Faith, Family, & The Fire Service

Faith, Family, & The Fire Service

Faith, Family, & The Fire Service:

“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” Ecclesiastes 4:12

As firefighters we possess an amazing tenacity to innovate, strategize, and produce when others fail. Yet in the midst of our fiery passion for the calling that we love many of us will over-focus on our beloved fire service while diminishing our roles at home.

We will train, we will travel, we will teach but at the end of the day how much time and energy are we pouring into our families?

Consider this:

A startling fact that may upset many reading this is that the future of the fire service is not solely dependent upon you. However the future of your household and those that you love is completely dependent on you!

Jesus said “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:26

This is not to say that we shouldn’t pour our passion into the fire service; in fact its quite the opposite. One who understands their foundation and prioritizes accordingly will not only ‘fan the flames of the gift of God’ in their families but will ignite the fire within all that they encounter. 

It begins with each of us looking at our hearts and reflecting upon this question:

Am I a firefighter first? or a Husband, and a Father, and then a Firefighter?

Our passion for the fire service ought to be based upon our greater passion for our loved ones at home. This will not only make us a better firefighter but help keep our priorities in order.

God has placed a passion within each of us. This passion will lead us to our purpose but let us not let our passion create a tunnel vision that blocks out our families from our sight and ultimately our lives.

Each of us will one day have to hang up our helmet. Each of us will retire and tell stories of our past lives. The difference will be: 

Will we sit alone in a rocking chair because we have saved the world and lost our soul?
-or-
Will we sit surrounded by loved ones who respect us for who we are and the difference we have made in their lives?

The choice is ours, let us serve our fellow man boldly and bravely but not lose focus that everyone eventually goes home, will our family be there waiting for us?

The Fire Service needs each of us to be there for our families. Let us not abandon them in the pursuit of saving others. May we wrap our arms around them, lead them, and guide them as we serve. In this way, not only do we fulfill our calling but we bring our worlds together: Our faith, Our family, and Our fire service.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

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The Great Contradiction of the Fire Service 

The Great Contradiction of the Fire Service 

The Great Contradiction of the Fire Service:

The fire service is one marked with a long tradition of service, sacrifice, teamwork, and compassion. Many departments across our country are volunteer organizations that operate with little funding or support from the community or tax base that they protect. Approximately 1,000,000 firefighters of the 1.3 million total firefighters belong to volunteer fire houses. Firefighters, whether paid or volunteer, love what they do. It is calling to most and can at times be one of the most rewarding pursuits. Many firefighters make great personal sacrifices daily such as their time, money, and dedication; all so that their community will be protected. 

What then would you say is contradictory about what we do? 

I have had a great burden laying heavy on my heart for a number of years now. This burden is this: I see that we will lay our lives down for someone else’s life or property but we refuse to overcome our problems with our own departments or fellow firefighters. It is a common theme that is almost everywhere you go. A Fire House will often have the majority that gets along well but inevitably there will be one or two individuals that no one would help if even if their life depended on it. 

Why is this? 
Where have we gone wrong? 
Are we merely figuratively living out this profession but if someone calls us out, would we lose the courage of our convictions? 
Are our principles only as deep as our pride or our paychecks? 
Would our loved ones admire our words and actions toward our fellow brother & sister firefighters?

I compare this to my own spiritual walk as a Christian. It has been said that we should all carry a sign over our head that says “Under Construction-God’s still working on me”. Thus, we often tend to forget where we came from and lose all compassion and or sympathy for any behavior that we refuse to tolerate any more. T.D. Jakes said “Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you get to burn down the school”. My friends, if we are to truly honor the calling we have answered we must follow it with no exceptions. This applies to our family first, our co-workers second, and the citizens we serve third. 

Many would say that the citizen’s we serve come first and our mission statements dictate that is true. Yet if we fail to take care of our family’s, take care of our physical, mental, and spiritual health, will we be truly taking care of our citizens if we aren’t at our best? We are often someone’s only hope when we respond in an emergency. Have we considered that we may be someone’s only hope and that someone may be the firefighter who sits next to us? 

Let us ask ourselves: 

What are we doing to save their life?
Are we living out our values and mission statement inside the four walls of our firehouse?

If you have found yourself in the uncomfortable position of feeling convicted about your own behavior as I have perhaps it’s time to begin the process of treating others the way you would like to be treated? Perhaps, we should realize whether it’s the homeless person, the millionaire, or the co-worker that we don’t get along with we are called to serve others not serve ourselves. This takes great courage to not respond when we are treated harshly but to treat them with respect. This takes integrity and a solid moral foundation that we stand upon. For myself this foundation is my faith. I am reminded of the following scriptures when facing these challenges:

When our work ethic exceeds others why should we continue to work hard? 

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17). We have to realize who we are working for. In my faith, I have to remember that Christ is my boss and my work ethic ultimately reflects my dedication to Him and not to man.

When others treat us badly, why should we treat them kindly?
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). We have to remember that when we forgive others it is not for them. Forgiveness sets us free from the burden of carrying around bitterness and realizing that when we fail to forgive we ultimately are condemning ourselves. We can have the greatest peace in the midst of conflict by realizing that even when others hurt us we can be free by forgiving them. This can often open doors in previously closed relationships.

In closing, remember that we are called to serve others and that service begins with our family and our fellow firefighters. If we fail to treat them with kindness and respect how insincere will be our service to our citizens? If we cannot reconcile our differences we are ultimately dividing our team and diminishing our effectiveness on the fire ground. So let us take up the challenge of being morally courageous and treating others with kindness and respect no matter how we are treated. For this is true courage, to show love to those who need it most, those who hurt us with their words and their actions. We may actually then see that their actions or words are a front for a hurting heart in desperate need of rescue.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Cultivation of Character

The Cultivation of Character

The Cultivation of Character:

Ever noticed that people will stand up for just about anything except for their faith? 

Why is this so?

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

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

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

What then is Moral Courage? 

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

To face the enemy known as fire we take a “calculated risk” based on our training, conditions, and resources available. Yet when we are faced with a moral dilemma we should remember to make our decision based on our faith, our core values, and the ever present truth in God’s word. We should remember our spiritual training.

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

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

In order to develop this characteristic, one must sincerely believe. They stand firm, not because of their own strength, but because of their hope in Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

The challenge before us is as Christians is no easy task:

Let us be clear and speak the truth in love. When we are confronted, persecuted, or ridiculed because of our faith do not speak to them as they did to us. Remember, Jesus is our example. When he was mocked, cursed, spit on, and persecuted He did not respond with anger but with love.

Jesus showed us the way. This is the mark of true courage: To respond to hate with love, to answer ridicule with wisdom, to turn the opposition into a conversation, and to lead a conversation into a relationship.

The world may hurt us, betray us, but we can have hope that Jesus didn’t let that stop Him from loving us. He loved through the hurt.

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

We stand together in this fight with truth and suffer only because we trust in a God who has already won the victory for us. The Battle is won, we must trust and pray as we are being developed for a higher purpose. 

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

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Firefighters-Do not grow weary!

Firefighters-Do not grow weary!

Firefighters -Do not grow weary!

Those of us that have been in the fire service a few years understand the weariness that can easily overtake a firefighter’s heart

This year, we have already lost too many of our brothers and sisters in the line of duty. Anyone that has lost a brother or sister is never the same…

It has a profound effect upon you. It causes a flood of emotions ranging from anger, grief, all the way to guilt and regret. Those that are left behind in this world often carry an invisible burden that crushes their souls.

Yet In the midst of tragedy, there is hope:  

A hope that comes from above and from the fellowship of one another. We take comfort in the strength of our beliefs and lean hard upon the strong shoulders of our brothers and sisters. We realize that we didn’t just promise to carry one another out of a fire. We made the promise to carry our brothers through the crisis of life.

We carry them through the fires of life!

When their back is broken from the weight of emotion. We are there to bear their load.

When their heart has been darkened by the fiery trials…We fire up the flames of encouragement.

When they have lost hope and see no way out…We deploy the Rapid Intervention Crew of brotHERhood.

When all seems lost…The fire service shines the light from within us to guide our brothers home.

Our strength is renewed…

“So take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you, though weak and lame, will not fall and hurt themselves but become strong.” (Hebrews 12: 12)

Let us ask ourselves this:

Where does such strength, encouragement, brotHERhood, and hope come from?

Does it come from some inner resolve? 

Does it come from the culture we cherish?

The mistake many of us, including myself, is to believe that our resolve & motivation comes from ourselves. Yet, the strength that we draw upon, the one that never disappoints, and never grows weary, is not from ourselves. It comes from the long cherished belief that God has called us to serve our fellow citizens and one another. 

This compelling drive that all firefighters seem to share is given to us from God Himself.

He has taken the weak and made them strong through His definition of brotherhood. He has said “Where two or more are gathered I am in their midst.” 

He has demonstrated His sacrificial love through His son for us. He has said “Greater love has no one than this than one who lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Firefighters understand these scriptures even if they don’t believe in God. For it is He who believes in us and put these values in our hearts. He is calling out to us and searching for us. 

He is saying look upon your lives: For we are always together and daily lay down their lives for each other in service, sacrifice, and most importantly out of brotHERhood. Where do we think such values come from? God has placed them in our hearts and when we try to practice them without Him as the source we become weary.

God has said that we are to “love one another, as I have loved you.” So when you struggle and your legs become weak; fall to your knees and lift your voice to him. He will hear the cries of your heart. He will strengthen you. And remember you are not meant to carry the burdens of life alone.

If you have grown tired, have found your spirit weakened, and cannot seem to lift yourself up anymore. Welcome to the place where many of us meet our Lord. For it is often only when we have come to the end our ourselves that we come to the beginning of our new life with God. 

Cry out to Him and He will answer the greatest 911 call ever made: The call of your heart!

Be encouraged and “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10).

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

http://www.bringingbackbrotherhood.org

A Burden Never Meant For Us To Carry

A Burden Never Meant For Us To Carry

A man sits with his head in his hands weeping. He has just suffered the loss of his wife in a tragic accident. 

In one moment, they were together and in the next a car struck her, taking her young life. As I checked for a pulse in a lifeless and broken body I knew there was no hope for her. I turned to see his eyes only to hear him say:

“Why aren’t you helping her?”

I stood with my arms outstretched and said “I am sorry, she is gone, and there is nothing we can do.” He refused my offer for comfort, pushed me away while screaming “No, No, No.”

In these dark moments, we long to bring comfort the hurting. We wish we could do the impossible. We long to ease their pain and suffering but in reality what can we really offer them?

If we have not suffered the same loss, bore the same burdens, and felt the same pain; how can we truly understand?

However, there is a way and the way has a name: Jesus Christ

For those who believe and know Him in their hearts they also know this about our Lord:

“Because He himself suffered…” (Hebrews 2:18)

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” (Matthew 26:38)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses but we have a high priest who has been tempted in every way-Yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

The great mysteries of why tragic things happen often cloud our perspective. We focus on the pain and forget that God loves us. A wise man was quoted in saying:

“I often wondered which was worse-to suffer great pain or for myself to witness a loved one suffering great pain. I have learned through the sufferings of my loved ones of what it must have cost the Father to give His only Son for us.” (Ravi Zacharias)

The Father gave up His Son for us. How He must have felt as He watched Jesus die on the cross. Yet His plan was greater than we all could comprehend or see through that tragic moment. And for those of us who believe, these moments of tragedy and crisis become something else beyond the world’s ability to comprehend: 

An opportunity to serve….

A chance to show compassion…

A moment to share our heart…

A small offering of our life’s work given in the tangible actions where we show love, compassion, and comfort to those in their last moments..

In these moments, we have a rare opportunity to offer the comfort that we have been comforted with which is the love of Jesus Christ. We call upon God and pray for His guidance moment by moment. We know not the circumstances nor how we will be called upon to serve.

Yet we ask that He would give us a heart big enough to hurt with those around us but not absorb or own their pain. For it is not ours to carry; we only hold it with them for a brief few moments. The post traumatic scars we carry are often from when we take ownership of a burden that was never ours to carry.

For we are to show up, silently comfort by our presence, lift others up, and speak words of comfort IF they are needed and we are led to do so. 

For we are to “bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are not to own their burdens or try to take the place of God. We are to share the love, comfort, and grace of God with a hurting world in just as Christ did.

May we all learn from our Lord that He knows our pain and He will carry our burdens if we would just let Him do so. For He reminds us to:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Pray for God’s comfort and His Holy Spirit to equip those who serve so they may offer the greatest gift we can offer to a hurting world:

The Gift of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Andy Starnes 
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Suffering from Firefighter Burn-out?

Suffering from Firefighter Burn-out?

Suffering from Firefighter Burn-Out? Read this:

What is work to us as firefighters?

Is it burdensome or bothersome?

Or is it the place where our passion is pursued and a part of ourselves receives fulfillment?

Have the days of feeling satisfaction from a job well done long since past?

Has the loss of morality and the endorsement of situational ethics caused us to lose hope in our work and our leaders?

Has the world of instant answers caused us to quit at the slightest sign of adversity?

Have we considered our own work ethic?

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Have we forgotten the value of:

Sweat falling from our brow…
Sore muscles from pushing past our limits…
Knowledge gained from a relentless pursuit of learning…
Making a difference and bearing the scars of our work…

We must ask ourselves-does this exist anymore in our eyes but do these aforementioned areas matter to us?

My friends, the loss of work ethic is more tragic than we may realize. If we are unwilling to work hard, to seek out answers, and to push past our limits because its too hard or the world has beat us down; then how quickly will we quit on those we love when life becomes too hard for us then? 

Those who have a shallow work ethic will sacrifice little, slander much, and eat food that they never earned and brag about accomplishments & knowledge they don’t have.

Those who sacrifice much for the benefit of others may have little material gain but will lay their heads down in peace. Their hearts will not be in turmoil nor suffer from moral bankruptcy. 

Those whose work ethic is pure will not conform to the pattern of the world even when it hurts.

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1-2)

So what is a living sacrifice? It is to offer the best of one self to God in spite of opposition. 

It is to offer our heart and soul to God even when the world continues to do evil and prosper. 

It is to be obedient to our belief in Him rather than giving into our selfish desires. 

It is to be broken and contrite but knowing that this is when God takes our empty hearts and fills it with His Spirit. 

It is to take hold of a new strength that is not our own. 

It is to fall upon our knees only to rise being lifted by the strong shoulders of Jesus. 

This is the work ethic that we must return to:

To work with all our might as if Jesus is our boss. For if He is truly our Lord, affirmation from others isn’t necessary nor required. 

If Christ is our focus, the hard work we put forth is not in vain but will be another star in our crown. 

For if we are carving our efforts into others hearts and not into plaques or certificates the dividends that will be paid to us will be in one powerful statement as we enter the gates of heaven:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21

Let us strive to live a life that is well done by God’s standard. May our work ethic remain steadfast and run the race until He calls us home. For our finish line is not made by human hands. 

Our efforts are not in vain and God is not overlooking our struggles. He is merely waiting upon our requests to be renewed, refilled, and strengthened by His Spirit. 

When we have reached the place where we realize we cannot do it by our own work ethic we have begun the journey to a significant existence rather than a successful one.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

When God Speaks To Our Hearts

When God Speaks To Our Hearts

When God Whispers to Our Heart:

There are moments of regret that I experience from time to time…
They are inescapable, unforgettable, and their memory forever etched into my mind…
These moments are few but so powerful for they have to do with my own ignorance…

I pray so often that God will draw near to me…
I pray that in some divine way that He will speak to me..
And yet I forget that when He speaks I am not always responsive…
I pray and petition yet when the answer comes I don’t always praise…
I ask, seek, and knock then the door opens and I am far away…

When God whispers to our heart it is a soft and gentle touch…
A notion that is often dismissed because we don’t focus on Him enough…
It may not be a brilliant staircase as Jacob saw…

We may not be blinded by light on the road as was Saul..
Yet when it happens, we often deny the occurrence…

We turn to earthly reasons rather than His blessed assurance…
We say, Oh that’s my conscience or merely coincidence…
And then the answer comes, something happens, and our reasons are silenced…
For what has happened there is no answer other than God Himself…
We realize, He spoke, He answered yet we trusted in something else…
Think of how disappointed and broken His heart must be..
Yet He continues to pour out His love & mercy for you and for me…

When an unexplainable voice gives you guidance…
Don’t dismiss it, be distracted, or try to defy it…

The whisper of God will be gentle and point you to Him…
It will be nothing that tempts you or causes you to sin…

Listen and pray every moment of every day…
So you may not live with the regret of missing the words He might say…

For we have felt His presence and dismissed his tender touch..
For we have fallen short and have missed a moment that He predestined for us…

He still speaks, but do we care enough to listen…
Let us seek Him and not dismiss Him..

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes