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“There comes a time in every firefighter’s life when he’s called upon to do what ordinary men cannot.  Knowing that his inaction may lead to another’s death…and that his action may lead to his own…how he responds in that moment will follow him beyond the grave.  What separates firefighters from ordinary men is the acceptance that death awaits us all.”

I first wrote that in my personal journal over five years ago, and it’s something I believe wholeheartedly.  I believe it so much so, that every time I leave home to report for duty, I am focused on that singular thought.  Is today the day I will be called upon to answer the call that will define my career?  Have I done enough to prepare?  Have I done everything in my power to earn the right to come home at the end of my shift?  Have I studied enough?  Have I trained enough?  Have I disciplined my body, soul, mind and spirit enough to endure what I will face today?

Men, this isn’t going to be your regular feel-good Father’s Day letter, meant to lift you up and recognize your work as a father.  Instead, I believe God has placed on my heart an urgent need to challenge us all…not just you, but me too…and my challenge today comes from my twenty plus years fighting fires.

Brothers, I believe we are daily being pruned, tested, refined, and sharpened.  With the singular purpose to ensure we are battle-hardened and ready to respond in that moment that will define our lives and follow us into eternity.  How you prepare in the days, months and years beforehand will shape how you respond in that moment.

Brother, wherever you are in life, you were created by God, perfect in every way.  A sinner like the rest of us, yes, but perfect in the eyes of the Lord.  You were made with a purpose.  He has you here to bring Him glory…to make disciples.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

But Jason…I don’t know how to do that.  I’m not a good speaker.  I’m not a natural leader.  I don’t have all the answers to people’s questions about God.  Whatever excuse you choose to insert into trying to get out of the Great Commission (and I’ve use them all myself) is invalid.  Simple as that.  It. Is. Not. Valid.

Listen brothers.  I don’t know what your gift is…but I know you have one.  Some of us are meant to teach and preach…some in large congregations…others in small groups or one-on-one.  Some have the gift of worship and prayer.  Others were given a passion for nurturing and serving others.  Maybe you’re good at evangelizing and spreading the Gospel.  Whatever it is, you need to find it…and quick.

Do you get the urgency with which I’m saying this, men!?  We’re living in a world where the Lord God will return any day, and our time to prepare is limited!  Our culture is saturated with sin, depravity, lawlessness, laziness, and apathy…devoid of the Truth that is Jesus Christ.  What are you doing NOW to prepare for the moment you will be called upon to share the Gospel with someone who is lost?  Do you even have a heart for the lost?  Is our greatest concern not for the people in our life who will be condemned to hell for eternity?  Shouldn’t that be our gravest concern and the focus of all our attention?

Men…my brothers in Christ…when’s the last time you memorized Scripture?  Participated in a small group or attended Sunday School?  Worshipped alongside your family?  Studied the bible with your spouse or children?  Spent more than five consecutive minutes in prayer?  Shared the gospel with a lost person?  Loved on your neighbors by meeting a physical need?  Served a stranger in a way that opened the door to sharing Jesus with them?  Our world, nation, state, community, church, family NEEDS you us men of God to step up to the plate…to lead…to PRAY.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in over two decades of being a firefighter, it’s that there is no “routine” call-out.  Expect the unexpected.  In this line of work, there’s a general understanding that we’re being asked to solve every problem on what is the worst day of someone’s life.  If we don’t have the answer, we better find the answer…and quick.  Adapt and overcome.

Our daily lives really aren’t much different.  While our routines and schedules can often be the same from day to day, we’re constantly thrown into situations that present opportunities to evangelize and spread the Word.  Don’t think I’m right?  When you pray over your meal in public, what do you think would happen if you asked your waitress how you could pray for her, and then asked her to join you while you pray for her by name?  Can you imagine the impact you would have in her life, and the ripple effects it would create?

Simply put, my challenge to you…to us all…comes from lessons I’ve learned fighting fires.

  1. Lead. Leaders lead from the front.  If you’re not out front, you’re not leading…you’re following.  Get out in front and let your family and those around you seek the safety of your shadow.  When you’re out front, you can expect to be the one to feel the heat of the fire.  The ones behind you will be shielded by you, and you will bear the brunt of the attacks.  That’s by design.  Embrace it.  You’re going to want to quit at some point.  Don’t!  You will find your rest when you put on the Armor of God daily and allow the Shield of Faith to take the fiery darts of the wicked one.  Remember, when the shield is taking the fiery darts, your family is not.
  1. Never Stop Improving. Never stop moving forward.  Never give up.  There is ALWAYS a way.  It might be impossible to see through the darkness, but it’s there.  Sometimes you gotta get down on your hands and knees and feel your way around blindly with nothing but your hands.  When life knocks you down, remember you’re in the perfect position to pray.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  Prayer is the best armor against all trials.  When you pray for better days, God will show you a better way.  No one makes a lock without a key.  That’s why God won’t allow you to experience problems that don’t have solutions.  God is never blind to your tears, never dead to your prayers, never silent to your pain.  He sees.  He hears.  He feels.  And He’s never far away.  There is ALWAYS a way.  And the answer is often closer than you realize.
  1. Step up to the plate. Somewhere, there is someone counting on YOU.  Be ready.  Do your part.  Step up to the plate.  Don’t let them down by being unavailable, unwilling or unprepared.

 Over five years ago, I wrote something else in my personal journal right below that first entry.  Something that I hope shapes who I am in Christ and reflects God’s love to those around me…

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he will be called upon to do something that offers him no tangible benefit in return.  How he responds in that moment will follow him beyond the grave.  The benefit of his decision to act is in knowing that he did so merely because it was the right thing to do.”

 Happy Father’s Day.

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Such is the case with a couple in our church - Sam & Karen Gibbs. I started attending FBC Wentzville in 1983. When I started attending this church Sam & Karen were both members. Sam always taught an adult Sunday school class, and Karen was always involved in the prayer chain ministry. They were both involved in other ministries as well but these 2 activities were like a constant in mathematics - these roles seemed to be fixed.
Sam was an engineer by training and preparation was always important to him. He liked to run transparencies of his lesson material, and the overhead projector was a fixture in his classroom. The material was hashed out verse by verse, and everybody had an opportunity to offer an opinion, make a point, ask a question or initiate a discussion. He was pretty good with his material, but if he ever hit a snag about some issue Karen could generally offer a very lucid comment or point which would clarify everyone's thinking.
I think what impressed me most about these two people was their attitude. Faith was a career; to be practiced one's entire life. With Sam & Karen one never felt that their ministry was an obligation they did for awhile and then hoped somebody else would take over. Their ministry was genuine and you always sensed that they received a greater blessing for having undertaken it than those that received the fruit of their efforts.
At those times in worship when the pastor asked for a personal testimony about how God might have met a need, provided direction, or given comfort you might hear Sam or Karen share. You listened to their testimony and you had an overwhelming sense that they knew God was sufficient for every situation.
Another neat thing about Sam & Karen is that though both loved life and each other. It wasn't all church; they had activities they did together and which they both enjoyed. They both liked golf, they traveled together, they would sometimes fly to a destination (Sam was a pilot), and they enjoyed each other's company.
Sam worked for McDonnell Douglas Corporation which was purchased by Boeing Corporation and during that early transition, a number of senior employees got forced out of their jobs. Sam was one of those employees that probably retired a little earlier than he expected but he took it in stride and went on with his life. Later those employees received a cash settlement as a result of an age discrimination lawsuit. For Sam that might have provided a little bonus, but it might have been the providence of God that he received an early exit. He got to spend extra time with his wife and grandkids and had some free time he otherwise would not have had. Sam had a congenital heart defect, and in later life it caused some health complications. He was hospitalized a number of times, but always seemed to rebound but ultimately complication from a surgery produced his death.
When Sam left Boeing he and his wife both worked at a local funeral home part time. It gave him a little extra money for flying, golfing and doing other things he enjoyed. I got to know Sam best from flying. We would sometimes fly together and I am probably a better pilot for flying with Sam. He always had an extensive checklist and was very thorough about every aspect of flying - preflight, weather, radio frequencies, navigation, etc. He also had a genuine enthusiasm which was easy to like. I sensed this with his flying and also of his interest in end time prophecy. He had a good sense of humor, and shared a story which I consider a classic.
He had signed up to give airplane rides to young kids as part of an Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program. (a program to get kids interested in aviation). The event was staged at a local airport, but more kids had arrived than was anticipated. He, rather than disappoint the kids, was forced to rent the aircraft for additional time which needless to say is not cheap. With reference to his funeral home job he remarked to me, " I had to bury a lot of bodies to pay for that flying." I guess flying is even more expensive than I first thought.
Sam's death was hard on Karen but she persevered. It put a big hole in her life because Sam was such a big part of it. That apparently is something that is not easily filled. Karen had her own health issues but overcame breast cancer. In spite of that, she is still active in the church. Karen is still doing the prayer chain and now is working in the church library. In spite of recent events in her life, she has a peace and dignity about her. She can still offer a warm smile and enjoy a hearty laugh. Her confidence in the Lord is unshaken.
One of my favorite recollection of Karen is of her most forgiving response to my weird sense of humor. On one of the occasions when Sam was hospitalized they thought he could possibly have a brain tumor. They were going to do a scan of his head. I saw her in the hall at church and I asked her about the brain scan on Sam. She replied that they didn't find anything. She got a real look of consternation when a smile started to crease my lips, and then she did a double take. She said, "I should have known with your weird sense of humor that you would laugh when I said the scan of his head found nothing." I confessed I couldn't help it, but then added that I was glad it was not a brain tumor.
As a younger man, you couldn't get me in a church. I did not have a desire to go. Now I know that it is the place that I ought to be. The word of God touches my life, and the people you meet are a blessing as well.
Hebrews 10: 22. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
23. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
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