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Category Archives: Brotherhood
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…
“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.”
“Food taste better when you are hungry. I feel like there is a certain point I reach when even cooked cardboard tastes as good as filet mignon from Ruth Chris. That point seems to only occur when I am trying to hunt or fish—There was one time when Dad and I were fishing and we didn’t bring any food on the boat. Our guide had 2 pieces of fried chicken; and after a long day of not catching much, half of a drumstick from a very reluctant fishing guide was the most delicious morsel I had ever put in my mouth!
The disciples had a similar experience in John 21. They didn’t quite know what to make of the new resurrected Jesus; and like a true fisherman, Peter and some of the other disciples went out to fish and clear their mind. They caught nothing. The cruel mistress that is the Sea of Galilee bested their angling efforts once again. As they were about to get off the lake, a man (Jesus) appeared to them on the shore. The man told Peter and the other disciples to cast on the other side of the boat. Casting in Biblical times was not a matter of leisurely flicking a pole with bait on the end; casting was more along the lines of throwing a bunch of rocks as hard as you can—more along the lines of trying to run a shrimp boat without any mechanical equipment. Long story short, Jesus miraculously directs them to a monster catch—so big that it was a miracle that the nets didn’t break—and I am not using a figure of speech. However, the ending of the story is what really struck me. Jesus took the time to set up a small charcoal fire and was smoking some fish for the disciples to eat as soon as they got off the water. I can only imagine the elation on the disciples’ faces when they turned around to see the beautiful, brownish-white filets grilling out on the fire.
Jesus took the time to cook fish for a group of men who had completely abandoned him and left him to die just a short time before. These appreciative fishermen remembered so much about the meal that they deemed it important enough to record for all eternity in the canonized scriptures. This gives us a very intimate picture of Jesus—seeing him as somebody who cares so much for the men in his life that he goes through the preparation and planning to have a hot meal ready for some weary fishermen.
When we go about our lives, I am left wondering if we often forget the simple things. Thanksgiving is now coming and America is about to enter in what I like to call the “Marathon of Feasts.” From thanksgiving forward, we set out our best and most delicious food for the ones we love. The casserole that mom makes just right or the fried shrimp pa might try to cook are the types of homemade specialties that we will be stuffing our gullets with for the next month. Food is a great way to show appreciation and love. So next time you are chowing down on a Christmas afternoon rib eye or a four layer cheese dip on New Year’s Day, remember to be appreciative of what you have been blessed with; and consider your quickly defeated hunger a sign of the things to come, when the bread of life feeds you eternally!”
“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.
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!
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.
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.