You’ll Never Know

You’ll Never Know

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll never know how many times I tried…

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

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

Each time hoping for the truth, yet you lied…

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

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

You’ll never know how much it cost…

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

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

Each time walking that same Golgotha Road towards the cross…

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

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

You’ll never know the pain of such betrayal…

You’ll never know the solitude of being forsaken…

You’ll never know the hurt of your mistakes…

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

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

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

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

I’ve cried out in anguish in Holy Scripture…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They never knew Me, even though they claimed too…

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

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

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

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

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

But before you do on that great and fateful day…

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

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

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

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

But until you do, you’ll never know…

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

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

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

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

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

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

What type of relationship is that? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

What makes someone a great leader?

What makes someone a great leader?

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

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

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

Consider this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4) Humility:

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

#5) Mentoring:

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

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

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

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

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Comfort of True Brotherhood 

The Comfort of True Brotherhood 

In this life, we are not promised an easy road and we know trials will come our way. We have hope in Christ knowing that the war has been won yet we must endure till we are called home. 

In the midst of all the pain, grief, tears and tribulation how does one endure when our cries to God feel unanswered?

How does one go on when a loved one is taken from us too soon?

We have One who understands our pain…

God loves us so much that He died for us so that we may have a relationship with Him. Yet in our pain we forget that not only did He did all these things He also lends us His ear. Consider this:

Have you ever considered that those who minister to us in our moments of pain are the hands and feet of Jesus? 

Those who listen…

Those who cry with us…

Those who show up when we need them most…

Those who send a card…

Those who care enough to stop their lives to help mend ours…

This is the ministry we have been called to. The ministry of bearing one another’s burdens. For God made us for relationship with Him and with others.

Let us look upon our brothers and sisters who are hurting with a new found compassion and realize that Jesus lives in our hearts and the actions of our love.

Don’t crawl past a fire, extinguish the flames of the devil with the love of Christ. For we are called to comfort one another: “We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 So if we have suffered greatly, let our pain not be in vain!

Look upon the world around us and recognize the eyes of the hurting. Let us come along side them and offer them God’s comfort for we too have been there and by God’s grace we are still here. Let us take our tribulations and turn them into wisdom to lead others out of their darkness.

God Bless, 
Andy Starnes

The Firefighter Rescue Plan-How to call for help

The Firefighter Rescue Plan-How to call for help

The Firefighter Rescue Plan-How to call for help?
“No one takes it [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again” (John 10:18).

Let us consider a familiar story, but let’s do from the perspective of one who has become lost in the ‘fires of life’: A sudden and unexpected calamity occurs in our life and we rush in to prevent any further harm, without any thought of a back-up plan, for as firefighters we are trained to respond. Then the situation takes a turn for the worse and the world “collapses” around us. In this moment, we feel “pinned down” by the weight of this problem.  

Our thoughts quickly turn to anger and our pride often prevents us from calling for help until it’s too late. The situation seems hopeless; every effort to save ourselves only worsens the problem. Anxiety begins to weigh heavy upon our hearts. The circumstances have paralyzed us and we fall upon our knees as we cry out in desperation to God: “Please save us!”

Take a moment and think about these words:
What if someone knew that in the future we would need to be rescued?

What if they knew that no matter how many people tried to save us that we still would refuse their help?

What if they knew that the only way to save us was to give up their own life for ours?

Even though at that very moment, we would never have asked for their help or admitted our need for their help, yet this person still chose to give up their life for ours. Why would anyone do such a thing?
Because that someone is God and He loves us more than we could ever imagine! He proved it to us through the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus Christ. Firefighters understand the power of sacrifice and we memorialize those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice so others may live; so why is it so difficult for us to understand what God has done for us?

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

Every firefighter wants to save a life. It is not any firefighter’s wish that anyone should die. So it is with God, He doesn’t want anyone to perish. The imagery is powerful, realistic, and it is true. God chose to save us before we asked. He answered the call of our heart that we refused to make. Many of us, including myself, only choose to call out in a moment of desperation. This is where many of us meet God. When there is no one else to save us, no back-up plan, no emergency fund, and no one to call. The plan from the very beginning was to save us all. As a firefighter, we understand the plan of redemption even if we aren’t a Christian. One who calls for help is saved by another that he or she has never met, and can never repay what has been done for them.
Does this sound familiar?

We who witness death and tragedy almost daily, should realize that each and every moment is a gift. One who witnesses the miracles of lives being saved, babies being born, and numerous moments of near death experiences; one would also theorize that they would also understand that there has to be a greater power at work behind all of this. We who rescue the lost also need to realize that the greatest rescue ever made has already been done on our behalf. God has made a way home, a personal rescue plan, just for us. His name is Jesus Christ. He will reach through our darkness, give us the breath of life, and bring us through the fire into the safety of His arms. He has thrown a ladder to the fiery window of our darkness and carried us in His arms to eternal safety.

Yet, many have become lost on their journey in the fires of life. It is not God’s plan for anyone to be lost but to be rescued. He is actively searching for us. His love pierces through the deepest darkness and his light shines through the most turbulent smoke. If only we would but call upon his name we will be saved. This is the 911 call of our soul: 

Romans 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Every citizen is taught from an early age how to call for help. They are taught to call 911 and they know that help is on the way. In our lives, we should not be afraid to call upon God to be saved. We should not be afraid to call out to Him for help and we should realize that He has placed a wonderful support group in our presence. If we would merely ask we know that He will answer for James 4:2 states “You have not because you ask not.”
Each of us will face moments in life that will be more than we can bear. It is not meant for us bear these burdens alone. In firefighting, we go in together and we fight together. We overhaul together and we get back in service together.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It is a sign of strength. Take the time and consider these words the next time that darkness surrounds you, or someone that you love, and you feel trapped: 

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

Notice something? “Your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” If those around us, that we place our trust in, are undergoing the same kind of sufferings than who better to talk to, to lean on, and to ask for help from?

Our rescue plan has been defined, the team has been deployed, and they are standing at the ready to help. May we call upon Jesus today and ask Him to save us from the fire. Ask Him into your heart. Ask for His forgiveness so you may be free. Be bold and ask Him to show you His plan for your life and be prepared for a life changing answer. 

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Firefighter Peer Support-The Gift of Presence 

Firefighter Peer Support-The Gift of Presence 

In life we often become overwhelmed by our circumstances. The times when our stressors are the greatest is often when personal tragedies occur. In these moments, we are at our weakest and whether we realize it or not; this is when the world sees who we truly are.

Our walls that we have built around our heart are all broken down…

Our tough personas are ripped off revealing our fragile soul…

Our words are not eloquent yet passionate and to the point…

We have no time nor the energy to hide our pain…

Our survival is moment by moment, breath by breath, and one step at a time…

Our support systems begin to fail ranging from work, health, family, and friends…

Our cumulative resources of tactical precision fail us, our hands shake, and our voice trembles…

In these moments, all that we have to hold on to is our faith.

Many of us have lost friends, loved ones, our health, and all of our material possessions. We then look up only because they have been knocked flat on their back with no lower place to sink. 

And then in the final moments when the darkness is closing in, we lift our hands in our brokenness and pray. Then something happens:

“Before they call, I will answer. While they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

An unexpected phone call…
A surprise letter in the mail…
A visit from a friend…
The words of a song rings true.. 
“Our world’s not falling apart, its falling into place”

How can this be? How can one find hope at the end of their rope?

Take a look back for a moment and remember the times when the mere presence of someone brought comfort to our lives. 

Did they provide the answer to our problems? 

In a way, they provided an answer to our hurting heart. They provided the gift of their presence. They showed up, they called & listened, and the mere act of another being there brought tremendous comfort to our world.

Whether we recognize it or not, God is at work in spite of all of our circumstances. A painful truth to grasp is this “God doesn’t always rescue us from our difficulties; but we can rest assured that He walks with us through them” (Alex Himaya). 

God is present in our lives and His presence is greater than any problem that we may ever face.

So when crisis strikes, when anxiety overtakes us, and our world is burning down around us what do we do? 

We stand not because of our own strength but because when we were knocked down it was to our knees. We prayed to the source of our strength and we remember the promises of God: 

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).

Did you hear that? 

No matter what, God will answer and be faithful to His promises that “He will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). 

We are His, we are marked with a seal that says “I belong to Jesus so back off Satan.” And He hears us! “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 17:6). 

Dear friends, we have the answers before us. They are the promises of God. He has made it plain in Jesus Christ that He so loves us and wants a relationship with us that He sent his Son to die on a cross so that we may be saved. 

If that relationship is that important, that God Himself showed up on earth so that we may see and know Him; are not we to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world? 

Are we willing to show up and care when no one else will? 

Are we willing to sacrifice our schedules, our pride, and be vulnerable to another so that they may be comforted with the hope that we have within us?

For we have received this comfort in our lives through Christ and those that love Him; thus we should not refuse to share such a gift with others. We should remember:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So when the world attacks, repeat the promises of God aloud and remind Satan that he has lost. 

When our friends are hurting, our family has hurt us, and our world is fractured; we can trust that through it all God has a greater plan than we can see. 

We must trust Him through the storm and be there to comfort others who are hurting with the hope that we hold fast to. This is the hope of Jesus Christ and it is available to all those who will seek Him.
Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

An Unwelcome Family Reunion 

An Unwelcome Family Reunion 

A gathering is occurring; one that many of us have had quite often…
It is one of sadness, yet we sit quietly, silently objecting their intruding presence…
Alone we sit at this table, yet we are not truly alone…
One by one, members of this family begin to return home…
We tearfully object to their presence yet still they come…
One by one, they arrive closing in around this singular family…
None of which are related but all have been brought into our life by tragedy & calamity…

This unwelcome family reunion consists of the following:
An elderly gentleman, who died at a family gathering…
A young girl, who failed to look both ways while crossing the street…
A teenage boy, whose pain in life was too much for him to live…
An infant lying helpless, still & lifeless, cold in a crib…
An old friend, which we failed to recognize the signs of a heartbroken soul…
A heartbroken mother, crying out as her car lost control…

These family members are scars upon our heartbroken soul…
They are the ghosts of those who haunt our mind that we seemingly can no longer control…
They are the ones that have somehow escaped the grip of the grave…
These are the memories of the people, in their last moments that we could not save…
Their last breath, their screams, and their torment are forever etched into our souls…
We have tried to for years to bury this heartache and pain…
Through unhealthy means, through drugs, and alcohol, yet they return again & again…

Until one day we sit alone but not alone with these family members from our moments past…
And we cry out as we are about to end our life and breathe our last…
Then in the stillness, a voice speaks to our hearts…

“These losses, their pain, they were never meant for you to carry from the start…”
“For grief is a process and the pain of a hurting heart isn’t meant to conceal…”
“But to own their tragedies is a burden that no one should ever feel…”
“My child, I have carried your burdens and I will carry all of these…”
“But you must first let go, forgive yourself, and give them to Me…”
“For all who are weary, overburdened, and who carry this post-traumatic stress…”
“Can come to Me, and I will heal the brokenhearted and give them rest…”

It is then, we, the rescuer look upon Him with our tear filled eyes…
To finally then see the presence of our Savior, who has answered our heart’s cry…
One by one, the ghosts of our tragedies past begin to gradually leave…
Although, they often try to break back in, we now know & believe…
Even though that we who have rescued others and saved those who have called…
Jesus is our one true Savior, the greatest Rescuer of all…

God Bless all those who have carried this pain for far too long. May God grant you the peace that your heart has sought for and the peace that comes from God’s Son.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries.