An Overseer-A Noble Task often neglected:

An Overseer-A Noble Task often neglected:

“Early on he worked more than 64 hours a week arriving home between 8 and 10 pm each night. The cost of the lifestyle was his marriage. ‘All I worked for was wiped out with one phone call to the divorce lawyer.” —An excerpt from Faith on the Fire Line by Fellowship of Christian Firefighters.—

The Fire Service is a truly demanding profession. For those who are blessed to be a part of this noble calling can often fall victim into the trap of ambition.  

At first, our efforts seem noble; after all we are bettering ourselves to serve our community which also helps to insure our safety thereby showing the utmost regard for our loved ones at home, right?

It starts with a spark and we are the tinder. Before we know we are a roaring fire. We are consuming everything in our path that is fuel: textbooks, conferences, classes, on-line material, and on and on…

But then something happens, we look forward at all of our accolades, knowledge, and skills but there is an emptiness that is creeping into our heart. What is this? Why do we feel this way?

It is conviction. In the midst of our search for success and helping others we have forgotten about our first priority: Our family!

Another class that we teach and we miss another ball game….

Another hour at the desk late at night and our spouse falls asleep in tears feeling more and more alone…

Another conference we attend away from family, and our children are growing up…

Another promotion we earn and responsibility we take on, while our role at home is diminishing and fading…

And then we hit rock bottom…

The pinnacle of success is not the pinnacle of significance. A thousand lives impacted and saved on the fire ground while we neglect our own family is the ultimate hypocrisy that many of us, including myself, have tried to justify as “part of the job.”

Repeat these words:
“Neglecting our family is not part of the job!” 

Our ever increasing divorce rates should not be part of the job. How are we to serve the public and set the example of integrity if we fail to serve our loved ones at home?
It has to be a balance. God has designed work but he also has designed rest. 

Exodus 34:21

21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest ; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

How much do we rest? Do we rest with our families? Or do we seek rest in other places away from them?

His plan for our life is to have a relationship with Him through Jesus, model that relationship within our families (our first crew), and then model that relationship to others.

As firefighters, we are “overseers”, those called to watch over others. It is a great responsibility but yet there is one greater: Our role as leaders in our family. They are our first crew. They are our home church. They are directly under our care and supervision. We shall not fail them and abandon them to the fires of this life alone.

As a husband or a wife, you have been given a great blessing and a responsibility. It is to take care of those in your household and lead them in the “way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

Consider this:

1 Timothy 3: 1-5

 Here is a trustworthy saying : Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife,temperate,self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

In closing, prayerfully consider this application-Balancing our checkbook:

In our lives, we must be careful that as we serve others that we do not forget about our most noble calling which is to love, serve, and lead our families.  

Let us all take a moment, and perform a spreadsheet of the commitments in our lives. Begin by adding the hours that we work (all of our jobs), the hours we sleep, the hours dedicated to other commitments (studies, writing, extracurricular activities, time away from home, etc.) and then perform this simple equation:

168 hours in a week –Work-sideline job- sleep-extra activities & commitments=time we have left over.

24 hours X 7 days: 168 hours

Average Firefighter work week: 56 hours

Sideline job: 30 hours a week

Average Firefighter sleep cycle: (4-6 hours a night) 48 hours a week (should be 56 hours a week to be healthy)

Extra Curricular Activities: Gym, writing, school: 10 hours a week

This leaves 24 hours a week for our families. Or to put it in terms that really hit home, 3.85 hours a day with our loved ones!

In our homes and in life this isn’t a guarantee that those 3.85 hours means that everyone will magically be there to spend time with us. What about their commitments? Your spouse’s job, your children’s school and activities. What about life?

Now how much time do we really have with our loved ones?

They say, if you want to know what is most important to you in life start by looking at your checkbook. Whatever receives the most of our financial capabilities is usually the most important. Let us, all look at our ‘checkbook’ of life and start managing our ‘life resources’ more in line with what is most important to us: 

Our families.

May we all take the time to realize our greatest investment should be in our faith and our families and that will be reflected in our work not that our work should ever take priority over them.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

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Dealing with Firefighter Burn-Out

Dealing with Firefighter Burn-Out

#Firefighters Dealing with Burn-out? Read this:

Is your passion burning bright or on the verge of extinguishment?

As leaders, we are often tasked with providing encouragement to people who can be hostile and unreceptive.

Every positive word is often met with a negative reaction. Each suggestion made to improve the situation is often met with a reason why our idea won’t work.

This brings us to a fact that few like to talk about:

Even the most devoted leaders can suffer burn-out in a poisoned environment. 

I fell victim to this trap several years ago. I posed these questions:

How does one stay motivated in the midst of those who seem quite content with being miserable? 

How do you keep your head above water while an anchor of life’s burdens are tied around your neck?

When we fail while being “tested in the furnace of adversity”; it is only then do we realize why we failed.

Our motivations and values must be from a higher power. Some may struggle with this concept but the fact is this:

Every human being at some point in life will disappoint us. Every single one, even those close to us…

This is not a reason to give up on others; it is actually quite the opposite. One who has carried a heavy burden recognizes the signs of an over-burdened soul. 

They once carried their light into the darkness only to have it snuffed out by the winds of tribulation and negativity.

In order for our light to burn continuously it must be fueled by source unaffected by any of the devils extinguishing agents. 

The light of hope, comfort, and encouragement comes from One who sees through the darkness. One who sees our true value and affirms it in our hearts.

He can bring a light into our darkness and bring us out from our current condition:

“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” 1 John 1:6

We need to realize that adversity fans the flames but doesn’t snuff it out. Tribulation suppresses the available air but it burns hotter. And the pain of disappointment can cause the light to shine brighter.

Why? Because through all of this we are being tested, developed, and made into the leader God wants us to be. And He has put divine opportunities in our path.

He knows that through theses experiences we will be given the wisdom to help others because of our journey.

In the midst of our circumstances, instead of asking God why choose to ask Him what. What are we to learn from this? What is it that we may be missing? 

Let us pray that God would help us see the purpose and not just the pain. Give us the strength and the peace to shine His light and help others. Let not our struggles be in vain.

May we encourage one another with our lights that still burn after all that we have been through.

May we look upon those leaders that have gone before us and realize that they too faced great adversity, difficult trials, and painful circumstances. Yet they were not destroyed by these moments; they were made stronger and so shall we.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Leadership-Nowhere to Hide

Leadership-Nowhere to Hide

Leadership: Nowhere to Hide (Part 1)

Anyone who has embraced the call to ‘step up and lead’ understands the weight of this great responsibility. Whereas we may have once cast stones at others about their incompetence or poor leadership abilities; we now are more understanding due to having walked several miles in their shoes. We complain less and seek answers more.

Leadership by its very definition is to be out in front. In times of conflict, those who are out in front are bold but also the ones to first to receive the first opposing fire from the enemy and from within their own ranks.

In the fire service, the very act of becoming a firefighter is the acceptance of leadership. A firefighter is on the nozzle, taking the brunt of the harsh environment they enter. A firefighter is the first through the door in many challenging situations and is often the first to sacrifice for another. 

But as one steps up into the front seat of the fire service, they encounter an entirely new perspective. They are not often greeted with appreciation for their decisions and when the time comes to deliver unwelcome news they now bear the true burden of leadership. 

The painful truth of leadership is:

Many speak of leadership under fire but many shy away from dealing with the ‘working fires’ under their own supervision.

Everyone who writes of leadership speaks of leading from the front, setting the example, and staying accountable but few enlighten others of the responsibility of having to discipline, or deliver unwelcome news, and accept responsibility for the actions of others. 

Few speak of the challenges of having to discipline those who are our friends who took advantage of the relationship. 

Few share not speak publicly on the pain of loneliness felt when those we try to help, walk away, or refuse our counsel.

Few speak on the hurt as they try to affect change within the organization only to have their ideas and countless hours worth of work discarded as if it were meaningless.

Few individuals understand that these aforementioned experiences are part of being a leader as well. The responsibility, privilege, and authority in leadership goes hand in hand with accountability. There is no escaping this. We as leaders cannot have one without the other. It is a balanced equation that must be understood. The trumpets on our collar are symbolic of a leader and a manager. 

Leadership means to embrace all of its responsibilities and not shirk away from the hidden struggles of personnel problems. 

It also means that we are to lead, inspire, and motivate others even if those we care for move on. A leader’s goal should to be help others reach their full potential even if they fail to appreciate our efforts at the time. This requires great personal sacrifice and is often painful. But we are not here for an awards ceremony, our greatest reward as leaders will be reflected in the hearts of changed lives that we were blessed to watch over. 

So when the next dark moment comes upon us, and we wonder if all our work is for naught; pause and give thanks that we are an integral part of the leaders of tomorrow. Our efforts are developing and shaping the future of emergency services. 

Let us boldly step out of the shadows of the average and lead in the face of adversity knowing that our efforts are sowing seeds in the next generation.

God Bless!
Andy J. Starnes

Always Remember

Always Remember

Always remember…
On this day may we choose:

To honor the calling that we have been blessed with through our service to our family, our communities, and to our brothers & sisters of the fire service.  

To view every step as a tribute to their entire lives.

To carry their memory to the top of the building and to the depths of our hearts. 

To care and tell others about that day so that the grieving families will know that they are not forgotten! 

To live each day as an example for others to follow.

To honor the title given to us and to honor the memories of those who have gone before us.

To never stop caring, learning, and striving to improve.

To remember that this is a calling not a job

We can all do more to honor those who have gone before us. But this begins in each of our hearts. The challenge that lies before us is to set the example daily and to take each step with a heart of gratitude.

So will we sit quietly, or will we take up our armor and climb the stairs of life in thankful remembrance that we are to carry on?
The choice is ours; let us choose to lift up those whose hearts bear the scars of loss.

Let us remember those who gave their lives didn’t hesitate to help therefore let us not hesitate to help those who live on because of their sacrifice.

Never Forget,

Andy J. Starnes

C.A.N. You Hear Me Now?

C.A.N. You Hear Me Now?

C.A.N. You Hear Me Now?

As Firefighters, upon our arrival at an incident we transmit a size-up to the other responding companies. 

Even though they may know what we are facing this information often communicates the actual conditions and needs we may have to others. 

The conditions we see, the actions we will take, and the resources we will need to complete the task are a part of our CAN report in a size up. 

How can we apply this to our lives?

In our lives, we will respond to many “incidents” that are personal, painful, and as in a fire, some may appear impossible for us to handle. 

First, we WILL experience harsh conditions, we WILL have to take difficult actions, and we WILL need divine resources to get through these fiery trials. 

Second, when we face down the difficulties of life, let us perform a Proper size-up and communicate it through Prayer.

We can take comfort in the word of God knowing He will hear our heartfelt radio plea for help: 

“In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.” Psalm 20:1 

Many times we will find ourselves speechless at our moment of trial. We can take comfort and rejoice in the confidence that we have in our training. 

As a firefighter speaks over the radio communicating the conditions they encounter; they speak when others cannot because of their training. 

As a believer, we can speak the words that are written on our hearts because of our “spiritual training.” The daily discipline of studying God’s word will bring words of comfort to us when we encounter these harsh conditions. 

Therefore we are prepared to do the work we are called to do as 2 Timothy 3:17 tells us:

“Using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and will have everything they need to do every good work.” 

And when we are broken and in agony we can remember that Jesus cried out on the cross these words of Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God why have you abandoned Me?” 

We can feel the heartfelt honesty in the words in the Psalm 22 verse 19 “Lord, don’t leave me! You are my strength—hurry and help me!” 

We can relate to the urgency of one in need of rescue as we have been there to help others. So we CAN look upon God and know that a “broken and contrite heart He will not despise.” 

We can take comfort in knowing that there is no amount of radio interference that can stop our “prayerful size-up.” “Before they call, I will answer and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24 

Here’s the application:

C: Jesus has torn the veil into that separated us from God. By His sacrifice we not only CAN call upon God but we WILL be heard. 

A: His ACTIONS on the cross prove that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” for us. He sits at the right hand of the Father for the work is finished and He intercedes on our behalf. 

N: Our NEEDS will be supplied through His Grace not because of anything we have done but what He has done for us. “For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So let us boldly approach God in prayer. 

Let us then be honest and pour out our hearts and minds to God in our CAN report. And the conditions that we face will be no match for the actions of Jesus’s sacrifice for us. And when we tell God our needs we know that “My God will use his glorious riches to give you everything you need. He will do this through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19” 

May we Pick up the microphone of prayer, transmit our size-up, and let us rejoice in knowing that an answer is already on its way. 

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

A Firefighter’s Parable

A Firefighter’s Parable

Fire Service Prayers & Benedictions:An adaptation of Footprints in the Sand:

There is a story about a firefighter who was walking through all the incidents of his life with God. 

At one point, they stopped, and looked back at his life, represented by the footprints left in the ashes. There was two sets of footprints, side by side. One was the firefighter’s and the others was God’s. 

But then, the firefighter began to notice that at those places in his life where he faced great adversity, pain, and disappointment, there were only one set of footprints instead of two. The firefighter felt that God had stopped walking with him when he needed Him most.

The firefighter turned and angrily asked why it was that when he needed God the most in the troubled times of life, that God had abandoned him.

God smiled and said:

“My child, I didn’t abandon you in the most desperate times, it was then, that I picked you up and carried you on.
As you have carried others through the fire so I have carried you”

Remember I told you my child:

“When you pass through the waters,
I will be there with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am The Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

Jesus said to him “And you stand before Me now as I promised safe and sound.”

The firefighter looking back at all the trials in his life realized that God had never left him nor forsaken him. 

He looked at Jesus with a tear rolling down his cheek and said “I trusted the brotherhood to never leave me in a moment of need, yet I doubted you while I said I believed. Can you forgive me Lord.”

