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“Today’s culture is blurring the lines more than ever on what it really looks like to be a man. The lines get even more blurry if you seek to be a man of God. Society places a high value on success and accepts the collateral damage of families, relationships and faith. But what does it really mean to be a man and a Christian?
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When I was driving the other day, one of the guys in the car was talking about a sweet car that his dad had and then another guy piped up and talked about his dad’s motorcycle. Then they started to talk about having these different lake or beach houses and memberships to the best clubs. It struck me in that moment that I will probably never have any of these things. Then I thought, “What if my future son was in that car? Would he be thinking, ‘man my dad is lame, he doesn’t have any of those cool things or places.’ What if he mentioned my old 4-cylinder truck or the place we lived and the fact that, not only do we not have multiple houses, he shares a room with his brother? Would he be so ashamed that he thought making up something would be better than telling the truth?”
So I started to ask myself, “What would I want my son to say in that car on that day? Would I want him to stay quiet or skirt the truth so I sound cooler to his friends?” After all, I do have a deep desire to be liked and approved. I want to be put in the categories with other dads who are successful and wealthy. I want to be able to give my son things to be proud of and make him feel valued. It sure seems like that’s what gets you talked about by your son in a car full of kids bragging on their fathers. Then I realized my desire for approval and value had sunk to a conversation between teenage kids. Why do I even care?
I sank for a second under the weight of all this and thought, “What if I fall short of worldly approval from my son? Is that all I have given him on which to stake his life and purpose?” Then, quietly in my heart I cried out, “Jesus, let me be a father of eternal things.” I want my future son to know Jesus and that is the best gift I could ever give him. Even with all the money, houses, cars, status, fame, and success, there is still only one gift you can give your sons that is eternal; and that is Jesus.
Recently, I attended a funeral for the dad of one of my close friends. It happened only a couple of days after my friend had been married. As I was traveling to Montgomery for the funeral, I was trying to make sense of everything that was likely going on in my friend’s head. I wondered, “What would I say of my father?” then, “What would I want my future son to say of me.” These thoughts swirled around in my head until my friend got up on stage and spoke of his father. His father was a very successful and wealthy man; but his son spoke none of that. His son talked about his father’s spiritual impact on his life and the legacy he has left. Then he said, “I want to tell you my dad’s favorite story.” I was ready for some wild, crazy story with a comedic ending. But, instead, he gave everyone a story that will continue to endure throughout time – the story of the gospel.
That was it. I saw then a clearer picture of what I would want my future son to say. I want to give my son all the time in the world to spend with me, as my heavenly father has given me his time. I want to be slow to anger and abounding in grace and love, as my heavenly father has been with me. I want to guide my future son toward purpose and identity, toward knowing that he is a child of the king, just as my heavenly father has done for me. I want to be a father who looks my future son in the eyes and says, “Well done. I am proud of you.” not because of his success, but because he is my son. How deep a picture is this of how the heavenly father looks on Jesus and then on us. May this be the call on my heart as a future father, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Make important to your sons the eternal, not the perishing.
“Believe it or not, I am an introvert. I get my energy from being alone and when I am around people for too long I become exhausted. Maybe this is why I have such a hard time entering into true community with other people. Who knows? What I do know is that we were created and designed to have community with other believers. However, this is no easy task, especially for me. I have struggled from high school to college with having community with believers. It’s not that I don’t like people; I love people! The difficult part is opening myself up to others. Having to be vulnerable with others is something I’m not very good at. I love to listen to others and help them work through their problems. But when it is my turn to open up and share, I struggle. My thought is that I don’t want to burden others with darkness in my heart. I feel as if what comes from my tongue does not always have worth and that what I say will either weigh others down or will fall short of being encouraging. This is where I have to constantly look to God and His character.
God in his flawless, powerful, triune character is the ideal example of community in and of Himself. The Father is in perfect unity with Christ and The Spirit and they act as one to glorify themselves. It is in this that we can see that even God needs community and uses it to do His will. Each part of God is different. The Father is powerful, awe-inspiring, creator, designer, merciful and jealous. Christ brings characteristics like humbleness, servant hood, sacrificial, lord, and king to the table. And The Spirit is the one who guides, counsels, convicts, teaches, and reminds us of truth. These three persons work together in community as one deity. If I am to imitate this community, I have to learn a lot from the example that has been set before me.
I cannot continue in this life alone. I NEED Christ and I NEED his followers. I need to trust those who Christ has called to Himself. I need to be able to be vulnerable in order to show how He has given me grace and mercy so that Christ can be glorified. I need to seek the true community that has all kinds of people from all different types of life that live life together and use their unique gifts to create the body of Christ. I need to let Christ use my tongue to encourage my brothers and trust that He knows what they need to hear. I need to share my burdens as well as taking on my brothers’ burdens.
This is why Jeff Knapp and CORE 2:42 has been so influential for me. Jeff continues to tell me to use my tongue when I feel as if my words are worthless and encourages me in my strengths and tells me to trust Christ in my weaknesses. My brothers at CORE 2:42 force me to be vulnerable by opening up their hearts. Without these people I would not be where I am today. I would be still be searching for who I really am. But through this community of brothers who want to struggle and celebrate with me, Christ is exalted. And that is how it is supposed to be.”
“Everywhere we look in life, we find conflicting views on achieving true fulfillment and happiness. There are many different worldly avenues through which one can search for significance, whether through being successful in the business field, having popularity throughout social circles, getting attention from the right girls, you name it. It is all too easy to get caught up in this secular worldview where God is, in essence, placed on the backburner as we pursue finding our own significance through worldly means. This is exactly what Satan wants, to make the things of this temporary world so enticing to our flesh that we make them more important than God.
This is by far my biggest struggle in life. Some part of me, deep down, believes that if I devote myself fully, one hundred percent to God, I will be missing out on all of the “fun” that this world has to offer. It’s only recently that God has opened my eyes to this struggle. He has given me nearly everything I desired in my selfish nature as I pursued finding my significance through other means: the girls, a great close group of friends, getting into nearly any school I desired, a great and understanding family, being highly well off, and even a state football championship. If examined solely from a secular point of view, my life would be going as well as I could hope and I should have no complaints.
But with all of these worldly, albeit positive, experiences, I lost track of God and placed Him on the backburner of my life so that I could enjoy everything else. God was the One who was truly making all of this happen for me, but rather than acknowledge Him for all that was happening, I began to place more and more focus on myself and pursuing fulfillment by these worldly means. However, again and again, I was left wanting more, and knowing that there was more! I had bought into what the world says will make you fulfilled, while making God less of a priority in my life. The irony of this is, as I tried to become more and more significant through secular means, I was truly becoming more and more empty on the inside because these things had partly taken over the position that God had in my life.
Although none of these things were bad (I still thank God every day for them), it was vital to realize God’s presence in my life and acknowledge the fact that none of this would come without Him. The fallen world that we live in calls for all of the importance to be placed on yourself and the life that you are living on the outside; while in actuality, God needs to be our priority so that our spiritual health on the inside can bear fruits that are easily seen in our outside lives. This is much easier said than done, and I still struggle with this issue daily; but it is vital to remain rooted in the fact that God alone provides true significance.”
“My name is Timothy Parks. I am 21 years old and a student at Georgia State University. I have been a part of IRON & FIRE since its inception but have known Jeff Knapp for almost 10 years.
I have lived in downtown Atlanta now for almost a year and it has definitely been a learning experience. I have struggled with many things, a marijuana addiction and lust being the main 2, and I can assure you that Atlanta caters to both of those temptations. Recently, I had been struggling with marijuana; but thanks to IRON & FIRE and our brotherhood, I knew how important it is to keep God in your life (even in times when you have fallen) and to keep a circle of brothers that you can go to in times of need.
At the beginning of this year, I got out of a bad living situation that was affecting my performance at school; and I began working on starting fresh in a better, more Christ centered environment. In my previous living arrangement, I lived a typical college lifestyle: 10 AM was a good time to start downing a couple of beers, smoking a blunt in the morning felt mandatory, and going to class, unless there was a test that day, was frowned upon. While living in an environment like this, it was nearly impossible to avoid becoming accustomed to that lifestyle, so I fell and wallowed in my sin. Thankfully, as time went on, I began to hear the Lord calling me away from it all. Everything began to lose its appeal and become dull to me. I knew it was time to get myself out of that environment before things got worse, so I did. I moved into a new place, much quieter and not filled with hundreds of college students; but this didn’t mean an end to my struggles.
It quickly became apparent that my environment was no longer the issue; I was. I found myself getting bored and not knowing what to do; and the first thing that came to mind was, “I should smoke;” and so I did. I was conflicted and my desire for change seemed to be outweighed by the current lifestyle that I was accustomed to. For a couple weeks I tried to fight the urges and make a lifestyle change by myself; but I had no luck. Once the boredom or loneliness set in and it appeared there was nothing else I could do to occupy my time, marijuana was my go-to fix and I knew it would always be available. After trying and trying to quit, I realized I didn’t have the power to overcome this by myself, so I turned to God. He created me, so surely he knew what to do about this.
I learned through IRON & FIRE that God communicates through prayer and his word. I began praying more often and spending my mornings in the Bible looking for answers. After a couple of weeks went by doing this and meeting with my brothers in CORE 2:42, I was reassured that God has better things for me than some plant. He eliminated my desires that came with boredom and loneliness. Now I have the reassurance that he set on my heart, that he died to give me a full life, and that I need to use my time and money for better things.”
“My name is Tony King and I am 23 years old. Two years ago I got a phone call from my dad who told me he was leaving my mom, after what seemed to be 21 years of a perfect marriage. I had just about every emotion flowing through my mind in all of 30 seconds. How could the one person I looked up to as a kid throw away his family? As time passed, he would come back and say, ‘I’m changed and am going to come back home…’ only to leave again. This indecisiveness tore my mother apart and left her more vulnerable.
After about a year of inconsistency, he came back for ‘good.’ They moved into a new rental home and essentially started over from scratch. Things looked great; they were both starting to go to church; they were both seeing a counselor; and they seemed to be happy with each other. In April of that year, I got married to my beautiful wife Lindsey, and it has been the biggest blessing any man could ask for. About a month after the wedding, my brother called me and told me that my father left again. This time I was enraged. All of the other times he left they separated but nothing really changed; but this time was different. This time my parents actually went through the divorce process and he will not be coming back.
After becoming a Christian, I always heard about guys having father issues and I never thought that would apply to me. No, my dad was not a Christian; but he was there for me to look up to as a child. He taught me to shoot guns, play sports, and how to treat other people. After my father left this last time, I kept telling myself that I no longer have a dad, just a father. It wasn’t until this Fathers Day that I realized I do have a Dad; and He is the one who put these trials in front of me and my family. He is the one who is molding me through the rough process of iron sharpening iron.
Understanding Gods fatherly love for me has been an issue I’ve dealt with ever since I became a Christian, until this fathers day. His redemptive spirit that I always read about and thought I understood now means something new. It means, not only does He redeem us from our sin and brokenness, He also redeems us as new children. To me, being redeemed as a child means I get to reestablish myself as a son. I realize now that I get to ‘relive’ my childhood and learn my new father’s way of life so I can someday be as much like him as possible. God is the best father anybody could ask for; and I now long to be like Him in every way.”