Do we truly believe? 

Do we truly believe? 

The line is stretched, charged, and the Company Officer is completing the 360. The crew begins to open the door and it’s locked. They begin the process of forcing the door. It is a hard task as their are many locks but their skill overcomes the strength of the lock. They make the push, flowing, and going knocking out the fire.

Consider the parable of our own lives. We build our homes of security and fill them. But then the fires of life come along and we become trapped. We are trapped in a place that we were once safe & secure. We are surrounded by the flames of adversity yet we refuse to open the pages of God’s word for our rescue & strength.

Then our world come crashing down upon us. We cry out for help and God comes to our rescue. Our prayers are heard and his Grace stretches across the impossible distance between Him and us. 

Christ looks upon our situation and breaks down our gates of bronze insecurities:

“For He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm 107: 15-16

His love breaks open the locks of our sin and his atoning sacrifice forces open the door to our fiery peril.

He reaches through the darkness of our troubles:

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” (2 Samuel 22:29)

He carries us to safety and lifts our burdens:

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

He treats our wounds with compassion and takes our smoke(sin) stained bodies and washes them clean:

“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2)

He breathes new life into our spirit and He will: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

We then stand up and look back in amazement at all the fiery trials God has rescued us from in our lives and ponder: 

Why do we every doubt you O God?

Time and time again He has rescued us yet we doubt. Let us take the time to look upon our lives and not question the circumstances that we have faced but give thanks that God has brought us through them. 

Let us look upon our lives with a new found wisdom that “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

All things He will use to work for our good as we have been called. Thus let us remember in those moments God is at work and we are his craftsmanship. He will not abandon us nor forsake us. 

Let us cast out doubt from our hearts and trust in the One who has saved us from the fires of hell.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

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A Hope Forgotten…Or is it?

A Hope Forgotten…Or is it?

The time is upon us: A time of remembrance, celebration, and gratitude. But why is it that so many of us, including myself, find our hearts troubled during this time? 

Over 2000 years ago, God did something on our behalf that no parent could ever do: 

He gave His only Son. He allowed Jesus to be born a man, to live for us, and to die for us.  

As I prayed with my daughter this evening, I couldn’t imagine giving up our most precious gift for anyone. 

Yet God demonstrated His great love in this “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Did you catch that? God didn’t wait for you and I to repent. He didn’t wait for us to cry out “Forgive me”. While we were still sinners, when we didn’t even recognize Him, He came and lived and died on our behalf.  

Take a moment and think back upon our lives, the moments we are not proud of, and know that Jesus died for all of us in spite of all those moments. I regret to admit that I have spent more time in depravity than I have in devotion to Christ. I pray that I can spend whatever time I have left running towards Jesus instead away from Him.

As I grew weary with the dreariness of shopping in my least favorite store one day before Christmas, I felt a gentle nudge on my heart. God sent His son to die for all of us. And yet, here I am grumbling as I fight through the crowds of other fellow discontented people so we can all “give cheerfully”?  

Have we all missed the point? 

As our soldiers fight for our freedom in foreign lands far removed from their families… 

As the homeless still wander the streets of the richest country in the world…

As children die from starvation in the remote parts of the world…

Here I stand grumbling, angry at the sheer frivolous nature of man and myself. We, the richest country in the world, are truly the poorest souls of them all.

God gave the greatest gift He could ever give on Christmas. He gave His only Son Jesus Christ to us and I am afraid we have diminished the meaning of it all to a mere gift exchange. You send me a gift, I send you a gift, you send us a card, and we send you a card…? 

What did God give? 

Why? 

Did we give Him anything? 

Do we deserve such a gift? 

Are we driven to give out of generosity or out of societal pressure?  

Can we truly grasp the significance of such a gift?

As I sit here pondering it all, I can’t help but think of our daughter who is truly enraptured by the wonder of the true meaning of Christmas. 

She is genuinely excited! She sees this as what it is. Jesus’ birthday and we are going to have a party to celebrate His birth. My heart aches that I have fallen into spiritual disrepair. 

I thank God for the gift of a child, Jesus, in Him we have true hope. This is the Hope that will never disappoint. I thank God for the gift of our daughter, that through her simple joy, Her Daddy was able to remember that His Hope,the hope of all mankind, is not forgotten.

Merry Christmas
Andy J. Starnes

Fire Ground Decision Making-For Our Life!

Fire Ground Decision Making-For Our Life!

The moment has finally arrived. The Captain is off today and the senior firefighter is off. It is time for the firefighter to serve as the Acting Officer. This moment didn’t come by chance. It is a culmination of training, years of service, and daily dedication to the job. Then it happens:

“A House Fire, reported occupants entrapped, at 123 Anywhere Street.” Dispatch to all responding units “We are upgrading this as we are receiving multiple calls.”

The firefighter takes a breath and begins the journey to the call.

In life, we are all preparing for something. It may be a job, a relationship, or a new role. Each moment is brought about by the individual making a conscious decision to move in that direction. 

As firefighters, we spend numerous hours learning, applying, and mastering the basics as each skill set builds upon one another preparing us for the overall responsibilities of the job.

Consider this:

What about the point in our lives where we realize the next step for us is a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Many of us, including myself, have ran away or hid from the responsibilities that seem to be woven into our heart. Yet each of our goals in life have been a process of becoming or taking on this role. We were not born as a firefighter. We were not born as a Christian either.

“A man becomes a Christian; he is not borne one.” Tertullian

Each question that continues to repeat itself in your life can only be answered in God. How can this be? What does it mean to have a relationship with Jesus? Isn’t this all a bunch of hypocrites roaming around living false lives?

“In all the world is a stage and men and women are merely actors” Shakespeare.

As firefighters, we have all known the ones who come to work, do the minimum amount of work required, and seemed to be able to quote the policies that protect them rather than the performance that is needed to protect our citizens.

Does their lack of dedication, false sincerity, and mediocrity prevent you from being a passionate firefighter?

Does their lack of belief in what we believe make the calling of a firefighter any less true?

Each of us is born with a void to be filled with something more. 

Each of us try to fill that void with financial security, pleasure, achievements, relationships with others, and on and on…

Yet each and every time we crest the hill of that “something” we are only temporarily satisfied. It leaves us longing for the next moment and we embrace the thought that “if only” then I will be happy. 

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.” Jeremiah 23:29

This is where you are the Firefighter serving as the Acting Officer. You have arrived at that pivotal moment where your words, your choices, and your actions will make the difference in someone else’s world. 

What if the decisions you are about to make are for your life? 

What if the symbolic house that is on fire with people trapped is your life with all of the cries of your heart longing to be answered?

Do you walk away? Absolutely not… You make the call.

This is how you can make the call:

Step 1: Find a quiet place. Close out all of the distractions pray. You may have never prayed before. It is OK, God knows your heart and if you speak the words, no matter how jumbled , God hears the intent behind your words. Eloquence is not a requirement to speak to God. All He requires is your willingness.

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I know in my heart that I am meant for something more. I now know what that the something more that I have been searching for is You. Please forgive me of my sins not because of anything I have done but because I believe in this:

Jesus took my place on a cross and was crucified and “that Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:12). Three days later he rose from the grave erasing the power of death. He has erased my past, given me the strength to handle my present, and my future is secured because of Him.

Step 2: Go and find another believer that you respect. Tell them that you have accepted Jesus in your heart and that you want to know what is next.

Step 3: As one who sought to become a firefighter you went through a process, received training, and then became able to help, serve, and teach others. The same model exists in your new Christian life. The first step is to locate a group of believers who can be your mentors. They can guide you along your journey. Just as in firefighting we need to valuable counsel of our senior firefighters to show us the way so it is in your Christian life.

Step 4: You have accepted Christ, found a group to help you, now it is time to find a church. This can be a difficult process but it is a necessary one. As in the fire service, we work together to accomplish our mission; so it is in your Christian life. Look for a church that teaches from the Bible, serves the community, and offers classes to instruct its members in God’s word.

Step 5: Letting go of the old and embracing the new. This is the most difficult part of any one who has accepted the call of Christ to be “a new creation.” How will my friends and family react if they don’t believe the way I do? What do I do when the old things I used to do now bother me and my friends don’t understand? How do I wrestle with all of this conflict inside of me to do the right thing when others continue to live any way that they choose?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Any firefighter who has chosen to go beyond the call and train till they cannot get it wrong understands the opposition from the group that tries to slow or derail their train. As in the Christian life, we will face opposition, persecution, and ridicule for our beliefs. Don’t be surprised by it, expect it! Because God’s love makes us uncomfortable. It causes us to lash out in defense of ourselves as we try to justify our actions.

It is an interesting path that we will walk as we love others, encourage others, and serve them that we will be ridiculed, opposed, and persecuted for doing good. Remember, brotherhood is a biblical concept; God doesn’t want you to be alone. His word says “Where two or more are gathered I am there.” and He says “A three fold cord is not easily broken.”

That is why it is so important to have a strong group of Christian Mentors to counsel us, encourage us, and disciple us. Without the fellowship of our brothers and sisters we can become easily discouraged and give up.

If you have chosen to make the ultimate Fire Ground Decision, please email us. We would love to hear your story and provide support along the way.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

The Civil Servant

The Civil Servant

The Civil Servant:

Many firefighters go above and beyond the minimum requirements in all that they do. And when others point this out some simply reply “No thanks needed, I am just doing my job.” 

I’d like to challenge that statement with the following examples that confirms our calling by helping others to witness God’s love for humanity:

• At 3 am when the bell hits to assist lift an invalid off the floor because his wife can no longer lift him, her family has abandoned her, and she tearfully thanks you. 

• When you are overhauling a rundown old house that caught fire and you take the time to carry a pair of shoes out to a crying child next to a single parent who just lost everything. 

• When a citizen knocks on your door at the fire house, asks for help, and you sit to talk with them for an hour. 

• When you care enough to go back to check on a citizen who lost a loved one, after you did CPR on them and you tell them “We are here for you if you need us. 

Does any of this sound like compassion? 

Is this required of us? 

No, these are the values that are instilled in us as firefighters that come from within. 

Where do such values come from? 

Is it all because we are just good people wanting to make a difference? 

I would like you to consider another source: 

“The King will reply, truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) 

We see that some firefighters deliver service, while others deliver compassionate care while helping others. These men and women exemplify servant hood. They hold the title of firefighter as close to their chest as the badge is as close to their heart. No other profession would ask of you in your interview: 

“Do you understand that you could possibly be injured or killed during the course of your career? 

“Do you understand that you have a dramatically higher risk for cancer, divorce, depression, and your life span may be shortened due to unforeseen health problems? 

“Do you understand that you are committing to serving our citizens no matter what their belief, race, creed, or problem may be?” 

Do you understand that you will be asked to perform your tasks under the most stressful circumstances when you are tired, sick, and hungry? 

Do you understand that we are not looking for an employee? We are looking for a firefighter. Do you still want the job? 

We should pause and reflect upon the first firefighters for a moment: The first firefighters received a cross in honor of their heroic efforts to save their comrades. As a firefighter, we wear an adaptation of that cross on our uniform today. A cross was considered the most terrible punishment imaginable and for a Roman citizen they were told that the word crucifixion should never even be mentioned. This cross that was used to put so many to death became a life giving symbol of freedom, love, and sacrifice. And we wear this cross upon our badge, our patches, and our apparatus.

A man named Jesus, died on a cross in order to save those He loves. Not only did He die but on the third day He arose thereby defeating the power of sin and death. 

This man was the Son of God and He came as a servant, out of His great love for us, and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- event death on a cross!”(Philippians 2:8b). 

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

So as we place on our uniform and answer the call of those in need let us remember our ultimate example: Jesus Christ.  

This is Servant Leadership! Jesus showed us the way so let us follow Him and serve boldly out of our great love for Him and for our fellow man. In this way, we will always lead from a pure heart, serve without thought of recognition or reward, and give because we have been given so much. 

God Bless all those who boldly serve our Lord and our fellow man,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Significance of Suffering

The Significance of 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 been called intolerant by those who only want you to accept their views?

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

How does one then conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish? 

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

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

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

Could their verbal assaults upon our lives really be a cry for help?

Consider this 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?

We claim to know a Redeemer but often fail to live a life that is redeemed.

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 does a non-believer make about our actions in that moment?

If we treat those we “love” with harsh words and cold bitter actions what does that say about our beliefs?

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?

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. In other words, what we proclaim fails when we are persecuted which thereby leads others astray.

“If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10)

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. This is a great privilege and responsibility. And the Devil only attacks those that aren’t on his team. Anything that brings God glory, the Devil will be constantly fighting against.

What then are we called to do? Are we called to lead our families? 

What commitments did we make that we are failing to live up to because it’s become too hard?

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

Hold the line & know that our struggles will not be in vain,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

A Consuming Fire

A Consuming Fire

A Consuming Fire:

The shift ends, our bodies are tired but our spirits are at ease. The aches and pains of a tired and worn body is worth the contentment we receive by fulfilling our calling.

Thus another day dawns and begins with the rising of the sun, rising of our bodies, but do our spirits rise as high as they once were?

To be truthful, our hearts and minds often grow weary from all of the pain and frustration.

But then we remember…

What brought us here?

A Passion, A Purpose, A Persistent drive…

An innate desire, an intensity from within, an unshakable belief…

It is what compels us, completes us, and calls us to keep going…

The world won’t understand and many will refuse to listen.

Others will ridicule and mock us from the safety of their indecision.

People we love will walk out of our lives because we have chosen to live this way.

But the peace that passes all understanding remains with us.

An Advocate stays by our side so we are not alone.

The love that never fades nor fails belongs to us from Him.

We will strive, we will thrive, and push forward through it all.

The world will see us knocked down and laugh only to realize.

That when we fall to our knees in our brokenness we acknowledge the source of our strength.

And He fills our spirits daily as we depend upon Him.

We rise out of the ashes of tragedy.

We smile in the face of opposition.

We hurt for those the world has abandoned.

We pray for those who hurt us for we know the emptiness in their heart.

We show up when others don’t, for our heart compels us to.

And when those who don’t understand look at us with amazement and say: 

“Why do you do this? I have never treated you right.”

We take their hand, lift them up, and share the love that that is living within our hearts.

This consuming fire of God’s love will burn through hate, tragedy, and remain when all other fires fade.

This fire can never be extinguished.

It is the Holy Spirit living within us testifying to us all of God’s love. It is as if those around us have been complacent and not filled their bottles and when the flames came they could not withstand the fire for their air ran low. Yet we had went to the Father each morning, noon, and night and kept our bottles full. So when our time came we were not shaken and held true to what we believed.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29

Today, when our feet stumble and words fall short. 

Let us fill our bottles with the Holy Spirit. 

Let us put on our PPE, the armor of God, and stay ‘combat ready’ for the war of saving souls. 

And pray for the strength from God to lift up our brothers and sisters as we know that God instituted the 2 in 2 out rule as:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Stay fired up, encourage one another with the hope that we have within, and lift up one another so they may do the same for others.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Re-defining Our Mission Statement

Re-defining Our Mission Statement

Re-defining Our Mission Statement:

Read many mission statements lately? 

After reading them, it doesn’t take long to see if the statement doesn’t align with the reality of the organization. It seems to be merely hopeful imagery of what they want to project but not what is actually being portrayed.

How does this apply to our lives?

How many of us claim to be great husbands, fathers, or wives or mothers?

How many of us claim to be great firefighters, teachers, or businessmen?

How many of us claim to be followers of Jesus Christ?

As a firefighter arrives at a home and states that they have “Nothing Showing”; sadly that is the case in many of our lives. 

We who claim to be Christians, good husbands & fathers, and firefighters; but in reality there is “Nothing Showing” to others to prove such a claim exists.

Our Mission statement should not be mere words in a policy manual or on a coffee cup. They should be the daily consistent examples of tangible actions in our lives. Anyone should be able to look at our lives, personally and professionally, and see our beliefs in action. Consider God’s word when He says that He wants to show His power in us:

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

The Application: How to Stay Refreshed & Stay Focused…

“Anything that refreshes us without diminishing or distracting us from our final goal is a legitimate pleasure. If our mission is to be a loyal, faithful, and dedicated husband & father than anything that seduces us and/or takes us away from that mission is an illegitimate pleasure in our lives.” Ravi Zacharias

Let us then define our eternal goals not merely this year’s goals. Then let us realize if we look at life backwards (We are heading for heaven) then we can live life forwards with our eyes “fixed on Jesus.” 

This world is the training grounds for heaven. We must make our mission statement be a part of our moral fabric. It must resonate within us and be visible to others without speaking a word. Our spouses and our children should see the words of our mission statements displayed in our daily lives. 

Let us then be Living Mission Statements of the calling we have answered:

Answer the call to:

“go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

-And-

To be a positive and example worth following to our spouses, our children, our fellow firefighter’s, and our community.

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes