Why are you here?

Why are you here?

Why are you here?

What drives us?
What makes us get up in the morning?
What makes us push harder, study longer, and work tirelessly?

The answer for some may be a passionate pursuit of excellence or their calling. We challenge the notion that a title or a role is what defines us. The definition of who we are is found in our very heart.

Consider this:

“I chose you before I formed you in the womb;

I set you apart before you were born.” Jeremiah 1:5

Before we were born, we were chosen and set apart. We were set apart for a purpose, a relationship with Christ, and a relationship with our family.

Any parent that has held a newborn child in their arms has experienced a precious gift from heaven. As Jesus came as a newborn hope into our world we can experience this hope through Him.

Something changes within us when we commit our life to another in marriage. We begin to grow closer to one another and put their needs before ours. Then some have the privilege of becoming parents; their motivation becomes even more self-less. This process is one of sacrifice, of leadership, and of servant-hood. We learn the priceless value of the most treasure gift: our family.

The verse “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) is the example God set before us as a reminder.

A reminder that a loving Father laid down his own Son’s life for his children. And We are those children! 

When we feel the weight of the great privilege bestowed upon us as parents our motivations change.

This change is the process of becoming a servant leader. We are not focused on our own needs anymore. We are serving, working, learning, and loving all for the benefit of our spouse and our children. For we have been given much and much will be required of us.

If you have a family, if you have someone that loves you, if you are privileged to be a “noble overseer” one who watches over another then you are truly blessed indeed.

Do not take this responsibility and heavenly privilege for granted. Too many have lost their families not because of tragedy but because they began to value the world more than their family. Be ever watchful, be there for them, and honor the blessing that has been given to you.
They are a gift from God; let us treat them as such.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

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The Furnace of Adversity

The Furnace of Adversity

The Furnace of Adversity:

One who studies leadership will continue to find this scene repeated time and time again throughout history: 

Leaders will be attacked.

No matter whether the leader is one of integrity or one of falsehood it is a verifiable fact that leaders will be attacked, persecuted, and falsely accused.

In fact, the greater the moral integrity or dedication to one’s calling the greater the opposition one can expect. 

The greater the achievements for the sake of the call not out of recognition the more quickly they will be forgotten by an angry mob crying out against them.

The more the leader gives without others knowing of his/her sacrifice the more the angry followers will point out what the leader hasn’t done.

How do we know this to be true?

A leader came to His own people long ago, yet they failed to recognize Him…

A leader drew others to Him and trained them up to lead the way in His absence, yet they deserted Him…

A leader healed the sick, fed the poor, stood up for the sinner yet they abandoned Him in His moment of need…

This leader was arrested at night (which by their own law was illegal)…

This leader had a trial with paid false witnesses…

This leader was tried, whipped, and executed the same day (which was also illegal according to their own law). 

This leader was like none other for He had the power to stop all of this from happening yet He did not…

This leader knew His mission and was obedient unto death even death upon a cross…

This leader when spat upon, struck, and whipped did not strike back; He remained steadfast…

This leader when hanging on a cross in terrible agony forgave those who hurled insults upon Him…

For several hours He repeated this statement:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

This leader after enduring all of this laid down His life and did not allow the Roman soldiers to take it…

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

The sky went dark, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, and tombs split open allowing the dead to rise…

All of this occurred and yet many still doubted…

This leader rose again after all that had been done to Him and sought out the lost…

It has been said the definition of steadfast is to remain under the load. To hold steadfast is to remain under the great pressures of life, unwanted burdens, false accusations, and the sins of others. Jesus remained steadfast in the face of overwhelming adversity and yet He did not sin. He did not return evil for evil, he did not exact revenge, and after all that was done to Him He forgave them.

Why? Why would someone endure all of this for those who failed to recognize or appreciate Him?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Perhaps you are in a difficult place today?

The world seems to be falling apart around you and those that were closest to you have abandoned you…

The world has heaped anger, slander, and persecuted you all for following the Word of God which is Jesus Christ.

Take hope today that by the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that those who once persecuted Him came to believe and were saved.

This was done by the power of His redeeming love. So if you have given up on many and feel hopeless remember the the thief on the cross who at the last minute realized who Jesus was. And what did Jesus do for him?

Jesus said to him

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

So don’t give up! Remain steadfast in hope, in prayer, and in faithfulness to Him that endured far more than we can imagine. He did this so all may be saved:

 “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Remain steadfast,

Andy J. Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Suicide on the Installment Plan

Suicide on the Installment Plan

Suicide on the Installment Plan:

“Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations and it shows up in our attitudes. It never really existed, yet it’s power lives among us and keeps us from moving forward.” Author unknown.

Many times, we overlook the distant look in a fellow firefighter’s eyes. Slowly, with the constant assault on our heart we begin to die on the inside. 

It begins with a look, an act of omission, choosing to remove oneself, and the very lines on our face can tell more than many of us would like to admit about the condition of our heart. 

We blindly and foolishly believe that we can move through our days and function without others realizing that we are silently suffering on the inside. 

Our behaviors give us away and cry out to others what our prideful selves refuse to do. We are showing signs of a tremendous fire inside our hearts, slowly burning, choked down but not out. 

In these moments, if not careful we can hurt others in so many ways. We push others away and build walls around our hearts. 

We seal off our emotions as if they were a hazardous material that no one should touch. 

Yet in reality, we have been hurt so deeply that we would rather suffer in solitude than allow anyone else into our world that may hurt us again.

But do we realize that our defensive efforts are actually destructive ones to others and ourselves?

Do we really want to spend our lives pushing others away? 

Do we realize what we are doing to others by ‘protecting’ ourselves?

If we are not careful, we are leading others down the same dark path as we assume our defensive posture. 

What can we do?

We cannot continue nor allow others to suffer alone. We must not let these brothers or sisters think that no one cares for them. They are carrying a sign around their neck that is printed in bold letters:

“HELP ME!”  

Those who suffer in this way is a slow and gradual death. It is suicide on the installment plan. Day by day a piece of them dies right in front of the world yet no one says or does anything about it.

Will we as leaders, friends, and believers take the time to speak words of comfort?

Will we take the time to listen to them?

Will we take the time to care?

Will we be so focused on saving lives that we fail to save the lives that are dying right in front of us?

Will we shine His light into their darkness?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

For if we don’t take the time we may live the regret of the results of their collateral damage, their or our wasted life, or the memories of what we should have done to try to help. 

Let us ask ourselves:

Would we want to be treated as they are being treated? 

Don’t we realize that their behaviors are a cry for help? 

Who will help them? 

We save others but yet we are failing to save ourselves…

As leaders we cannot ignore their silent cries that says more than words can ever say. We cannot ignore them no more than a person hanging from a fiery window screaming for help. 

Those that we know who carry these burdens are trapped at a fiery window and only those in their fellowship, those closest to them, will be able to make the rescue if they act in time.

Take the time to share Jesus with them. Be the brother or sister that they need when the call comes in. Don’t wait, respond and make the greatest rescue: The rescue of a broken life. Give them the greatest gift that you can give: The gift or your compassionate presence. You will never regret it.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Leadeship P.A.R.

The Leadeship P.A.R.

The Leadership Personal Accountability Report:

Let us pause and reflect on our lives for a moment…

Who are you? 

What defines you? 

If our job or title was taken away would we still be significant? 

Does our salary define our significance or do we measure significance by the lives we touch?

If no one recognizes nor appreciates what we do; will we carry on or quit?

My friends God has made us unique. He has a special purpose for each one of his children. 

If we believe that we cannot make a difference or that we don’t have what it takes then we need to spend more time reading His word instead of listening to the voice of doubt.

We must first trust God and not man:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”Proverbs 3:5-6

Lean not on OUR understanding! That means when things don’t make sense, when others hurt us, when the world doesn’t appreciate our efforts we focus on God and not the noise of negative naysayers.

We must then study His word:

God has left us His word that lists example after example of inadequate, ill-equipped, and fearful individuals who produced miraculous & extraordinary results through God’s power.  

The Bible lists name after name of those who trusted in God and did great things. And my friends our names are being written in another book as we speak. 

Consider those who have gone before us:

Moses was not a good speaker yet God worked through him to speak to the most powerful man in history at that time to free the Israelites. We can read about his story in Exodus.

David was the smallest of his brothers but was a “man after God’s own heart”. Yet he committed adultery and murder. And he became one of the greatest kings who ever lived. Why? Because he was broken and contrite & repented wholeheartedly. We can read about David in 1rst & 2nd Samuel. We can hear the emotions of his heart through the Book of Psalms.

Paul was the greatest persecutor of the Christian faith and became the greatest evangelist for the Christian faith. Paul met Christ on the way to persecute Christians. Yet, Paul is responsible for writing most of the New Testament and planting many churches. We can read about Paul in Acts and read his letters throughout the New Testament: Corinthians 1&2, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

But after reading about all these ill equipped, fearful, sinning individuals that God worked miracles through for some reason we still doubt? 

Didn’t we go through training to become a firefighter? So we begin to see harsh experiences in our lives as a form of training…

“God has shaped you to serve through your experiences, educations, gifts, personality, passions and relationships. God has people and situations that you are divinely prepared to touch.” (Dave Earley)

The process of becoming a leader started when we were born. Every moment of our life has uniquely prepared us for the circumstances of our future. 

Our testimony, trials, and tribulations are not just painful memories but “hard life lessons” that have made us stronger. 

These life lessons will enable us to lift up others around us that are struggling. These difficult experiences, if we will draw from them rather than let them destroy us, can be the reason we are calmer, stronger, and decisive in the face of adversity.

Now we understand that everything we have been through has a purpose even if we could not see it at the time:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”(Romans 8:28). 

And now we trust in God and we study His word because we know: 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We trust, We are equipped by His word, and now we must learn how we shall lead those He has entrusted to us.

So how then shall we lead?

Its been my experience that fire service leadership is a servant based leadership style. 

A leader in the fire service shows the way, models the life to live, and remains faithful to their beliefs through good times and bad. 

This is to “Lead by Example.” This phrase is often stated but not fully explained: 

Leading by example is the consistent application of our values, work ethic, and our dedication to our faith, our family, and our fire department family is one way that will set us apart. 

This goes deeper than education. Leaders must truly have a burden in their heart for the people that they are entrusted with. They have a deep desire to care for others when no one else will. 

The mystery of God is that He can allow His infinite Son Jesus to live in the finite area of our sinful heart. We are limited but He is not. Through His power and love God will pour out His mercies and grace through us. He takes us from merely knowing Biblical facts to performing Biblical Acts!

The world sees this as passion. Passion will always out perform intelligence. Passion that is fueled by God and a love for His people will never die. 

Intellect and education is an important part of being a leader but our followers will not commit to us unless they know that we care. 

How will they know that we truly care?

Have you ever noticed that some of the best leaders were the ones that people seemed to naturally gather around? 

What attracts people to follow someone?  

“Good leaders know how to bring the best out of people. They are encouragers and motivators. They see the target ahead and pursue it.” (Charles Specht). 

These individuals are genuine, sincere, and have integrity. They are not afraid to admit their mistakes and most importantly they haven’t forgotten where they came from.

Consider this:

The most effective and important leaders in the Bible had little awareness of the impact their lives had on others. They were too busy obeying God to keep track of their successes. 

Why were they so effective? 

Their focus was not on themselves! They were focused on the bigger picture: God’s plan for his people. 

These leaders were humble and obedient to God’s plan so they could lead others. 

So, do we base our leadership skills by the certificates on our wall or in the profound desire to positively change others in our sphere of influence? 

When we leave this earth we will not be able to take any trophies or diplomas with us. However, we will be judged by the impact we had on others and whether or not we cared enough to make a difference. This is accountability on the highest level.

The certificates of a changed life are framed in heaven and are delivered by God with these words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

May your journey be filled with the reminder that leadership is about submitting to a higher power in order to bless others. As leaders, we are servants that show the way for the next generation.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Fighting The Fires Of Our Lives

Fighting The Fires Of Our Lives

Fighting the Fires of our Lives:

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,” (Isaiah 43:2-3). 

As a firefighter, we look at fire differently than anyone else. Everyone else sees a tragedy whereas we see an opportunity: an opportunity to make a difference, to apply our skills, and to give back to the community.  

In the world of firefighting, the words “control time” mean to stop the forward progress of the incident. We work diligently to stop the fire from spreading and preventing any further harm or damage.

As an experienced firefighter, we approach the job with a sense of calm and perform our duties almost fearlessly. This is not due to blind courage but due to years of experience, training, and application that has provided us with the confidence to do the job all the while remembering the inherent danger of it.

In our lives, we can take comfort that God promises to walk with us through the trials and protect us. He will bring a “control time” back to our lives. For He promises:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b) 

As we face down tragedy, the fires of life, and all of the problems that may come our way let us apply the same perspective as if we were responding to a call. This moment of our life will turn from trial to opportunity. An opportunity for so much more than we can imagine or perceive.

During the trials of our lives, take a moment to look at them from God’s perspective: 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 

Each trial or test that we face may cause us great pain but if we would yet endure we will be made “perfect and complete lacking nothing.” 

By placing our hope in God and not giving up we will achieve a new level of endurance, a new found strength, and when the next trial comes we are ready and able to help others in the midst of our own crisis. We have been broken yet we are now uniquely qualified.

So let us take a new look at trials and view them as the fires of our lives. This is not our first fire and it will most likely not be our last. Each fire that we face WILL be extinguished; and some will take longer and cause more damage but in the end we have the confidence that:

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,” (Isaiah 43:2-3). 

Each fire that we go through we learn, we grow, and out faith becomes stronger. Let us then walk with confidence, knowing that God is with us through all of the fires of life. 

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

The Fellowship of His Suffering

The Fellowship of His Suffering

The Fellowship of His 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

So in light of this, how does one conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish? 

Doesn’t it make sense that we desire justice or vindication for the wrongs done against us?

Yet, If we ‘repay anyone evil for evil'(Romans 12:17), are we on the road to becoming like 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)

Did we notice the challenge He lays before us? Not to merely love those who love us but to love those who hurt us, to love those who slander us, to love those who mistreat us, and to do so with sincerity. This can only be done if Christ lives and reigns in our hearts.

The challenge before us lies 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. And consider how he treated others in spite of his suffering.

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