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Category Archives: Faith
“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.”
“I’m standing alone in the shower as the hot water is washing over my body and my mind is flooding with old memories of past mistakes. It’s always around this time of night that I feel like I just can’t handle life. I want to be the nice, happy boy that I pretend to be on Sundays, but I just can’t find the strength to manipulate my life/mind Monday through Saturday to conform to such a reality. Why is it that every night around this time I find myself thinking of suicide or more practically, how to simply feel something.
Every night at that point in my life I would crave affection and love. What could it hurt for someone to just say that they love me and mean it? I had no answer for that. It caused me to dive deeper and deeper into depression where suicide was on my mind and my body was in a state of constant numbness. This numbness drove me to experiment with cutting. What a simple thing. All it was was taking a sharp blade and moving it back and forth along the skin. What a feeling it gave me as I would see the red blood pouring out of my flesh like a geyser gushing from the ground. For a week I could feel something. Even though it was pain, I could still feel normal. That was all I wanted.
I would cry at night alone and pray to an invisible God who never seemed to change anything. I thought to myself, is this really what my life was meant to be like? Was I meant to be sad, lonely, and depressed for the rest of my life? Is this what it will be like at the end of my life?
BUT GOD! These are my favorite two words to be put together. And this is where God decided to show up in my life. You see, I was trying to live my life my way, for my pleasure, when I should have been seeking God’s plan for my life. Because it really is not my life! God simply gives me a chance to play in the game.
As I began to bend my knee towards Christ and His love, I started to understand why I was sad and lonely all the time. I was sad because I did not truly know my savior. I was lonely because I did not have Him as a friend. I went through this trial in my life because He wanted me to. He uses this story in my life to encourage those around me. He let’s me share His love to others because He gets the glory for it. If this is God’s will then who am I to backtalk God? I am nothing.
I know that you who are reading this story might be going through a tough time, and you really don’t want to hear about God’s plan for your life. I understand what it is like and I know how you feel towards God. The anger and isolation you feel from the world. Like you are no good and that you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Let me just say that you are right. You and I are nothing in the grand scheme of things but God is. We cannot change the world but God can! We have nothing to offer Him but God chooses to use us! He uses our weakness so that He gets the glory because this world is all about him!
I do not write this story so that you feel bad about yourself; but I write this story because I want you to know that you do not struggle alone! You are not the only one being told lies by the devil and believing them! We are a band of brothers who must come alongside each other to build each other up for His glory. Let me encourage you to talk with a brother in Christ about where you are in life and how you hurt. Because when we are at the end of our rope, we find the Cross of Christ! It is at the Cross where we find rest, peace, comfort, joy, fulfillment, and Love! That is where true healing comes from, at the foot of the cross.”
“Last week I had the privilege of witnessing an incredible woman die gracefully. In severe pain and struggle, she taught me more about perseverance and success than any of my mentors ever have. Her name is Beth Russell and she changed my life.
Beth has a wonderful husband and two amazing sons. I’ve had the honor of investing in her boys, who are now young men, for about 5 years. In that time, I have observed grace, received encouragement, and experienced love that seemed to grow in adversity as opposed to shrinking back. Yet as much as I’ve learned over the years from her encouragement and faith, Beth taught me the most in the last 10 months of her life.
In June of last year, Beth was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. At that time she stepped off of my board of directors at IRON and FIRE Ministries in order to give all of her efforts to fighting the disease. Because I was uniquely invested in her sons’ lives, I was very close to the struggles and pain of the process. Through many procedures and 8 rounds of intense chemo, Beth continued to be thankful. Yes that’s right, thankful. Not for the cancer, but for the many incredible things that were happening in spite of it and for all the years of blessings she had lived.
Beth wanted to be healed; yet she also wanted God’s best for her. And she considered life or death a win-win situation. You see, she had an appreciation for the good being done even amidst the bad. She focused her energy on appreciation and love instead of frustration and loss.
People from all over the world were hearing about Beth and being inspired to press on and not give up. They were finding encouragement through her hardship. Her attitude was affecting nurses, doctors, pastors, teachers, children and especially me. In the middle of incredible physical pain and ongoing side effects from the chemo and the multiple surgeries, Beth kept smiling. She kept asking how everyone else was doing. But most compelling to me was how she never complained, not once in 10 months.
You see, lately I’ve been complaining a lot. I’ve been frustrated that things aren’t easier in my life. My wife and I have a 22-month-old boy and a 6-week-old girl and we’re just tired. I’ve been fighting hard to invest in over 60 young men who will change the face of our world, but it’s exhausting. I’m in school, I run two organizations, and I am trying to raise thousands of dollars for our mission in a bad economy. My attitude had begun to get pretty cranky. That is, until last week.
I watched Beth smile the day she died. It wasn’t a smile born out of good circumstances. No, her smile was born out of a deep belief that her life was bigger than what was happening to her, it was more about who was with her.
Today, let’s take some time to consider the hard things in our lives. Then let’s commit to looking around at those we are blessed to share life with. Your life doesn’t just affect you and neither do your struggles. How we perceive hard things and how we react to them directly affects those around us, to their benefit or their detriment. So let’s seek to consider how we might encourage others to press on, as we ourselves press on, maybe even with a smile. Blessings.”