Many of us complain through our joys rather than celebrate them…
We fail to realize that our lives are but mere moments…
And it’s up to us to either live with remorse or cherish them…
In one moment, we stand before God at an altar…
In one moment, we cannot believe that our marriage has faltered…
In one moment, we hold a precious new born child…
In one moment, we are signing papers over differences that can’t be reconciled…
In one moment, we are pious and preaching at others…
In one moment, we are found guilty of the same sin we condemned our fellow brothers…
In one moment, we are living a dream, perfect and serene…
In one moment, we are found wanting, our nightmare has erased our dream…
In one moment, we have a family, a job, and all that we could ask for…
In one moment, we are hiding in an alley, shivering in the cold suffering from our own personal disaster…
In one moment, we are saving others, making a difference every day…
In one moment, we are staring down the barrel of a gun wondering if there is another way…
In one moment, we are comforting others with counsel and guidance…
In one moment, we are refusing our own advice lost in our own personal bias…
In one moment, we are healthy and we take it for granted…
In one moment, we are disease stricken, hopeless, and abandoned….
In one moment, our lives can suddenly change…
Yet we often take these moments for granted, failing to realize they will never be had again…
This all comes back to a garden where we lived in perfect fellowship…
We had it all, yet we longed for more even though there was only one prohibition…
Rather than focus on what we have, we pondered that one refusal…
The decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
From this day on we have been spiraling downward, hell bent on having it our way…
Yet what we failed to realize is that God warned us yet we did it anyway…
We chose to decide what is good and what is evil based on our own decisions…
We chose to invalidate morality, condemn accountability, and justify our own sins…
The collateral damage since that day is plain for every eye to see…
Failed marriages, rampant violence, and even the killing of our own unborn children…
All neatly justified, elaborately explained, by society’s freedom from religion…
We rip God from the very pages of our history as to say to Him, You are not welcome here…
Yet we welcome and encourage His word to the incarcerated as it calms the violence and fear…
We scream at those who follow Christ, you are hateful and intolerant of our views…
While they serve the least, feed the hungry, and struggle with their own demons in their pews…
We lash out at those who say there is only one way to God through Christ….
While in reality, our doctrine loses its explanatory power at the end of our lives…
For only then as the thief on the cross realized at the last moment…
Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins and his precious blood made for our atonement…
Sadly, many of us realize this one moment too late…
Our death bed conversion never occurs as we enter the brimstone lake…
We weep and we gnash our teeth in the darkness but our cries are not heard…
For in our one moment, we chose to ignore the voice of our Savior and Lord…
We chose our moments to be defined by our own righteousness that fell far too short…
We chose to justify our sinful lifestyles only to be found guilty in the highest of courts…
We thought we would stand and give God our explanation…
Yet we fell silent, on our knees, and confessed our lack of His salvation…
But this story doesn’t have to end this way for all of humanity…
For God sent His Son to save the world from this terrible calamity…
If we would but accept His gift and confess our sinful heart…
He will give us a new heart, a new mind, and a brand new start…
This is the promise from God that cannot be broken…
His word will not return void and we are free to be one of His chosen…
Will we accept this freedom in Christ this treasured gift that He gave?
His blood, His sacrifice, was given so all may be saved?
It is a gift that must be received for our relationship to be restored…
It costs us nothing but our submission to the One Jesus Christ Our Lord…
He gave it all so that we may live…
In our one moment, what will we choose to give?
Andy J. Starnes
The Shareholders Meeting:
In a dimly lit room holding about thirty individuals from various countries, backgrounds, and experience levels all sat conversing their vested interest in a precious commodity. There were questions posed from those transitioning from one point of leadership to another. There were questions asked from those just beginning their journey in investing in this commodity. Thoughts were provoked, hearts were stirred, and the young and the elder sat at the same table without rank or recognition all for the same reason:
“The Fire Service”
Men and women sacrifice their time, their monies, their health, and yes even their lives for this investment. It is not bought nor sold yet it has a market all to itself. It requires more than a millionaire can offer yet only those with hearts dedicated enough to serve stay vested long enough for their service to pay the true dividends that it offers.
These shareholders are like none other. They take ownership in not some mere piece of paper whose value changes with the wind. They take ownership in a calling unlike any other that says we care, we will be there, and we will answer when no one else will. They show up whether paid or volunteer. They refuse to accept the diminishing minimum standards that are set by those who are blind to the maximum requirements of this position. These shareholders cannot be bought nor sold. Their integrity is like precious metals that are forged in the furnace of adversity. Their drive is unshakable even when all has been taken from them they continue to give.
These men and women do not ask for reward nor recognition. They do not care for words of praise. What they desire is something seldom offered to them. They long for the chance to serve and the means to do so. Yet in the face of a world that continues to lay-off firefighters, close fire stations, and reduce our capabilities to serve we the fire service continue to serve even when the world tries to tie our hands.
In departments where there is no “2 out” because the powers that be said they weren’t needed; rest assured there will be “2 in.” What the taxpayer and the average citizen may not know, is these shareholders look upon their citizens lives, their families lives, and the chance to make a difference as their most important investment. These shareholders won’t be bound nor limited by policy but by principles and by passion. They refuse to be patronized by politicians who only want their votes yet pull the plug on their brothers and sisters benefits. They will not speak words of slander nor defame anyone’s character yet they will answer the call of the poor, that same politician, the elderly, and all who are in need.
This is what these shareholders desire from us all. For us to remember, that no matter the political climate they will continue to invest. No matter the shackles placed upon them by reduced manpower they will continue to answer. The Shareholders of this precious commodity known as the Fire Service ask one thing:
For they have not forgotten you….
Signed, a fellow shareholder…
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
The Power of One:
Whether we admit it or not a startling fact is that many firefighters (first responders & police) today are suffering. They are not ill, or suffering from a physical malady but they are suffering in their heart.
What is this great suffering that I speak of?
It is the suffering of a dedicated individual in a poisoned environment. It can be likened to a crop struggling to grow in contaminated soil. Their roots are desperately trying to draw the nourishment it needs to survive but they are continually fed with negativity instead of nutrients.
At every turn, it seems their efforts or achievements are ridiculed, targeted, and or persecuted for their good works. In many cases, firefighters have mentioned how the culture is actually rewarding and encouraging many to be ‘unethical.’ So one must pose the question:
How does a passionate, devoted, and dedicated individual not only survive in such a climate but thrive?
Let us ask ourselves, where does our motivation come from?
“It would be no surprise, if a study of secret causes were undertaken to find that every golden era in human history proceeds from the devotion and righteous passion of some single individual” (Richard Ellsworth Day-Filled with The Spirit).
Many times, we as leaders look upon leadership with envy of their successes without thought of their suffering.
We look upon the outcome of a lifetime of dedication, devotion, and sacrifice and forget that this was a human being who struggled and sacrificed greatly.
We look upon their bold speeches and courageous moments but never think of their moments of loneliness, their moments where they felt betrayed, and when they contemplated giving up.
The next time you are with one whom you greatly respect as a leader and ask them to tell you about their struggles as a leader. Ask them about their moments of doubt, discouragement, and disillusionment. And ask how they overcame it!
Their wisdom can be defined as one who understands knowledge because of the blessing and survival of personal tribulation.
A quick historical look into our past allows us to gather insight on the tribulations of our past leaders:
In the beginning God called Noah to build an arc to save his people. Imagine the ridicule he faced by those around him while he build this massive arc in the middle of dry land.
Yet because of his faith, he prevailed and God saved him and his family.
God called a man by the name of Abram to leave his country and his family to go to a foreign land. Abram left everything to follow God. Imagine the thoughts he must have had as began his journey yet he trusted God and God was faithful to him. Especially after all that he had been through and God blesses him with a son in his old age but then came the test of his faith.
God then instructs Abraham to take Isaac up on a mountain and sacrifice his son to God. Imagine Abraham’s pain as he bound his son, placed him upon that altar, and stretched out his hand to slay his only son. But God intervened! God saw that Abraham’s faith was genuine and provided a lamb in the place of Abraham’s son.
May we consider what God has done for us all?
He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ into the world.
He loved in spite of the hatred of the world.
He forgave where others condemned.
He held those accountable who refused and abused God’s grace.
He endured persecution, betrayal, and was crucified for a crime He did not commit.
Throughout all this He never wavered, never responded with hate, and never quit.
And God laid His only Son on that cross and did not intervene.
He allowed Jesus to die for our sins, pay the debt we could not pay, and then showed the entire world that sin and death did not have the final word by resurrecting Jesus on the third day.
So as we struggle to grow in the poisoned soil, may we draw our strength from our true source of encouragement: God’s word!
May we also realize as we struggle that many have gone before us and kept the faith in spite of great opposition.
Many have endured persecution and in the end prevailed.
Many great achievements, passionate movements, and powerful changes have all been accomplished because ONE individual trusted in God and the call that was placed upon their own heart.
They “leaned not own their own understanding” (Proverbs 3:4a) and when they were hurt and falsely accused they remembered:
We are not alone!
“Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Our struggles are not in vain!
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
We will overcome!
Jesus said “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
Only from the mountaintop can we see the beauty of the valley!
When we are in the valley we feel overwhelmed and often feel like giving up…
When those around you ridicule for taking the high road of honesty and integrity…
When your efforts and achievements are sabotaged…
When you are falsely accused…
When you are betrayed…
When you suffer for doing what is right…
Remember the struggles of those who have gone before us.
Remember that every leader who embraced the calling within their heart has faced the fiery arrows of the devil. We are not the first and will not be the last. However, we are to remain strong by trusting in our true source of strength.
We are to have joy because we know the end of this story. We are know that God will use all of these things for good and we will not give up! We are not alone and we will not quit!
God Bless you all,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse:
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)
As firefighters, we don’t like to admit that we often hurt. Not just a physical pain from our work but an inner torment. We often push down the emotions from the things we see, the struggles in our own lives, and the stress we experience. Then in one moment, we erupt as if our emotional pressure relief valve gives up. The tears come and they fall like rain. Perhaps, in this moment we could take the time to remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also shed tears.
Jesus experienced the same emotions that you and I feel. Every one of us has shed tears, tears of joy, and tears of sadness. We will face trying times and some of these moments will seem impossible for us to deal with. And as a follower of Christ, the more that we work for Him, the higher position we rise to, the greater the opposition we will face. It is a certainty that has been foretold by Jesus and lived out by Him and all of those who have followed Him.
“If you want to be my follower you must love Me more than your own father & mother, wife, and children, brothers, sisters-yes more than your own life.” (Luke 14:26)
In John 15:18-25 Jesus predicts our coming persecutions:
18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master. ’If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.
Many of us have fallen away when we have suffered for the sake of Christ but we must remember the words in 1 Peter 4:12-19.
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?
And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,
What will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.”
Every person that we can read about in the Bible struggled, suffered, and wept. Yet, do we realize there is such a thing as tears of joy. The actual chemical composition of tears of sadness and tears of joy are actually different. So when we feel the emotions flood our hearts let us not suppress them let us embrace them and remember:
God counts every one of our tears:
“Thou numberest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; Are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8
God Himself has shed tears:
“Jesus wept” John 11:35
God will wipe away our tears:
“4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. “(Revelation 21:4)
The tears of joy and sadness in life will come but let them fall knowing that God the Father counts every one, God the Son has shed tears, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day. We can take comfort Jesus was “made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
We are to remember that this world is the training grounds for heaven. We are made for a higher purpose, predestined for good works, and He will use all things to work together for our good and His glory if we will yet trust in Him. Hold the line, don’t let stop fighting the fires of your life, and remember He is with us though it all.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
Firefighter Discipleship: Leadership Lessons from the Book of Titus.
“Training others up in the way they should go” is an important step in the discipleship process, which is to slowly and carefully develop someone into a mature Christian and a responsible leader” (NIV commentary on Titus).
In the fire service today mentoring appears to becoming a lost art. As leaders and veterans of our calling we are entrusted with a greater responsibility than we realize. Jesus commands us in the great commission to “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).
Therefore we must be diligently and passionately seeking out those we can share the message of God’s hope, our experiences, and our skills with. By our obedient service to others they may be well equipped for the struggles yet to come. For by showing them the true source of our strength (Jesus Christ) they will remain steadfast to the faith long after our time has passed.
In the fire service, strong leadership in the face of negative circumstances can be a difficult road to travel. Paul provides us with many examples of how we should lead others in his letter to Titus. Paul faced innumerable hardships and references them as he is mentoring others. He defines leadership, defines Titus purpose, and outlines the necessary characteristics that he needs to model for others.
As we learn from these leadership lessons we see that a strong leader is also a responsible one. They understand that their calling must be based and built upon Jesus Christ and not on any person, title, or affirmation from others. Otherwise when trial and opposition comes their way they can quickly become disillusioned and disheartened. Therefore, to effectively lead requires a Godly vision for the future by making preparations to insure the process of leadership development continues long after the strong leader is gone.
Why is all this important?
A responsible leader cares more about the mission and the vision than they do about personal recognition. They know from the very beginning that training others up to assume key positions in leadership is mission critical. Paul recognized this and knew that the importance should be focused on Christ and not a person. Read his letters to Timothy and Titus and note how he is passionately, carefully, and slowly developing them into the future leaders for the church. Our lesson for today is that without mentoring, training, and encouraging others for the future we are failing to be obedient Disciples of Christ.
Here are some key characteristics and leadership lessons from Titus:
Has a strong marriage and strong family values: this person is faithful to their spouse.
Blameless- “not overbearing, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:7)
One who is passionately pursuing training others more than promoting themselves-Titus is a letter written from Paul to Titus. The letter was an example of Paul’s passion to train & equip Titus. Paul tells Titus “5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1: 5)
One who boldly speaks the truth in the face of false doctrine: 0 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. (Titus 1:10-11)
One who leads by example: “7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”(Titus 2:7-8)
One who is respectful to authority: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”(Titus 3:1)
One who avoids foolish arguments: “9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-10)
As leaders in our homes, our churches, communities, and the fire service may we meditate on God’s word and pray for the Holy Spirit to equip us in these areas. So “we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17)
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
As leaders, we are tasked with providing encouragement to people who can be hostile and unreceptive. And the organizations that we serve can often hinder our efforts to provide positive change.
Our positive words seem to be met with a negative reactions more than a welcome response. Our suggestions are often met with negativity rather than an open and appreciative response.
This can cause the most devoted leaders to eventually suffer burn-out in a poisoned and punitive environment.
Have you ever fallen victim to this trap?
If so consider these these questions:
How does one stay motivated in the midst of those who seem quite content with being miserable?
How do we keep our head of encouragement above water while an anchor of negativity is being tied around our neck?
Are you at this breaking point?
There is hope:
It is when we fail while being “tested in the furnace of adversity” then do we realize why we failed.
Our motivations and values must be from a higher power. We cannot keep our motivation strong in an environment that fails to provide affirmation. Our driving force cannot come solely from the organization. If it is our sole source of strength we will find our selves on the streets of hopelessness.
Some may struggle with this concept but the fact is this:
Every human being at some point will disappoint us. Every single one.
This is not a reason to give up on others; it is actually quite the opposite. One who has carried a heavy burden recognizes the signs of an over-burdened soul.
They once carried their light into the darkness only to have it snuffed out by the winds of tribulation and negativity.
In order for our light to burn continuously it must be fueled by source unaffected by any of the devils extinguishing agents,
The light of hope, comfort, and encouragement comes from one who sees through the darkness. This ‘One’ sees our true value and affirms it in our hearts.
Do you know the ‘One’ source of encouragement that ‘will never leave you not forsake you?’ (Hebrews 13:5)
As leaders if we draw our strength from God we will find that:
Adversity fans the flame but doesn’t snuff it out.
Tribulation suppresses the available air but our passion burns hotter.
And the pain of disappointment only causes the light to shine brighter.
Because through all of this we are being tested, developed, and made into the leader God wants us to be.
And He has put divine opportunities in our path. The struggles that we encounter are in fact opportunities in disguise.
Got knows that through these experiences we will be given the wisdom to help others because of our journey.
In the midst of our circumstances, instead of asking God why; choose to ask Him what:
What am I to learn from this?
What is it that I am missing?
Consider this prayer:
Help us to see the purpose and not just the pain. Give us the strength and the peace to shine Your light and help others. Let not our struggles be in vain.
May we encourage one another with our lights that still burn after all that we have been through.
May our journey be one of understanding rather than discouragement. And grant us the wisdom to face each ‘opportunity in disguise’ with a renewed perspective.
In Jesus name,
The Leadership Bible by Andy Starnes-Chapter 2: The Leadership Journey
As we begin our leadership journey we must understand the great responsibility and privilege we are about to assume. We have stepped up to an awesome and amazing opportunity! To lead others in the ‘way they should go’ (Proverbs 22:6) and impact lives for the future of this world and the world to come.
Make no mistake, this is no easy task and it will not be a smooth paved road with rest stops every few miles. Even the pure of heart will face opposition, discouragement, slander, and persecution all the while trying to improve the world that they serve in.
Why is it that those who choose to lead others suffer greatly?
What leadership characteristics will help us along the way?
The world wants leaders, they cry out in desperation for leadership during the dark times, and they are quick to point their finger in the moment that a leader fails them. Pause and remember the life of Jesus for a moment, which is our ultimate example for leadership, who gives a glimpse of the burden of leadership in the following scripture:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming, the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Matthew 9: 35-38
We can learn much from this scripture but for the purpose of leadership let us examine Jesus’ example and learn from His life.
Obedience: First, Jesus was obedient. He was following the will of His Father. “And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, “Philippians 2: 8-9.
God had sent Him to the world to save the world and He was faithfully going about His work despite the opposition He had faced and would face. A leader understands that their purpose and direction is not self willed but God-given as we see in the life of Christ.
Humble Servant: Notice that Jesus was leading through the role of servant leadership “teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news, and healing every disease and illness.” Jesus is God incarnate or God veiled in human flesh yet “who being very nature God, did not consider equality with God to be used to his own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” Philippians 2:6-7
Compassionate: And while He was serving He saw the crowds and had compassion on them. As we begin the leadership journey we must remember that our service to others must be out of love. To have compassion for our fellow man is to see their great need and respond with our acts of service. This is godly characteristic of leadership and it cannot be overstated that if one begins to lose their compassion for their fellow man then they must consider stepping away from their role of leadership.
Next, notice that the crowd was helpless and Jesus stated that the need is great (harvest is plentiful) but there are few who choose to lead them (the workers are few). As we study the Bible, our guidebook for life, we can see that it wasn’t too long after this story that the same crowds who praised Jesus were shouting “Crucify Him”.
It is as if the world does not want the burden of responsibility for the outcome of the world in which they live in. Followers can quickly turn on a leader even if the leader has done nothing wrong. In order to be prepared for such struggles we must be obedient, humble, have a servant’s heart, and have compassion for our fellow man. These are found in one who embraces God’s love for themselves and therefore is compelled to love, serve, and lead others out of their gratitude for what God has done for them.
Do you feel compassion for the needs of the world around you? Are you obedient to the call within your heart? Pray to God and ask for His guidance to be the Servant Leader that He has called you to be.