Big Hairy Audacious Goals – God Style


As a long time resident of Silicon Valley, I became used to seeing people start companies trying to solve really difficult problems – it’s a core part of the culture out there.  Elon Musk is a great example, first with Tesla and now with Hyperloop One, his vision for high speed transportation (or the selling of time as he puts it).  While Silicon Valley does have churches (and good ones too!), it is in my view an overwhelmingly secular culture (relative to the Triangle and the southeast US in general).  So it was no surprise when I read a New Yorker article that described “Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever”.  As believers, we should all agree that such a pursuit is not only in defiance of God’s sovereignty, it is also impossible.  Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”.  Simply put, God is in control (see also Colossians 1:16-17). 

While we may disagree with Silicon Valley’s quest for immortality, we can at the same time admire those behind the quest for thinking big.  We need to think big as we are facing significant challenges not just in the U.S., but globally.  Some seem to think that the American culture fails to encourage young people to think big.  In 2005, at age 16, twins Alex and Brett Harris started writing about how they thought teens needed to start a “rebellion against low expectations.”  They eventually wrote a book Do Hard Things that challenges teens to pursue God and learn about how a life dedicated in His service will result in big things.  We all know how God used young people in the Bible – Joseph, Josiah, David, Timothy, even the young boy who gave his bread and fish to Jesus to feed the five thousand are just a few of the examples.

Iron Academy recently gave Do Hard Things to its students to read and to unpack as a group to challenge the young men.  As a parent of a 14 year old young man, I desire for my son to do hard things and I am grateful for all that IA does to partner with us to teach biblical manhood and to orient his heart to “follow the King” so that our son can pursue hard things that align with God’s design and purpose for his life.  I agree with Alex and Brett Harris that while many American teenagers fritter away much of their time, we should be pushing our young people to seek purpose and alignment with God and He can do hard things.  Join us in this quest!

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”        Matthew 17:20

Contributed by Rob Wald









Many parents I know struggle with their teenagers’ use of technology, including smartphones and video games.  To be fair, technology has both positive and negative influences in the lives of our kids.  There is no doubt that technology increases access to educational support and content, including personalized online tutoring and sites such as Khan Academy. There is also no doubt that it’s easier to access pornography and other content that we don’t want our kids to see. Thankfully, given the pervasive nature of technology, significant research exists on both the physical and social/emotional impact of technology on teens.

As a believer and a parent, I am concerned about the extent to which technology enhances my son’s spiritual development, and if it is kingdom building or not.  An excerpt from a recent screening of the documentary Screenagers did little to alleviate my concerns.  One of the experts in the movie points out how many of the games (and I suspect this applies to social media as well) create digital universes where the kids don’t want to leave.  Yet, for believers, Jesus is clear: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).”  I suppose aspects of discipleship (my church maintains a smartphone app, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts) can happen online, but much of it still must occur in the physical realm.  The key word in The Great Commission is “go” with the implication that we must physically go to and be with people.

Iron Academy, through the use of the Blade Maintenance Plan, requires young men to lead and serve in their church/community, and through their assigned tribes, students are encouraged and held accountable for progress in these areas.  All of this requires that students be visible to the world – this is consistent with scripture: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).” And unlike today’s social media platforms where teenagers live and die by “likes”, Christ gives our kids new identities (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) and equips them “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13)“.

Contributed by Rob Wald

A Christ-Centered New Years Resolution

Happy New Year IA Family and Friends!

Many of us make resolutions at this time of year.   A top ten list of common New Year’s resolutions from the website Statistic Brain is:

  • Lose Weight
  • Getting Organized
  • Spend Less, Save More
  • Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  • Staying Fit and Healthy
  • Learn Something Exciting
  • Quit Smoking
  • Help Others in Their Dreams
  • Fall in Love
  • Spend More Time with Family

This list of resolutions is very typical with its focus on self-improvement and achieving happiness.  While this list does include nice goals for anyone to do, it doesn’t include goals that feed our souls and to deepen our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What if we decided to live by the Iron Academy Honor Code for our single resolution?

  • I will always conduct myself as a gentleman; live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King.

How would one’s life improve with this resolution?  I will always conduct myself as a gentleman (or gentlewoman).  To accept responsibility for one’s actions.  To be dependable and coachable.  To reject passivity.  To be civil to all and tempering the urge to lead with wisdom, humility, and love.  Live pure.  Walk with God and wise people.  Seeking to do right in all situations.  Live with integrity.  Speak true.  Understand that Christ and the words of Holy Scripture should be considered first in all things.  Be an encourager of others, be true to your word, and be a source of wisdom to all but fools. Right wrong. Seek the best choice in all situations.  Look out for those in need.  Fight for biblical justice in all things.  Be gracious to all, even those who have wronged us in some way.  Follow the King.  This last phrase is the foundation for every other part of this resolution.  To love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and body.  To study the Word and live out scriptural commands.  To live out our faith or otherwise influencing others to be like Christ.

Surveys indicate that a low percentage of New Year’s resolutions are ever accomplished.  How could we expect to uphold a resolution as lofty as the Iron Academy Honor Code?  By doing what the Iron Academy students do to uphold it.  They recite it each morning to keep it ever present in their minds.  They have a group of peers and faculty mentors who give them feedback to hold them accountable for living up to it.  They regularly assess themselves on how well they are upholding the Honor Code.  The descriptions above for each part of the Honor Code are the exact indicators that they use to hold each other accountable in their Blade Maintenance Plans.  If middle school and high school young men can strive to live by this resolution, shouldn’t the rest of us do so too?


Contributed by Dr. Anne York

Wax On, Wax Off…


As a parent, as am sure many parents do, I frequently obsess over results  – particularly around school.  Did you do your homework?  Can I see it?  Did you study?  Why did you wait until the last minute?  These are all questions heard in my house…perhaps too often.  This compulsion is not unlike Daniel’s desire to learn karate in the movie Karate Kid – he does not understand Mr. Miyagi’s request to wax the cars, sand the deck, or paint the fence.  One of the other tests Daniel ultimately must pass is to catch a fly with chopsticks.

Mr. Miyagi’s message is that the true way to karate is to think – not do – karate.  For believers, Jesus conveys a similar message in the Sermon on the Mount when He says, “[b]lessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).  Solomon further clarifies the promised blessing when he wrote:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

At Iron Academy, we recognize that for our young men, biblical manhood is the foundation for being a good student and it informs all that we do, including the Honor Code and Blade Maintenance Plans.  Students are taught to model Jesus as described in Luke 2:52 when it says of Jesus that “[He] grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”.  As our students grow, the hope is that they strive to find favor in God because that is why we exist.  In Romans 12:1, Paul “[urges us] , in view of God’s mercy, to offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is [our] true and proper worship”

The key of course lies in who we are, not in what we do.  As believers we are encouraged that “…whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).  At Iron Academy, young men are given chores at school, and they are required to serve their church.  No doubt, it is a challenging journey – in a culture of entitlement, we are teaching our young men “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).  Ultimately, the hope is that our young men develop into “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

I must constantly remind myself to look not just at my son’s report card but also at who he is and who he is becoming.  I am thankful that I have a place such as Iron Academy where I can see that my son is “growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”.

Contributed by Rob Wald

Building Kingdom Leaders

robert-e-lee_thumbWhile in college, I worked for the U.S. Park Service at a historic Battlefield Park. During that time I developed a keen interest in Civil War history and especially enjoyed studying military leadership. One of those prominent leaders was Robert E. Lee, who has often been greatly misunderstood because of the side he fought for.  Robert E. Lee was great not because of what he did but because of who he was and how he lived. He was described as the very personification of the gentlemanly ideal of a leader – the sort of man others instinctively looked to for guidance and naturally followed.[1]  But what made Lee great was not his leadership skills but his desire to imitate Christ.   You see, his faith was primary and it impacted his every decision and action. History records that Lee did not fight for the right to own slaves. He always believed in a gradual emancipation and had no slaves of his own. In fact, he freed every slave he inherited from his father-in-law’s estate before the Emancipation Proclamation and ensured that all slaves freed under his care could support themselves.[2] Lee was a self-disciplined believer and exceptionally loyal to Christian principles. He was a humble servant, morally responsible, decisive and courageous. He was what the church would call a Kingdom leader. My examination of his life revealed that Lee was a man who conducted himself as a gentleman, lived pure, righted wrongs, spoke truth and followed the King. Does this sound familiar? Yes, it is the Honor Code for The Iron Academy. IA exists to raise up Kingdom leaders who are different from this world. The world defines leadership in the context of fame, power, glory and the praise of men and is far from what God designed for followers of Christ.

So, what is a kingdom leader and how is Iron Academy building up a generation of kingdom leaders? Jesus provides the answer in Mark 10: 43-45 saying…whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His live as a ransom for many.

In this passage, Jesus turned the world’s view of leadership upside down and taught that Kingdom leadership is defined by service, sacrifice, surrender and, yes, suffering. In other words, Kingdom leaders die to self, serve others, surrender daily to their Heavenly Father and are willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Jesus is our ultimate example (vs 45). Many like the Apostle Paul, Lee and a host of others have successfully modeled Christ-like leadership through the generations. Our nation desperately needs more Kingdom leaders. The Iron Academy is committed and prepared to raise up a generation of kingdom leaders who will impact every area of culture including family, education, business, government, arts/entertainment, media and religion. The goal of IA is to shape Christian boys into exceptional, biblically-grounded young men who are maximally developed for a life of leadership, self-discipline, and service.[3] Why is this important? Because there has never been a more urgent time than the present for genuine Kingdom Leadership…to the glory of God!

[1] Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H. W. Crocker III
[2] Ibid, pg. 21
[3] Iron Academy website

Contributed by Charles W. Ligon, MDiv. DMin.

Confidence: Hubris or Humility?

confidenceMy son Zach, an 8th grader at Iron Academy, loves the movie “Everest” – which is based on the true story of the 1997 Mt. Everest climbing tragedy as chronicled by Jon Krakauer in his book “Into Thin Air”.  While certainly tragic, the story evokes themes of determination, persistence, heroism and selflessness.  Yet what struck me the most is the underlying confidence one must have to pursue something that only a few will ever achieve.  In our culture, we are taught from a very early age that we can accomplish anything and that we should not let anything or anyone stand in our way of reaching our dream.  Too often, however, we see confidence manifest itself in arrogance and hubris.  This is true for believers and non-believers alike – the church is no less immune to the challenges facing our culture.

History demonstrates that arrogance, hubris, and blind ambition, or confidence in self versus God, never leads to good outcomes.  One of our founding fathers, John Adams, recognized the danger blind ambition posed our young country and its new government.  More recently, blind ambition pushed the Volkswagen leadership team to pursue tactics that would lead to fraudulent emission test results for its cars.  As parents, many of us have experienced the tragic results of arrogance and hubris, but we rarely hear public testimonies of how our arrogance and hubris hurt us – this runs counter to the narrative that self-confidence is critical to surviving in an increasingly competitive global economy.  It’s not surprising then, to see how stories of arrogance and hubris communicate a message that – increasingly – it’s OK to do whatever it takes to get what you want.  For non-believers, misplaced confidence leads one to say “I don’t need God”.  For believers, arrogance and hubris often leads us to say “God will forgive me for this one sin” as justification to engage in sinful behavior. For the young men of today, consequences of arrogance and hubris are many, including an increased belief that sex outside marriage is OK, and increased sexual assaults on college campuses.

At Iron Academy, the Honor Code and the academic curriculum complement what families teach at home and what our churches talk about on Sunday mornings:

  • our confidence should rest in Jesus Christ –  “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17).
  • “[…] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[.]” Romans 3:23
  • we exist to glorify God (Isaiah 60:21), we must seek and follow His will for our lives and not our own (Proverbs 19:21), we should be humble (James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34), and we should live for others and not for ourselves (Matthew 20:26:28).

Join us as we take a stand to disciple our young men to develop a confidence that rests solely on the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Contributed by Rob Wald

What Are You Chasing?


We all chase something.  What is it for you? Is it money, success, fame, friendships, attention? What is that one thing that you couldn’t imagine losing? I am so guilty of this one. I chase relationships way too often thinking maybe that will fully satisfy me. Our world constantly screams that if only you bought that one game, if only you had more money, if only you were in a relationship, THEN you would be happy. But then we finally get that one thing. For me, it was that one special person in my life. I thought once I had a relationship, THEN I would feel secure and always happy. I can honestly say that was a lie. Even in my relationship, which is a good one, I have had numerous lonely moments and been left empty often. Here was the one thing I thought was promised to give me full satisfaction and happiness and yet it doesn’t. You see this play out in celebrity lives so well. They have fame, money, romance, all you could ever imagine, and yet many still feel like they are missing something and unfortunately some even take their own lives.

Solomon chased “Everything under the sun” and ALL was “vanity and like striving after wind”! (Ecclesiastes 1:14) You can chase wind all day, but at the end of the day, your hands will be empty. None of it fully satisfies! This was true then and it is true now. Do you remember that children’s toy where you try to fit each different shape into the ball, but out of the 5 holes there is only one circle, one square and so on? If you were anything like me, I always tried to see if I could get the other shapes to fit into different holes. For some reason the star wouldn’t fit in the circle or the square hole. Why? Because it wasn’t meant to fill that spot. Only ONE shape was.

That is exactly how our fulfilled hearts are. Imagine now one hole in that ball and it’s a cross shape. We can try and put however many shapes into it, but we will always end up not fitting. Maybe one point of the star would fit or the circle would fit a small portion of itself through it, but at the end of the day you can only get one shape in. That’s Jesus! We were made with an empty part in our hearts and we daily try to fill it with anything and everything. But the only thing that will ultimately fill it is Jesus! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” These moments when I feel empty and alone are simply a reminder that I am trying to put my joy in something other than Jesus. I run to friends faster than I run to Jesus in prayer. I talk more about God than I talk to Him. I put my satisfaction in everything else, but the One who is constant and never changing. How silly am I to do so! NOTHING will satisfy, but Jesus! Yet we continue to chase other things hoping maybe one day it will.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more!” THAT is true and everlasting joy! I’ve heard it said this way: “Anything that’s not God will over promise and under deliver.” In Psalm 4:7 David adds to this by saying, “You have put more joy in my heart than they when their grain and wine abound.”

Stop striving for wind when there is a solid, never-ending joy that is available to you! Jesus wants you to come to Him! Strive after Him and find full, never-ending joy!   At Iron Academy, young men are taught to strive after the one relationship with Jesus that is the foundation of all others.

Contributed by Lizzie Doster