Tag Archives: suffering

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

In One Moment

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?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

 

 

 

This is My Fire House

Welcome to my fire house, it is like no other…
 
Here we answer the call of the needy, the hurting, and bring calm to the chaos…
 
This is my fire house, a place of provision, security, and accountability all in one…
 
Here we eat together, pray together, play together, and share our burdens…
 
This is my fire house, it is like no other for only here can we be real with one another…
 
Here we fight, argue, and occasionally have times of discord….
 
This my fire house, four walls that house those who go out to serve the world…
 
Here we ventilate, open up, extricate, and bring life back to one another…
 
This is my fire house, where training isn’t optional it’s a part of our life…
 
Here we read, we discipline, we exercise, and we practice to be prepared…
 
This is my fire house, it is like no other, for I am responsible for those under its roof…
 
Here we watch over one another, we take care of one another, and our daily actions are the proof…
 
This is my fire house, it is like no other for we have good times, dark times, and experience loss…
 
Here we shed tears, we shed blood and sweat, and remembering those that we have lost…
 
This is my fire house, a place of solace and peace for those that are blessed to dwell…
 
Here we speak of heaven, praise God, and together we have been through hell…
 
This is my fire house, a place of rest for the weary and a place to come home to…
 
You see this isn’t a fire station filled with trucks and equipment…
This is my home with my wife, my daughter, and the love that fills it…
 
You may have thought of the fire house with those that you love…
And that is a special place as well, but first remember what we have been given from above…
 
Remember your family, your spouse, your children and how we respond to them…
 
Remember their desperate calls for help when they need their dad, their mom, and their friend…
 
Remember how you train, how you work, and how you would give your life for them…
 
Remember how no matter when the moment strikes you will always answer the call…
 
For this is your fire house, the one given to you from above and it should be placed above all…
 
God has given you a family, those under your care that you are to fight for…
 
This is our greatest blessing, our greatest calling, and the reason we train so tirelessly for…
 
This is my fire house, and I will fight the fires of life with those entrusted to my care…
 
We will train ourselves up in the way we should go and always be there….
 
This is my fire house, a place of shelter, protection, provision, and peace…
 
Those that dwell here will respond to each other, to others, and the last, lost, and the least…
 
For Jesus is our Commander in Chief and we seek his direction daily…
 
We may fail, we may fall down, but He walks with us through the fires ever so bravely…
 
He will never leave nor forsake therefore we will stand together through it all…
 
Knowing that this is my fire house, that He has equipped those within it to answer the call…
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries.

In a Battle? Time to Get to Higher Ground!

In the midst of the storms of this life, have we considered how well we are communicating with the One who controls the winds and the waves? In the middle of the firefight when the flames are raging, how well are we communicating with the Ultimate Incident Commander?
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me for in you my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purposes for me” (Psalm 57:1-2)
 
There is a battle raging right before our very eyes. Police are being targeted and killed, religious freedoms are being removed, innocent unborn children are being murdered, terrorism is on the rise, and the importance of morals & values are being diminished by many leaders in society. Yet there is an even greater war going on….
 
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).
 
The Bible clearly tells us that there IS spiritual warfare going on all around us. For those who believe, we see its effects clearly around us. Yet we also fight a battle within ourselves against our sinful nature. We fight against our own lust, lies, anger, hypocrisy, idolatry, greed, and so on.
 
“For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:17-18).
 
So how do we fight against this invisible foe along with our sinful nature? Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we should “put on the full armor of God, so that you can be ready to take you stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). However, are we truly ready for battle? The issue isn’t the armor of God in many cases; but whether or not we are communicating and in relationship with the One who is leading the battle.
 
We must boldly then pray “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18) and know that “In Him through faith we approach God” (Ephesians 3:12). This can be hard for many of us. For myself, I feel that my prayers are often hindered not because of God but because of me. I feel unworthy to approach him because of my sins. I forget the great price that was paid for my own sins by Jesus Christ. I have to come once again, boldly yet broken to the foot of the cross and cry out to My Lord having the full confidence that He will hear me not because of what I have done but because of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us.
 
We can then pray as Paul did that God would “strengthen you with the power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted, and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s Holy people to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-20).
 
So are ready for battle? Are we willing to put the time in as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Time in prayer, Time in studying His word, and Time in showing God’s love to a hurting and lost world even if it costs us?
Remember, a solider expects to be attacked, they expect their enemy will come at them. Let us then boldly pray and pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus knowing that He will fight our battles if we will remain in Him.
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Why Suffering?

Why Suffering?

Have you ever suffered at the hands of another? 

Have you been ridiculed, slandered, and belittled for no reason other than the individuals ability be hateful?

Have you felt anger well up inside your soul? 

Have you felt the need to respond in a physical or verbal way that brings resolution to your own personal injustice?

In these moments, it is the greatest challenge that our principles will face. In the moment when we are attacked, if we choose to respond as they do then are we any different?

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1: 28b-30

How does one conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish? 

If we ‘repay anyone evil for evil'(Romans 12:17), are we on the road to becoming the very person that has injured us? Have we ever considered why people lash out in the first place? 

Have we considered why so many attack good people and those good people suffer greatly? 

Reflect on these questions for a moment:

Who do we claim to be? 

Do we claim to be followers of Christ? 

Do we claim to be loving husbands/wives, loving fathers/mothers, and loving members of our community?

Do we claim to be good firefighters?

What is the litmus test to judge whether we are who we say we are?

If we react in anger on the road, with a christian and fire service sticker on our car, what judgement do others make about our actions in that moment?

If we ‘repay evil for evil’ in our moments of anguish and the world broadcasts our incident and sits in judgement upon our actions; what do we think they will determine about the sincerity of our faith?

If our anger controls us and we right the wrongs committed against us; how does our actions affect a young aspiring leader who has been carefully studying our lives?

Jesus reminds us of the higher call placed upon our lives:

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46)

The challenge before us is in the depth of our devotion. How quickly we will fail in the fiery moments of torment if our devotion to God is shallow and insincere. The Apostle Paul wrote about suffering for God many times in his letters. He didn’t merely write words for us to follow. He wrote out of his great suffering. This is one example of his suffering, yet he stood firm: 

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul obviously suffered greatly for his faith, but consider what he was called to do. He was called by God to go and preach the Gospel. 

What are we called to do? 

Have we forgotten of all the leaders who have gone before us? 

Did they not face great opposition, persecution, and adversity? 

They suffered because they knew the goal was worth the cost. They took their eyes off worldly comforts and realized the impact of their daily actions would pay generational dividends.  

Let us remember that our conduct reflects our conscience and our daily walk shows who we truly are. 

The true test of one’s character is not during fair weather but when the storms of opposition rain down. It is then that we see those who are superficial and not strong. It is then when we see how strong our faith truly is. So let us remember:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

The Shareholders Meeting

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:

Remember Them!

For they have not forgotten you….

Signed, a fellow shareholder…

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse

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.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

 

Leadership: Nowhere to Hide Part 1

Anyone who has embraced the call to ‘step up and lead’ understands the weight of this great responsibility. Whereas we once cast stones at others about their incompetence or poor leadership abilities; we now are more understanding due to having walked several miles in their shoes.

Leadership by its very definition is to be out in front. In times of conflict, those who are out in front are bold but also the ones to first to receive the first opposing fire from the enemy.

In the fire service, the very act of becoming a firefighter is the acceptance of leadership. A firefighter is on the nozzle, taking the brunt of the harsh environment they enter. A firefighter is the first through the door in many challenging situations and is often the first to sacrifice for another.

But as one steps up into the front seat of the fire service, they encounter an entirely new perspective. They are not often greeted with appreciation for their decisions and when the time comes to deliver unwelcome news they now bear the true burden of leadership. Many speak of leadership under fire but many shy away from dealing with the ‘working fires’ under their own supervision.

Everyone who writes of leadership speaks of leading from the front, setting the example, and staying accountable but few enlighten others of the responsibility of having to discipline, or deliver unwelcome news, and accept responsibility for the actions of others.

Few speak of the challenges of having to discipline those who are our friends who took advantage of the relationship.

Few share the pain of loneliness felt when those we try to help, walk away, or refuse our counsel.

Few speak on the hurt as they try to affect change within the organization only to have their ideas and countless hours worth of work discarded as if it were meaningless.

Few individuals understand that these aforementioned experiences are part of being a leader as well. The responsibility, privilege, and authority in leadership goes hand in hand with accountability. There is no escaping this. We as leaders cannot have one without the other. It is a balanced equation that must be understood. The trumpets on our collar are symbolic of a leader and a manager.

Leadership means to embrace all of its responsibilities and not shirk away from the hidden struggles of personnel problems. It also means that we are to lead, inspire, and motivate others even if they move on. A leader’s goal should to be help others reach their full potential. This requires great personal sacrifice and is often painful. But we are not here for an awards ceremony, our greatest reward as leaders will be reflected in the hearts of changed lives that we were blessed to watch over.

So when the next dark moment comes upon us, and we wonder if all our work is for naught; pause and give thanks that we are an integral part of the leaders of tomorrow. Our efforts are developing and shaping the future of emergency services.

To This You were Called

In the world around us, if we look a little deeper we see God’s word and His love crying out to our hearts. Many of us fall into the trap of becoming self focused and seeking all of our affirmation from others. Our world and its very meaning is constantly being defined by the media, social stereotypes, and the positive or negative comments of others. Is it any wonder that so many of us struggle with self esteem and self worth?

The answer to our problem lies within the mirror: Our Paradigm

How we see the world and how we interpret its meaning is our paradigm. It is basis for our understanding.

In order for our lives to have value, to have meaning, and stay passionate toward our purpose we cannot base it solely upon the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of others. Our meaning has to transcend this place because we are called for this purpose to endure and be an example for others. We are not made to look like the rest of the world but to stand out and change the world. We cannot do this if we are constantly changing our self to appease others. We have to be who we are and live out what we are called to do.

“But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

This purpose, this passion, this calling will not be well received. We serve a master who came to love and share God’s love and ultimately died for those who didn’t even recognize Him. Yet He loved anyway, He gave of himself, He lead with a servants heart and humbled Himself. How much more so will we be rejected, persecuted, and ridiculed?

We carry the cross of His passion , His purpose, His love and share this message not critically but with compassion. We will respond to the challenge of hatred with counsel and lead them into a discussion. We will bear the burden of insult in order to later in the hopes of leading them into a relationship with Christ.

We will be excluded in this world only to be exalted in the next. We will never give up on those who assail us, hurl insults, and seek to destroy us for we were once as they were: alone and hurting. We can look upon our brothers and sisters not with a judgmental attitude but through the eyes of a fellow sinner who has compassion on them.

Let us shift our paradigms and see the world as God sees it: in need of rescue. We were taught a simple rule of grammar that can be helpful to us here:

I comes before E except after C.

The challenge before us today is to apply this our lives. Before Christ came into our lives we lived for ourselves (I), then (E)veryone else, and occasionally went to church or thought of God. But now we see the world as He does. After (C)hrist, everyone else comes first into our mind and then lastly we think of ourselves (I). This is burden, accept it with great joy and know that we do not walk alone. We are meant to carry our brothers and sisters, forgive them, and love them in spite of their opinion as we pray for the day that: the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
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