Jeff’s Ups and Downs

Posted by in Faith | February 4, 2014

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Editor’s Note: This isn’t a post where I’m going to go out of my way to sugar-coat anything. My steadfast belief is that God is at work and that statement is as close as I am willing to come to a disclaimer. This has been a tremendously difficult month for Jeff and Carrie and their family; and it’s worth re-capping in part for the sake of the readers who are concerned and also for the sake of our belief that telling our stories is important because we hope that their impact will exceed our expectations.

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!

Thank You Beth Bacall & 104.7 The Fish!

Posted by in Faith | January 20, 2014

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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.

Tune In to 104.7 The Fish Thursday Jan 16th, at 3PM

Posted by in Brotherhood,Faith | January 16, 2014

Tune In Thursday

Editor’s Note: Please repost and spread this message. As many of you already know, our President, Jeff Knapp is recovering from a freak accident where he was struck in the eye by a firecracker. For updates on his condition, you can join the Facebook group: Pray for Jeff Knapp. He is currently undergoing treatment in Atlanta to attempt to save his eye.

Consequently, IRON and FIRE is attempting to reach as many people as possible to ask that you keep Jeff and his wife Carrie in your prayers and consider donating to help offset their medical bills. To our surprise and delight, we just received word that Beth Bacall, of 104.7 The Fish, will be dedicating the beginning of her show to Jeff, this Thursday, January 16th at 3:00PM! If you would like to tune in, Beth will be taking calls and we would love to see some support for Jeff because he’s meant so much to all of us. We’re all behind you Jeff!

Micah Mabe: How I Found Intimacy with God

Posted by in Faith,Temptation | December 24, 2013

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Editor’s Note: When I think of Micah Mabe, I am always encouraged by how brave he has become. Unafraid to face his own issues and ask tough questions, Micah has not only valiantly struggled with things some people refuse to even acknowledge, he has sought the support and council of friends and family, who have all shared in his victories and comforted him in defeat. Intimacy with God is something that is often mentioned and rarely practiced. We would all be wise to heed Micah’s example and take his advice. Thanks for sharing your journey!

For all of my life, I have longed to be loved. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loved by my parents, friends, and God, throughout my life. He surrounded me with so many godly people; yet still, I was not always satisfied. Growing up in a Christian home and attending Christian private schools for most of my life gave me the tools to find God and know him more. Yet I longed for satisfaction in my life—I longed for love. Striving to be a good person, I sought acceptance and love in all the wrong places. Looking towards friends for acceptance, being the guy to take home to mom and dad, having a good Christian reputation, excelling in sports, and being loved by my parents (not for who I am, but what I have done), etc. were some of the things I thought would make me feel loved and happy. That was not the case, so I kept on searching.

Sure, I was a Christian. I prayed to God when I needed him or needed something from him, but I never fully embraced him for who he was. I knew he was my Savior, who had died for me and would forgive me of my sins, but I never fully experienced his love and grace because I never fully embraced him. Instead, I went to the world. I had numerous girlfriends, but could not find true love. Then I went to the internet and my iPhone, only to find a lust that would not only lead me astray from God, but would destroy my life and leave me broken and unfulfilled. Eventually, in the midst of my battles, I recognized the idols in my life, such as: baseball, friends, and my girlfriend—I had to give them up to God in order to glorify him and live for him.

I have been blessed abundantly and do not deserve the life that I have lived. Still, the question remained in my mind. “God, you have you given me the talent to play a collegiate sport, surrounded me by such godly people at a Christian college, given me a wonderful family, and placed a godly woman in my life… So why am I still on the internet lusting and ultimately looking for a satisfying love?” When times were tough, when I didn’t feel loved or accepted by my friends, family, girlfriend, or God, I would turn to lust. Afterwards, I would turn back to God in humiliation and despair, asking him, “Where are you?” I would pray constantly. I desperately wanted to experience a full, satisfying love. My family, friends, and girlfriend pointed me to a love that would satisfy, but I looked toward them instead. I finally realized that the expectations I put on my girlfriend, family, friends, and baseball, could only be met by God. I longed for my girlfriend to love me fully, but all she could do was love me as best as humanly possible. I expected satisfaction in a godly relationship despite our sin. I expected success and support throughout my life because I prayed and read the Bible, but I only got a taste of temporary satisfaction.

This search left me weary, burdened, depressed, and unsatisfied. I didn’t feel like myself. I had hope, since I had been pointed towards the answer, which was him all along. Yet I was just too selfish, angry, and doubting, because I couldn’t necessarily see him in all of this. I was broken… and that is where I found him—I found true love. Dealing with life issues as a couple, relationally and individually, my girlfriend and I decided to take some time apart from one another to focus on God. During that time, I realized that I had been living a life of me; but until I was fully broken, I couldn’t see my weakness and my need of, not just what God could do but who he is—Love.

