The Inspirational Instructor

The Inspirational Instructor

As Instructors in the fire service it is easy to become disheartened by the inconsistencies that we see being taught across our country. Their often seems to be very little oversight and no accountability in teaching. 

We have often heard through other students of instructors who are teaching firefighters false notions, dangerous habits, and boldly doing so. It is easy to become discouraged and grow weary in doing the right thing. 

In our Faith, God reminds us of the great accountability placed upon us as teachers of the word. We know that if we seek Him, study His word, and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us that we will be successful as long as we remain humble. 

So as we teach, let us reflect upon these instructions from the greatest teacher, Our God-We seek Him as our teacher: 

The Lord says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:9 

We should diligently study His word so we will be prepared: 

“I have more insight than all my teachers for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” Psalm 119:99-100 

When we become bitter towards those we instruct we remember Jesus’ example: 

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:36-37 

When we face opposition because we are teaching the truth we remember: 

“These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude vs 16 

When we tire and grow weary we remember that we too were once lost: 

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Jude vs 22. 

In closing, as we study and seek to lead others through teaching; pause and reflect upon the great privilege given unto us. It is not an easy task and should not be taken lightly. 

Lord help us remain diligent, passionate, and purposeful in our work but remember who it is that we are working for so that we will not grow weary in doing good. 

For our accountability system is of the highest level. “And whatever you do or say, let it be a representative of the Lord Jesus…” Colossians 3:17
God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Firefighter Values-A History Lesson

Firefighter Values-A History Lesson

Many of us look upon our symbols that we wear without much thought. Yet, few know that the Maltese Cross is actually based upon the eight points of the Be-Attitudes from Jesus’s sermon on the mount. 

In the world today, many argue for the removal of God or any Faith based traditions. Perhaps we would all be wise to revisit our history as firefighters. Let us take a walk down memory lane by looking at the patch we wear: The Maltese Cross.

We see the eight points of the maltese cross. This symbol was awarded to the first firefighters who braved the perils of fire to save their fellow knights who were being burned alive. This symbol reminds us that we will lay down our lives if necessary for others. The symbol is a reminder of what Christ has done for us: 

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

These first firefighters adopted eight points based on the be-attitudes (from Matthew Chapter 5 of Jesus’ sermon on the mount) which have been adaped to more of a secular meaning. The eight points also symbolize the eight obligations or aspirations of the knights:

to live in truth 

to have faith 

to repent one’s sins

to give proof of humility

to love justice 

to be merciful 

to be sincere and wholehearted 

to endure persecution

The following is God’s word from Matthew 5:3-10 with an interpretation in parenthesis for firefighters:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of the heavens is theirs. (Have you ever been down? Take comfort, it is then that we realize our need for God.)

Blessed are the ones mourning, because they will be comforted. (Have you suffered great loss? personally, professionally, politically? God’s promise is to bring us a comfort that no one else can bring.)

Blessed are the gentle ones, because they will inherit the earth. (As firefighters, we extend a gentle hand to the hurting hearts and bodies of others; God will reward us for such service.)

Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting as to righteousness, because they will be filled-to-satisfaction. (Have you searched for something more? Has the world’s wisdom disappointed you? betrayed you? and their hypocrisy ultimately shown its face? God has placed a desire within us all to seek Him, to hunger for more, and to lead a blameless life through Him. This passion that is within us all comes from Him.)

Blessed are the merciful ones, because they will be shown-mercy. (As firefighters, the desire to show love and respond to those in need is almost innate. The world constantly tells us to respond to those who wrong us with vengeance but God’s word tells us to be merciful not because they deserve it but because we have been shown great mercy. As we serve those in need, remember we were in great need and Jesus responded to the 911 call of our heart not because we deserved it but because He loves us.)

Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God. (A pure heart is like a rare and precious jewel; In this world, it is impossible to have a pure heart without God. For we will be tempted, drawn away, and corrupted by the world’s desires. As firefighters, our hearts can remain pure by seeking a continuous relationship with Jesus and sharing our heart with others. So that when others see us; they see Him by our actions, our words, and our very lives.)

Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. (A peacemaker doesn’t compromise their principles; they bring resolution to conflict through the wisdom of God. As a firefighter brings a sense of normalcy back to a chaotic and tragic situation; God’s love and Holy Spirit allows us to make peace with others no matter the conflict.)

Blessed are the ones having been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because the kingdom of the heavens is theirs. (Persecution in America is not like what the rest of the world is suffering. As firefighters we see those who are ridiculed, excluded, and even lose their jobs for their faith. Relationships have even been lost because of our faith. Jesus reminds us that if we keep the faith and don’t give up that the kingdom of heaven is ours. The world will not understand; but we will endure and continue on as a good soldier in Christ Jesus.)

In closing, as firefighters we have been given a rich history that is based upon transcendent values given from Jesus Himself; let us not overlook them. 

The symbols we carry have meaning thus our lives should represent them. The secular world doesn’t understand but its our job to show His love in-spite of this. 

Those who disagree or hurt us are the very ones we should be ministering to. Don’t grow weary in the face of life’s great challenges! Look upon the cross on our uniform and be reminded of those who have gone before us. 

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Role over Rank

Role over Rank

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” – John Maxwell

If you have ever asked yourself “What difference can I possibly make? I am just a ________. Let’s begin by examining your motives before you look at your position or circumstance.

It has been said if you want to know God’s purpose for your life: find your greatest passion + the needs of the world then equals your starting point.

While on this journey, it is inevitable there will be those who to try to hurt or weaken our passion. Those individuals that attempt to diminish our self-worth by pointing out our inadequacies are nothing more than critics without cause.

They may use words such as: eat up, over-driven, crazy, and obsessed to describe what they really see as dedication.

In reality, it unnerves them and makes them uncomfortable to see someone who truly cares. 

It causes them realize their poor work ethic and they respond with disparaging comments. It also causes them to look deeply in the mirror and they don’t like what they see.

On a deeper level, they don’t like to see others succeed in areas that they had secretly wished they had the determination to do what you are doing today.

Let’s look at two examples of the value of one individual who chose to make a difference:

One man took the time to share the Gospel with a young dairy farmer who later went on to preach the Gospel to millions across the globe. That young farmer is now known as Rev. Billy Graham.

“In over 55 years of ministry, Billy Graham has preached the Gospel message to more than 215 million people in over 185 countries around the world. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which he founded in 1950, reaches out to millions more each year through radio and television broadcasts, films, literature, training, events, and the Internet.” (Billy Graham Library).

One man chose to lead a few ill-equipped, uneducated, and lower class men. He taught them and loved them in spite of great opposition.

His passionate journey ultimately cost Him His life. His name is Jesus Christ. Remember, out of those 12 men He “trained”, one betrayed Him, and the rest didn’t truly understand the depth of His message until after His resurrection.

Yet, those few men that He discipled went on to change the world. A church of a few believers has grown to 1/3 of the world’s population. His love lives on today in the hearts of those who believe.

Thus our current role is very important (wherever we may be) and we are there for a reason. Let us not discount nor diminish our importance because of our current circumstances.

May we all reflect on this writing and begin to look for opportunities to encourage, mentor, and teach others while we are learning as well.

Remember, that our significance is not tied to our salary nor our title.

Our true value is in how we influence others around us as we grow, learn, and change the world one person at a time.

Think of it, we may be influencing, educating, or helping the next innovator/leader of our age. Now, take what we have been given and make it count.

Whether we realize or not, we are laying the groundwork for someone else’s future. So get up, live what we believe, and be an individual of integrity.

The future is depending upon our role not our rank.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

(Photo credit JP Soto)

Fight the Fire; Not each other!

Fight the Fire; Not each other!

In the fire service, we are a collective like none other. We bond together in times of crisis for others or for ourselves and work for the greater good. Yet, how sad is it that many of us are fighting against one another instead of uniting against real opposition.

“I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28

So why it that some of us today in their passion to share their message are dividing the fire service more than uniting it? 

If we would only realize that when we lose sight of the people behind our passion it is then that we are no longer passionate but poisonous. 

Perhaps we would be wise to remember the words of our fire service mentors:

“If we lose sight of our identity, then perhaps we will lose sight of what it is we are supposed to stand for.” (Chief Ron Coleman)

Perhaps we should evaluate our methods, our motivations, and most of all our attitude when we go out to share our message. This way, when we encounter opposition we will view it as opportunity to share rather than becoming defensive. 

“This is because experienced firefighters will not automatically accept what is being taught as fact but will require well presented information that is clear, concise, and constantly relates back to real experience” John McDonough 

No matter our message we must take the time to consider those that we want to receive it. We must be firm in our beliefs: knowledgable, courteous, and well rounded. 

So when we encounter opposition we can stand firm and work to share the message working for unity. Always leaving the doorway of discussion open so perhaps those that disagree with us may some day become our close friends and perhaps our greatest allies. 

Consider Paul in the Bible as he was the greatest persecutor of the Christian church and went on to write a large part of the New Testament and founding numerous churches. 

“The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me.” Galatians 2:23-24

Til then, stand firm, stay true, and be courteous not condemning but always staying focused on the goal of positive change.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Furnace of Adversity 

The Furnace of Adversity 

One who studies leadership will continue to find this scene repeated time and time again throughout history: 

Leaders will be attacked.

No matter whether the leader is one of integrity or one of falsehood it is a verifiable fact that leaders will be attacked, persecuted, and falsely accused.

In fact, the greater the moral integrity or dedication to one’s calling the greater the opposition one can expect. 

The greater the achievements for the sake of the call not out of recognition the more quickly they will be forgotten by an angry mob crying out against them.

The more the leader gives without others knowing of his/her sacrifice the more the angry followers will point out what the leader hasn’t done.

How do we know this to be true?

A leader came to His own people long ago, yet they failed to recognize Him…

A leader drew others to Him and trained them up to lead the way in His absence, yet they deserted Him…

A leader healed the sick, fed the poor, stood up for the sinner yet they abandoned Him in His moment of need…

This leader was arrested at night (which by their own law was illegal)…

This leader had a trial with paid false witnesses…

This leader was tried, whipped, and executed the same day (which was also illegal according to their own law). 

This leader was like none other for He had the power to stop all of this from happening yet He did not…

This leader knew His mission and was obedient unto death even death upon a cross…

This leader when spat upon, struck, and whipped did not strike back; He remained steadfast…

This leader when hanging on a cross in terrible agony forgave those who hurled insults upon Him…

For several hours He repeated this statement:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

This leader after enduring all of this laid down His life and did not allow the Roman soldiers to take it…

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

The sky went dark, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, and tombs split open allowing the dead to rise…

All of this occurred and yet many still doubted…

This leader rose again after all that had been done to Him and sought out the lost…

It has been said the definition of steadfast is to remain under the load. To hold steadfast is to remain under the great pressures of life, unwanted burdens, false accusations, and the sins of others. Jesus remained steadfast in the face of overwhelming adversity and yet He did not sin. He did not return evil for evil, he did not exact revenge, and after all that was done to Him He forgave them.

Why? Why would someone endure all of this for those who failed to recognize or appreciate Him?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Perhaps you are in a difficult place today?

The world seems to be falling apart around you and those that were closest to you have abandoned you…

The world has heaped anger, slander, and persecuted you all for following the Word of God which is Jesus Christ.

Take hope today that by the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that those who once persecuted Him came to believe and were saved.

This was done by the power of His redeeming love. So if you have given up on many and feel hopeless remember the the thief on the cross who at the last minute realized who Jesus was. And what did Jesus do for him?

Jesus said to him

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

So don’t give up! Remain steadfast in hope, in prayer, and in faithfulness to Him that endured far more than we can imagine. He did this so all may be saved:

 “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Remain steadfast,
Andy J. Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Fellowship of His Suffering

The Fellowship of His Suffering

The Fellowship of His Suffering:

Have you ever suffered at the hands of another? 

Have you been ridiculed, slandered, and belittled for no reason other than the individuals ability be hateful?

Have you felt anger well up inside your soul? 

Have you felt the need to respond in a physical or verbal way that brings resolution to your own personal injustice?

In these moments, it is the greatest challenge that our principles will face. In the moment when we are attacked, if we choose to respond as they do then are we any different?

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1: 28b-30

So in light of this, how does one conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish? 

Doesn’t it make sense that we desire justice or vindication for the wrongs done against us?

Yet, If we ‘repay anyone evil for evil'(Romans 12:17), are we on the road to becoming like the very person that has injured us? 

Have we ever considered why people lash out in the first place? 

Have we considered why so many attack good people and those good people suffer greatly? 

Reflect on these questions for a moment:

Who do we claim to be? 

Do we claim to be followers of Christ? 

Do we claim to be loving husbands/wives, loving fathers/mothers, and loving members of our community?

Do we claim to be good firefighters?

What is the litmus test to judge whether we are who we say we are?

If we react in anger on the road, with a christian and fire service sticker on our car, what judgement do others make about our actions in that moment?

If we ‘repay evil for evil’ in our moments of anguish and the world broadcasts our incident and sits in judgement upon our actions; what do we think they will determine about the sincerity of our faith?

If our anger controls us and we right the wrongs committed against us; how does our actions affect a young aspiring leader who has been carefully studying our lives?

Jesus reminds us of the higher call placed upon our lives:

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46)

Did we notice the challenge He lays before us? Not to merely love those who love us but to love those who hurt us, to love those who slander us, to love those who mistreat us, and to do so with sincerity. This can only be done if Christ lives and reigns in our hearts.

The challenge before us lies in the depth of our devotion. How quickly we will fail in the fiery moments of torment if our devotion to God is shallow and insincere. 

The Apostle Paul wrote about suffering for God many times in his letters. He didn’t merely write words for us to follow. He wrote out of his great suffering. This is one example of his suffering, yet he stood firm: 

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. 

I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 

Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

Paul obviously suffered greatly for his faith, but consider what he was called to do. He was called by God to go and preach the Gospel. And consider how he treated others in spite of his suffering.

What are we called to do? 

Have we forgotten of all the leaders who have gone before us? 

Did they not face great opposition, persecution, and adversity? 

They suffered because they knew the goal was worth the cost. They took their eyes off worldly comforts and realized the impact of their daily actions would pay generational dividends.  

Let us remember that our conduct reflects our conscience and our daily walk shows who we truly are. 

The true test of one’s character is not during fair weather but when the storms of opposition rain down. It is then that we see those who are superficial and not strong. It is then when we see how strong our faith truly is. So let us remember:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Do you want to change the fire service? 

Do you want to change the fire service? 

Do you want to change the fire service? Let us begin with the one we can change: Ourselves!

I have witnessed a common threat as I travel in the fire service. It is one that affects the small departments and the large. It affects the well paid and the volunteer firefighters. It is present in the best organization and it is present in those that suffer from toxic leadership. It is present in every fire house on almost every shift.

What is this common threat that lurks in every fire department that many fail to recognize?

-The Sin of Ingratitude-

The calling of a firefighter is no easy task and places great strain on many of us personally, professionally, and in our faith. It can lead to health problems, divorce, PTSD, higher rates of alcohol abuse and substance abuse. 

Yet the greatest threat to the fire service is not a disease, it is not our lack of physical fitness (which is a big one), and it is not our behavioral health issues. It is the poison of ingratitude. 

When we become ungrateful for all that we have and the great privileges bestowed upon us we become cynical and hard hearted. A hardened heart is a walking dead man that spreads like the plague.

One whose heart has become hardened has forgotten the source of all their blessings. Their service becomes out of habit and not out of eagerness. They tend to lose their focus on Jesus and become weary too easily. 

Why is this so? 

Are we asking the wrong questions? 

And how do we refresh our spirits?

Isaiah pondered the same question:

“What can I say? God has spoken to me; he himself has acted. I will wander my whole life with a bitter spirit. The Lord Most High is the one who gives life to every heart, who gives life to the spirit! Look, he indeed exchanged my bitterness for wholeness. You yourself have spared my whole being from the pit of destruction, because you have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Isaiah 38:15-17)

Make no mistake, bitter individuals didn’t become this way overnight. Justifiably, they have went through many trials and painful experiences that led them to their present but not final destination.

They may have suffered great loss. (Remember Pharaoh in the Bible)

They may have been betrayed by those they love. (Remember Joseph, if anyone deserved to be bitter it was Joseph but he chose a better way).

They may have sacrificed their families for the mistress known as the fire service only to realize their mistake far too late. (Remember Solomon)

They may have suffered serious health issues…

They may have suffered all of these and more…(Remember Job)

Sadly, what failed to happen in all of these ordeals is the most critical part of any trial, tragedy, or painful circumstance which is Healing and Growth. 

Those that were affected in such a way came to God in brokenness and repentance. Remember the prodigal son-“And then he came to himself.” He only did so after squandering his inheritance and losing everything when he realized that he could repent and return to his loving & forgiving father.

Those that have become bitter may have suffered from the failure of being supported by those who have been through such struggles they were abandoned or failed to share their pain with anyone; all the while they suffered in silence. 

Rather than this great wound upon their soul experiencing healing; this wound remained open and was allowed to fester becoming a terrible sickness affecting all aspects of their daily lives from the firehouse kitchen table to their family and communities.

Rather than growing through such an experience and using such tribulations to help others who have experienced the same; a more terrible sickness developed within them.

The sickness of un-forgiveness…

This is noted by their walls built around their heart emotionally. They don’t allow anyone to close to them anymore for the fear of experiencing such painful loss and heartache again.

This is also seen, in their daily interactions. They gossip, slander, use their influence to attack the very organization that they used to love. They begin to actually destroy the department each and every day and not even know it.

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”(Proverbs 11.13)

Their condemning attitude, their bitter spirit, and their constant agenda to attack the very place that provides their monetary means for a living is obvious to anyone they encounter.

And the worst part of this sickness, is that they gather others around them who have been hurt and infect them thereby becoming a deadly virus which gradually removes the joy out of others.

Those who used to love their calling of a firefighter now are weary and long for retirement…

Those who used to be the first to want to train; would rather sit in a room and slander the very organization that provides the room they are seated in…

Those who fought for the values within the organization the most now corrupt those same values with lies, deceit, and slander…

But wait, aren’t these individuals justified? 

Shouldn’t they deserve to feel this way and be allowed to avenge themselves? Shouldn’t they be allowed not to forgive those who wronged them?

Reflect upon this statement:

As fellow Christians, we are forgiven people therefore we are called to forgive. What does our lives of unforgiveness say to others about the depth of our belief? 

 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” Matthew 6:9-15

If we as followers of Christ pray this prayer and believe that Jesus has forgiven us of our sins and we hold others in unforgiveness we are actually condemning ourselves. 

Many of us know the great pain and suffering of trials and tribulations within the fire service. But do those experiences, those betrayals, and those hardships give us the right to destroy it?

Do we actually believe that by spreading negativity that we will reap a new harvest of positive and vibrant new generation?

Think of how absurd our logic actually is:

We think by sitting among others and tearing people apart will actually improve the organization?

What marriage would survive if the spouse constantly verbally assaulted the other for all they are doing wrong?

What church would thrive if we sat amidst the pews and slandered one another, gossiped about everyone’s problems, and complained about how the church needs to change?

This is the madness of selfish misery.

Does one seated at the table of misery who drinks the cup of poison actually believe that this cup will provide them comfort?

This is a trap of the devil and is a deception that I myself have fallen victim before. It is place of selfish misery where all we focus on is our pain, our loss, our suffering, and the wrongs that have been done to us.

But yet, we took an oath to protect lives and property no matter the circumstances and no matter the individuals differences that we would faithfully respond to their need in their moment most dire.

Yet we have abandoned them…
We have given up and given our joy away…

My friends, no one owns your attitude but you…

No one tells you how to behave daily but your heart…

No one dictates whether you will be depressed or angry…

No one but ourselves alone are responsible for our attitude…

So where does one go from here?

How do we affect those who have become intrenched in cynicism?
What do we do when we realize how bad we sound?

Consider another who walked a different path:

He loved in the face of hate…

He stood up for truth and opposed those who were misinterpreting God’s word…

He served the least even though He was the greatest…

He forgave those who betrayed Him even while dying on the cross…

And He warned His followers of the great cost of following Him..

Jesus said to them “You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. Everyone will hate you because of my name. Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. By holding fast, you will gain your lives.”(Luke 21:19)

My friends, we are called to walk a different path. A narrow and difficult journey it may be but it will be worth it. We are called to build others up and not to destroy. Let us not be dragged down by bitterness, depression, and hard times. Let us hold fast to the truth and to one another.

May we remember that anyone can point out what is wrong but it takes leadership to encourage another with words that lead them away from their poor choices.

May God grant each of us the words that others are needing to hear. May He allow us to be a part of building the future through wise words instead of careless ones.
God bless you all,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

You’ll Never Know

You’ll Never Know

There are those who give with all of their heart…
Those that sacrifice, who hurt deeply, who long to leave their mark…

This mark isn’t one of personal recognition or selfish pride…

It is the goal of leaving a mark upon their generation, of changed & transformed lives…

For those that endure to the end, no matter the cost…

This writing is for you, from the depths of my heart and it comes from my own suffering and loss…

You’ll never know how many times I tried…

You’ll never know all of the prayers I cried…

You’ll never know how many times I showed up…

Each time hoping for the truth, yet you lied…

Each time praying for a new life for you without selfish pride…

Each time paying, giving, working, and holding onto hope…

You’ll never know how much it cost…

You’ll never know how great my suffering and loss…

You’ll never know how much I have loved you…

Each time walking that same Golgotha Road towards the cross…

Each time feeling the nails of your sin, your rejection, and paying the great cost…

Each time crying out that the Father would not hold this against you…

You’ll never know the pain of such betrayal…

You’ll never know the solitude of being forsaken…

You’ll never know the hurt of your mistakes…

Each time the thorns dig deeper & the blood follows the same familiar trail…

Each time the rejection, the harsh words, they all pierce my flesh, and my heart continues to break…

Each time you justify yourself, you hold a bloody hammer and a flesh torn stake…

Yet, you’ll never know the depths of My love for you…

I’ve cried out in anguish in Holy Scripture…

I’ve touched your life and painted for you such a clear picture…

I’ve sent angels to protect you even while on your wayward journey…

I’ve watched over you and kept you from the fire of hell’s fury…

Through it all you have twisted My words to meet your own needs…

Through it all you have continually condemned those who have stood up for Me…

Through it all you have done this and said look at my good deeds…

My child, I made you, I know you, you have misunderstood…

So many have been placed around you in your life to share My truth in love…

And sadly, so many have hurt you, and pushed you away from My love…

They never knew Me, even though they claimed too…

They condemn those harshly in order to take the spotlight off their own sins…

And sadly, there are those who have led you a stray far from the life, the way, and the truth…

I am here to tell you and the world that no matter anyone’s past…

No matter their misunderstanding, their deeds against Me, and their blasphemy…

I will make all things clear when they stand before Me, the First, and the Last…

But before you do on that great and fateful day…

I beg you, pick up My word, and read it once again…

Look deeper, meditate, fast and pray about your own personal sin…

Just you & Me together; open yourself up to me there…

I will not harm you, I will forgive you, and show you that I care…

But until you do, you’ll never know…

I pray that you know how much Jesus loves you so…

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

God still answers prayers… The only question is, Are we praying?

Many of us struggle with prayer. We feel as if we are talking to ourselves or rambling on and on listing all of our requests or complaints. But have we gotten prayer all backwards? We forget to pray or we find it too difficult to earnestly pray. Many of us claim that God is most important to us but how much of our focus is truly on him? 

If prayer is conversation with God, how is our conversation?

Do we merely talk to our loved ones with an endless list of requests and problems? 

What type of relationship is that? 

If a man wants a deep and personal relationship with his wife but only talks to her for five minutes a day how shallow will the waters of their relationship be? 

Consider these words from Dr. Larry Crabb and the words of Jesus in the following quotes:

“The power of petition is based upon the depth of our relationship.” Dr. Larry Crabb

Jesus replied “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to the mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for.”

We have this great power and most of us have never utilized it. And if we are truthful with ourselves, the reason we have not used it is that we have not fully trusted and believed in the power of prayer. And the reason we haven’t fully trusted in this power is that we do not have a strong relationship with Christ. We may know Him but if we are truthful with ourselves we would admit the shallowness of our relationship. We say we believe in God but we try to fix all of our problems until we reach the end of our rope; then we say “All we can do is pray.” 

My friends, “Prayer isn’t preparation for the work, prayer is the work.” (Oswald Chambers). God is not moved by men and women of standing but by men and women of kneeling. Passionate prayer moves the heart of God. There is something about prayer that changes the course of history. Satan begins to tremble when we pray. 

As we come to know Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit we begin to spend more time seeking Him, worshipping Him, and talking with Him. We spend more time searching His Holy Word, The Bible, for we know God has “the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

I have found myself seeking life’s answers and knowledge in the books of men rather than the author of life itself Christ Jesus. I have found myself seeking answers from other people rather than the creator Himself. His word says “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give your rest.” (Matthew 11:28). That is the epiphany that St. Augustine had when he said “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.”  

God has given us the answers and the way of peace. So the next time we face a struggle, hard times, or difficult choice let us “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 In doing so we will receive the rest He promises, the “peace that passes all understanding”, as we remember Jesus’ promise that “in this world we will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16-33.

Take heart! He has overcome the world. We do not need to fear nor be anxious. Let our hearts not be troubled and let His peace rule over the stormy waters of our lives as the Captain of our Souls is guiding us home through it all. We can trust Jesus! 

Let us choose to trust in the deep waters of relationship with Christ rather than the shallow waters of the storms of life. 

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

What makes someone a great leader?

What makes someone a great leader?

In leadership, we see examples (good and bad) of those who hold positions of great influence. If we were to break down the leaders we admire; what is it about them that makes us want to follow their example?

Here are my thoughts on those traits that define a significant leader:

#1) A solid moral foundation: It all begins with Integrity.
I believe that to be a successful and significant Leader that our motivations and mindset have to be pure. An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization personally and or professionally. They will be manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship.

Consider this:

Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example.

History has taught us that anyone who is placed in a position of authority but doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately compromise their principles, integrity, and values for money, power, and or fear. Don’t merely believe me; Take a look back at our history before we look forward.

#2) Servanthood: 
In the fire service, our inner desire to serve others shows that we have a servant heart. As we step into the role of a leader, one must have a self-less focus where he or she is constantly about the business of knowing, caring for, and empowering those in their sphere of influence.

In order to lead, someone has to follow; therefore one has to command more than their respect. The greater the amount of passion and energy that a Leader pours into his/her people it has a direct correlation in how effective the crew will be.

#3) Setting the example (Consistency):
We must lead by example. Our consistent application of our values, work ethic, and our dedication to our crew is what sets us apart. This goes deeper than education. A Leader who has high expectations of his/her crew must first have the same expectations of themselves.

This position requires that we are pursuing the next level of excellence. There is never a point where one should be comfortable with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If one has reached this point of complacency then it’s time to move on to another profession such as retirement.

#4) Humility:

Some of the greatest leaders that have impacted my life the ones that have admitted openly when they made a mistake. They made no excuse, they took responsibility for their actions, and they held themselves accountable. Those under a leader’s supervision will not believe in their leader if the leader does not hold himself/herself accountable as well.

#5) Mentoring:

In my opinion, one of the greatest disservices we do to our veteran leaders in the fire service is when they retire. We throw them a party and say goodbye. They have invaluable experience that has been forged by a lifetime of adversity, experience, and education. We should not let their priceless wisdom merely fade away; we should seek them out and learn from them.

As a Leader, you are ultimately responsible for what the future of the fire service will look like. Your goal should be to leave a mark on the organization and not just a memory. This can be only accomplished by “training your replacement”.

We should all be concerned about developing the next generation of leaders. One day they could be responding to our call for help. Are we equipping those around us for the future? Are we investing in those around us to ensure a brighter future?

Let’s consider these five traits and reflect upon there meaning in our own life. Are we investing in the future or merely impressing others for the moment?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries