As I begin this article on Sunday April 2, I just returned from the annual Men of Iron conference held in Ruidoso, New Mexico. It was an incredible 3 days of worship, preaching, and fellowship that I will never forget and an experience that I will treasure forever. We were told that this is a record for attendance, 1500 men, all of us worshipping God, and hearing the Word of God preached in a way that spoke into any situation we might be in right now. The “advance”, as it is called, is put on by the pastors of 5 churches. There are two sets of brothers, David and Stormy Swann, Steve and Troy Smotherman, and nne of my pastors, Rick Burke of CedarPoint Church in Claremore, Oklahoma. I don’t really know who pastors where, except for Rick Burke, but one is in Lubbock, Texas and one in Roswell, New Mexico. I don’t remember who is where or where the other two are located. The event started on Thursday evening at 7:30 p m with a wonderful set of worship by a group of worship leaders from the 5 churches and a few others from other churches. I think there were ten total on the stage playing and singing. I was particularly moved by the worship leader from CedarPoint, Jake Tankersley. He is a fine young man of 23 or so and put so much feeling into his playing and vocals that he touched everyone in the room. I was not surprised by his delivery because I see and hear him every week. What impressed me was the response of people who probably have either never seen him before or have only the limited exposure that 5 sessions a year afford them. Jake was wonderful and the reaction of others made me feel both honor and pride that I get to experience him twice a week every week all year round. Pastor David Swann spoke on Thursday evening, gave the first message, and set the theme for the event. The theme was based on the description of Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and stressed that Christian men need to get their “roar” back. For any who don’t know, a lion pack is called a pride. The Alpha Male is the leader of the pride and roars for several reasons. He roars to let the pride know that he is in charge, to warn potential rivals that he will not accept competition, and to let potential predators know that they have to go through him to harm any members of the group.
The second session began at 9:00 a m on Friday with worship followed by the message by Pastor Stormy Swann, followed after a 15 minute break with another worship set and a message by Pastor Steve Smotherman that lasted until just after 12:00 pm when we took an afternoon for lunch and fellowship. Our group went to various places to eat lunch then went back to the condos. I went to my room for some much needed sleep while some went to the clubhouse to play ping pong or shuffleboard, or to just have some fellowship time to get to know men they don’t know already. CedarPoint had 104 men there this year, the most ever. I have never met many of them. I am especially grateful to those I rode with and roomed with. They helped me greatly all during the trip, holding doors open for me and being at my side any time there was a question of footing. I am still pretty unstable when walking, especially on unlevel terrain, sloped pavement, in wind, and with steps or anything I have to step over. They also helped me get my coat off or on, and zipped it up for me when needed. Others helped also, including men who don’t know me. CedarPoint is a church of a thousand or more with 1 service on Saturday evening and 3 on Sunday. I rarely attend the first 2 services on Sunday as they conflict time-wise with the other Claremore church I belong to and attend on Sunday morning and evening. I attend the Saturday evening service and the 3rd service on Sunday as well as Celebrate Recovery on Monday night so there were several of the men I had never seen before but they were just as kind and helpful to me as those I know well. There were even men from other churches who had never seen me before but saw a way to help and did so out of kindness and a heart for Jesus.
Men of Iron was a wonderful experience and I intend to go again next year. I had reservations about going due to financial issues and my health problems but God knew how much it would benefit me and got me there. I went forward for prayer for healing 3 times and once to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I have had hands laid on me numerous times for healing and been prayed over many more times. I have yet to see the full restoration I am praying and believing for. It hasn’t been manifested in my body, YET, but I know that day is coming and I will continue to believe, pray, and do what I can to help myself until that day comes, no matter how long it takes. I hope I don’t have to wait for restoration as long as Abraham waited for a child but I WILL wait that long if necessary because I KNOW it will come. A couple of weeks ago Pastor Rick spoke about persistent prayer, using the Book of Daniel as an illustration. Daniel prayed continually for relief from a problem I don’t recall. On the 21st day an angel showed up and said he had been delayed by a spirit from Persia. Rick asked what would have happened if Daniel had given up after 14 days or 20 days. I won’t give up because my restoration is coming, I just don’t know which day my angel will arrive. Rick also used the story of the parable about the woman in the Old Testament who went to a judge daily asking for justice and finally got her request granted because the judge got tired of seeing her every day. Rick made the point that the parable wasn’t about God, it was about the woman and how she refused to become discouraged and give up. I KNOW that God has restoration for me, and this trip gave me confirmation of it, and I will continue to press in until it gets here. I am also encouraged by the story of Job. Job suffered much more loss than I have but he never turned away from God and received twice what he had lost as a reward for his faith and his determination to rely on the promise of God. I know God has something for me that will be well worth any suffering I endure for a season so I will continue to pray and have faith in things unseen.
It is teachings like these that make Men of Iron so successful and so beneficial to those who attend. There was no “feel good” hype, just brass tacks type reality teaching. All 5 of the pastors taught real, down to earth practical lessons and challenged us to step up and do what God commissioned us to do, spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere we go, through word AND deed. There were many opportunities to receive individual prayer on a large variety of needs, including healing of illness, deliverance from addictions, healing of marital and family problems, and any other need anyone had. I pray that it becomes so big that they need several such events every year due to the response because it is that good. Everything in the sessions is based on a relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and there is no better way to find happiness. The pastors continually pointed out that if we put God first that He will take care of everything else. I came away very lifted up and encouraged, as well as determined to be the man that God intends for me to be, and to do better at showing Jesus through my life, both word and deed.
I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, in faith, with the responsibility given to me by Almighty God to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.
April 9, 2017