Tag Archives: wisdom

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

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.

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

 

 

Sharpening Our Spirits

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“Mental sharpness comes from being around good people. And a meeting of minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity, refine them, and shape them into brilliant insights. This requires discussion partners who can challenge one another and stimulate thought-people who know how to attack the thought and not the thinker. Two friends who bring their ideas together can help each other become sharper.” (NIV Commentary on Proverbs 27:17
Those who speak words of wisdom and have instructed others well did not come to this place from their own understanding. They sought out knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Their lives exemplify the proverb “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16
They have experienced life and its trials fully aware of the source of wisdom comes from “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) 
They have considered the counsel of their peers, studied the words of mentors, and sought God’s guidance for their own lives. They carefully choose their words as they know “the one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27).
They understand that to be at peace with their principles and beliefs is better than to follow the waywardness of the simple as “the complacency of fools will destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32).  
My friends, when I think of wisdom and understanding I am thankful that God has blessed us with His counsel through His word and His Holy Spirit. I am so thankful for the wisdom and counsel of mentors, friends (encouragers), and those God has placed in my path to keep my steps from being hampered. Each of you have played a significant role in my life and I pray that you realize how significant you are to God and those He has placed in your lives. 
So let us seek wisdom as if it were gold, let us attack the thought and not the thinker, and let us surround ourselves with wise counsel so our plans may succeed as we lean not on our “own understanding but in all our ways submit to Him and He will make our paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6 paraphrase)
God Bless you all,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Courage Redefined:

The courage to face adversity and opposition is one of the most difficult types of courage to cultivate. Why is this so? Because often it only grows through the challenge of adversity.

As firefighters we risk our lives daily in numerous ways yet when it comes to having the courage to speak up for our beliefs we shy away from the task.

To face the enemy known as fire we take a “calculated risk” based on our training, conditions, and resources available. Yet when we are faced with a moral dilemma we should remember to make our decision based on our faith, our core values, and the truth in God’s word. 

To have moral courage is to “stand firm in the faith”.  In order to develop this characteristic, one must sincerely believe. They stand firm, not because of their own strength, but because of their hope in Christ.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

The challenge lays before you and it is no easy task:

Let us be clear and speak the truth in love. When you are confronted, persecuted, or ridiculed because of your faith do not speak to them as they did to you.

Remember, Jesus is our example. When he was mocked, cursed, spit on, and persecuted He did not respond with anger but with love.

This is the mark of true courage: To respond to hate with love, to answer ridicule with wisdom, to turn the opposition into a conversation, and to lead a conversation into a relationship.

The world may hurt us, betray us, but we can have hope that Jesus didn’t let that stop Him from loving us. He loved through the hurt.

Pray that God will give us courage to love others even when they hurt us.

Prayer:
“May your words be on our lips and may your strength be in our spirit for we cannot stand on our own without you.”

We stand together in this fight with truth and suffer only because we trust in a God who has already won the victory for us.

So “as we are going” through our lives let us pray for the courage to stand firm in our faith, hold the line, and speak the truth in love. For it does us no good if sacrifice a relationship for the sake of winning an argument

Seeking His Counsel-Godly Decision Making

Seeking His Counsel: Godly Decision Making.

Have you ever struggled at the crossroads of decision? Before us lies many wonderful opportunities but only one road can we take.

As Firefighters, it is quite a paradox that we find ourselves in. We make snap judgements that instantly have profound lifelong implications on the lives of others yet here we stand unable to make a decision in our own life.

Consider this statement:

Firefighters spend countless hours mastering the craft in order to perform when the call comes but in our own lives we have failed to train for the tough decisions of life.
“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from The Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.” Proverbs 16:1
If we are not careful, our hearts can lead us astray. In moments of success we can begin the slow drift away from kneeling before God to making ourselves a god.

What can we do?

Do we stand paralyzed by indecision and miss all of the opportunities laid before us?

Or do we pray earnestly, seek wise counsel, and step out in faith?

The Application:

“Commit to The Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans” Proverbs 16:3

We must first align our hearts with His will. We must pray and ask His guidance.

Some of the most godly men in the Bible bore great pain when they failed to ask God for guidance. Let us learn from their examples.

Step 1: Is the choice we are about to make in line with God’s truth?

Step 2: Are we doing this for God or for ourselves? Be Honest, He knows our hearts…

Step 3: If we fail, will our faith remain? Is our faith only strong when things aren’t going wrong?

Step 4: We must act!

“Faith is confidence of what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see” Hebrews 11:1

A step forward in faith is better than one who fails to share the gifts that God has given them. In other words, “trust God as if everything depends upon Him while working as if everything depends on us.” NIV commentary

Pray, Seek Him, And Act according to His will. He will direct our steps.