Forgiveness-withholding the greatest gift

“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” Romans 5:8

In life, we are often wounded deeply by individuals and even more so by those close to us. These events lead us to feel bitter, hurt, and justified in feeling anger towards them. We even go as far as condemning them.

Take a moment and look at forgiveness from another perspective.

What if we caused someone great harm?

What if we went out of our way to persecute, ridicule, condemn and falsely accuse this person?

And our actions ultimately lead to their death. Would we feel that we deserve their forgiveness?

Consider the life of Jesus:

Jesus led a life of love, teaching, and healing everywhere He went. He committed no wrongs yet others condemned Him because of His message. It made them feel uncomfortable and exposed their sinful ways. So what did they do?

They falsely accused Him, paid witnesses to lie about Him in a trial, and then He was tortured, ridiculed. and He was made to carry the very thing He would be killed on for a half a mile.

When we think of every face in the crowd that were shouting “crucify Him” and suddenly we see our own face staring back at us.

We often ridicule and say bad things about others who make us feel uncomfortable by their good works. We look for chinks on their armor because we feel inferior. When they mess up; we call them hypocrites and gloat at their misfortune.

We then tear others down at their expense to make us feel better. Yet, we call ourselves good and some of us even claim to be Christians. It is our bad example that causes many non-believers to reject Christianity.
Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15;

“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Matthew 15:8-9

“How are we to share the love of God if our own methods aren’t loving?” (Ravi Zacharias)

Are we truly “loving one another?”

Jesus chose to die for us even though “we were sinners.” He forgave us and He even goes a step farther. He wants a close and personal relationship with each of us!

When we take a new look at the cross and realize that our sin put Him there…We don’t feel worthy of forgiveness. Yet, He forgave us.

So let us take a look back at our own lives for a moment from the perspective of Jesus:

Despite those who have wronged us, hurt us, and betrayed us we now can realize that we need to Forgive them for we have been forgiven much.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as in Christ, God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32

If we fail to forgive others when we ourselves have been forgiven so great a debt; we are actually condemning ourselves.

Jesus said “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14

As Christians, we must forgive and show God’s love to others no matter how difficult. For if we fail to do so we are actually leading others away from Christ and condemning ourselves.

Let’s speak the truth in love and live out our beliefs by forgiving others as Christ forgave us.

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Firefighters-Reconsidering our Work Ethic

#Firefighters Do we go to work? or do we just go to work?

As firefighters, another occupational hazard exists among us that is often overlooked. We tend to be more judgmental than most professions.

Let’s explain this further:
We are trained to make quick assessments of patients, size-up and implement strategies in dangerous situations, and quickly assess individuals under our supervision. In this process of becoming proficient in our world we can fall into the habit of judging others. We then become especially hard upon our own brothers and sisters in the fire service.

Consider the following examples and then reflect upon our occupational
judgmental nature:

How often have we criticized another fire department’s performance that we watch from the comfort of our arm chair? Yet we were not there and don’t know all the details. Perhaps if we treated them as those that we respond to rather than criticizing them we would behave differently?

How often have we used our own dark humor against our fellow firefighters when we have heard of someone’s choices resulting in harsh consequences? It is a sad hypocrisy that we exist to save others yet we tear down our brothers and sisters when they fall.

How often have we criticized our leaders: company officers, battalion chiefs, or the fire chief and done so in front of young and impressionable firefighters?

How often have we criticized our bosses for a decision they have made but yet we don’t have all of the details of the situation?

These questions are painful yet the truth remains that we probably have been more condemning than we would like to admit. We exist to serve and help others yet we may have fallen into the dangerous position of a bitter critic.

We sit safely in our presently comfortable position while we assail another who stands alone in their painful position. We respond to those in need despite their circumstances but we are failing to respond appropriately inside our own fire houses.

What kind of example are we setting?

How would we feel if our words were printed in the paper?

How would we feel if the brotherhood turned our words against us?

What if we were the boss making the hard decisions? Would we want the support of those we are responsible for?

It’s time to reconsider the value of our work, why we do it, and who we work for. Let us reconsider who our boss is when defining our work ethic “To work with all our might “as though you were serving the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7)

Let us be reminded of the value of our work and that the workers are few. Our model for servant leadership, Jesus Christ, reminds us of the great need for our work:

“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.”

Let us look upon those we serve, internally & externally, with a new found compassion and remember to support our bosses. Let our words build others up and not tear them down. We must practice what we preach as we serve and inside the firehouse.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

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SLICERS, DICERS, & Now: NICER:

The fire service is alive with research, livid debate, training, and education.  Sadly, many passionate firefighters suffer from the fall out during the passionate process of fire service change. It’s like trying to smile while having a root canal. We all want to improve but deep down there is an inherent fear of change.

A quick look at the internet reveals ‘spirited debate’ and heated battles between some of the fire service leaders and on many fire service blogs and discussion boards. 

Many firefighters become disheartened and feel that they are under attack during these moments.  As a member of a research project that takes more than its fair share of ‘spirited debate’ I welcome the discussion.

Let me explain:

If you had a classic car that you poured your life savings into, all of your sweat equity, and years of restoring it; would you let just anyone come in and start making decisions about paint color, accessories, interior, etc.? Absolutely not! You poured your life, your passion, and quite a bit of your financial resources into this vehicle and you are not about to let just anyone come in and change what you have worked so hard to build from the ground up.

Sound familiar?

Firefighters are passionate, they are dedicated, and they have (rightfully so) developed a sense of ownership over the way we do business. I applaud each and every firefighter who debates, discusses, and passionately defends his or her position because it means that you CARE!

However, I do believe that there is no place for tearing each other apart and destroying others brands or businesses simply because you disagree with their tactical playbook. We are better than that. The discussions that I have witnessed and seen online are reduced to name calling and hyphenated discussions that are a waste of time and a blemish to the honor of what we are trying to do as a fire service.

With that being said, might I suggest a new acronym to guide us through the murky waters of change. Consider these principles the next time you have a ‘discussion’ about change.

NICER

N: Now- As you discuss controversial, new, or change in the fire service before you respond take a moment and consider how far the fire service has come and how change has benefited it along the way.

I: Integrity- Consider the remarks that you make can me repeated, twisted, and  misinterpreted by others very quickly. Your remarks reflect who you are. Consider the impact of your words before you speak them.

C: Community-remember the person you are talking with is a part of the firefighter community, the brotherhood, they are our family member, and we should honor them even if we disagree. “Don’t sacrifice a relationship just to win an argument” (Alan Brunacini)

E: Encouragement is in short supply these days. As you end the conversation, whether you agree or disagree leave each other with encouragement. They care enough to discuss the subject which reflects the depth of their passion for the job.

R: Respect, Reflect, Refine: The fire service reminds me of Christianity. There are a lot of churches out there, trying to save souls, but are inefficient because they are too busy arguing about the best way to save someone.

We let our differences get in the way of the main objective. Respect each other, reflect on what was said, and use it to refine your own knowledge and beliefs. But most of all remember the mission is to save lives! Your purpose should be to educate not cause division within the ranks of our community.

Let us lead change and be above reproach. During the course of each others education we should be building relationships not tearing them down.

God Bless,
Andy

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