It was at this church in Iowa City that I met a handful of guys that have blessed me to this day.
Larry, Jim, Ray, Chuck and Mike have all been instrumental in my Faith.
Larry is my Spiritual dad and mentored me for a year almost immediately. It was with Larry that I learned a real man of Faith does not have all the answers and will be honest enough to tell me so. I also learned to receive compassion and Grace as Larry and I met regularly to pray for each other and to hold each other accountable in our Faith.
Jim is a man that once you meet him, you will never forget him. Built like a tank, with a commanding voice and an awesome mind. When Jim quoted Scripture, it seemed to me that he was scanning the Bible in his mind searching for a verse. It was like he was speed reading each column and flipping the pages until he found the passage he was looking for. Jim has Faith that is beyond anything I have walked in. This man has grabbed a hold of Jesus and has hung on with everything he has, even when he was the only person that believed in himself.
Ray is my Spiritual big brother and just as a big brother will bring correction and 'show affection' with rough words or actions, Ray did the same in the Spirit. He has beat me up plenty of times with his version of encouragement, not because he was mean spirited but that's what was needed at the time. He always encouraged me to look to Jesus, even if it meant he had to pick me up off the ground and grab me by the neck and force me to look up. And just like any big brother he was there to help and to have my back whenever necessary. Spiritually, Ray knew when to put his arm around my shoulder and to say "I love you, Bro!" and when to slug me in the arm and to say "Get over it and get with Jesus!"
Chuck is a big guy who is great to have as a prayer partner but not so great to have as a lifting partner. You see, when lifting weights with Chuck when we would switch sets, we would take off more weight after Chuck's set than I would do for my set. I think Chuck would curl my bench press. Chuck is the first guy that I got together to pray with. We would go down to the University of Iowa and prayer walk around the campus. I learned a lot about hearing Holy Spirit's voice during these times of prayer.
Mike is a former roommate and an awesome friend. Mike was a great roomie, he was laid back and soft spoken and he never once threatened to demonstrate his 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do on me. He also would randomly pay my half of a utility or treat me to supper at Village Inn as he earned bonuses from work. The times of praying together and discussing the Word were great and I learned a lot about hearing Holy Spirit's voice.
None of us attend that church anymore. All but Chuck has moved out of Iowa City, but I believe that even if we all were still in that area, we wouldn't be attending there anyways. I am not bad mouthing the fellowship, I just believe that each one of us was called to follow Jesus elsewhere.
Whenever I get together or chat with any one of these guys, we wind up talking about the other dudes I have written about. I have been hanging with one Brutha when one of the others would call me. And before every good bye we wind up praying.
There were times where I had lost all contact with one of these guys, yet somehow I would get connected with them after a year or so. There even was a time so weak in my faith that I told Larry I was giving up on Jesus. I never did, because God is bigger than that, but also because I know Larry was praying for me. I don't know if any of my Bruthas could directly recall a time when Holy Spirit lead them to pray for me, but I am pretty sure that it has happened throughout the years.
But what was most important, with each one of these men of Faith, was whenever our paths crossed intentionally or unintentionally, I always, I mean it, every single time I encountered Larry, Jim, Ray, Chuck or Mike, these guys were seeking Jesus. No matter where I was at in my Faith, passionate or bitter, strong or weak, faithful or faithless, when I came into contact with one of these guys I came into a contact with a Righteous man, a man that was wanting more of Jesus.
I am in awe of how God placed these guys in my life back in the mid nineties, but I most in awe of no matter where anyone of these friends were in their Faith, they were still looking for more of Jesus in their life.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.