We’re truly a relational ministry [slideshow]

Posted by in Brotherhood | December 3, 2015

We’re a truly relational ministry

This means celebrating birthdays and graduations together. It means barbecues and lake days and late night trips to Waffle House. It means dealing with heartbreak and tragedy and death and divorce and struggle and addiction and doubt and battling fear. We are big on accountability and making time for one another – even during the darkest hours of the longest nights. We’re also big on celebrating our victories. Click below to see a window into that world…

Brotherhood slideshow from IRON and FIRE on Vimeo.

James Blain: Pain Has to Run Its Course

Posted by in Brotherhood | March 25, 2015

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Editor’s Note: Many of you already know James. He’s the newest, full-time addition to IRON and FIRE’s staff; and his influence on our young men has been tremendous. In this telling piece he wrote, James talks about the elephant in the room: Pain. It’s easy for us to talk about how we will react when things become painful. It’s easy for us to ignore the likely pain our decisions can cause. And it’s difficult for us to see the benefits of pain and the role it can serve as a teacher. It’s harder still to admit that our own ability to reach someone can fall short. And sometimes, their own pain is the thing that can break through. James is no stranger to pain or to breakthroughs. Join me in reading this piece and thanking James for his insight.

“Someone once told me that pain is the best teacher and sometimes pain has to run its course; and if you interfere, you may keep a person from learning a lesson that only pain can teach. Why do I bring this up? Why is this relevant to IRON and FIRE? Well, I wouldn’t be here if pain didn’t run its course in my life. I was a rebellious, stupid, arrogant, and hurting individual; and I thought I knew everything. I took all my anger and pain out on many people but my parents caught the bulk of it. I verbally, physically, emotionally and in any other way disrespected them publicly and behind closed doors. I stole from them; I cursed them; I fought them; I told them I hated them; and even through all that, they never gave up on me. They tried everything they could think to do to help me. But when it got so bad and they had tried it all, they did what most parents couldn’t; they handed me over to my pain. They trusted the Lord enough to let him do what they couldn’t. Looking back on all that took place to get me where I am today, I now understand what “pain has to run its course” really means.

When I first came to IRON and FIRE, I was thrown into the lions’ den, so-to-say. I took over the group of seniors in high school and was surprised, to say the least, at the way I was accepted. I’m young, have long hair, a beard, tattoos, a cool story, etc.–High school kids should like me, right? Wrong. They hated me. I sat in that group for about three months quietly watching them interact with each other and joke around. Any time I spoke up, they would glare at me silently as if I just completely disrespected them. It was brutal, and trying for me because I’m the type of person that wants to be liked by everyone. The longer I sat there, the more they realized the I wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t tell you exactly what changed but something gave, because they began to get serious and share things with me that they wouldn’t dare speak of. Not to toot my horn but they love me now. When they see me, they’re excited to see me; and when I speak into their lives, they listen and are thankful for me.

I see some of myself in these guys and I want so badly to help them. The last thing I want is for these guys to go through what I went through. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, the last thing they want to hear is “don’t do this, don’t do that.” What they really need is for me to be transparent about my struggles; they need me to pour my crap on the table and show them how much I need Jesus because it makes them feel like its ok to screw up; its ok fall short. It’s not about messing up and falling short; it’s about confessing it to your brothers and to Jesus and then letting each other know we’re forgiven. One of the hardest lessons that this group teaches me is that pain has to run its course. Pain is a better teacher than I could ever be; but when that pain comes, I’ll be there. I’ll be there to comfort and love because that’s what brothering is all about; that’s what doing life together is all about. Jesus didn’t die so that we don’t feel pain; he died so that we could fight our way through it with the hope that one day we will be with him.”

James Blain

Matt Sims: Not Done Loving

Posted by in Faith | September 30, 2014

Faithful

Editor’s Note: We all know what it’s like to fall into a routine. And we all know how hard it is to break out of our comfortable cycles. Matt Sims speaks on the constant struggle to keep God at the forefront of your life. He also touches on the beautiful promise of God to never leave us or forsake us, even when we feel defeated. Thanks for the reminder, Matt.

“I find myself going through a routine each week. I go through the week without living how I should be living—on fire for Jesus. Then I’ll get to Sunday and sit in church and get inspired. I’ll think, yeah, this week is going to be different. I’m going to make a difference and be a light for Jesus. I am finally done sinning… And then the routine begins again.

Thankfully, God is up there, saying, no Matt. No you’re not done sinning… but I am not done loving you, either.

I have been so incredibly blessed with so many talents and I don’t use them for his glory. Even though I may say I’m playing ball for God to be glorified, in reality, I don’t mean it. Constantly living for God is not easy at all; but I challenge you brothers to strive for this and not to get caught up in the typical Christian routine. Believe me, it’s not fun.

Recently, I have been better about glorifying him in all that I do and praising him in my victories and failures; but I’m nowhere close to perfect. It’s so hard to praise him during failure. But what I always try to remember is what Jesus did—why he carried his cross.

Behold, he said, I am making all things new.

That hits me hard. I’m through waiting on my moment. Every day is my moment to praise him, no matter what. And I encourage ya’ll to join me.

Were not done sinning. BUT, God is most definitely not done loving us and never will be.

Have Faith. He’s coming to make all things new.”

Matt Sims

Drew Wernick: What Defines Me?

Posted by in Faith | September 24, 2014

Faithful

Editor’s Note: What inspires your faith? Drew Wernick takes us through the fictional account of one of our beloved superheroes and pop icons, Batman, and asks the haunting question, What if Bruce Wayne just sat in his mansion and let his city crumble? He suggests that the benefit to sharing our faith is not just one-sided but benefits us as well and we couldn’t agree more. Whether by making us more comfortable in tough situations, or by giving us the chance to learn how to prepare ourselves better, the experience of sharing our faith will inadvertently buoy it if we find our satisfaction in Jesus. Thanks Drew!

Its not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

“Almost every guy my age will know that this is a quote from Batman ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ But have we ever taken a second look at that quote? Yes, this quote does come at a very inspirational point in the movie; but in many ways it can be an inspiration to our faith. One could argue that what’s underneath does matter; and I completely agree with that statement. Although, what good is it to believe everything we believe and yet do nothing about it? The reality of it is that, as believers, we are called to go out and do something. We can go to a Christian school our entire lives and learn all the right and wrong Jesus answers… But what good does that do if we don’t go and live our lives for the Lord? We are, in theory, this world’s Dark Knights. So if we are the Dark Knights of this earth, then we must go out and save it as we are called to do.

What if Batman went through all of his training and learned the right things to do, but he never did anything about it? What if he never went out and fought Gotham’s criminals but instead stayed in his mansion and watched his city crumble? That is what we are doing as believers when we do not share our faith. We have been equipped with all this great knowledge and yet, when a situation comes for us to use our skills, we back out and say, ‘Well, now is not a good time.’ I challenge you to take a stand. And the next opportunity you are presented, share what you believe. This may not be some ground-breaking experience where your friend turns their life around and follows Christ; but it will make it easier as time goes on and you are given new opportunities.

Batman took a stand to fight Bane and walked out of that fight with a broken back. He did not win that first fight; but it showed him what he must do in order to win future battles. We, as sinners, are going to lose many battles; but we should not let those losses define who we are. When we lose we must rise back up and keep fighting—because in the end we know God’s side has won.

God individually hand-picked every single believer and called them to a unique purpose here on earth. Now, I can’t say that I know what my purpose is yet; and many of you are probably in the same boat as me. But how are we going to find that purpose if we hide in the shadows and say, ‘Well, God didn’t give me the gift of preaching so I’m going to let the preachers invest in possible believers and I will sit here and watch?’ That is not the mindset God intended a believer to have; and if we believe that mindset, then we are really just being selfish. If what we believe is true, then why in the world would we not go around sharing the name of Christ to everyone we meet? Is it because we are insecure and we don’t want to be judged? Well, what if I told you that you shouldn’t care if those people judge you because you have all the satisfaction you need in Jesus?

‘It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.’

So go out and do something.”

Drew Wernick

Jesse Vaughan: The Importance of Friends

Posted by in Temptation | September 16, 2014

Faithful

Editor’s Note: Have you ever been faced with the choice of following along with your friends, though you might not approve of their actions, or risk being without friends at all? It’s a difficult place–one that we need not visit if we’re careful to have a band of brothers that we can fall back on and a savior we count as a friend. Thanks to Jesse Vaughan for his introspection and his careful wording as he details his own battles and the lessons he learned.

“My name is Jesse Vaughan, and I am going to share how friendships have affected my life greatly. Friendships were designed to make life more enjoyable but also to strengthen the soul of each other. Unfortunately, the part I lacked was that some of the friends I made were in no way good influences on the way I wanted to live.

This story begins when I decided to start public high school with no Christian guy friends. As baseball season came along, I made some friends, whom at first seemed completely harmless. In fact, I was fooled into thinking I was leading them to Christ. At the end of my freshman year, two of those friends decided to smoke weed for the first time, which then ended up being a weekly thing for them. I was influenced greatly although I was able to stay clean for quite some time. At this point, I would still hang out with them because – well, they were my friends. I was not ready to give them up and be alone. I thought I could continue to be friends with them and still live clean from drugs and alcohol. I would soon learn how difficult this would be.

The first weekend after school started I went to my friend’s lake house with another friend. This is where I finally gave in to the temptation of alcohol, which later lead to the use of drugs. I must explain all of this to emphasize that the main reason this occurred was due to the fact that I didn’t choose the right friends at first. “Bad company corrupts good morals” is what I have always been told, but just didn’t get it until later.

During baseball season of my sophomore year, a parent of one of my other friends caught her daughter with drugs and told all the parents of the kids she had been texting. I was not on this list but two of my friends were, which is how my parents found out about their actions. I then could not hang out with those two kid anymore, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was lacking a best friend (later I would recognize that I have a perfect best friend who is there wherever I go). As my friends got kicked off the baseball team, all I felt was guilt because I was right there with them doing that stuff. This lead to me confessing to my parents, and truly repenting, and coming to the realization that without Jesus as my best friend, I would never be able to overcome the devil.

God tells us that every day it is necessary to put on the armor of Christ, which is true. Although, fighting a battle with no other soldiers from God’s army is a definite loss; therefore, it’s also necessary to find a band of brothers all fighting for the same cause; but to be certain of an overall victory, God has to be the leader. Of course, there will be fallen soldiers and lost battles; but I have read the back of the book and if we stay on God’s team, we win!”

Jesse Vaughan

Ethan Langston: Calling vs. Purpose

Posted by in Faith | August 19, 2014

Faithful

Editor’s Note: Today Ethan gives us an interesting question to ponder: have we considered our purpose beyond our immediate calling? Many of us fall into the easy line of thinking that suggests that our comfortable position of acting in accordance with our gifting is the end goal of our Christian responsibility. Ethan questions that and challenges us to look a little closer. We could all stand to take his advice!

“In high school, my IRON and FIRE small group was not only a great group of friends, but also a place where I felt comfortable discussing what I felt God was doing in my life. In college, I have been able to follow that model in other small groups I have joined; and I’ve found it’s incredibly important to be surrounded by a group of people that care about what God is doing in my life and are open to discussion about anything that may be on my mind. Also, I’ve found that God teaches me a great deal through investing in the lives of the people around me.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. What is my purpose? What is my role in the body of Christ? What does God want me to do in regards to furthering His Kingdom? Having a small group of guys to talk to about thoughts like these has been uplifting; and seeing how God is working in each of their lives is encouraging. Jeff [Knapp] has certainly found his purpose, what he has been called to, and it is encouraging to have someone that close that has found his calling and has pursued it.

I think it’s often easy to assume we have figured out our calling, thus making it easy to be caught up in the motions of our personal lives and possibly miss God’s bigger picture. For example, I feel like God has led me to lead worship in the church, at least for the time being. But, is he calling me to something more? What if I’m not only supposed to step in and do my part, but God also wants to use me to make some kind of change to the “worship scene?” I’ll never know if I play it safe and do what everyone else has always done before. I don’t think God wants us to live safe lives; but rather, He wants us to listen to Him and be open to His plans for us, even if they seem crazy at the time. The world tells us otherwise, though. Even your “average Christian,” like me, lives a safe life. We want to be comfortable; it’s human nature. I know I’m going to come home every night, eat, and go to bed—but what about Paul in Colossians? He was all over the world, often in danger, doing what God had called him to do. Now, I don’t think that we are all called to outright preaching like Paul was; but that was his calling, and he was always open to what God had to say.

I have been looking for answers to these questions in the Bible, and James 1:22-25 explains it perfectly:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

If we truly seek God, we will find our identity in Christ; but it doesn’t end there. God wants us to be a part of His plan on a daily basis. I hope I have not given the impression that I think I have this figured out because I am nowhere near finding all the answers; but I pray that God continually reveals His Will to me. Although we often don’t see the bigger picture of how God uses us in His plan, I find it to be incredibly rewarding when he does choose to reveal how He has used us to further His kingdom after we have been faithful servants to Him.”

Ethan Langston