Jesus turned and shouldered the firefighter while saying I forgave you while on the cross long ago. You accepted that gift, your heart tells Me so. I promised I would “never leave you nor forsake you” my friend; now let me show you heaven as I carry you in.”

If you ever doubt and feel angry at God. Open your heart and tell Him for He knows what your thinking. Be Honest with the One who made you and while you are praying May you come to know that He has saved you.

We never walk alone..He is always with us.
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

The Firefighter Rescue Plan

The Firefighter Rescue Plan

The Firefighter Rescue Plan: Part 1: The Need to be Saved.“A Firefighter’s Interpretation of the Roman Road to Salvation”

Every firefighter wants to save a life. It is not any firefighter’s wish that anyone should die. Our very existence is to save lives and property. In the course of our service to our fellow man we see many people saved and sadly we see many people lost.
In those time when someone dies, we often question our efforts. 

If we had gotten to them a few second sooner?

Then we question God…

Why did would God allow such a tragedy to occur?

Why do innocent children have to die?

Why is it so many die from their own hands?

God, we want to save lives!

So it is with God, He doesn’t want anyone to perish…
“The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise,…not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives.” (2 Peter 3:9)

In our profession, our efficient and quick response is often what makes the difference between life and death but in order for us to respond someone has to make the call for help. They have to first admit they need to be saved.

When a firefighter rescues someone, they do not refuse being saved. We don’t reach the burning window with our arms outstretched to them and hear them say “No thanks, I don’t need to be saved.” Why then do people often refuse the saving message of God’s love through Jesus Christ?

Many people today are being deceived. They are only taught about the love of God and not about His wrath. In fact, if you mention the wrath of God many are immediately offended as if to say that God would not punish anyone. 

Yet we have no problem with the punishment of crime and terrible acts committed here in our midst? 

Why is it that we think that God would not punish sin? 

“The wrath of God is being revealed against all the ungodliness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

Many of us are angry, hurt, and feel that God abandoned us early in our lives. Many people question God because of all of the pain of suffering in this world. We see so many “good” people suffer and cry out as if to say to God “Why aren’t you doing something?” 

Yet, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, we know that God did do something. He performed the greatest rescue of all time. Even when faced with all that God has done for us many refuse His gift. So why should we believe that we are the lost and need to be saved?

Every one of us is born with an innate desire to be fulfilled. We spend our entire lives chasing things that we believe will fill this inner void. 

Yet each moment only temporarily satisfies us. We face disappointment after disappointment; yet we keep searching for peace in the temporary things of this world.

Why is this?

As human beings we tend to believe we are relatively good. The problem lies in our perspective. We think we are good enough because we compare ourselves to others. We say things like: “I am not as bad as that person.” Somehow along the way, we have begun to feel quite comfortable in drawing our moral conclusions from an immoral world. 

Yet God’s word reminds of two staggering statements about being good enough:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
-And-
“For everyone who should keep the whole law yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

The justification of being good enough is one of self-justification and whether we like or not we have made ourselves God. In this way we can define truth, morals, and right & wrong. Just as Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden they chose to decide what was right for themselves. We apply the same illogical reasoning by saying if the definition of right & wrong changes, we will simply change the definition to meet our lives and our culture.

The problem lies in this simple fact-

Everyone is in need of Rescue.

Remember this verse? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).It says “All”, not some, not most of us, not a few of us, and not a select few but All!

Each person’s definition of good if based on their own standards will always vary and be different to fit or justify their life.

How then do we know whose definition of good and truth should determine our worldview?

Is anyone truly a good person by their own merit? 
What about firefighters? They die to save others? Doesn’t that justify them? 

But does a hero’s death equate to the keys to heaven? Yet it isn’t who we die for, it’s who has died for us! But why would anyone die for someone who doesn’t recognize them nor believe in them? Yet that is what Jesus did for all of us:

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Dear friends, this isn’t a matter of condemning one another. It is the greatest rescue mission ever performed. It is the ultimate sacrifice, One who died for all even while we were still sinners. One who did nothing wrong, paid our debt before we even knew Him. One who loved us even when we didn’t love Him died so we would have the chance to be with Him.

Many have heard John 3:16 but what about the next verse?

“For God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save it.” (John 3:17)

The Son of God died on a cross to save all of mankind. He willingly laid down His life so we could live not die!

If you have never believed, or perhaps you have walked away from your faith. Ask yourself, what if you’re wrong?

What if there is a God?

What if He truly does love all of us?

What if we were to see Jesus as He truly is?

The greatest rescue mission ever enacted on our behalf. He loves you, He loves me, and He loves everyone and doesn’t want anyone to perish.

Consider His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His message.

For one moment, let down your guard and ask Him to come into your life.

We pray that you will.

In the name of the greatest rescuer of all time, Jesus Christ, I pray…

Amen!

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries