Tag Archives: marriage

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

And We Prayed

An offering of my heart to God out of gratitude for my family:

Several years ago, I fell upon the ground and cried…

I begged for God for a love that only He could provide…

In my weary heart, is where I submitted to His love…

Unaware that my life was under His divine guidance from above…

We met seemingly by chance with our guarded hearts…

A conversation in a coffee shop was our simple start…

After that day, we said goodbye and you went on your way…

I felt something in my heart and truly began to pray…

Two years later, we stood before God and our friends…

There He merged our hearts in one accord & our journey began…

Little did we know how God was working His plan…

He set our lives in motion through our broken roads we met…

He slowly took away our pain, mistrust, & the tears we both shed…

We began to pray through it all each & every day…

And just when we thought He was done…

He opened our hearts so that we would earnestly seek His Son…

I prayed for a seemingly impossible gift…

This gift was for the start of our family that I missed…

This prayer was on my heart day and night…

Until the day you spoke and opened my eyes…

We may have began our journey on two separate roads…

Yet God came alongside us and comforted us so…

He walked with us both guiding us all along…

Til our roads met and our lives as one truly began…

He opened our eyes as He did for those before…

He gave us new life and our hearts were restored…

As those who journeyed, the downhearted on the road to Emmaus…

At the end of their road, is as ours a new beginning lay before us…

As our prayers were yet spoken, so our eyes were opened…

As we welcomed our gift from God that we now share…

Our daughter Emma, also has been covered by prayer…

Our journey may be far from finished in this life…

For He took two strangers and made them husband & wife…

He took our love and made it grow…

And gave us child for our love to show…

His plans are far greater than we could ever imagine…

And I look forward to what God has in store on His horizon…

This writing I offer as a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done…

Though I often can’t see the way though my own troubles He reminds Me of His great love through His Son.

So if you have a wife, a husband, and a family….

No matter your problems, your pain, we should offer our hearts to God thankfully…

For their are a gift, no matter our circumstances….

That many would give anything to have such a family or second chances…

Give thanks for all that you have and bless His name…

For we know not what tomorrow brings, as they moments we will never have again…

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Minimum Standards Maximum Requirements

Minimum Standards Maximum Requirements:
 
As a firefighter who has served many years, many can say that they have seen numerous examples of firefighters and employees. A firefighter can be defined as one who lives out their calling consistently, gives without though of recognition, and is always working to improve their capabilities to serve their fellow man.
 
An employee, may be considered as one who only seeks to meet the minimum standards. In many cases there are those who somehow maintain the title of firefighter yet fail to do the work necessary to be a firefighter. They wear a uniform, they look the part, yet when the call for service comes they are often found hiding from work, producing excuses why they could not complete the job required of them, and all the while they never claim any accountability nor responsibility for their negligence.
 
We can see the same type of examples in our daily lives: in our faith, in our families, and our commitment to our communities. In this way, we see many individuals refuse to believe or walk away from God due to the minimum standard Christians or those who claim the title yet abuse the calling they fail to live out. As James tells us “Faith without works is useless” (James 2:20b). People need to see our faith and see it lived out in our lives not just in church.
 
Many of us were either raised in church or know about God but there is large percentage of firefighters today who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are many firefighters today who have been seeking a relationship with Christ but have been “put off” by “believers” whose hypocrisy shined through their false beliefs. There are also many firefighters who are hurting, suffering in their marriages, and many others issues who feel lost. They are desperately seeking hope yet many Christians fail to share the hope of Jesus Christ with them.
 
With that being said, just what does it mean to have accepted Christ?
 
How do we as firefighters who save others become saved by Jesus?
 
But what if your heart is the one in need of rescue?
 
What if after reading all of this you are feeling a great burden and pain within your soul?
 
Many of us today would like to have a relationship with Jesus but have hesitated or walked away from our faith. The three primary reasons that people often cite for not believing in Jesus are as follows:
 
1) Anger at God: Many have suffered greatly and feel angry towards a God who would allow such circumstances or tragedy to have occurred in their lives.
 
2) Claim without consistency: Many have felt the desire to have a relationship with Jesus but have fallen away because of the hypocrisy of other believers. They look upon those who claim to be Christians and see how they woefully misrepresent the faith that they claim.
 
3) Too many unanswered questions: Many individuals have pursued a relationship with Christ but have many tough questions that few have been able to answer such as: If God is a loving God how could He send someone to hell, Why do bad things happen to good people?, and the list goes on.
 
In our lives as firefighters we can all relate to these questions. We can recall the times when a child died, we lost a friend in the line of duty or to suicide, and or a tragic circumstance occurred that hurt us greatly all of which can contribute to becoming angry. We can understand the first reason for unbelief, because if we are truly honest, we have all experienced it. We have all doubted, all cried out in anguish, and begged God for answers but why are we really angry?
 
Because we all desperately want answers!
 
We save people yet we were often unable to save those in our lives that have been lost. We blame God and shake our fists at Him crying out Why God? Yet who are we really angry at? If we took the time to reflect we may find that our anger is truly directed at ourselves. We blame God because we cannot bear the weight of such a burden. We hurt and feel that He has abandoned us in our plight. Yet in reality, He has never left us nor forsaken us. Many of us have dictated our faith rather than submitted to Jesus as Lord basically telling God that we would have followed God if God would just go our way.
 
The second reason why many individuals fail to believe in Jesus Christ is the hypocrisy of other Christians. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see this all around us. We see Pastors who have fallen from the pulpit due to sex scandals, Christians who are divorced or their marriage is in shambles, and we see those who claim to be Christians treating others around them harshly.
 
Yet, I would ask you to consider these words for a moment:
“Never judge a belief system by those who choose to abuse it” (Ravi Zacharias).
 
What do I mean by this statement? If we as firefighters base our reason for not believing in Jesus Christ due to the hypocrisy of others what would happen if we applied that same logic to our professional lives? Would we refuse to go to work as firefighters because there are hypocritical firefighters within our firehouses? Would we stop working out because there are out of shape individuals in our work-out groups or gyms? Would we stop being faithful in our marriages because the divorce rate is so high? I believe we have come full circle on this point. We now see that we cannot base our reason for unbelief on the hypocrisy of others. We have to base our reason for belief on our own hearts, minds, and souls. We must base our belief on our personal decision to do so and not our circumstances, our hurts, or our anger at those who claim to be Christians.
 
The third reason that is often cited for not believing is one of the most difficult to face. This is the fact that there are too many unanswered questions in regards to our faith. Perhaps, you have wondered about these difficult questions? As firefighters, we see a problem and we respond with a well-trained, properly equipped, group of individuals who rapidly mitigate a chaotic situation. But how do we respond so well to the unanswered questions of others? When their house is burning down, their loved one lies lifeless on the floor, or their child is choking we respond with intentional actions that resort in resolution because of our knowledge, our training, and our passion to help others. What if we applied this same logic to this reason for unbelief? What if we looked upon those unanswered questions of life and begin to study God’s word, got involved with a group of believers who can guide us, and began to seek answers in prayer? How do you think our mindset might change?
 
If you have walked through these questions and feel that a tug at your heart please don’t ignore it. God is reaching through the flames of your life and is pleading with you to take His hand. He is saying to you “I love you so much that my Son died on a cross so that you may live. And He lives today and will come into your heart and forgive you! He will walk with you through your life. He will give you comfort in the midst of the fires of life. And He will set you free from any burden that is holding you prisoner if you will believe in Him”
 
This is the point where we take action. It is not where we feel inspired and only go thus far. Take the next step and accept Christ, rededicate your life, renew your marriage, reconcile your differences, and look to these resources to get you started on your journey:
 
Fellowship of Christian Firefighters International offers free bible studies, access to Bibles, free daily devotionals, resources on how to start a local chapter or small group and so much more! President Craig Duck is a retired DC firefighter who has a passion for ministry and is doing tremendous things for the fire service from hosting online Bible Studies, men’s retreats, a yearly marriage conference, and they just released a new outreach Bible called “Rescued.” Please check them out and be encouraged knowing that there many brothers and sisters in this wonderful organization who can help you in your faith journey no matter what mile marker you are on.
 
http://www.fellowshipofchristianfirefighters.com/index.cfm?Section=1
 
247 Commitment by Lori and Dan Mercer: This organization was started by Lori Mercer as she shared a blog post about the challenges of fire family marriages over four years ago. They have since grown to a thriving online community for fire wives, numerous resources for marriage and family, the honor guard for men, and the new book release which can be considered a standard operating guideline for fire families entitled Honor and commitment. There is even a free book for fire families available. Please check this site out, as I am friends with Lori and Dan, and I personally believe in their mission. They are doing tremendous things for fire families from commitment weekends, to developing resources, and speaking at conferences.
 
http://247commitment.org/about-247-commitment/
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Affair You Never Saw Coming

The Affair You Never Saw Coming:

Imagine if you will, a happily married couple whose husband is a firefighter. Their marriage is great and they work together to balance the issues that fire families face but then one day something happens. The husband begins to change. He begins to be drawn into his work more and more. He is consumed by it, constantly studying, training, and attending conferences. He is always gone either on duty at the station or teaching at the local college. Slowly, the family begins to fade as his passion becomes more important than the very ones he swore before God to love and protect. 

This mistress, this affair, is like none other. For if it was a person, his wife could possibly see it coming. Yet this affair began with the drive to be a better firefighter so he could come home safe. So he was encouraged and supported by his wife and children to become better, smarter, and more skilled. The inherent danger of this trap that he never saw coming was the demon of pride. Not the pride that firefighters cherish were we take our craft seriously and honor the calling upon our hearts. This is a selfish pride that slowly sneaks in and begins as a fire does with one small spark. 

With each success, the firefighter begins to believe his own rhetoric…
With each certification, he becomes more of what others believe he is..
With each conference and speech, his recognition grows…
Yet all the while, his family is slowly dying…
He misses yet another ball game, another dance recital, and another anniversary all in the name of the jealous mistress known as the fire service…
He arrives home one night, only to find an empty house. No furniture, No family, nothing but a note that reads:

We used to be important to you. We supported you to chase your dream in the hopes that you would always come home. But somewhere along the way you became lost and never came home. The desire to become the greatest firefighter overrode the desire to be a better husband and father. So we bid you farewell, go and become that which you long for and no that no one will hold you back. Signed, your heartbroken wife and children. The lives you save out there will never make up for the lives you watched slowly die around you and did nothing to save.

He falls to his knees, broken and contrite crying out to God but it’s too late…

This story is fictional, but sadly it has elements of truth. The fire service today suffers divorce at a rate much higher than the general population. The irony in our lives is that we who have taken an oath to save lives and property often become lost and fail to protect our families lives and lose all of our own property in the process. 

If this story has impacted you, if it has touched your heart, or it has happened to you; don’t let this be the end of a sad novel. Let this be the beginning where you allow God to make beauty out of your ashes. As after a fire, the work begins to rebuild and begin anew. Their is hope for us all no matter where we are in our journey. There are those who will help and lift you up as you rebuild or reconcile the broken relationships in your lives. My prayer for us all is to remember that the oath we took upon becoming a firefighter should never supersede the oath of being a loving husband and father. Let us not let our lives burn down around us while we save everyone else. May we save our families today by showing them that they matter! Be the best firefighter you can be but always be the best husband and or father first so that you never find yourself as the one in this story.

May our great love for the fire service always be out of our greater love for our families. For everyone goes home but will our families be there?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Taking off the Helmet

Taking off the Helmet:

In the moments that we serve, we often forget our place…
We give, direct, lead, and we make a difference…
We solve others problems in a moments notice…

But then we go home to our wives, our husbands, and our families…
We forget to take off the helmet, to remove our rank, to remember who we truly are…

We give orders instead of giving love and support…
We demand compliance with no Grace given to them when they fail…
We answer questions too quickly instead of listening with our heart…

We persist instead of being patient…
We complete the list rather than trying to see where their real need is..
We answer abruptly instead of taking a moment to realize…

The truth is:

Our families need fathers not firefighters…

Our children need their mother not managers…

Our wives need husbands not heroes…

Our husbands need wives not warriors…

Our loved ones need us and their need is for who we truly are…

Our families need a role model, a relationship, and not regulations…

Our children need leadership and guidance not forced compliance…

Our marriages need nurturing and investment not neglect and name calling…

Our titles are given to us by man however they might be earned…

Our roles as Spouses and Parents are God given and must be cherished or they can be lost…

The saves we make as firefighters pale in comparison to…

The lives that we save by being a husband, a father, a wife, and a mother…

Our badges are symbols of the commitment that we are sworn to uphold…

Yet the names written on our hearts are the greatest commitment that we will be held accountable for…

Let us not forget our place nor our calling…

This doesn’t mean we aren’t to be great firefighters…

It means that if we truly embrace our calling…

We will be significant not successful in all things that we do…

By placing our relationships first and our rank last…

Our proper order and service should be our faith, our family, and the fire service…

May we take off the helmet when we return home but may we never take off the calling placed upon our hearts…

For one day we will have to hang up our helmet but we shall never retire from leading, loving, and serving our families…

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
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The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse

The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse:

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)

As firefighters, we don’t like to admit that we often hurt. Not just a physical pain from our work but an inner torment. We often push down the emotions from the things we see, the struggles in our own lives, and the stress we experience. Then in one moment, we erupt as if our emotional pressure relief valve gives up. The tears come and they fall like rain. Perhaps, in this moment we could take the time to remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also shed tears.

Jesus experienced the same emotions that you and I feel. Every one of us has shed tears, tears of joy, and tears of sadness.  We will face trying times and some of these moments will seem impossible for us to deal with.  And as a follower of Christ, the more that we work for Him, the higher position we rise to, the greater the opposition we will face. It is a certainty that has been foretold by Jesus and lived out by Him and all of those who have followed Him.

“If you want to be my follower you must love Me more than your own father & mother, wife, and children, brothers, sisters-yes more than your own life.” (Luke 14:26)

In John 15:18-25 Jesus predicts our coming persecutions:

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master. ’If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.  Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.

Many of us have fallen away when we have suffered for the sake of Christ but we must remember the words in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?

 

And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,

What will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.”

Every person that we can read about in the Bible struggled, suffered, and wept. Yet, do we realize there is such a thing as tears of joy. The actual chemical composition of tears of sadness and tears of joy are actually different. So when we feel the emotions flood our hearts let us not suppress them let us embrace them and remember:

God counts every one of our tears:

“Thou numberest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; Are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8

God Himself has shed tears:

“Jesus wept” John 11:35

God will wipe away our tears:

“4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. “(Revelation 21:4)

The tears of joy and sadness in life will come but let them fall knowing that God the Father counts every one, God the Son has shed tears, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day. We can take comfort Jesus was “made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

We are to remember that this world is the training grounds for heaven. We are made for a higher purpose, predestined for good works, and He will use all things to work together for our good and His glory if we will yet trust in Him. Hold the line, don’t let stop fighting the fires of your life, and remember He is with us though it all.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries