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Category Archives: Faith
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.
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.
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.
“The past couple months or so, I have noticed my relationship with God growing more and more distant. Between constantly staying busy with activities such as school, work, Jiu jitsu, and competitive shooting, I found my self spending very little time with God. Whether that was church, reading my bible, or praying, it all got placed on the back burner. I found myself gravitating towards worldly desires to solve my problems in life.
Over the past week, I got back in touch with an ex-girlfriend; I often convince myself that I’m still in love with her, no matter how unhealthy that might be. The combination of being constantly busy and being disappointed and all these other factors put me into a very sad place. I questioned myself. Why am I in school? Why do I even try anymore? Why do I feel so broken? I realized I had been depending upon worldly things to make me happy.
I was sitting in bed one evening when I had that realization. I looked over at my Bible, which literally had dust on it. I picked it up and the first verse that I noticed was Isaiah 40:29, ‘He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.’ This verse really inspired me as I realized I was, in fact, weary and weak. That was exactly how I felt; I was weak without God; and I knew nothing but my faith in God was going to rescue me from that. I pray that I will not falter again. I know The Lord will give me strength no matter how weary, sad or beaten I might feel.
To my fellow brothers, I want to remind you that your strength comes from God. My all time favorite verse is Philippians 4:13. It is a great reminder that God always has your back. So when you’re feeling down or sad, pick up that Bible; call a brother; get back in church. Do whatever it takes to get your life back on track with God.”
In Luke 11:9, Jesus says,
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 reads,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
My original interpretation of these verses led me to believe that knowing Jesus was as simple as knocking on His door. When He opens I would be fully assured of the Holy Spirit in my life and in that moment I would forever be changed. In other words, meeting God is a one-time thing. Yet, very recently, my interpretation of these verses has changed.
For many people in my life, their first encounter with Jesus was sensational. For a long time, it seemed as if they all had one “aha moment” where they were overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and fully aware of God’s love, grace, mercy, etc.; however, my experience with meeting Christ was very different. My experience was not centered around one specific moment, rather many little experiences over the course of a few weeks. These experiences allowed me to see, for the first time in my life, that God was not only real, but also showing himself to me on a personal level. My life was altered forever from that point on, yet I certainly did not feel fully assured of whom I was in Christ.
My hunger to figure it out was intense; but after many months of being away from brotherhood and community, my hunger and focus on discovering what it meant to be in Christ waned along with my time in the Word and prayer. I began to question if what I had experienced was real or if it was just behavior modification that I had somehow tricked myself into. I began to question if I had really met Christ. When I compared my experience to many others’ in my life, I was worried because mine did not have the central sensational moment.
Growing up in Church I had prayed THE prayer many times yet I didn’t really experience anything different until I was a senior in high school. This is when I became consumed with the idea of sensationalism. I thought that I needed to experience something sensational to experience Jesus for real and to really be assured that I was in Him. So every time I prayed I began telling God to do something remarkable or to let me see a miracle. Something, anything to give me assurance! I needed to know that he was walking with me because I so deeply feared that He wasn’t and that I was missing something. I needed the “aha moment!” I would spend time in the Word aimlessly, yet my prayer and focus was on asking God to just reveal himself to me.
My prayers were never answered. Throughout this period I didn’t experience anything that blew my mind or was an undeniable miracle. Because of this, I became certain that I really was missing something. So I went back to square one. I began asking the big questions about God, even questioning his existence, as if to start over because I had missed something along the way the first time.
Going back and looking at my experiences was extremely beneficial to me, yet not in the way I thought it would be. Originally I thought going back and investigating my walk with God would lead me to the area I needed to fix, or perhaps lead me to the Jesus I never really knew; but what I found was that searching for what I was missing was actually the cause of why I was missing out. My motivation for knowing God was solely focused on MY security, MY needs, and MY joy. But what I have realized is that joy in Christ comes from breakthroughs in our walk with Him. Paul says that we are restricted by our affections. When Jesus says knock, he isn’t saying, “Come in and you will be safe,” he is saying, “Come in and experience me!”
Although meeting Jesus may be a one-time experience, knowing him is not. Jesus wants me to keep knocking, keep seeking, keeping asking questions and desire to know him better, and experience the Holy Spirit in new ways. I am no longer in question as to where I stand with Jesus; and I am certain that the Holy Spirit is in me. I still have doubts and I will always question myself; but what I have come to understand is that I cannot be preoccupied with what I am not; I must be preoccupied with who He is.
The reason I decided to blog about this is because I know I am not the only person who questions where they stand with God. This probably happens at different times for different people; but for me, it’s when I have been away from Church or community or if I have been allowing a certain sin to take over. It leads me to pray things like, “Lord be with me today,” or “Jesus, walk with me.” What a ludicrous thing to ask! He is always with me; He says he will never forsake me; He says he will finish the work he has started; there is nothing that can separate us from God!
We pray for God to do things that he has already done! For Christians like me, closed heavens are between the ears. They exist in the thought-life that empowers darkness to do exactly what the believer has believed. Somehow we convince ourselves that we can distance ourselves from Him. We believe this because the Holy Spirit is within all of us but does not rest upon all of us. The only person who fully remained in the Spirit all the time was Jesus! But we have the capacity to host that same Spirit. Look at Peter; he healed people with just his shadow! I don’t think Peter was in question as to whether or not he was walking with Jesus. Peter was preoccupied with making himself a host for Jesus’ spirit.
Through all of this I hope to communicate the fact that the Holy Spirit is within all of us who believe. We can’t be ignorant of the things that God has done in our lives. Praying for these things gets us nowhere and leaves our prayer lives boring and routine. Instead, we must pray for things that require us to step beyond our boundaries. Ask God to show us miracles, not because we need to see them, because we want to see God move in our lives. Ask him to place people in our lives into which we can pour out love.
Most importantly, we must ask to be better hosts of the Holy Spirit so that we can be better ambassadors of Jesus in our world. Bill Johnson says, “The breakthrough of prayer is supposed to be our ongoing source and flow of joy from God.” Instead of asking Jesus to walk with me, now I ask him to do something in me that will allow me to impart His presence.
“In the summer of 2011, my pastor Randy Pope did a teaching on “The Ultimate” which he defined as the act of servitude. Months before I heard him speak on this, I always thought of the word “serve” as maybe, helping my mom take out the trash when she told me to, or giving some money to a homeless man so that God will be happy with me; but I soon discovered that I was looking at it in the wrong way.
It started with a trip to Bulgaria with an old man. I had always wanted to travel the world and this man gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Bulgaria and help him get around and play a little music with him while he preached to a community of a very small church. I thought, “Hey! How hard could it be just to move a few bags around and watch over this guy for two weeks?” Well, it was really hard.
Not only did I have to move bags, but I had to push him through the entire airport in a wheel chair, while making sure that I did not lose his or my passports or belongings, buy him food, deal with him getting angry at the security checkpoints, because he didn’t like having to take off his belt or shoes, which seemed to take about 30 minutes every time, and put some gross stuff on the bottom of his feet, just to name a few of the tasks asked of me. And yet, through all of the ups and downs of that trip, I learned that God was teaching me something great.
I got back from Bulgaria and at first I was just glad to be away from that man; but then I noticed how incredibly blessed I was to be living in such a great country with so many things that I did not deserve. In fact, with so many people serving me in so many ways, I almost felt ashamed at how I was acting. I should have been happy to serve that old man and help him spread the name of Jesus, even if it was uncomfortable for me. Weeks after that, I heard Randy Pope’s teaching and finally understood. I am here to reflect my savior Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate servant; and I must strive to be like Him every day of my life.”
“He must become greater, and I must become less.”
– John 3:30
“I have never really felt like I’ve been great at being manly. That is not to say that I am not manly; it’s just, often when I think of manly activities, I think of lumberjacks chopping down trees, building projects with your own two hands, benching 400 lbs, fixing cars, etc.. Yes, I do realize that my idea of manliness is extremely one-sided; but so is yours; and these are the first things that I (and maybe even you) associate with being a man.
Manliness has been incredibly skewed by our sinful nature; and as a result, we have created an army of physically strong, dominating, uncompassionate little boys who think they are acting like men. This is one of the trends that IRON and FIRE is trying to buck; but cultivating true manliness is hard because it goes against the flow of common culture.
This is why Jeff is devoting all of his time to molding young men to be more like Christ. Many think that being like Christ is not manly at all; but they could not be more wrong. He is kind and compassionate; but he is also strong in power. He shows spiritual strength and loves unconditionally.
The reason I have been thinking about these things recently, is because I just got engaged, and this is where the rubber meets the road. This is the time that I must take all that I have learned, in terms of being a man, and apply it to being a husband and eventually a father. This is why people like Jeff are so important in young men’s lives. He has shown me, through Christ, aspects of what it is to truly be manly. He has shown me that strength not only comes in the form of physicality, but that a true man also has strength in terms of intellect, integrity and most importantly spirituality.
Although Jeff has played has played an important role in molding my idea of manliness, the person that has most shaped this idea, like most other young men, is my dad. My dad is kind, funny, strong in character, gracious, and loving. He has shown me that manliness must be shaped around the characteristics of Christ and Christ alone. He has shown me that a household that is centered on the Gospel is one that stands strong on a steady foundation. Does he fail in being a father? Of course he does. He isn’t perfect; but he goes to the one who is perfect so that Christ may be exalted. This is true manliness.
Young men, adapt the characteristics that exemplify Christ, which you have seen in those who pour into you. They can be hard to spot sometimes under the layers of faults; but, if you strive to know Christ, they will be evident. Mentors and fathers, you will fail your sons and those who you mentor. It is only how you react to those failures that will show whether your character and identity is in Christ. And if you find your character and identity in Christ, that is when you can give the greatest gift you can give to a young man; a picture of Christ, a picture of true manliness.”