Category Archives: Daily Encouragement

Pride or Purpose? Which do you seek?

Amidst the greatest profession in the world lurks the greatest threat to its very existence…

It sneaks in ever so slowly, almost unnoticed…

It’s spoken of quite highly, written about, and is often the measurement of a firefighter’s passion…

 

It is a word, a word that has been twisted, and misused…

It is the word Pride!

 

Pride is used in phases such as:

 

“Take Pride in the craft”

“Pride and Ownership”

“Pride is what separates the hypocrite and the hero”

 

What is Pride?

 

“A deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”

 

Pride can also be defined as…

 

“A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people” (Merriam Webster).

 

This is the very pride that caused the Devil to fall from heaven…

He thought he could take the glory of God for his own…

In short, he thought more of himself than he ought…

 

The concern I have is not for those who have a passion for the calling known as a firefighter. My concern is for those whose sole purpose is to appear to be noble while only quietly seeking power and recognition. To rocket their way to the top without the blood, sweat, and tribulation that is paid to get there.

 

To wear trumpets on their collar, but speaking only empty words through them. Words without meaning because they have zeal but no depth.

 

They never took the time to earn the job as they were too busy pursuing the next promotion, the next article publication, the next conference engagement yet they failed to even make a difference in their own department. And they failed to make a difference in their own community. And most of all they failed to make a difference in their own family.

 

By all means, take pride in being a firefighter but for the sake of the fire service BE A Firefighter first. Do not spread slogans and inspirational quotes that lack understanding nor answers to those who seek to make a difference. Be the one you were called to be and lead not others down a path that will only lead to disappointment.

 

Our passion should be evident in all that we do…

We should hold their respect far before we hold any rank…

Our efforts should speak volumes that libraries could not contain…

Our skill sets should be constantly sharpened by the iron of accountability…

Our integrity should be one without question, that our enemies would seek us out for guidance.

Our words should be few and our actions should be representative of those who showed us the way…

Our goal should be to proclaim the message, live the mission, and not elevate ourselves: the messenger.

 

For in the end, one day image and accountability will have to meet…

May we not let our brothers & sisters down when fire rains down and we cower in defeat…

 

May your pride be evident, but may your life be consistent…

 

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries.

 

 

The Keynote Speech of Our Life

19225823_1925646161007666_6177263615512341650_nI recently had the blessing of listening to mentor and friend offer a keynote speech. Those of us in the fire service have probably heard many of these motivating speeches given by passionate fire service leaders but this one impacted me quite differently. What was the difference in this one versus all of the other powerful, motivating, and encouraging speeches I had heard before? The difference was this:

Relationship!

Let me explain, I witnessed my friend over the course of several days humbly and quietly interact with many people at this event. I witnessed him listen intently, have conversations with many different individuals from almost all of the parts of this event. If you are wondering why this speech struck me differently than all of the others I have heard, the reason is this: the speaker had no notes and to the untrained observer had not prepared for his speech, but that was far from the truth.

I learned something very valuable this day that can be applied to our lives. What the speaker did was something we should all be doing as leaders. He was a student of his audience. He carefully, intently, and compassionately was writing his speech over the course of the event leading up to this motivational keynote. During this speech, this is what made it so much more impactful: Rather than sharing a message with several points or key stories, he shared a message that was shared over the course of this event and he pointed to the individuals (the 1%’er’s) who are making a difference. He called them by name, he remembered and quoted key conversations that emphasized not just his message but the very message that was being shared throughout this event.

Thus, the lesson that was taught to me and that I share with you today is this: What great Keynote Speech are we preparing to give today?

* Are we listening intently to all of those around us? The greatest gift we can give those in our care is the gift of our full attention. Many of us (myself included) only listen with the intent to reply not with the intent to understand (as Dr. Steven Covey prescribes). If we would care enough to listen empathically, we may gain such wisdom and be able to share such powerful words of encouragement to others at those Key moments when they need it the most. For they will then listen to our words and hear their own words echoed back. They will realize that what they did and what they are doing truly matters because we cared enough to notice.

* The power of petition is truly based upon the depth of one’s relationship. One who stands in front of many to offer words of encouragement may hold their attention for a moment but one who looks upon their face and calls their name holds their respect for a lifetime. A leader who cares enough not to merely remember their speech but remember those that they are speaking to has found the way to impact the audience more than mere inspiration. A leader who cares enough to quote a moment of valued learning that occurred, share it with the audience, and connect it to the message they share has also connected everyone in the room. They have elevated the message and not the messenger.

* As we journey through life, we will be given many opportunities to speak but we should be careful to ensure our words are worthy of being heard. We must be analyzing our world and preparing our responses in our hearts long before they are placed upon a page or heard from a microphone. We can build others up in mere shallow words hat lack the depth of our devotion because they are mere slogans that are repeated by many -or- we can quote the very powerful moments of their lives and touch them with the message of encouragement that lives within them all. We can point out to them the very “Keynote” speeches that they have written for us to share with others. They have written our speech for us, it is our responsibility as leaders to share it.

Therefore, I ask of each of us: When the opportunity to give our “Keynote” arrives will we be ready? Will we have cared enough to listen? Will we have cared enough to understand? And will we know their greatest need not by a leadership book but by seeing their passion and connecting their hearts with their greatest need that only comes from caring enough to truly know them. Proverbs tells us that Wisdom comes in two ways: It is a God given gift and also the result of an energetic search. May we prepare our hearts today and know that the greatest inspiration we can receive comes from God and those He has placed in our care. He has given us the very words we need to speak by placing them in upon the hearts of those in our care.

May we all “build one another up daily” by caring enough to read the greatest words ever written: The stories that God has written upon our hearts.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

What Make’s Someone A Great Leader?

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What makes someone a great leader?

In leadership, we see examples (good and bad) of those who hold positions of great influence. If we were to break down the leaders we admire; what is it about them that makes us want to follow their example?

Here are my thoughts on those traits that define a significant leader:

#1) A solid moral foundation: It all begins with Integrity.
I believe that to be a successful and significant Leader that our motivations and mindset have to be pure. An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization personally and or professionally. They will be manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship.

Consider this:

Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example.

History has taught us that anyone who is placed in a position of authority but doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately compromise their principles, integrity, and values for money, power, and or fear. Don’t merely believe me; Take a look back at our history before we look forward.

#2) Servanthood:
In the fire service, our inner desire to serve others shows that we have a servant heart. As we step into the role of a leader, one must have a self-less focus where he or she is constantly about the business of knowing, caring for, and empowering those in their sphere of influence.

In order to lead, someone has to follow; therefore one has to command more than their respect. The greater the amount of passion and energy that a Leader pours into his/her people it has a direct correlation in how effective the crew will be.

#3) Setting the example (Consistency):
We must lead by example. Our consistent application of our values, work ethic, and our dedication to our crew is what sets us apart. This goes deeper than education. A Leader who has high expectations of his/her crew must first have the same expectations of themselves.

This position requires that we are pursuing the next level of excellence. There is never a point where one should be comfortable with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If one has reached this point of complacency then it’s time to move on to another profession such as retirement.

#4) Humility:

Some of the greatest leaders that have impacted my life the ones that have admitted openly when they made a mistake. They made no excuse, they took responsibility for their actions, and they held themselves accountable. Those under a leader’s supervision will not believe in their leader if the leader does not hold himself/herself accountable as well.

#5) Mentoring:

In my opinion, one of the greatest disservices we do to our veteran leaders in the fire service is when they retire. We throw them a party and say goodbye. They have invaluable experience that has been forged by a lifetime of adversity, experience, and education. We should not let their priceless wisdom merely fade away; we should seek them out and learn from them.

As a Leader, you are ultimately responsible for what the future of the fire service will look like. Your goal should be to leave a mark on the organization and not just a memory. This can be only accomplished by “training your replacement”.

We should all be concerned about developing the next generation of leaders. One day they could be responding to our call for help. Are we equipping those around us for the future? Are we investing in those around us to ensure a brighter future?

Let’s consider these five traits and reflect upon there meaning in our own life. Are we investing in the future or merely impressing others for the moment?

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

An Unwelcome Family Reunion

A gathering is occurring; one that many of us have had quite often…
It is one of sadness, yet we sit quietly, silently objecting their intruding presence…
Alone we sit at this table, yet we are not truly alone…
One by one, members of this family begin to return home…
We tearfully object to their presence yet still they come…
One by one, they arrive closing in around this singular family…
None of which are related but all have been brought into our life by tragedy & calamity…

This unwelcome family reunion consists of the following:
An elderly gentleman, who died at a family gathering…
A young girl, who failed to look both ways while crossing the street…
A teenage boy, whose pain in life was too much for him to live…
An infant lying helpless, still & lifeless, cold in a crib…
An old friend, which we failed to recognize the signs of a heartbroken soul…
A heartbroken mother, crying out as her car lost control…

These family members are scars upon our heartbroken soul…
They are the ghosts of those who haunt our mind that we seemingly can no longer control…
They are the ones that have somehow escaped the grip of the grave…
These are the memories of the people, in their last moments that we could not save…
Their last breath, their screams, and their torment are forever etched into our souls…
We have tried to for years to bury this heartache and pain…
Through unhealthy means, through drugs, and alcohol, yet they return again & again…

Until one day we sit alone but not alone with these family members from our moments past…
And we cry out as we are about to end our life and breathe our last…
Then in the stillness, a voice speaks to our hearts…

“These losses, their pain, they were never meant for you to carry from the start…”
“For grief is a process and the pain of a hurting heart isn’t meant to conceal…”
“But to own their tragedies is a burden that no one should ever feel…”
“My child, I have carried your burdens and I will carry all of these…”
“But you must first let go, forgive yourself, and give them to Me…”
“For all who are weary, overburdened, and who carry this post-traumatic stress…”
“Can come to Me, and I will heal the brokenhearted and give them rest…”

It is then, we, the rescuer look upon Him with our tear filled eyes…
To finally then see the presence of our Savior, who has answered our heart’s cry…
One by one, the ghosts of our tragedies past begin to gradually leave…
Although, they often try to break back in, we now know & believe…
Even though that we who have rescued others and saved those who have called…
Jesus is our one true Savior, the greatest Rescuer of all…

God Bless all those who have carried this pain for far too long. May God grant you the peace that your heart has sought for and the peace that comes from God’s Son.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries.

There has to be more to life than this-And there is!

While reading the story of the prodigal son to our daughter I had to pause for a moment as I felt God speak to my heart. The story tells us the younger of two sons who tires of the harsh labor of farm life and goes to his father asking for his share of the inheritance now. The father is sad, yet grants his son’s request. 

The son goes and spends all that he has on wild living and is happy for a short time. Then his inheritance runs out and none of his ‘friends’ come to his aid as he is in desperate poverty.

He finds himself alone at the lowest point of his life he has ever been. And the scripture says “Then he came to himself.” This is the moment where he realizes what he had and what he gave up. 

Have you been there? 

Have you felt that moment where you realized that all you have done is not worth what you gave up to get there?  

This is a dark and sorrowful moment but THERE IS hope for the broken hearted:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; 

A broken and contrite heart

You, God, will not despise.”

(Psalm 51:17)

As we read in the story, we can all draw a comparison to the prodigal son in that he realized what he had done.  

As I read this story, I noticed that as the son returns home to ask his father’s forgiveness his father sees him and races out to meet him. He doesn’t condemn him, He doesn’t ridicule him, and surprisingly he throws him a party to welcome him home. Because the Father knows the son’s heart. He knows that he not only is sorrowful for his past but has repented & turned away from what was wrong.

My friends, in life we are guilty of many things but what matters is the state of our hearts. God is patient with each of us and longs for us to “come to ourselves” and return home. 

He is ready to run out to meet you and has made a way home through His son Jesus Christ.  

2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God is ready for us all to come home. He isn’t mad at us. He loves us and has proven it through the Jesus. I pray that wherever you are, when you come to yourself, realize that you can come home.

God is ready and waiting with open arms…

Andy Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

The T-Shirt Firefighter & the Bumper Sticker Christian

double-oaks-2nd-alarm-full-view-1024x768 The T-Shirt Firefighter and the Bumper Sticker Christian

It is not uncommon to see a person wearing a T-shirt that indicates they are a firefighter. In many instances, the words or pictures on these T-shirts are not pleasant and are often proclaiming actions this individual isn’t living out. This often angers firefighters who take the craft of firefighting seriously. But what about our faith? Do we take it as seriously as our place in life as firefighters? What about those who wear T-shirts or bumper stickers claiming they are Christians but live a life that is contrary to what God’s word proclaims? Shouldn’t this cause us to pause and reflect on what’s more important?

Perhaps you have heard it said: “I’m not a Christian because they are all hypocrites.” Sadly, this is true for many of us. We claim a belief that we often fail to consistently live out causing more harm to Christianity by our poor examples.

“It is an extraordinary difficulty quality to fake. It is beautiful to see demonstrated in someone’s life. However, it is equally obvious when it is lacking. What is it? It is a healthy, consistent, and balanced faith” (Stephen Arterburn).

Stephen’s word’s ring true that it beautiful to see the love of Christ demonstrated consistently in someone’s life. This in fact, is a living Epistle of God’s handiwork written before the eyes of the world for all to see that God can save, God can transform, and God can do anything in anyone’s life if they will put their trust in Him.

Make no mistake, this is not a condemnation of those who strive to follow Christ and fall down as most of us do. This writing is for those who claim merely a title and not a relationship with Christ as many of us often fall into this trap. Their belief is only as deep as their devotion. How do I know this? Because this was my life until 2006 when I felt the weight of conviction. The conviction came from the Holy Spirit, showing me that I was leading others astray by claiming a belief that I didn’t truly have.

For firefighters, we often are angered or frustrated by those who claim to be firefighters but fail to consistently train, improve, or perform well when the call comes in. Yet, we who take such a calling so seriously, often fail to live out the values of our own faith. We find ourselves in an uncomfortable place of self-conviction as we stand in front of the mirror realizing it is we who have failed.

In our faith we often fail to live out our belief in the following examples:

We claim Christ, yet we compromise truth, condemn others, criticize, all instead of living out our faith in truth and love…

We claim o be good & dedicated parents; yet the hours we invest in our careers far outnumber the time we spend with our spouses and children…

We claim to love Jesus; yet we fail to consistently do what He says. (Luke 6:46 46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

We claim to be Christians, yet our finances prove we love our possessions more than our creator. Jesus counsels us on the dangers of loving riches more than God. One such example is the counseling of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:22-23 “So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

We claim to be witnesses of the Gospel, yet we share more gossip & slander than the Good News. This can be seen in our lives where we pray for someone on Sunday and then gossip among ourselves about their concern during the week. We have to remember that when others allow us the privilege to pray for their private concerns that this isn’t an opportunity for us to gossip; it is an opportunity to intercede and strengthen our own prayer life.

We claim to be saved from our sins; yet our lives reveal a different story of lust, foul language, lies, adultery and more. For myself, the hypocrisy of living a double life was a weight that I could no longer bear. I lived a very rough and perverse life while at work and then would attempt to be the good “godly” man at home. God began to convict me of this and has been slowly hammering away my old behaviors, habits, and things that kept me from being close to Him.

James reminds us that if we claim something our actions will ultimately reveal our hearts:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14).
Jesus reminds us that if we know Him, love Him, and remain in Him our lives will be living proof of our belief: publicly and privately.
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43:44).

In closing, we who claim to know Christ out to be living lives that reflect the depth of our relationship. Therefore, we should all be investing more into our time with Jesus so that when we wake up to face the world that they would see Him in us. Otherwise, if we say we love Jesus yet we act like the secular world we may hear Jesus’ words:

“Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

May we all take the time to strengthen our relationship with the One who loves us so much that “He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b).
God bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Raising Our Children Well

Raising Our Children Well:

The greatest lesson I have received in accountability and responsibility has been through the blessing of parenthood. God has shown me so much and continues to do so even through the eyes of a child. I have received my daily devotion while reading my daughter a children’s bible story. I have felt the weight of my own sin when my daughter has looked upon me when I have done wrong. I have realized that God is close to children in such a way that their faith is often far greater than any of the greatest theologians. I have realized that in order to do the right thing, to follow God, to obey His word is worth it and it comes at a great cost: personally, politically, and professionally.

Yet through all this I have seen the glory of heaven and God’s grace through the eyes of our child. I have realized the error of my own ways and even though there are many who don’t believe the way that I do; I soldier on knowing that God died for me: a lowly sinner. And if He would die for me & change my life then He can do the same in anyone’s life no matter their circumstances.

“The first step to correcting any error is repentance. Unless we are willing to say ‘I was wrong’, we will never know how to follow His right” (Ravi Zacharias).

The greatest privilege God has bestowed upon our marriage is one of parenting. From the moment I began to pray about having a family, to our prayers together, to the moment we found out, and to the moment we held our precious miracle: “Emma Caroline Starnes” has been covered in prayer.

God’s word reminds us that we are to be examples of “The Way” to our children. We must be diligent in continually seeking a closer walk with Jesus “lest you forget the things you have seen.”

“Only take heed to yourself, & diligently keep yourself lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children & grandchildren especially the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb…”(Deuteronomy 4:9).

In this particular scripture, Moses is commanding & instructing God’s people on obedience. We should not forget what God has done for us. The Israelite’s were rescued from slavery, led through the Red sea, fed manna from heaven but yet they rebelled. If we look closely at our own lives, we are not any different. God has blessed us in countless ways, saved us from our sin, and yet we often grumble, complain, and walk away from God. And then we try to justify our sin as the Israelite’s did.

In the midst of our journey through our own wilderness, we need to realize the great responsibility placed upon us. We are teaching, influencing, and molding the next generation which are our children. They are watching our every move, our every word, and more importantly they are watching when we fail.

The things we have seen, our experiences, our failures, and how God has brought us through it all are a part of our story. They are all part of our testimony. We should tell our children God’s story, our story, and how God saved us from our sin. They need to know that we are fallen creatures as well and that through God there is hope in Jesus Christ. They need to see, feel, and touch our Christianity. Our love for God cannot be in proclamation only but it must be present in all aspects of our lives.

For “the righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7). To live a righteous life, is to always remember that we were bought with a price. To remember that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God has paid the ultimate price for our redemption. It is up to us live a life that is worthy of such a gift.

Our children need to know that sin has lost the battle and this world cannot justify our bad behaviors when we kneel before the Almighty. Only the blood of Jesus Christ saves us, redeems us, and transforms us. May we accept the challenge to be transformed and show the world that Jesus Christ lives and reigns in us.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

The Unappreciated

There comes a time in everyone’s life where all their efforts seem to be failing…

There comes a time when nothing seems to work out despite our valiant efforts…

There comes a time when disaster strikes those closest to us that do well, while the wicked live on and prosper…

There comes a time when leaders will abuse their authority, slander & lie, promote mediocrity, and allow certain individuals who “fall in line” to break the rules while they discipline those who do what is right with the most rigid and harsh results as if to say “Look what doing right will cost you”…

There comes a time when, we work our entire life only to be struck down by illness right as we near retirement…

There comes a time, when we begin to walk with God, and many of our relationships fall apart and they view us as hateful and prejudiced despite all of the love we have for them…

There comes a time when our efforts & accomplishments are stolen by others and they even receive recognition for their theft as the originators of the work…

There comes a time, when our spouse turns cold and demands a divorce despite all we do to reconcile…

There comes a time in our lives when we feel lost, abandoned, and unappreciated…

When one pursues righteousness, confesses their sins openly, and cares deeply for others; one would reason that they would be valued…

What then can we do when these trials and tribulations come?

Are we to give up hope as the world seems to only reward those who agree with their values?

Sadly, so many people choose suicide as the answer to their hopeless situation when in reality there lies a hope that cannot be taken from us…

Remember this: Values determine relationships….

What we value, what we cherish, what we know as sacred….

Those beliefs will determine our work ethic, our world view, and if we differ from the world we should be prepared for the storm…

Take comfort in the following words when the tribulations of this world come to our doorstep:

Jesus gave his disciples very specific and powerful instructions in the book of John. His words are for those who claim Him as Lord and Savior. This means we are disciples, which should be understood what responsibility we have and what hardships we will face as such:

“The term “disciple” is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner while the more common English word is student. A disciple is different from an apostle, which instead means a messenger. While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, an apostle is one sent to deliver those teachings or a message” (Wikipedia).

As disciples, then we are learners, pupils, or apprentices to the ultimate master craftsman…

So why do we expect those who don’t share these same values as our Master to appreciate ours?

Should we be surprised?

On the contrary, we have forgotten our master craftsman’s words and may have slowly began to become an apprentice of the world instead.

When the world tells us that all truth is relative we know:

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

When we face the trouble, trial, and tribulation we remember:

Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3).

IMG_6571.JPGWhen the wicked prosper and are rewarded for their efforts we remember:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and the He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:2-5).

One could write volumes on just these few mentioned scriptures but for this writing we should note that Jesus knew what He was facing (the crucifixion and God pouring out His wrath upon Him) and He loved those who were His own to the very end! Remember, as He was dying on the cross “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Remember and read (the book of John is a great place to start) the life of Jesus and see the Son of God, born into abject poverty in a stable where shepherds were chosen as His first messengers. Shepherds were considered outcasts and lowly in terms of societal class in Biblical times. He was baptized, even though He was sinless, and He sought out disciples who were all imperfect sinful men. His three short years of ministering to them changed their lives, transformed their hearts, and He taught, healed, and stood up for truth. Those disciples went on to change the world and they all faced incredible hardships. All of them but one died for their efforts. And they were not recognized during their lives for their efforts but they were “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1b) of those who prophets who had gone before them. They knew what they were facing and they endured to the very end. Why? Because they knew as Jesus did who they belonged to, what reward awaited them, and that their love would lead to eternal dividends in the lives of generations to come.

Therefore, will we “grow weary in doing good?”

Or will we remember who we belong to, what we WILL face, and what reward awaits us?

All of this we do out of love for the one who loved us to the very end even though even He was unappreciated by the very people He came to save. Don’t give up on this world, Jesus didn’t!

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

 

The Forgotten Ones

It is a commonly known fact that those that care for others the most often receive the least care or concern in return…
 
It is commonly known that those who give the most of themselves, who bear their souls, and lift up others in prayer often suffer in silence with their own struggles of sin and pain…
 
To those who call out from the depths of despair…
When you have walked through the darkness of your circumstance…
Take a moment and remember thankfully those who were there…
 
For many laborers make light work of one’s burdens…
Yet too often, when the burden is lifted…
The hurting hearts are healed and the helper is left hurting…
 
When your pain blinds our perspective where you feel that no one cares…
Stand up, open up our eyes, and see the multitude…
Who have been long standing there…
 
Standing alongside with those who have felt abandoned…
Shedding tears with the broken and the forgotten…
Praying for those who aren’t aware…
That many are lifting them up in fervent, passionate, and heartfelt prayer…
 
There are those who hold another’s pain only for a brief moment…
There are those who listen with compassion, intently focused, on the hearts that are broken…
There are those who keep your confidence of your darkest & innermost pain…
There are those who do this, daily, again, and again…
 
They take that phone call at the worst possible time…
They show up when all hope is lost and everyone has gone…
They hold your hand, hold your heart, and never let go of the line…
 
They have sacrificed, lost, and often fall ill…
They have done all of this not for fame or fortune…
They have cared deeply because of the love of the One…
The One who gave it all in spite of our sin…
The One who lived, loved, and died, and rose again…
 
He is the reason that there are those who care so much…
He has changed their heart, enlarged it, and filled it with His love…
They do all these things and more in the name of God’s Son…
They do all of this even though that they are often forsaken, persecuted…
And even though they help those who are lost, they are often the forgotten ones…
 
We say we “Never Forget”, I challenge you today to Never Forget those who have lifted you up, cared when no one else did, and listened when all others walked away…
 
Let us not forget those who care enough to “bear one another’s burdens” for they often are bearing great burdens of their own.
 
God Bless,
Andy Starnes

Not So Rapid Intervention 

As firefighters, we understand that no other words on the radio bring more intensity and emotion than these: “May Day, May Day…”

Yet, we also know that the rescue of our own is often the most difficult and least successful in some instances due to the obstacles we face in order to rescue them. We understand it takes numerous firefighters to rescue one and the effort is not as the acronym implies as “Rapid.”

But what about when we see those around us heading for trouble? 

What about when we see their pain, their suffering, and yet despite our efforts they refuse our help?

Why is there a trend of others suffering in our world today? 

Not just a physical suffering but one of despair, anxiety, depression, and many people seem to be constantly at war with one anyone who disagrees with them. Yet we claim to be a peaceful people. Why is it that in a nation so prosperous, seemingly lacking nothing, we are divided and seem to be in a sense of inner conflict with not our enemies but one another and even ourselves? 

The fire service is not exempt from this, as we often see “the brotherhood” attacking one another over tactics, matters of opinion, and even making personal attacks on our own. How hypocritical of us yet therein lies a deeper problem for us to ponder.

Consider the profound wisdom of Tim Clinton:

“Interestingly, as today’s prosperous generations search for purpose, meaning and value, many are experiencing a pervasive sense of emptiness and isolation. And why shouldn’t they? In a world flooded with distresses like father absence, abuse, violence, marital discord, and emotional problems there is a natural epidemic of escapism through consumerism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and suicide. Earnest Becker accents this thought concluding ‘Modern man is drinking or drugging himself to death…or he is shopping which is the same thing” (Tim Clinton, p.4-Caring for People God’s Way).

We see a world full of every type of material or physical pleasure available to us yet these numbers confirm Dr. Clinton’s wisdom that we are not at peace as we seek escapism:

• 6.7 % or 15 million Americans suffers from depression

• 40-50% of American marriages will end in divorce (Firefighter divorce rates are as high as 70% in some states)

• 24.6 million Or 9.4% had used an illicit drug in the last month (alcohol and substance abuse is on the rise among firefighters).

• And approximately 40 million Americans look at pornographic material daily (This is an increasing problem in the fire service as well).

• Suicide is becoming the leading cause of death among young adults in America today (ages 25-44). We lost more brothers and sisters in the fire service last year to suicide than in the Line of Duty.

With this overwhelming evidence in front of us what is the source of our emptiness? 

Why is it that we are not at peace? 

Why are we using such unhealthy coping mechanisms to attempt to deal with the trials of life? 

As firefighters, we often are guilty of rescuing others but refuse to reach out for help because of our own pride. We feel ashamed of our problem and don’t want anyone to know. We often push this problem down, refusing to deal with it, and it becomes a cancer to our souls. Then the failure to deal with it begins to cause collateral damage in other parts of our lives.

Whether you believe in God or not it doesn’t negate the fact that all of the answers we seek neglect the One that will truly heal us. It is paramount for us to note that this problem is not a physical, emotional, or psychological one; it is a spiritual one and can only be healed by the One who took upon our punishment so we may have peace:

Jesus Christ…

No other name has brought more peace and more conflict…

No other name has more literature or evidence supporting His existence yet He is denounced as either a false teacher or an “opiate of the people.”

No other name has the power to save us as “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:12) Yet no other name is more attacked by those He actually died to save.

Yet no other name is more neglected, more abused, and more evicted from our society than the name of Jesus. Why is this so? 

Consider with me for a moment the words of Jesus…

For those who carry heavy burdens: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

For those who mourn: “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).

For those who are anxious: “Cast all your anxiety upon Him, For He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

For those who feel alone: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who have been tempted: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1).

And for all those who feel that God has forsaken them, even Jesus cried out on the cross as He was dying: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And the ultimate reason for us all to look to Jesus is to remember that:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We must realize that the source of our emptiness, our anxiety, our struggle is a cross shaped scar upon our hearts that only Jesus can heal. He has done the work, paid the price, and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

We often try everything to heal this brokenness except Jesus. We try healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms only to find ourselves still empty. We often come to the end of ourselves before we come to the beginning of God. We fall broken on our knees and cry out in anguish and even shaking our fist at Him when He has been there the entire time pleading for us to let Him in. Then we begin the search for Him but we only do so when our hearts are sincere:

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

And what do we find? Do we find prosperity, pleasure, and all our problems go away? 

No…

We find something even greater. We find peace. Peace amidst the storm, knowing that God is with us. We find reassurance knowing that He will never leave us. We find Joy knowing that we are forgiven despite our past. And we find new opportunity in this hurting world as we go and share the message we have received. 

Thus, as we go out into our daily lives let us look upon our struggles with a new found strength. A strength that doesn’t fail us because it isn’t our own. A strength that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). A strength that tells us each and every day that we are loved, we are forgiven, and that He wants us to share this life changing message with others no matter how much they assail, object, or persecute us. We will love as He loved, through the pain!

May we all seek Him and be found today,

In Jesus name I pray,
Andy J. Starnes