Leaders-Beware of the trap of ambition

Leaders-Beware of the trap of ambition

Leaders, Beware of the trap of ambition:

This is what the world says to us all: Just one more…

As one who is pursuing the role and great responsibility of leadership it is important to conduct a size-up of ones self. What are our underlying motivations to become a leader?

To make a difference or to affirm ourself?

Is it power, Is it wealth, Is it recognition, Or Is it control?

Understand this:

One who is called to a position of leadership will never be able to quench the inner fire that burns within them. Nothing we will ever do, ever buy, consume or experience will bring us settled assurance.

Only God can bring us peace. Only through Jesus Christ can the void within our heart be filled and the scars of our past be healed. Yet with this knowledge freely given to us, we pursue the perishable.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we lose sight of heaven and only see the here and now.

Emotions, inner drive, a desire to make a profound impact in the world all can spur one forward to revolutionize the world around them. 

Yet in the pursuit of excellence, what was lost? 

What did we truly gain and at what expense? 

What if we stood at the gates of heaven at birth and have spent our entire lives running away from it?

“Every calling involves sacrifice” writes Chuck Swindoll. The key is to understanding this is to know whose calling are we answering: God’s or our own?

Our own calling will be wrapped up neatly so it looks worthy of the sacrifices we will make but underneath it all lays the ugly truth: 

We are doing this for ourselves and ourselves alone.

“Our gains are mostly external while our losses are internal. Since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions it maybe that our gains are but losses spread over a wider field.” A.W. Tozer

“Our gains are but losses spread over a wider field.” Ponder that statement for a moment…

Our gains: Success, notoriety, wealth, accolades for a momentous achievement, status…

How shallow is the waters of our gains while “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)

Each and every man and woman who pursues excellence needs to be aware of this danger. For our focus to remain steadfast, our principles uncompromising, and our beliefs unshaken each one must constantly be about the business of taking a long look in the mirror throughout their journey.

We must ask ourselves:

Why are we doing this? For man or For God?

Have we changed during this process? (good/bad)

Are we becoming closer to the world and a mere acquaintance to our spouse and children?

Have we grown closer to God or the more we achieve the more we shy away from Him?

What is the cost of all of this?

Are we willing to pay it?

After conducting our assessment, we must repeat the following:

“The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants.” A.W. Tozer

Going back to the cause of our spiritual losses and correcting them isn’t done in arrogance; It is done out of a ‘broken and contrite heart’ because we have ‘felt the inner weight of self accusation and it is more than we can bear” (A.W. Tozer)

When we pursue wisdom and knowledge, no matter how pure our first intentions may be, we must understand how dangerous it is. “It is like a hot drink, that you may able to sip it but handle it any other way it would scald you.” (Ravi Zacharias)  

To remain humble is to remember that our strong desire to discover knowledge is the mark of wisdom not a guarantee that we cannot be corrupted by it.  

The devil fell from Heaven because he too fell victim to this corruption. He was the protector of the glory of God and in his foolish ambition he thought he could take the glory of God for his own. And in trying to do so, he fell from heaven along with 1/3rd of the angels.  

Let us learn from this and as we pursue knowledge and wisdom, let us not be tempted, and in our foolish pride be thrown down to the depths while harming those around us by our fall.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”(Proverbs 9:10)

Notice that the fear of the Lord is the beginning wisdom not the pinnacle of it and the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding. Wisdom is the gift of Godly guidance; understanding is the application of this gift. As believers in Christ, we must strive to stay focused on the ‘knowledge of the Holy’ and not let the world’s wisdom drive us astray.

Each and every individual will climb their own mountains of adversity in search of what drives them. They will strive, fall, climb again, and finally reach the top only to find another mountain even greater than the last. Understanding that God is our source, God is our strength, and it is through God that we are made wise; this will give us the knowledge that doesn’t disappoint. His wisdom will not lead us astray and will never leave us orphaned.

The Application:

Those who are climbing the ladders of success should stop and conduct an honest assessment to understand their motivations. 

For if our motivations aren’t pure, our methods may be unethical, and our ‘gains may be but losses spread over a wider field’.(A.W. Tozer)

As we climb these ladders set before us in life we must strive to remain humble, to stay teachable, and to never compromise our principles or beliefs for the sake of an outcome. We must stop and check the locks to ensure we are climbing with certainty. 

We must not prostitute ourselves on the altar of success only to find the goal leaves us unfulfilled and we move on to the next worldly ambition.

If it is our hearts desire to make a difference; to embrace the calling of the Holy Spirit then we should do so.

We can stay focused on the goal by keeping our eyes on Christ through disciplined study, fervent prayer, and stay in the deep waters of accountable individuals. Otherwise, we may find ourselves falling into the world’s trap of never enough.  

His grace is enough and He will give us the desires of our heart. For He made our heart; who knows us better? 

Let us seek to be people after God’s heart and be not dependent upon the praise of man.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

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The Ultimate Rejection

The Ultimate Rejection

In our lives, as we strive to make a difference we often come to a very dangerous crossroads. 

We work, sacrifice, and pour our passionate efforts into the development and improvement of our world. We give of ourselves in ways we never thought possible not even realizing how much of ourselves we have given away in the process.

And then it happens…

All of our work, all of our efforts, and all that we have developed is suddenly taken from us. It is not stolen by a thief nor are we robbed literally at gun point. In fact, it’s worse. Our friends, colleagues, and the very organization that we have worked to improve suddenly realizes the value of our work and TAKES it. They accept it, and place someone else in charge of it, and to make matters worse they fail to even recognize our efforts in making it possible in the first place.

There we stand at this crossroads…

Alone, betrayed, rejected, and bitterness begins to creep in…

Our anger overwhelms us, we can’t believe that those that we trusted, and that those we have given so much to could have turned on us.

We begin the process of defending ourselves…

We consider our defense…

We gather those to our side to defend our cause…

And then suddenly it happens…

A voice whispers to our heart:

My child, my only Son suffered as you did…

Because of you…

Our mind suddenly takes a turn at this crossroads from bitterness to guilt. We remember that what our Lord Jesus Christ went through for us:

We think about those who fail to recognize our efforts and all that we have done and then we remember that Jesus:

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (1 John 10-11)

We think upon the rejection we have suffered, and how all of those we have sacrificed so much for have turned away from us and we remember that Jesus: 

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.” (Isaiah 53:5)

We shake our fists in disgust as we reflect on those who were our “Friends” who abandoned us, betrayed us, and falsely accused us when it hits us that Jesus warned us about this when He said:

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 

“Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

“You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. You will be hated by everyone because of My name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. By your endurance gain your lives.” (Luke 21:12-15).

We must reflect upon what our Lord went through on our behalf, and more importantly, how He behaved through it all:

“When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34).

Jesus didn’t forgive others when it was convenient. He forgave those as they were killing Him. In the midst of great pain and suffering He loved and forgave.

When our hearts are heavy with the burdens of betrayal. 

When we feel utterly alone…

We must remember that Jesus the King of Kings, Son of the Living God, was rejected by that which He created.

All of the love of the Father that was poured into mankind and mankind turned away giving the credit, the honor, and the glory to false idols. And not to the One who created it all…

Does this sound familiar to our story that we began with?

We can overcome and we can endure but we must know that these things are coming. 

Those that love God will face rejection, opposition, and betrayal from those closet to them. We will be tested in the furnace of adversity but if we hold true to our faith. We will see that God is what sustains us. He is what fulfills us. And He “will never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5).

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Your Window of Opportunity 

Your Window of Opportunity 

In our lives, have you ever noticed that we often self impose limitations upon ourselves thereby diminishing our God given capacity? 

We find excuses based on social judgements, our age, our physical characteristics, or we discredit our own intellectual potential. This can occur for a variety of reasons. The following two reasons occur most frequently:

Our environment- One who is passionately pursuing excellence often suffers when their environment is in turmoil, is negative and condemning, and those in our fellowship often shoot arrows at every accomplishment we make.

We believe the lie: Negative judgements imposed upon us can be some of the most destructive agents in our lives. 
We begin to believe statements such as “you are not good enough, smart enough, old/young enough, or there’s no way you could ever do that.” We begin to listen to the voice of doubt and negativity rather than listen to the inner voice within. 

And anyone that offers encouragement to us is greatly appreciated but then we return our focus again on the lie. That we could never achieve our God given potential.

Let us consider the voice of reason rather than the lies and the voice of doubt. God has a specific purpose for our lives and has many opportunities for us along the road of life. 

We often fail to reach this potential when we listen to the world rather than the one who made us. God gave His Son Jesus in the ultimate act of servant leadership to equip us: 

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

God gave us His word to equip us for every good work:

“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 have been given the potential, the resources, and the ultimate advocate. We must then look at our lives and determine our window of opportunity.

Young Leaders: Are you young and passionate but people look down upon you because of your age? 

Mature Leaders: Are you in your 40’s, well trained, zealous for your passion but others discredit you?

Senior Advisor: Are you in your 50’s and 60’s and have spent your life learning, training, and educating others? You are a priceless commodity and your wisdom should be shared. Your life experiences are a living testimony that can inspire others

Elder: Are you in the golden years of your life? These years should be cherished and others should be seeking you out for your wisdom that has been earned through trials, loss, hard work, and tribulation.

What window of opportunity is before you right now? 

Will you allow the negativity of others to diminish your passion because they secretly long be like you but lack the courage? 

Will you move forward into the ring while others dwell in the gray twilight of indecision? 

Will you get up after being knocked down and stare adversity boldly in the eye?

We are “more than conquerors” and “in this world we will have tribulation” but “all things work together for good for those who love God” as we know that Jesus has a plan and hope for us if we would “be strong and courageous” enough to follow Christ when others fall away.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Courage Redefined 

Courage Redefined 

The courage to face adversity and opposition is often one of the most difficult types of courage to cultivate. 
Why is this so? 

Because often it only grows through the challenge of adversity itself. In other words those who are courageous are ones who have held true to their beliefs in the face of great trials and tribulations.

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 often shy away from the task. Such as when we face a difficult situation with a co-worker and we find ourselves not speaking up. 

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. And not on public opinion, the sake of our popularity, or whether the world will agree with us.

Thus 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 the One who stood firm in the face of the greatest opposition ever known. His name is Jesus Christ and through Him we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Therefore the challenge that lays before us is no easy task. For faith makes all things possible but NOT easy.

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

“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

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

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

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. The world often gets just enough of religion to become argumentative but they seldom get enough of Jesus and His love.

May we 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.” In Christ name, Amen.

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 we sacrifice a relationship for the sake of winning an argument. We must lovingly speak the truth and hold the line in the face of fiery trials.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

The Power of One

The Power of One

Whether we admit it or not a startling fact is that many firefighters (first responders & police) today are suffering. They are not ill, or suffering from a physical malady but they are suffering in their heart. 

What is this great suffering that I speak of? 

It is the suffering of a dedicated individual in a poisoned environment. It can be likened to a crop struggling to grow in contaminated soil. Their roots are desperately trying to draw the nourishment it needs to survive but they are continually fed with negativity instead of nutrients.

At every turn, it seems their efforts or achievements are ridiculed, targeted, and or persecuted for their good works. In many cases, firefighters have mentioned how the culture is actually rewarding and encouraging many to be ‘unethical.’ So one must pose the question: 

How does a passionate, devoted, and dedicated individual not only survive in such a climate but thrive?

Let us ask ourselves, where does our motivation come from? 

 
“It would be no surprise, if a study of secret causes were undertaken to find that every golden era in human history proceeds from the devotion and righteous passion of some single individual” (Richard Ellsworth Day-Filled with The Spirit).

Many times, we as leaders look upon leadership with envy of their successes without thought of their suffering. 

We look upon the outcome of a lifetime of dedication, devotion, and sacrifice and forget that this was a human being who struggled and sacrificed greatly. 

We look upon their bold speeches and courageous moments but never think of their moments of loneliness, their moments where they felt betrayed, and when they contemplated giving up. 

The next time you are with one whom you greatly respect as a leader and ask them to tell you about their struggles as a leader. Ask them about their moments of doubt, discouragement, and disillusionment. And ask how they overcame it!

Their wisdom can be defined as one who understands knowledge because of the blessing and survival of personal tribulation. 

A quick historical look into our past allows us to gather insight on the tribulations of our past leaders:

In the beginning God called Noah to build an arc to save his people. Imagine the ridicule he faced by those around him while he build this massive arc in the middle of dry land. 
Yet because of his faith, he prevailed and God saved him and his family. 

God called a man by the name of Abram to leave his country and his family to go to a foreign land. Abram left everything to follow God. Imagine the thoughts he must have had as began his journey yet he trusted God and God was faithful to him. Especially after all that he had been through and God blesses him with a son in his old age but then came the test of his faith. 

God then instructs Abraham to take Isaac up on a mountain and sacrifice his son to God. Imagine Abraham’s pain as he bound his son, placed him upon that altar, and stretched out his hand to slay his only son. But God intervened! God saw that Abraham’s faith was genuine and provided a lamb in the place of Abraham’s son. 

May we consider what God has done for us all?

He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ into the world. 

He loved in spite of the hatred of the world. 

He forgave where others condemned. 

He held those accountable who refused and abused God’s grace. 

He endured persecution, betrayal, and was crucified for a crime He did not commit. 

Throughout all this He never wavered, never responded with hate, and never quit. 

And God laid His only Son on that cross and did not intervene. 

He allowed Jesus to die for our sins, pay the debt we could not pay, and then showed the entire world that sin and death did not have the final word by resurrecting Jesus on the third day. 

So as we struggle to grow in the poisoned soil, may we draw our strength from our true source of encouragement: God’s word!

May we also realize as we struggle that many have gone before us and kept the faith in spite of great opposition. 

Many have endured persecution and in the end prevailed. 

Many great achievements, passionate movements, and powerful changes have all been accomplished because ONE individual trusted in God and the call that was placed upon their own heart. 

They “leaned not own their own understanding” (Proverbs 3:4a) and when they were hurt and falsely accused they remembered:

We are not alone!

 “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Our struggles are not in vain!

 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

We will overcome!

Jesus said “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

Only from the mountaintop can we see the beauty of the valley!

When we are in the valley we feel overwhelmed and often feel like giving up…

When those around you ridicule for taking the high road of honesty and integrity…

When your efforts and achievements are sabotaged…

When you are falsely accused…

When you are betrayed…

When you suffer for doing what is right…

Remember the struggles of those who have gone before us. 

Remember that every leader who embraced the calling within their heart has faced the fiery arrows of the devil. We are not the first and will not be the last. However, we are to remain strong by trusting in our true source of strength.

We are to have joy because we know the end of this story. We are know that God will use all of these things for good and we will not give up! We are not alone and we will not quit!

God Bless you all,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Dedication, Discipline, & Discipleship 

Dedication, Discipline, & Discipleship 

The fire service will always be a profession of continual learning, training, and education. It is a part of the very identity of the fire service. Our citizens call for help and firefighters respond no matter what the emergency may be. This implies that firefighters must be ready for anything so their learning must be continuous. We are continually adding services to our already large service delivery model requiring a constant discipline of training, education, and development.

In the face of such an overwhelming challenge, how does one stay ahead of the learning curve? 

How does a firefighter continue to evolve, grow, and improve throughout their journey?

How do we grow and master our new skill sets without diminishing our fundamental skills?

The answer is though a concept not foreign to the fire service. And this answer to our future is actually located in our past. We can see that our successful past leaders knew that the future of the fire service was dependent upon their succession planning. These principles are also taught to us in the Bible through Discipleship. 

What is Discipleship? Disciple means learner and its root word comes from the word discipline. As firefighters we know the importance & success of our knowledge, skills, and abilities is based upon our discipline. A respected and mentor firefighter not only believes in discipline, they practice it, model it, and preach a daily discipline that ensures others will be successful as well.

In our faith, the process of Discipleship is about and going forth and sharing what you have learned: The Good News of Jesus Christ! A follower of Christ who is dedicated to prayer, study, worship, and service will be constantly about the business of growing closer to God. This is a discipline that translates across into our daily lives. As mentors and leaders we are constantly sharing what we have learned in our stations, in classes, and on the training grounds. Thus we can see a correlation between the daily discipline of our faith as it also encourages us to be disciplined in all aspects of our lives. To put it simply, if it’s important to us we will know it, share it, and go out of our way so others can do the same. Proverbs gives us insight into this:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) 

Those that stay disciplined also tend to be the ones others look to for answers, guidance, and for instruction. So we can see that our future generations being successful is dependent upon our current daily disciplines. It has been said that one hour of teaching is equal to four hours of preparation. Therefore to share what we have learned from our Mentor ( like Paul in the Bible) needs also to be fueled by the fires of Encouragement (by our brothers & sisters who encourage us such as Barnabas in the Bible). We must then take seriously the gift we have been given by learning, applying, and teaching it to those we Disciple. 

As we Disciple and teach others it reinforces our beliefs, our values, and strengthens the power of our faith just as it does when we teach other firefighters. We must also realize that as we teach others in the fire service, we are given a divine opportunity to influence them with our wisdom, knowledge, and encourage them. 

In these moments of instruction and fellowship, God often opens doors to the hearts of those who are seeking knowledge. As Instructors and Disciple-makers, each of us should pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to be alert for those divine appointments to share the Good News with our brothers and sisters. Our success in sharing our message is greatly dependent on our timing, our delivery, and if we are truly seeking God’s guidance.

Let us consider these principles as a model to help us on our journey through life and the fire service. As we study our fire service curriculum with passion and dedication let us pour an even greater intensity into our study of God’s word so we may be fully equipped to do every good work. 

Remember, our God is a God of relationship and we were not meant to be alone. It is so important to Him that Jesus Christ died on a cross so that we could have a relationship with Him through His Son. So “as you are going” about your journeys invest in the relationships of others. Seek out mentors, encouragers, and “train others up in the way that they should go.” God’s word tells us that “iron sharpens iron” so let us stay sharp through the brotherhood that has been offered to us and continue to keep our fires burning brightly.

May God Bless you all!

Andy J. Starnes 
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

When Our World Falls Apart…

When Our World Falls Apart…

Is life tearing your world apart?

In the middle of our broken moments….

When we are at our lowest…

Remember the power of a kind word spoken…

Think of those who are also at the end of their rope…

When life attacks and we feel that we are spent…

What if we spoke words of peace and encouragement?

By choosing love instead of anger…

We are rescuing others from danger…

By practicing hope in the face of adversity…

We lift others up and find strength for our trembling knees…

By taking a moment to listen when life consumes us…

We take our focus off our own pain long enough…

To remember that in our fervent prayers that God hears…

The creator of heaven and earth takes time to lend us His ear…

In the broken moments of the journey of our lives…

Remember that “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

May we lift our eyes from our own troubles in the midst of despair…

And though it may last for a season we are not meant to dwell there…

For in the valleys of our lives, others are crying out…

We will never hear there heartfelt cry if we paralyzed by fear & doubt…

Lift others up even when we feel we cannot stand…

And in these moments, God will lift us up in His strong & merciful hands…

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries