Broken…Crushed…Qualified?

Broken…Crushed…Qualified?

Broken..Crushed…and now we are Qualified?

Has the world fallen down around you? 

Is the pressure of the world becoming too much to bear? 

Does every move that make forward seem to be canceled out by adversity and obstacles?

Have you come to the place of brokenness?

“The breaking of the outward man is the basic experience of all those who serve God. This must be accomplished before He can use us in an effectual way” (Watchman Nee).

The painful and hard moments that push us past our limits are not destroying us. If we choose to look upon these experience through a different perspective we may see that the tool of trouble is not destroying us but shaping us. Each moment of adversity that we overcome builds a new found strength. Each trial that we overcome develops our character. Each experience equips us with a resource of wisdom earned through tribulation.

Only then after suffering great loss does one have the heart to come along side another who suffers the same. Only one who has been through pain will be welcomed into the painful moments of another’s crisis. Only after experiencing all of these things can we truly see our need for God as our true source of strength and hope.

We, the broken, stand firm upon a foundation that is unshakable and unbreakable because it is not made by human hands. We the sinners, can reach out to others not because we are worthy but because we have been forgiven. 

We the scarred post traumatic souls can share our burdens with others thereby lifting their spirits. We, who were once lost, can help seek out our brothers and sisters in solitude and truly identify with their hearts.

We, through pain and brokenness, have become qualified in such a way that no one else with degrees or certifications can compare. For we can learn more from those who have faced calamity, suffered great loss, battled addictions, and dealt with difficulties than pious who have never walked a mile in our shoes.

We can truly “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7)

For we have been there, in brokenness, but we reside there no longer and we are equipped to journey into another’s pain without being destroyed by it. We have the peace of God that passes all understanding. So when others don’t understand your pain, seek out those have been there and who have the peace that passes all understanding.

We have a comforter like no other, for God has brought us through our trials with His comfort, and providing those who comforted us during our pain. Now our trial, our pain, and our difficulty have made us qualified to help others in a way that no one else can. For when we look in their eyes and say “I know how you feel”; you can honestly say that you do…

God bless the broken heart spirits who take the time to lift up others who are going through the same struggle. 

Andy Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

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Not So Rapid Intervention 

Not So Rapid Intervention 

As firefighters, we understand that no other words on the radio bring more intensity and emotion than these: “May Day, May Day…”

Yet, we also know that the rescue of our own is often the most difficult and least successful in some instances due to the obstacles we face in order to rescue them. We understand it takes numerous firefighters to rescue one and the effort is not as the acronym implies as “Rapid.”

 
But what about when we see those around us heading for trouble? 

What about when we see their pain, their suffering, and yet despite our efforts they refuse our help?

Why is there a trend of others suffering in our world today? 

Not just a physical suffering but one of despair, anxiety, depression, and many people seem to be constantly at war with one anyone who disagrees with them. Yet we claim to be a peaceful people. Why is it that in a nation so prosperous, seemingly lacking nothing, we are divided and seem to be in a sense of inner conflict with not our enemies but one another and even ourselves? 

The fire service is not exempt from this, as we often see “the brotherhood” attacking one another over tactics, matters of opinion, and even making personal attacks on our own. How hypocritical of us yet therein lies a deeper problem for us to ponder.

Consider the profound wisdom of Tim Clinton:

“Interestingly, as today’s prosperous generations search for purpose, meaning and value, many are experiencing a pervasive sense of emptiness and isolation. And why shouldn’t they? In a world flooded with distresses like father absence, abuse, violence, marital discord, and emotional problems there is a natural epidemic of escapism through consumerism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and suicide. Earnest Becker accents this thought concluding ‘Modern man is drinking or drugging himself to death…or he is shopping which is the same thing” (Tim Clinton, p.4-Caring for People God’s Way).

We see a world full of every type of material or physical pleasure available to us yet these numbers confirm Dr. Clinton’s wisdom that we are not at peace as we seek escapism:

• 6.7 % or 15 million Americans suffers from depression
• 40-50% of American marriages will end in divorce (Firefighter divorce rates are as high as 70% in some states)
• 24.6 million Or 9.4% had used an illicit drug in the last month (alcohol and substance abuse is on the rise among firefighters).
• And approximately 40 million Americans look at pornographic material daily (This is an increasing problem in the fire service as well).
• Suicide is becoming the leading cause of death among young adults in America today (ages 25-44). We lost more brothers and sisters in the fire service last year to suicide than in the Line of Duty.

With this overwhelming evidence in front of us what is the source of our emptiness? 

Why is it that we are not at peace? 

Why are we using such unhealthy coping mechanisms to attempt to deal with the trials of life? 

As firefighters, we often are guilty of rescuing others but refuse to reach out for help because of our own pride. We feel ashamed of our problem and don’t want anyone to know. We often push this problem down, refusing to deal with it, and it becomes a cancer to our souls. Then the failure to deal with it begins to cause collateral damage in other parts of our lives.

Whether you believe in God or not it doesn’t negate the fact that all of the answers we seek neglect the One that will truly heal us. It is paramount for us to note that this problem is not a physical, emotional, or psychological one; it is a spiritual one and can only be healed by the One who took upon our punishment so we may have peace:

Jesus Christ…

No other name has brought more peace and more conflict…

No other name has more literature or evidence supporting His existence yet He is denounced as either a false teacher or an “opiate of the people.”

No other name has the power to save us as “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:12) Yet no other name is more attacked by those He actually died to save.

Yet no other name is more neglected, more abused, and more evicted from our society than the name of Jesus. Why is this so? 

Consider with me for a moment the words of Jesus…

For those who carry heavy burdens: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

For those who mourn: “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).

For those who are anxious: “Cast all your anxiety upon Him, For He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

For those who feel alone: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who have been tempted: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1).

And for all those who feel that God has forsaken them, even Jesus cried out on the cross as He was dying: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And the ultimate reason for us all to look to Jesus is to remember that:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We must realize that the source of our emptiness, our anxiety, our struggle is a cross shaped scar upon our hearts that only Jesus can heal. He has done the work, paid the price, and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

We often try everything to heal this brokenness except Jesus. We try healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms only to find ourselves still empty. We often come to the end of ourselves before we come to the beginning of God. We fall broken on our knees and cry out in anguish and even shaking our fist at Him when He has been there the entire time pleading for us to let Him in. Then we begin the search for Him but we only do so when our hearts are sincere:
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

And what do we find? Do we find prosperity, pleasure, and all our problems go away? 

No…

We find something even greater. We find peace. Peace amidst the storm, knowing that God is with us. We find reassurance knowing that He will never leave us. We find Joy knowing that we are forgiven despite our past. And we find new opportunity in this hurting world as we go and share the message we have received. 

Thus, as we go out into our daily lives let us look upon our struggles with a new found strength. A strength that doesn’t fail us because it isn’t our own. A strength that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). A strength that tells us each and every day that we are loved, we are forgiven, and that He wants us to share this life changing message with others no matter how much they assail, object, or persecute us. We will love as He loved, through the pain!

May we all seek Him and be found today,

In Jesus name I pray,

Andy J. Starnes

Facing Hard Times? Help is on the way…

Facing Hard Times? Help is on the way…

Facing Hard Times? Help is on the way:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. “ Romans 5:3

How do we glory in our sufferings?

Not many of us look at the problems of life as something to be happy about. As firefighters, we solve problems for others but respond differently when they affect us.

Why is this?

As a firefighter, we understand this concept better than we would like to admit.

We understand that in order to be a better, stronger, and more disciplined that we have to endure many hardships.

Training, education, and exercise are some of our disciplines. But what about applying those disciplines in our own lives?

In our actual service we see tragedy, illness, death, and loss almost on a daily basis. This can carry over into our personal lives and cause us to cope in unhealthy ways that are destructive to those around us.

Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves:

Do the hard times we face in life make us weaker or stronger?

Each moment and each experience is an opportunity to produce “perseverance, character, and hope”

These moments and experiences are not meant for us to internalize and let them destroy us from the inside out.

They are meant for us to share, draw on each other’s comfort, and to use them in the future when we face even more difficult moments.

We are not meant to carry these burdens alone. Remember that!

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

This is a brotherhood and that means we carry one another’s burdens together! We do everything as a team so why should one of our brothers/sisters have to face a personal crisis alone?

These moments can define us or destroy us. Through Faith and Fellowship they can be a source of strength.

The Application:

As we face hard times in life we must remember to share our pain with others. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are human.

Without others calling for help, the fire service would not need to exist. With that in mind, begin by calling out to God and to our brothers/sisters for help.

Consider this tactical benchmark check list for our lives:

Size-Up: Pray! Tell God what your facing and share it with someone you trust.

Transfer Command: On an incident, the higher ranking officer takes command upon arrival. In our lives we don’t have to wait on God’s arrival. He is always there. Let Him take Command.

Follow His IAP: Immediately Apply Principles- God wants us to do our part; which demonstrates our faith (trust) in Him. Start mitigating the problem by following His plan.

Report to Rehab: As we work on the struggles we face we will become weary.

This is where we are to radio Command: “God, I am tired and weary”

And Jesus replies “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Remember as a firefighter, when we arrive at an emergency what do we do?

We go to work resolving the problem. Why?

Because we have confidence in our training and in knowing that help is on the way.

“Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear” Isaiah 65:24

So Pray and remember that our confidence is directly correlative to our dedication to God’s word. Our ‘training’ is our study and application of God’s word.

Then we are get to work on the problem knowing that help is on the way.

In closing, hard times will come but it is how we choose to respond to these moments that will impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

Let us practice the principles of God’s word as the ultimate training for the problems we will all face.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Facing Firefighter Burn-out?

Facing Firefighter Burn-out?

Facing Firefighter Burn-out? Perhaps it’s time for some fire behavior training for our souls!

 “For we all know so much, but we have forgotten what it all meant.” (Ravi Zacharias).

As one travels along the path of life, we can become weary from the issues of life. Our fiery passion that we all began with is often snuffed out by negativity, conflicts, tribulations, and the diminishing number of passionate firefighters around us. 

What then can we do to reignite the fire within ourselves? 

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:3)

A fire that has entered the decay phase has consumed all of the available oxygen around it and begins to darken and diminish but STILL remains hot. This is a vivid description of our hearts when we begin to burn-out. 

Our fire isn’t lacking fuel but merely the air (or encouragement) to support its growth until someone comes along and opens a door, a window breaks, or ventilation is accomplished and our fire will grow to even bigger than before.

In our lives as we passionately pursue our objectives the very air we need for growth, which is encouragement from others, can be consumed by the darkness of bitterness. Negativity can easily consume our passion and make us believe that there is no hope in re-ignition. But then, someone comes along and recognizes the potential within us. They see a fuel rich environment! And they provide the encouragement that gives our fire the breath of fresh air that was so desperately needed.

A fire needs fuel, heat, air, and the uninterrupted chemical chain reaction to continue to burn. So as we pursue our calling to love, serve, and lead others on our journey let us remember that we need the following:

Fuel-To continue on our journey we need fuel to keep burning. Those who are the most passionate can and will experience burn-out without replenishing their fuel. This can be prevented by surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals who can provide guidance.

Heat-A fire must continually heat the fuel to pyrolize the material producing the combustible vapors necessary to support combustion. Once we receive encouragement from our ‘fuel’ we can provide heat which is positive reinforcement by training, going to conferences, changing our environment (which may mean changing our station assignment), and developing disciplines that keep us burning with intensity. These disciplines that we need to continually develop are prayer, study, teaching, service, and continuous improvement.

Air-Without air our fires will go out. We can stay in the ‘flow path’ of growth by developing relationships with encouraging individuals who seek out the best in us no matter what we are going through. These individuals are recognized by their ability to always speak the right words, at the right time, and they check on us periodically. To have friends such as these is a gift from God and they will lift us up through our phases of burn-out. We need to remember to thank God daily for encouragement from His word, from others, and for the opportunity to provide encouragement to others.

Uninterrupted chemical chain reaction- This where we as firefighters behave differently than fire. Everyone needs an interruption every now and then. The fire service should NOT be everything to us, it is a way of life, and our calling but one day we will retire. What then? Is our identity so deeply intertwined with our title that we will lose all hope once we lay down our helmets? NO! The fire service is a huge part of us but we need time away to refocus, recharge, and rest in God’s peace. We are firefighters because of our servant hearts and that can never be taken away from us if we will keep our focus on God.

Firefighter Rehab: 

We need to remember that God gave us six days for labor and one day for rest. This was done for our benefit. We can practice this by taking mini-vacations from the fire service and we will find that we are renewed and burning with even more intensity for the calling we are blessed with. We can avoid burn-out by practicing a periodic ‘Rehab’ so that our hearts will not grow weary.

As Ray McCormack says “Keep Fire in your life.” I pray that we all keep God’s Holy Fire burning within us and that is a fire no one can ever extinguish. 

God Bless,

Andy Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Opposition or Opportunity 

Opposition or Opportunity 

“A clue to life’s meanings are hidden in life’s relationships.” Ravi Zacharias

In this life, it is truly a blessing to have friends and family who support, love, and counsel each other out of Christ’s love.

But what about when we interact with others who are harsh, obstinate, and speak hateful words to others?

We tend to react with anger and want to be harsh with them also. Have we considered that we, in our past, we’re like those that we struggle with now?

In these difficult moments, when we are attempting to change or influence another’s thinking; have we considered the methods we use will produce the prevailing attitude in that persons future?

“There’s no point in giving a person a rose to smell, if we cut off their nose with our words.” Indian Proverb

If our methods aren’t loving why would anyone want to listen or consider our point of view? 

If our position is poisoned and bitter, our passion is lost and all they hear is our bitterness. The message is then lost in our madness.

Instead, consider these words in our interactions with difficult people:

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” 2 Timothy 2:24

Why should we be gentle and kind even if others are not?

 
“Gently instruct those who oppose truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn from the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devils trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” 2 Timothy 2:25-26

Dear friends, if we truly want to change and lead others to the Lord our methods must be sincere and loving. Our beliefs must be seen, felt, and demonstrated in all aspects of our lives. A true test of our morals is not when we are around those we love but when we are in the midst of opposition.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

A Heart of Stone

A Heart of Stone

A Heart of Stone

The world that we live in can often cause us to grow calloused and cold. We see so much violence and hatred that we often become conditioned to it. Terrible things seem to no longer shock us or impact us and as firefighters we treat the dilemmas of our own lives with a ‘tactical-practical’ mentality. Therein lies an inherent danger of becoming removed from ourselves. 

Before long, we wonder if we can even feel anything at all. In an effort to protect our hearts we have actually cut off the source of life and warmth. Consider the words of God in this case: 

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36: 25-27)

The power of God within us causes us to be vulnerable, to be more than we can be on our own, and to be painfully real to those around us. This is far from comfortable nor easy. It causes us great difficulty because even though we are brave and face down chaos we are often fearful of showing our true selves to others. 

Consider the great needs of those around us; as they are also seeking sincerity, truth, and genuine love. 

Can they find what we withhold? 

Can others see Christ in us when we have built walls of stone around Him in an effort to protect ourselves? 

Our efforts to protect ourselves may be limiting and harming other’s by withholding God’s love.

The world will often hurt us but dear friends it is when we are broken and real that people see our true faith. We cannot be two persons; personally and then professionally. The longer we hide our true selves we will find ourselves in inner torment. 

May we call upon God and ask for a new Spirit, His Spirit, to be placed in us. Call upon Him for the courage to be real and share our wounds, our brokenness, and most of all His love. 

Firefighters claim the phrase that we are ‘combat ready’ but the challenge that is before us is to be spiritually prepared for battle. For if we call upon His strength, and are filled with His Spirit, and are wrapped in His Armor there will be no falsehood in us. This way the world will see Jesus in us and that is who we are truly meant to be.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Mission Statement

The Mission Statement

The Mission of Bringing Back Brotherhood:

Do you have a mission statement? Do you understand what your purpose is? In life, we often need maps to get where we are going yet many choose to journey through life without seeking their true purpose. I encourage you to seek the one who made you and find your true purpose, your mission, and your fulfillment: Jesus Christ.

So how did I find my mission statement?

The fire service had become a spiritual detriment to me but then God opened the eyes of this blind firefighter and showed me what it truly is: a great spiritual opportunity to encourage one another!

With that in mind, God began the process. He wiped away the bitterness that had become part my soul. He replaced it with compassion for those who had hurt, betrayed, and drained my soul. 

This lost firefighter has been found and now has begun to see others as God sees them. Firefighters everywhere are silently hurting, they need encouragement, and the painful realization that occurred is that God had not failed them. It was the firefighter (me) who had failed. I chose to let the world drain my passion. I allowed others to change my attitude. I drank the poison of bitterness and blamed the world. I accused others of stealing his joy but in reality he gave it away.

Thus the mission was born…

A mission born out of my own brokenness…

A mission born out of my own hypocrisy…

A mission born by being reborn through Jesus Christ….

The mission of Bringing Back Brotherhood is to encourage first responders, firefighters, and all emergency services personnel with the hope of Jesus Christ. The hope that those who read these pages will experience an awakening; their passion will be re-ignited, their mind will be renewed, and their heart will be transformed. That when we look upon our brothers and sisters in the fire service we would see them as Christ did:

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38)

This message in these pages will be shared through the vulnerable and often painful moments that we all face. And that no matter what we have been through, or mistakes we have made, or pain that we have suffered that we are now uniquely qualified to help others. This is the power of our living testimony showing that we can endure, we can make a difference, and no matter the circumstances: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Through the power of sharing our lives and what God has done; therein lies the bridge to connect to our brothers and sisters who feel lost. If you have felt the call, the inner desire to do something more, here is an offering. An offering of one firefighters desire to light a fire in others; the offering of a broken heart that has been healed through Jesus Christ. An offering of pain, tears, and tribulation as an open book to you in the hopes that you will look to the one who will always provide.  

If you have become lost that you will come home. Know that there is one who is searching for you and He wants you to come back home. The Ultimate Primary Search is being conducted for your heart and He will not stop until you are found. He offers you hope, comfort, and encouragement that the world can never take away. Begin your journey home today! Don’t let the world destroy our calling, let’s Bring Back Brotherhood one changed life at a time beginning with our own life!

God Bless,
Andy Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries