Tag Archives: faith

The T-Shirt Firefighter & the Bumper Sticker Christian

double-oaks-2nd-alarm-full-view-1024x768 The T-Shirt Firefighter and the Bumper Sticker Christian

It is not uncommon to see a person wearing a T-shirt that indicates they are a firefighter. In many instances, the words or pictures on these T-shirts are not pleasant and are often proclaiming actions this individual isn’t living out. This often angers firefighters who take the craft of firefighting seriously. But what about our faith? Do we take it as seriously as our place in life as firefighters? What about those who wear T-shirts or bumper stickers claiming they are Christians but live a life that is contrary to what God’s word proclaims? Shouldn’t this cause us to pause and reflect on what’s more important?

Perhaps you have heard it said: “I’m not a Christian because they are all hypocrites.” Sadly, this is true for many of us. We claim a belief that we often fail to consistently live out causing more harm to Christianity by our poor examples.

“It is an extraordinary difficulty quality to fake. It is beautiful to see demonstrated in someone’s life. However, it is equally obvious when it is lacking. What is it? It is a healthy, consistent, and balanced faith” (Stephen Arterburn).

Stephen’s word’s ring true that it beautiful to see the love of Christ demonstrated consistently in someone’s life. This in fact, is a living Epistle of God’s handiwork written before the eyes of the world for all to see that God can save, God can transform, and God can do anything in anyone’s life if they will put their trust in Him.

Make no mistake, this is not a condemnation of those who strive to follow Christ and fall down as most of us do. This writing is for those who claim merely a title and not a relationship with Christ as many of us often fall into this trap. Their belief is only as deep as their devotion. How do I know this? Because this was my life until 2006 when I felt the weight of conviction. The conviction came from the Holy Spirit, showing me that I was leading others astray by claiming a belief that I didn’t truly have.

For firefighters, we often are angered or frustrated by those who claim to be firefighters but fail to consistently train, improve, or perform well when the call comes in. Yet, we who take such a calling so seriously, often fail to live out the values of our own faith. We find ourselves in an uncomfortable place of self-conviction as we stand in front of the mirror realizing it is we who have failed.

In our faith we often fail to live out our belief in the following examples:

We claim Christ, yet we compromise truth, condemn others, criticize, all instead of living out our faith in truth and love…

We claim o be good & dedicated parents; yet the hours we invest in our careers far outnumber the time we spend with our spouses and children…

We claim to love Jesus; yet we fail to consistently do what He says. (Luke 6:46 46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

We claim to be Christians, yet our finances prove we love our possessions more than our creator. Jesus counsels us on the dangers of loving riches more than God. One such example is the counseling of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:22-23 “So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

We claim to be witnesses of the Gospel, yet we share more gossip & slander than the Good News. This can be seen in our lives where we pray for someone on Sunday and then gossip among ourselves about their concern during the week. We have to remember that when others allow us the privilege to pray for their private concerns that this isn’t an opportunity for us to gossip; it is an opportunity to intercede and strengthen our own prayer life.

We claim to be saved from our sins; yet our lives reveal a different story of lust, foul language, lies, adultery and more. For myself, the hypocrisy of living a double life was a weight that I could no longer bear. I lived a very rough and perverse life while at work and then would attempt to be the good “godly” man at home. God began to convict me of this and has been slowly hammering away my old behaviors, habits, and things that kept me from being close to Him.

James reminds us that if we claim something our actions will ultimately reveal our hearts:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14).
Jesus reminds us that if we know Him, love Him, and remain in Him our lives will be living proof of our belief: publicly and privately.
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43:44).

In closing, we who claim to know Christ out to be living lives that reflect the depth of our relationship. Therefore, we should all be investing more into our time with Jesus so that when we wake up to face the world that they would see Him in us. Otherwise, if we say we love Jesus yet we act like the secular world we may hear Jesus’ words:

“Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

May we all take the time to strengthen our relationship with the One who loves us so much that “He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b).
God bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Raising Our Children Well

Raising Our Children Well:

The greatest lesson I have received in accountability and responsibility has been through the blessing of parenthood. God has shown me so much and continues to do so even through the eyes of a child. I have received my daily devotion while reading my daughter a children’s bible story. I have felt the weight of my own sin when my daughter has looked upon me when I have done wrong. I have realized that God is close to children in such a way that their faith is often far greater than any of the greatest theologians. I have realized that in order to do the right thing, to follow God, to obey His word is worth it and it comes at a great cost: personally, politically, and professionally.

Yet through all this I have seen the glory of heaven and God’s grace through the eyes of our child. I have realized the error of my own ways and even though there are many who don’t believe the way that I do; I soldier on knowing that God died for me: a lowly sinner. And if He would die for me & change my life then He can do the same in anyone’s life no matter their circumstances.

“The first step to correcting any error is repentance. Unless we are willing to say ‘I was wrong’, we will never know how to follow His right” (Ravi Zacharias).

The greatest privilege God has bestowed upon our marriage is one of parenting. From the moment I began to pray about having a family, to our prayers together, to the moment we found out, and to the moment we held our precious miracle: “Emma Caroline Starnes” has been covered in prayer.

God’s word reminds us that we are to be examples of “The Way” to our children. We must be diligent in continually seeking a closer walk with Jesus “lest you forget the things you have seen.”

“Only take heed to yourself, & diligently keep yourself lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children & grandchildren especially the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb…”(Deuteronomy 4:9).

In this particular scripture, Moses is commanding & instructing God’s people on obedience. We should not forget what God has done for us. The Israelite’s were rescued from slavery, led through the Red sea, fed manna from heaven but yet they rebelled. If we look closely at our own lives, we are not any different. God has blessed us in countless ways, saved us from our sin, and yet we often grumble, complain, and walk away from God. And then we try to justify our sin as the Israelite’s did.

In the midst of our journey through our own wilderness, we need to realize the great responsibility placed upon us. We are teaching, influencing, and molding the next generation which are our children. They are watching our every move, our every word, and more importantly they are watching when we fail.

The things we have seen, our experiences, our failures, and how God has brought us through it all are a part of our story. They are all part of our testimony. We should tell our children God’s story, our story, and how God saved us from our sin. They need to know that we are fallen creatures as well and that through God there is hope in Jesus Christ. They need to see, feel, and touch our Christianity. Our love for God cannot be in proclamation only but it must be present in all aspects of our lives.

For “the righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7). To live a righteous life, is to always remember that we were bought with a price. To remember that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God has paid the ultimate price for our redemption. It is up to us live a life that is worthy of such a gift.

Our children need to know that sin has lost the battle and this world cannot justify our bad behaviors when we kneel before the Almighty. Only the blood of Jesus Christ saves us, redeems us, and transforms us. May we accept the challenge to be transformed and show the world that Jesus Christ lives and reigns in us.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

The Unappreciated

There comes a time in everyone’s life where all their efforts seem to be failing…

There comes a time when nothing seems to work out despite our valiant efforts…

There comes a time when disaster strikes those closest to us that do well, while the wicked live on and prosper…

There comes a time when leaders will abuse their authority, slander & lie, promote mediocrity, and allow certain individuals who “fall in line” to break the rules while they discipline those who do what is right with the most rigid and harsh results as if to say “Look what doing right will cost you”…

There comes a time when, we work our entire life only to be struck down by illness right as we near retirement…

There comes a time, when we begin to walk with God, and many of our relationships fall apart and they view us as hateful and prejudiced despite all of the love we have for them…

There comes a time when our efforts & accomplishments are stolen by others and they even receive recognition for their theft as the originators of the work…

There comes a time, when our spouse turns cold and demands a divorce despite all we do to reconcile…

There comes a time in our lives when we feel lost, abandoned, and unappreciated…

When one pursues righteousness, confesses their sins openly, and cares deeply for others; one would reason that they would be valued…

What then can we do when these trials and tribulations come?

Are we to give up hope as the world seems to only reward those who agree with their values?

Sadly, so many people choose suicide as the answer to their hopeless situation when in reality there lies a hope that cannot be taken from us…

Remember this: Values determine relationships….

What we value, what we cherish, what we know as sacred….

Those beliefs will determine our work ethic, our world view, and if we differ from the world we should be prepared for the storm…

Take comfort in the following words when the tribulations of this world come to our doorstep:

Jesus gave his disciples very specific and powerful instructions in the book of John. His words are for those who claim Him as Lord and Savior. This means we are disciples, which should be understood what responsibility we have and what hardships we will face as such:

“The term “disciple” is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner while the more common English word is student. A disciple is different from an apostle, which instead means a messenger. While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, an apostle is one sent to deliver those teachings or a message” (Wikipedia).

As disciples, then we are learners, pupils, or apprentices to the ultimate master craftsman…

So why do we expect those who don’t share these same values as our Master to appreciate ours?

Should we be surprised?

On the contrary, we have forgotten our master craftsman’s words and may have slowly began to become an apprentice of the world instead.

When the world tells us that all truth is relative we know:

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

When we face the trouble, trial, and tribulation we remember:

Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3).

IMG_6571.JPGWhen the wicked prosper and are rewarded for their efforts we remember:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and the He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:2-5).

One could write volumes on just these few mentioned scriptures but for this writing we should note that Jesus knew what He was facing (the crucifixion and God pouring out His wrath upon Him) and He loved those who were His own to the very end! Remember, as He was dying on the cross “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Remember and read (the book of John is a great place to start) the life of Jesus and see the Son of God, born into abject poverty in a stable where shepherds were chosen as His first messengers. Shepherds were considered outcasts and lowly in terms of societal class in Biblical times. He was baptized, even though He was sinless, and He sought out disciples who were all imperfect sinful men. His three short years of ministering to them changed their lives, transformed their hearts, and He taught, healed, and stood up for truth. Those disciples went on to change the world and they all faced incredible hardships. All of them but one died for their efforts. And they were not recognized during their lives for their efforts but they were “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1b) of those who prophets who had gone before them. They knew what they were facing and they endured to the very end. Why? Because they knew as Jesus did who they belonged to, what reward awaited them, and that their love would lead to eternal dividends in the lives of generations to come.

Therefore, will we “grow weary in doing good?”

Or will we remember who we belong to, what we WILL face, and what reward awaits us?

All of this we do out of love for the one who loved us to the very end even though even He was unappreciated by the very people He came to save. Don’t give up on this world, Jesus didn’t!

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

 

The Forgotten Ones

It is a commonly known fact that those that care for others the most often receive the least care or concern in return…
 
It is commonly known that those who give the most of themselves, who bear their souls, and lift up others in prayer often suffer in silence with their own struggles of sin and pain…
 
To those who call out from the depths of despair…
When you have walked through the darkness of your circumstance…
Take a moment and remember thankfully those who were there…
 
For many laborers make light work of one’s burdens…
Yet too often, when the burden is lifted…
The hurting hearts are healed and the helper is left hurting…
 
When your pain blinds our perspective where you feel that no one cares…
Stand up, open up our eyes, and see the multitude…
Who have been long standing there…
 
Standing alongside with those who have felt abandoned…
Shedding tears with the broken and the forgotten…
Praying for those who aren’t aware…
That many are lifting them up in fervent, passionate, and heartfelt prayer…
 
There are those who hold another’s pain only for a brief moment…
There are those who listen with compassion, intently focused, on the hearts that are broken…
There are those who keep your confidence of your darkest & innermost pain…
There are those who do this, daily, again, and again…
 
They take that phone call at the worst possible time…
They show up when all hope is lost and everyone has gone…
They hold your hand, hold your heart, and never let go of the line…
 
They have sacrificed, lost, and often fall ill…
They have done all of this not for fame or fortune…
They have cared deeply because of the love of the One…
The One who gave it all in spite of our sin…
The One who lived, loved, and died, and rose again…
 
He is the reason that there are those who care so much…
He has changed their heart, enlarged it, and filled it with His love…
They do all these things and more in the name of God’s Son…
They do all of this even though that they are often forsaken, persecuted…
And even though they help those who are lost, they are often the forgotten ones…
 
We say we “Never Forget”, I challenge you today to Never Forget those who have lifted you up, cared when no one else did, and listened when all others walked away…
 
Let us not forget those who care enough to “bear one another’s burdens” for they often are bearing great burdens of their own.
 
God Bless,
Andy Starnes

Not So Rapid Intervention 

As firefighters, we understand that no other words on the radio bring more intensity and emotion than these: “May Day, May Day…”

Yet, we also know that the rescue of our own is often the most difficult and least successful in some instances due to the obstacles we face in order to rescue them. We understand it takes numerous firefighters to rescue one and the effort is not as the acronym implies as “Rapid.”

But what about when we see those around us heading for trouble? 

What about when we see their pain, their suffering, and yet despite our efforts they refuse our help?

Why is there a trend of others suffering in our world today? 

Not just a physical suffering but one of despair, anxiety, depression, and many people seem to be constantly at war with one anyone who disagrees with them. Yet we claim to be a peaceful people. Why is it that in a nation so prosperous, seemingly lacking nothing, we are divided and seem to be in a sense of inner conflict with not our enemies but one another and even ourselves? 

The fire service is not exempt from this, as we often see “the brotherhood” attacking one another over tactics, matters of opinion, and even making personal attacks on our own. How hypocritical of us yet therein lies a deeper problem for us to ponder.

Consider the profound wisdom of Tim Clinton:

“Interestingly, as today’s prosperous generations search for purpose, meaning and value, many are experiencing a pervasive sense of emptiness and isolation. And why shouldn’t they? In a world flooded with distresses like father absence, abuse, violence, marital discord, and emotional problems there is a natural epidemic of escapism through consumerism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and suicide. Earnest Becker accents this thought concluding ‘Modern man is drinking or drugging himself to death…or he is shopping which is the same thing” (Tim Clinton, p.4-Caring for People God’s Way).

We see a world full of every type of material or physical pleasure available to us yet these numbers confirm Dr. Clinton’s wisdom that we are not at peace as we seek escapism:

• 6.7 % or 15 million Americans suffers from depression

• 40-50% of American marriages will end in divorce (Firefighter divorce rates are as high as 70% in some states)

• 24.6 million Or 9.4% had used an illicit drug in the last month (alcohol and substance abuse is on the rise among firefighters).

• And approximately 40 million Americans look at pornographic material daily (This is an increasing problem in the fire service as well).

• Suicide is becoming the leading cause of death among young adults in America today (ages 25-44). We lost more brothers and sisters in the fire service last year to suicide than in the Line of Duty.

With this overwhelming evidence in front of us what is the source of our emptiness? 

Why is it that we are not at peace? 

Why are we using such unhealthy coping mechanisms to attempt to deal with the trials of life? 

As firefighters, we often are guilty of rescuing others but refuse to reach out for help because of our own pride. We feel ashamed of our problem and don’t want anyone to know. We often push this problem down, refusing to deal with it, and it becomes a cancer to our souls. Then the failure to deal with it begins to cause collateral damage in other parts of our lives.

Whether you believe in God or not it doesn’t negate the fact that all of the answers we seek neglect the One that will truly heal us. It is paramount for us to note that this problem is not a physical, emotional, or psychological one; it is a spiritual one and can only be healed by the One who took upon our punishment so we may have peace:

Jesus Christ…

No other name has brought more peace and more conflict…

No other name has more literature or evidence supporting His existence yet He is denounced as either a false teacher or an “opiate of the people.”

No other name has the power to save us as “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:12) Yet no other name is more attacked by those He actually died to save.

Yet no other name is more neglected, more abused, and more evicted from our society than the name of Jesus. Why is this so? 

Consider with me for a moment the words of Jesus…

For those who carry heavy burdens: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

For those who mourn: “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).

For those who are anxious: “Cast all your anxiety upon Him, For He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

For those who feel alone: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who have been tempted: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1).

And for all those who feel that God has forsaken them, even Jesus cried out on the cross as He was dying: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And the ultimate reason for us all to look to Jesus is to remember that:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We must realize that the source of our emptiness, our anxiety, our struggle is a cross shaped scar upon our hearts that only Jesus can heal. He has done the work, paid the price, and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

We often try everything to heal this brokenness except Jesus. We try healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms only to find ourselves still empty. We often come to the end of ourselves before we come to the beginning of God. We fall broken on our knees and cry out in anguish and even shaking our fist at Him when He has been there the entire time pleading for us to let Him in. Then we begin the search for Him but we only do so when our hearts are sincere:

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

And what do we find? Do we find prosperity, pleasure, and all our problems go away? 

No…

We find something even greater. We find peace. Peace amidst the storm, knowing that God is with us. We find reassurance knowing that He will never leave us. We find Joy knowing that we are forgiven despite our past. And we find new opportunity in this hurting world as we go and share the message we have received. 

Thus, as we go out into our daily lives let us look upon our struggles with a new found strength. A strength that doesn’t fail us because it isn’t our own. A strength that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). A strength that tells us each and every day that we are loved, we are forgiven, and that He wants us to share this life changing message with others no matter how much they assail, object, or persecute us. We will love as He loved, through the pain!

May we all seek Him and be found today,

In Jesus name I pray,
Andy J. Starnes

Opposition or Opportunity

Opposition or Opportunity:
“A clue to life’s meanings are hidden in life’s relationships.” Ravi Zacharias

In this life, it is truly a blessing to have friends and family who support, love, and counsel each other out of Christ’s love.

But what about when we interact with others who are harsh, obstinate, and speak hateful words to others?

We tend to react with anger and want to be harsh with them also. Have we considered that we, in our past, we’re like those that we struggle with now?

In these difficult moments, when we are attempting to change or influence another’s thinking; have we considered the methods we use will produce the prevailing attitude in that persons future?

“There’s no point in giving a person a rose to smell, if we cut off their nose with our words.” Indian Proverb

If our methods aren’t loving why would anyone want to listen or consider our point of view? 

If our position is poisoned and bitter, our passion is lost and all they hear is our bitterness. The message is then lost in our madness.

Instead, consider these words in our interactions with difficult people:

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” 2 Timothy 2:24

Why should we be gentle and kind even if others are not?

 
“Gently instruct those who oppose truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn from the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devils trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” 2 Timothy 2:25-26

Dear friends, if we truly want to change and lead others to the Lord our methods must be sincere and loving. Our beliefs must be seen, felt, and demonstrated in all aspects of our lives. A true test of our morals is not when we are around those we love but when we are in the midst of opposition.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Cultivation of Character

Have you ever noticed that people will stand up for just about anything except for their faith? 

Why is this so?

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

The courage to face adversity and opposition is one of the most difficult types of courage to cultivate. For it often only grows through the challenges of adversity. Faith, like our bodies, must be exercised regularly to stay ready and able.

As firefighters we risk our lives daily in numerous ways yet when it comes to having the moral courage to speak up for our beliefs we often shy away from the task. If we are honest, more of us are more fearful of being labeled rather than being known as a follower of Christ.

What then is Moral Courage? 

“The ability to do right in the face of opposition or discouragement.” (Pastor Greg Laurie)

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 ever present truth in God’s word. We should remember our spiritual training.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

To have moral courage is to “stand firm in the faith” no matter the opposition personally, professionally, and politically.

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 before us is as Christians is no easy task:

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. 

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

Jesus showed us the way. 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.

Let’s pray that God will give us the courage to love others even when they hurt us. May His words be on our lips and may His strength be in our spirit for we cannot stand on our own without you O God. 

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. The Battle is won, we must trust and pray as we are being developed for a higher purpose. 

And when we see our fellow brothers & sisters standing firm in the faith let us come along side them. Let’s support them when they are ridiculed. Let’s lift them up and encourage them to stay true to their faith in Jesus Christ. 

God Bless,

Andy J. 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

 

 

 

Is BroHERhood Dead?

Is Brotherhood dead?

Perhaps you have heard or even said this statement before:

“BrotHERhood is dead!”

Really?

First of all, what is brotHERhood? 

Is it the unmistakable bond shared by firefighters that cannot be explained but must be lived? 

Is it the sacrifices shared by the collective hearts of those who carry one another’s burdens thereby fulfilling the law of Christ? (See Galatians 6:2)

Is it the gift of one another’s unwavering presence not only in a fire but when our world burns down around us? 

Those that understand and live the principles that embody brotHERhood would say that it is all this and more. 

While my words may fall short in defining such an incomprehensible term many have used harsh words in attempt to kill, destroy, or diminish its worth.

While our experiences may have left us torn, betrayed, and hurt this doesn’t mean that brotHERhood isn’t dead. It’s merely geographically challenged or been abused by those who claim to practice it.

We see many firefighters struggling in toxic environments struggling to make a difference where every effort is met with ridicule, opposition, and slander. Their perspective therefore of brotHERhood has been twisted. 

The temptation is too throw up our hands and give up but let us consider this:

Do we judge the fire service by the ones who choose to abuse it? 

-Or-

Do we chose to base our belief on an unshakable resolve reenforced by likeminded & shared values between brethren who lift us up?

Do we willfully sit at the table of discontent and drink the poison of bitterness because the majority has become bitter? 

Remember “bad company corrupts good moral character.” If your environment is toxic and you don’t have like minded passionate brethren to reenforce your values is your struggle in vain? Will the weariness of those who have been corrupted gather another casualty by our surrender?

The answer depends upon one individual:

You!

Will you give up because everyone else has? If so, what then will you do when faced with another tough choice? If you will abandon them now you will most likely abandon them in a fire.

Will you choose to seek out those who will encourage you, educate you, admonish you, and hold you accountable so your fire will stay burning bright?

-Or-

Will you succumb to the bitterness that has become commonplace and the discord that had replaced unity? Will you then take that poison home to your family and thereby poison them without even knowing it? 

Consider the words of Nietzsche:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

His words have profound meaning to us today. He implied the death of God came because we chose to believe it. He stated that in order to have taken away such a being we must become gods. The created cannot kill the creator of all things but we can refuse His kindness by choosing our own way which leads to death. 

The implication for the fire service is this:

For brotherhood to be dead we the ones responsible for fostering it will have therefore chosen to have killed it by disbelieving in it.

For us to comfort others who are in need when they call for help and for us to condemn those in our fellowship is the very antithesis of brotHERhood.

For us to celebrate our traditions and gatherings only to backslide, slander, and destroy the very department that we work for with our words is the nail in the coffin of brotHERhood and leads others astray in the process.

In closing, if you believe brotherhood is dead based on those who choose to abuse, malign, and discredit the very organizations and members that they work for then perhaps you should decide who defines reality for you:

Your values & principles?

-or-

Those who discredit them?

BrotHERhood is only dead because we choose to let it die. Don’t allow those who have fallen victim to bitterness to poison your perspective. Be renewed and refreshed in the calling that we all hold dear by realizing the importance of our fellowship.

It’s essential to what we do, who we are, and how we overcome.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

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.