuously encouraged by older men’s stories, along with young men in college, encouraging me keep up my resolve.
It may sound like I am against dating, but I am most definitely not. I just feel that before you fall head over heels for a girl and start dating, just because she makes you feel good and is hot, you need to take a few weeks or even a month or two to let the infatuation wear off and pursue a friendship instead. This doesn’t mean you can’t like her; it just means that you should make wise decisions. When you do finally begin to date, make sure to set clear goals and boundaries and never throw your relationship with God to the wayside. Also, try your best to not fall into the trap of physical entanglement; because I bet if you ask your dad or one of his friends if they regret being sexually active or promiscuous in high school, every one of them would answer with a whole-hearted yes. It’s not worth a world full of heartache for a few moments of an emotional high. Again, I am not against dating in high school; I just encourage everyone to be very methodical in choosing a person and in beginning a dating relationship.
Today I feel entitled. Yeah yeah, I know; that’s what they all say about my generation. They say it’s because we’ve been given too many “participation” trophies, too much praise, we’ve been coddled too much, and not challenged enough. Well regardless of whose fault that is, today I feel entitled.
I feel entitled to a great job, to lots of great friends who like to have adventures, to the good life, and a good wife, and the American dream. And if I have to wait for those things, could You at least give me a hot date and a championship for the “Dawgs?” Man, I’ve been waiting for a while now. I’ve suffered the pain of rejection and spent a nice chunk of my life on the outside looking in. Come on, please? I’m not asking for anything impossible here. You are God. You can do anything and You told me to ask. I’ve been waiting, man. I’ve even incorporated You into my wish-list. I really want this job to help the Kingdom flourish. I want the girl that’s beautiful and loves You. I’m not asking to live in Johns Creek. I’d just like to have enoughh money to go to some Georgia games and give to my favorite ministries. You know I’m not going to sell You out for the world. I’d just like to have You plus the world. I want the party on Friday, the date on Saturday, and church on Sunday. Come on, God! I’ve been in the field most of the day, and you gave the folks who showed up an hour ago the same as me? Why does it feel like everyone else got a balloon and I didn’t? Everybody else got a cherry on their milkshake; why didn’t I? We’re both equally undeserving; so why them and not me? Haven’t I been through enough disappointment to justify a few blessings?
Oh, what’s that You say? You have blessed me? It’s true. You did send Jesus to die for the salvation of my soul. That should be enough; but as long as You’re handing out bonuses, I want in on them! What have You done for me lately? Ah yes, You did provide my first car, not too long ago. But everyone else had one in high school. Oh, but that’s not it, You say? You’ve given me a life with two “cherries” on top? True, my parents aren’t divorced and my family isn’t “broken.” I come from a middle class family, putting me in the global 5%. I’m healthy, I’m talented, and I graduated with honors from the University of Georgia, which, when added together, is essentially a ticket into the global 1%. I’m a member of the most privileged demographic in world history; plus, You decided to save me.
I did get a milkshake with two “cherries” on top and yet I’m complaining about all the people sitting next to me who got three. To the world, I must look like a millionaire complaining he’s not a billionaire. Yet You still love me unconditionally. David McNeely preached about God asking him, “If you had a choice between having a brand new house without Me, and a rundown house with Me, what would you choose?” Well I want the nice house; but isn’t it true that who you share the house with matters more than the house itself? Plus, You’ve given me a good house. The problem is, I feel entitled to a great house. Can I be satisfied if You decide it’s better for me to have ‘good enough?’ You won’t cheat me, and You’ll always provide what I need to live. Do I trust that You alone are enough?
I know there’s nothing wrong with wanting or desiring all the things I wrote about; and I’m beginning to think the grass is often greener on the other side because I keep watering it. Maybe there’s a difference between desiring and deserving. I’ve crossed that line and I’m sorry, God. Please rescue me; because today I feel entitled.
As most of you know, Jeff was struck in the eye by a firecracker on January 3rd and air-lifted to a hospital. Since then, he has seen many doctors and had several procedures in an ongoing effort to save his eye, and in the hope that his vision might eventually be restored. Currently, Jeff has very milky vision in that eye, which is very sensitive to light, and does not have full control of his eye-lid (an unforeseen obstacle that is staggering in practical consequence). What many of you don’t know is that the psychological effect of the trauma, and the ongoing burden of a highly uncomfortable life, is very difficult to manage, much less come-to-terms with. Fortunately, Jeff is a strong man and is married to a strong woman. Unfortunately, strength alone isn’t always enough to comfort us. Because our vision is so intimately tied to the way we process thought, in order to imagine the exhausting, confusing nature of Jeff’s injury, you must imagine feeling helpless as your brain struggles to regain its footing and forge new paths that once came naturally. What was once easy is temporarily more difficult; and the adjustment period (though try calling it an “adjustment” or a “period” to someone in the middle of it) is both frustrating and disheartening. And from a physical standpoint, the reality is that some things may never be as simple as they once were. Some things may be lost for good.
The most recent doctor’s visit brought some interesting developments. Jeff’s cornea appears to be healthier than previously anticipated, and he will be fitted with a membrane contact to replace the protective layer that was surgically attached to cover his entire eye in weeks past. His eyelashes are causing some problems and steps will be taken to ensure that they grow in the correct direction and don’t further irritate or hinder his recovery. Although concerned about a possible infection (a very real threat with dire consequences because of the eye’s proximity to the brain), doctors continue to take extreme precautions and seem hopeful that through preventative measures they can give Jeff the best possible chance of his eye surviving. They aren’t out of the woods yet, but every step seems to be forward. At that point, there are many surgical and medical options which become available. Until then, our prayers are for the eye’s survival and healing on its own accord.
Please join me in supporting Jeff and his family. Even the outpouring of love can be exhausting. Telling and re-telling the story and interacting with the endless stream of well-wishers is taxing and I want to recognize that fact. Never-the-less, our prayers are making a difference. Jeff reminds me of that fact almost every time we speak. And the folks who have come out of the woodwork to support his family financially by donating on the website have been some of his favorite stories to share. So I can say with certainty that, the generosity and rapport from his community is overwhelming in good ways as well.
Jeff’s spirits are up and down. I told him I expected it to be day to day; he said it’s hour to hour. So keep him in your prayers throughout the day. God’s up to something, and we know it; and I can’t help but wonder if he’s doing something in each of OUR hearts, without Jeff even realizing. We love you Jeff. You’re in good hands, between Carrie and the doctors and a God who knows pain and heartbreak first-hand. Feel Better!
Editor’s Note: First and foremost, we want to thank God for showing us a part of his plan that supersedes our understanding or foresight. We believe that he is good and that his good work will be done through us. Secondly, we want to thank Beth Bacall and 104.7 The Fish, for graciously giving us a platform to spread word of our President Jeff Knapp‘s injury and the ways in which the community can help support him and his family in his time of need. Over the last few days, the response from our community of believers, donors, friends, associates, family, and well-wishers has been absolutely astonishing.
Thank you from IRON and FIRE for supporting our President, the visionary behind this ministry. For regular updates on his status, please join this Facebook group. We will be posting an update on his progress on our own blog within the week to answer some questions about specific treatments and progress and to ask for prayer. Thanks again to Beth and The Fish and all of you who have rallied around us. God is certainly doing something in our hearts and can be felt in our midst. To him be the glory.
In case you missed it, this past week Beth dedicated her radio show to Jeff, and 104.7 The Fish was kind enough to share this post on their Facebook fan page, exposing us to an incredible community of believers.