I have been pure and abstaining from lust for almost two months now because I finally experienced His love. Through this search, I have found that that pure love can only come from God. As humans, we have unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves and others. Recently a sermon helped me realize that as humans we cannot measure up to such expectations—it is only in God that we can measure up (Matt. 11:30). When I looked to him in my brokenness, I finally realized my self-worth. It’s frustrating that it took me this long to realize that the answer had been right in front of me my whole life. But it was not until I was fully broken and sapped of my strength, from battling my flesh, Satan, and the world, that I lay there defeated, asking God to lift me up, carry me, and mold my life to His will.

By God’s grace, I finally found the answer to my prayers. An intimate, loving relationship is a “constant, selfless walk” with God. Previously, I had been lingering in my sin and then sprinting to catch up, only to find myself thirsty and out of breath. I would drink from the dirtiness of the world only to spit it back out; I would drain everything from from my friends, family, and girlfriend only to want more when they had nothing left to give. When I finally did find intimacy, it was by drinking of God’s word and actually applying it to glorify him and live in his will. Two verses that spoke to my blindness and brokenness were Mattew 27:45-46 and John 8:11. In Matthew 27:45-46, it says, “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

As I bawled reading this, I realized that it was not the physical pain which was too great for him (which I cannot even begin to imagine), but the loss of God’s presence in his life that was so crushing. Jesus lived in perfect intimacy with God and walked with God and lived every day of his life, not in his will but in his Father’s will, only to bear the weight of our sins on the cross; it crushed him spiritually as he felt the presence of God leave him. You see, Jesus longed for intimacy too; but it was not because of his sin, since he was perfect, but because of my sin that he sacrificed his life physically and spiritually for me. I was dead, but he made me alive; and I truly experienced this when I realized my brokenness. John 8:11 talks about the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned when Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” After all of the disobedience, pain, and hurt I have caused myself, my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and most importantly my God, I wondered how I could make amends and fix all that I have messed up. And that is the beauty of this verse. After so many years of lusting longing for an intimate love and destroying my life and the respect of so many others, I realized I cannot fix what I have done. Only He can.

When I read Jesus’ words, “Neither do I condemn you” I fell to the ground realizing how I don’t deserve this life God has graciously given me. I was overwhelmed with grace, love, and gratitude. I finally felt like myself. God redeemed my life and made me into a man of God. With that being said, I know I must constantly walk with God and keep watch of Satan. He has been banging on my door, verbally abusing me, and questioning my confidence, and has tempted me more now than ever; but that is the beauty of it. In these moments, God has shown himself to me even more and has pointed me back to him and enveloped me in his loving arms. Constantly praying, being in his Word, and applying it on a daily basis, has ended my search for a true, satisfying love. It is a daily struggle to live in his will and be patient and faithful, but it is through him that I am humbled in my brokenness, boast in my weakness, and love because he first loved me.

To conclude, I would like to thank Jeff Knapp and his ministry IRON & FIRE for being a huge influence in my life, my family for supporting me, encouraging me and loving me, Victoria whom I love and cherish and cannot thank enough for loving me, being there, and pointing me back to God, the French family for loving me as their son, as well as my accountability partners and those who have helped me in my struggles (Dave Hamilton, Rashad Gober, Malcolm Galwey, Kevin Hughes, my father, Jeff Knapp, Lee French, John Holland, Spencer Smith, Andrew Beck, Keith Rice, Scott Hoelsema, Chad Miller, and Victoria).

Micah Mabe

Andrew Collins: The Contentment Myth

Posted by in Faith | December 17, 2013

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Editor’s Note: First of all, let me just say how fortunate we are to have Andrew on staff at IRON and FIRE. His ambition and over-sized heart are exactly what we expect and need of our student ministry specialists. That said, it’s no surprise that he feels primed for disappointment, having risen through the college ranks, and having been promised so much by the academic world’s standards. In this vulnerable piece, Andrew explains what it means to live by the Lord’s standards instead, and how to find contentment, right where you are.

I am having an incredibly hard time with this one tiny word: contentment.

Having recently graduated and having just started my first job, I hold huge hopes, expectations, and dreams of what I want to build or become. It’s the college mindset, after all. We are to stand on the shoulders of giants and view the world as changeable. We are to believe we are invincible and have the ability to achieve anything we can dream. This mentality sets our expectations and hopes about such dreams (and how fast we will achieve them) incredibly high, until we end up confused, frustrated, angry, or discouraged, when we fail to see the progress we imagined. We feel miniscule and meaningless. But Why do we feel that way? Why do we think the world is ours to change? Is the 9-5 desk job a failure? These questions and others surround us in a whirlwind of high expectations and let-downs, when our work doesn’t immediately feel impactful.

From the age of toddlers, we are always saying, “More! More! More!” The toys we get for Christmas are only enough until the next day, when we want everything that our friends got for Christmas, as well. Picture the teenagers who seem to never have the perfect car or the incredibly hot girlfriend or the best grades, who aren’t the best athletes or the most popular, who don’t have the all-star status in youth group, and won’t get into the best colleges. Now imagine that I posed the question, “If I gave you all these things, would you not find something else that you wanted?” How would we respond?

We are creatures of need! We were gloriously made that way. It was not a fluke. The problem isn’t in the design, but in the places we seek to fulfill that design. We so often miss the beauty of our deep needs being met in an all-satisfying God. Contentment is hard!

I’ve especially learned this in ministry. I am so often thinking and asking myself, “Am I there yet?” There where? Why is There so important? If I do arrive There, will There not just become another place to strive toward the next time? There will always be here. Which begs the question, what then makes me content with being here? I love the way the apostle Paul answers this question.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Phil. 4:11-13

My There is found in Christ always. Whether it be my next few seconds or my next few years, my There is found in Christ. We have a beautiful paradox of having already arrived in the finished work of Christ, which frees us to run with gladness and endurance while we’re Here (Forget the T), because Christ has already arrived. “The more my contentment is in circumstances and achievements, the more my joy will be hijacked by discontentment” – Adam Ramsey.

See, Christ allows us Contentment for today, right Here. So rest in Christ and stop worrying so much about getting There.

Andrew Collins

Jacob Martin: The Absence of Brotherhood

Posted by in Brotherhood,Faith | December 9, 2013

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Editor’s Note: Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. This becomes abundantly clear when we lose the close friends that helped support us during difficult times in our lives. In Jacob’s case, he explains how much more difficult it is to be a high schooler, even with a group of surface-level friends, without the close bond of brotherhood, and the strength it provides. It’s also worth noting that, had it not been for Jacob’s dad being both observant and invested in his son’s life, Jacob may not have had the courage to admit to himself that he was struggling with feeling terribly alone. This ultimately allowed God to work through IRON and FIRE to pick up Jacob’s spirits and teach him a few things along the way. So thanks to Jacob and to his dad for always chasing the truth and for being faithful stewards of the relationships they have.

Brotherhood… I thought I knew how important it was; but that was back when I had it.

My name is Jacob Martin and I am a member of Jeff Knapp’s Sophomore squad; but since I transferred to Buford High School, after my freshman year at Lambert High School, I have not been able to attend the first semester of my group, due to football practice.

I transferred to Buford because the atmosphere at Lambert was awful and I felt like no one at that school worked hard because they always had everything given to them. I also thought that, by going to a mostly Christian-led school like Buford, I would be able to avoid all my other struggles, like porn, lust, masturbation, deceit, etc., but I was sadly mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I have been at Buford now for 3 months and I have made many great friends and gotten to know several great men, between the faculty and coaches, at Buford. The only problem is, the friends I have made are just friends… I have not been able to find a guy to be my brother yet. My struggles that I mentioned earlier didn’t get better either; they basically got worse because I had no brothers to share them with and to help keep me accountable. This caused my struggles to build up inside of me and made me less focused on my grades (which began to slowly drop). And because I was so messed up on the inside, I started to slowly retract from my family.

One day my dad sat me down in my room and asked me what was going on. It took a long time and lots of long pauses, but I finally got to the root of the problem. I told my dad how I couldn’t find any brothers at Buford and how all my junk had just been building up inside of me. I will never forget what he said after I finished talking. He said, “… so, is it that you are feeling alone?” At that last word “alone,” a body wrenching sob came forth from the depths of my gut and I cried uncontrollably for the next half hour. At that moment, at that word “alone,” all of what had built up inside of me came out in tears. What had been tormenting me had finally been tapped and it hurt.

The next week, I called Jeff and told him what was going on and it was so relieving to talk about it again. He told me some things that will stick with me for the rest of my life. First, “In the end, you have to make hard choices for yourself because sometimes you are stuck in the desert and there is nothing we can do.” Also, “Doing the right thing especially when it is hard is what separates the men from the boys.” Not being able to be with my brothers in his group, so far, has been one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. And Even though I do not understand completely why God has these struggles in my life, I think he is trying to teach me some important things in the absence of my group: For instance, I think he is trying to teach me the importance of forgiveness.

He led me to this verse,

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Being kind and compassionate, forgiving others just as in Christ, God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

This verse really helped me overcome some challenges at Buford. Secondly, I think God was trying to teach me how beautiful true brotherhood is. After struggling with feeling betrayed by some of my new friends at school, I called up a brother and told him what happened and asked him to pray for me. And as soon as I was done, I felt a burden lifted from my shoulders. God also led me to this verse,

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22

This is talking about the importance of obedience of brotherhood. All in all, God has really been working in my life the last couple months; and it has been hard, but the gifts I have gained from it make it worth it.

Jacob Martin