Tag Archives: training

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

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.

Dedication, Discipline, & Discipleship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God Bless you all!
Andy J. Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

In a Battle? Time to Get to Higher Ground!

In the midst of the storms of this life, have we considered how well we are communicating with the One who controls the winds and the waves? In the middle of the firefight when the flames are raging, how well are we communicating with the Ultimate Incident Commander?
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me for in you my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purposes for me” (Psalm 57:1-2)
 
There is a battle raging right before our very eyes. Police are being targeted and killed, religious freedoms are being removed, innocent unborn children are being murdered, terrorism is on the rise, and the importance of morals & values are being diminished by many leaders in society. Yet there is an even greater war going on….
 
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).
 
The Bible clearly tells us that there IS spiritual warfare going on all around us. For those who believe, we see its effects clearly around us. Yet we also fight a battle within ourselves against our sinful nature. We fight against our own lust, lies, anger, hypocrisy, idolatry, greed, and so on.
 
“For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:17-18).
 
So how do we fight against this invisible foe along with our sinful nature? Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we should “put on the full armor of God, so that you can be ready to take you stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). However, are we truly ready for battle? The issue isn’t the armor of God in many cases; but whether or not we are communicating and in relationship with the One who is leading the battle.
 
We must boldly then pray “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18) and know that “In Him through faith we approach God” (Ephesians 3:12). This can be hard for many of us. For myself, I feel that my prayers are often hindered not because of God but because of me. I feel unworthy to approach him because of my sins. I forget the great price that was paid for my own sins by Jesus Christ. I have to come once again, boldly yet broken to the foot of the cross and cry out to My Lord having the full confidence that He will hear me not because of what I have done but because of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us.
 
We can then pray as Paul did that God would “strengthen you with the power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted, and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s Holy people to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-20).
 
So are ready for battle? Are we willing to put the time in as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Time in prayer, Time in studying His word, and Time in showing God’s love to a hurting and lost world even if it costs us?
Remember, a solider expects to be attacked, they expect their enemy will come at them. Let us then boldly pray and pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus knowing that He will fight our battles if we will remain in Him.
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

The Shareholders Meeting

The Shareholders Meeting:

In a dimly lit room holding about thirty individuals from various countries, backgrounds, and experience levels all sat conversing their vested interest in a precious commodity. There were questions posed from those transitioning from one point of leadership to another. There were questions asked from those just beginning their journey in investing in this commodity. Thoughts were provoked, hearts were stirred, and the young and the elder sat at the same table without rank or recognition all for the same reason:

“The Fire Service”

Men and women sacrifice their time, their monies, their health, and yes even their lives for this investment. It is not bought nor sold yet it has a market all to itself. It requires more than a millionaire can offer yet only those with hearts dedicated enough to serve stay vested long enough for their service to pay the true dividends that it offers.

These shareholders are like none other. They take ownership in not some mere piece of paper whose value changes with the wind. They take ownership in a calling unlike any other that says we care, we will be there, and we will answer when no one else will. They show up whether paid or volunteer. They refuse to accept the diminishing minimum standards that are set by those who are blind to the maximum requirements of this position. These shareholders cannot be bought nor sold. Their integrity is like precious metals that are forged in the furnace of adversity. Their drive is unshakable even when all has been taken from them they continue to give.

These men and women do not ask for reward nor recognition. They do not care for words of praise. What they desire is something seldom offered to them. They long for the chance to serve and the means to do so. Yet in the face of a world that continues to lay-off firefighters, close fire stations, and reduce our capabilities to serve we the fire service continue to serve even when the world tries to tie our hands.

In departments where there is no “2 out” because the powers that be said they weren’t needed; rest assured there will be “2 in.” What the taxpayer and the average citizen may not know, is these shareholders look upon their citizens lives, their families lives, and the chance to make a difference as their most important investment. These shareholders won’t be bound nor limited by policy but by principles and by passion. They refuse to be patronized by politicians who only want their votes yet pull the plug on their brothers and sisters benefits. They will not speak words of slander nor defame anyone’s character yet they will answer the call of the poor, that same politician, the elderly, and all who are in need.

This is what these shareholders desire from us all. For us to remember, that no matter the political climate they will continue to invest. No matter the shackles placed upon them by reduced manpower they will continue to answer. The Shareholders of this precious commodity known as the Fire Service ask one thing:

Remember Them!

For they have not forgotten you….

Signed, a fellow shareholder…

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Power of One

The Power of One:

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

What is this great suffering that I speak of? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May we consider what God has done for us all?

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

He loved in spite of the hatred of the world. 

He forgave where others condemned. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many have endured persecution and in the end prevailed. 

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

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

We are not alone!

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

Our struggles are not in vain!

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

We will overcome!

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

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

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

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

When your efforts and achievements are sabotaged…

When you are falsely accused…

When you are betrayed…

When you suffer for doing what is right…

Remember the struggles of those who have gone before us. 

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

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

God Bless you all,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries