Why Don't I Do This More?

My bride Donna and I took advantage of one of the last few Fridays that she gets off work early to go to Wrightsville Beach. I was shocked that we found a parking spot in the lot just across the waterway bridge and only had to pay $3.00. That was definitely a God thing. I sat on the beach wondering, why in the world do we not do this more often. I leave within 15 minutes or so of three beaches and this is the first time I've been? The answer is because I let other things take precedence over decompressing and spending time with one of the most precious gifts I have been given, meaning Donna.

Tomorrow will be filled with preparation and packing for our Senior High and College Retreat to Mountain Lake Ranch in Dandridge, TN. Leaving family is always tough but I know its for the purpose of God speaking to our group and myself in a special way. I always pray that God would look over my family, church, and friends while I am away. He can take care of them far better than I ever could. Hopefully, I'll be able to give you guys an update on the trip while I'm gone, but if not, I'm sure you will hear all about it when I get back. Take the time to do something with a family member today, even if it's brief. You may need it worse than they do.


God still heals!!

I have been so grateful this morning to hear my mom say that all of Dad's test came back with good results. Also, her Sunday School teacher at New Prospect BC had been fighting cancer and just heard that upon completion of her treatments, the cells were completely gone. This gives me hope to know that God is working in the lives of others, so he must be at work in mine. I must admit, I do have a lot on my mind today. I am looking forward to hearing Daryl speak at CAYA for the High School students tonight. We leave Sunday for the Senior High college retreat to Mountain Lake Ranch so there are A LOT of things to do. If you get a chance, say a little prayer for me today. God Bless!!!


Ah, the smell of bacon and pancakes with Trot Nixon

While most were sleeping in on a Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to hear Trot Nixon share about his life and faith in Christ. I always knew that Trot was a GREAT individual, not only for his achievement but his heart and spirit. To hear him verbalize his faith and be able to say that he was empty inside even after winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox was inspiring. To hear anyone proclaim that even the greatest experience is nothing unless it is filled with Christ just resonated with me this morning. If you wonder why, read my "Empty" Post.

Brian Furtado and his Men's Ministry crew did an awesome job with this event. Our newly renovated fellowship hall was packed with people of all ages. One person even acknowledged becoming a Christian during Trot's invitation. I am so thankful to be a part of something on a Saturday morning that will make the difference in the lives of people for eternity. If you would like more information on the men's ministry check out http://www.pinevalleybc.org

I'm also looking forward to this evening. I am taking our teenagers to a youth rally in Reigelwood at First Baptist to hear Darrin Gurganious (former Satanist) who will share much about his past and focus on the occult agenda and how it is fulfilled through music, games, and the Internet. If you want to go, be at the church at 5. I'm sure I'll put a post up about this too.
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Are you missing an H?

God moments for me come at random times. Usually they occur while I am in the shower, mowing the grass or doing something outside. I was changing our church sign this morning and had one of those moments. If you take a good look at the sign you will notice an "H" is missing from "with". Granted "Come Worship Wit Us" could be slang and understood by some, it is obvious that the letter is missing. God reminded me that when I seek to leave Him out of our daily lives, we can often send a skewed or wrong message. I pray that God gives me the strenght to see what is missing in my life, the courage to change it and the grace to see it completed. (John 15:5) " . . . apart from Me you can do nothing."


Why Do I Feel Empty?

During our Senior High Wednesday Night C.A.Y.A. (Come As You Are) we began a summer series called Life 101. This was a response to a questionnaire I gave our students a few weeks earlier that asked them to answer the following question anonymously on a card. The question was "If you could meet Jesus at a McDonald just to talk, what would you ask Him?" Their responses were overwhelming. Most would simply talk to Him about finding direction and purpose for their life.

A great resource for this is a book called "Life, Any Questions?" by Greg Laurie.

The first message was "Why Do I Feel Empty". I have my fair share of "empty" feeling times. If something doesn't go the way I would hope or I see others around me living below their potential, I wonder what "I" could have done to prevent it. Emptiness effects us in different ways. I have grown to realize this fact. We are all born with a God shaped void in our lives. I often try to fill that void with a busy schedule, a great church program, teachable moments, even time with family but the bottom line is I must fill it with Him.

Emptiness occurs when there is an absence of God. I don't know about you but that takes me a moment to comprehend. When I was not a Christian I didn't know I was empty. As I Christian now, I am fully aware of my emptiness. When i was a teen I can remember trying to fill that void with bad habits and destructive friendships. My emptiness would always follow me the harder I ran. The substance abuse, partying, and awful disrespect of my parents were all symptoms of that emptiness. I guess one thing that helped me was the group of friends I began to hang around that had established a personal relationship with Christ. A cure to the emptiness. Once I filled my life with Christ by becoming a Christian, I no longer felt empty.

As I grew in my faith, I thought I had it all worked out and then it happened. Emptiness came knocking on my door again. I am a Christian, I'm not supposed to be empty right? I realized that Christ filled and continues to fill my life, when I am open to it. I remember an Illustration that my former youth pastor Stephen Talbert shared one time. If you go to put gas in your car and never park it, never stop, never turn off the engine, then you will run out of gas. God is always there to fill us but we must be willing and hungry to stop and take the time to be filled. Becoming a Christian saved me from my emptiness. My dependence on the Holy Spirit of God sustains me in the midst of my emptiness.
Now, how do I communicate that to teenagers? Lord I pray that you surround these teens with those who have found a cure for their emptiness and that they would be hungry for their cure. Thank you for giving me such a great group to serve with. I am grateful to have a God that loves me, a wife that I cherish, family members to support me and a ministry to serve in.

James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.


Don't Forget The Sugar

I love a good chocolate chip cookie. There is nothing greater than that and a glass of milk. This morning I was reminded of a time when someone made a batch of these tasty treats and accidentally mixed up the sugar with salt. You can imagine the taste of that, or maybe you can't. Anyway, I knew at the first bite that something was not right. Something was missing. The same can be said for my life at times. I assure you that I have great plans in my mind of what I would like to be or become. Any great motivational speaker would say that those plans should be broken down into achievable goals.
In my haste to "make" things happen in my life I have often forgotten the sugar. What I had hoped to be a sweet satisfying refreshment ended up being bitter and indigestible. The problem is that I left God out of the recipe. You would think as a minister I wouldn't do that, but as I am reminded everyday, I am only human. That is not an excuse, just a fact. I was reminded today to live for God today more than hope for what he will do tomorrow.
It is important to have plans and goals, but how will I react when God wants to change them? I have learned through life that often His plan though unseen at the times has the greatest rewards. If this blog finds you today, remember to make God the main ingredient in your plan today not a cheap look alike. For some great perspective on this read James 4:13-16


Firehousejames Bio

Ok, everything you never wanted to know about me. Basically, I am a youth minister and have been so for over 20 years now. I can honestly tell you that God put the purpose of doing this in my heart. Let me try to explain. I had always been raised in a Christian home. My dad was a truck driver, so he was in and out often. When he was home, he and my mother would make sure we were in church. I can even remember being a Royal Ambassador at one time. (You true Southern Baptist’s will know what that to which I am referring.) When I was in 7th grade my father transferred to Lyman, SC. We set our home up in Boiling Springs, SC (Spartanburg). I remember going into the Boiling Springs Junior High and wondering what in the world would happen next. Those few years were very confusing for me. I had played Trumpet for two years at Swift Creek Middle School in Chesterfield, VA and made it all the way to 2nd chair, (and no it wasn’t out of three people), it was like five, LOL! So, at Boiling Springs Junior High the band program was much more accelerated than where I had been previously. As an outsider I also felt the tension as some didn’t appreciate the “new kid”. I stuck with it, but was quickly losing my interest in the trumpet. I was on the verge of making a quantum leap . . .

My close friend Scott who had also moved from VA (Dad's worked for same company) talked me into playing 7th and 8th grade football. I put my trumpet into storage and began the transformation from Band Geek to Jock. I can remember starting my workouts in an old Maintenance shed our school called a weight room. I struggled to simply lift the bar without weights on it. I was so sore afterwards that I missed the next day of school while I took a bath in liquid "Heat". My set of friends and interests changed immensely. It seems I was much more eager to do whatever it took to have the "right" friends. I continued to play football through high school. I still am very proud to have been a Boiling Spring High Bulldog even though my career was not stellar. I also found a love for music. Scott loaned me an old guitar and gave me a few lessons. I was hooked. It was so cool to be able to listen to things on my "Tape Deck" at the time and play it back. My ultimate hope was to use athletics and football as a way to get the attention of the opposite sex. (UMM ...yeah). Anyway that didn't work very well because everything I had become was fake. I had lost a perspective on who I had become. During a painful experience in the 8th grade, that fakeness came to light. I was an empty shell inside. My meager Christian background at least prepared me to ask God, "If you are really there, help me".

Over the next year, God began to move in my life and position me with those who modeled a true Christian life. i will forever be in debt to the student ministry of First Baptist North Spartanburg. A simple invitation to a pizza trip after church directed my life in a whole new direction. I realized I could go out with friends, have fun and not feel guilty, abused or taken advantage of later. During a retreat to Hilton Head Island, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, forgive me of my shortcomings and live in my life. After that experience things started to make sense. I can't explain it any other way, other than I had a power inside of me that was not there before. I later learned it was the Holy Spirit. God put some GREAT youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, and Godly youth ministers in my life. I began reading, growing, and serving in my youth group. I channeled my music towards leading in worship. My life finally had purpose. Everything was not and still is not all rainbows and skittles today. I have like everyone had to endure some major things, but I can tell you this. I would NEVER go back to living the way I did before becoming a Christian. If I were to die and find out that this whole Christianity thing was a joke or man made scheme, I would would still follow Christ because my life with Him has been so much better than without. I don't mean to be preachy, I am just grateful.

As a senior in high school, I felt God calling me to serve him in ministry using my love for music and students. Upon the urging of my Youth Pastor, I enrolled in Anderson College (University). I majored in music there for two years and met a great caliber of people. Ultimately I met Donna Simpson who went on to become my bride Donna Simpson Strickland. She faithfully worked for two more years as I continued my education at Charleston Southern University. I was so lucky to be able to play bass in a group from the college called "New Vision". I will always treasure those years and the relationships I formed with those in that group I treasure. A few have become closer than a brother to me.
Donna and I got married on November 21, 1992 (which is her birthday too, by the way). After a period of searching God led me to my home church of First Baptist North Spartanburg. I had the privilege of interning under the Youth Pastor. As an intern, I learned youth ministry from the ground up. I learned there was a lot more to it than my former Youth Ministers made it out to be. I am so grateful for have the privilege of serving on staff there for eight years. While there I served in various positions in the Student Ministry and Media Ministry. They also allowed be to take time to receive my Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 1998 my life took a drastic change. I started a chaplaincy with North Spartanburg Fire Department. After being there a short time I decided to get my official fire training and became a volunteer. I never thought I would have grown up to be a fireman. Through the years I have seen many similarities between the fire service and ministry (good and bad). Many of the men at North Spartanburg fire became my heroes. Ulitmately, it was this experience that showed me I needed to be working with people rather than machines (In the media dept). After talking with some Godly people, I realized that after three years of media ministry, God was calling me back into Student Ministry.

I became the Minister to Students at Pine Valley Baptist Church in 2001 where I have been serving ever since. I also am a lieutenant with Myrtle Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The lessons I have learned and the way I have seen God work could not be contained in this simple blog. I will just say God has blessed Donna and I beyond what we deserve to be able to serve in this church. Each day God gives us a fresh vision for the next step to take. That whole Proverbs 3:5-6 thing is true. He does direct our paths. If you have atually read this blog to this point please know that I am a flawed man that simply lives to love God, love my wife, and share His love with others. There is much more that I could or may even should have said but this is a "cliff note" version of how I became firehousejames.


Thank You Megan Fox!!!

I must say that I really enjoyed Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. I was hoping for some great action and I was not disappointed. There were many transforming robots and great CGI fight scenes. They even used the whole "messiah" thing in the story line. I won't go into details in hopes of not spoiling anything. However, I was very disturbed by some comments that Megan Fox made to the press. She was asked what at first glance seemed to be a not so deep question.

"If you could take Megatron to one side, have a coffee with him and talk him down from wrecking the entire world, what would you say? “God!” laughs Fox. “That’s a question I don’t have an answer for and I hate you for asking me that because I’m usually so prepared!”She considers. “I think I would make a deal with him and say instead of the entire planet, can you just take out all of the white trash, hillbilly, anti-gay, super bible-beating people in Middle America?” (source)

(Clearing my throat) Now I know that I should not expect any star to necessarily embrace my beliefs but to attack people groups like that is just plain dumb. Those people she is mentioning are the same ones who are going to her movies and putting money in her bank account. Even my mom taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, then don't say anything. Do you think she would have caught grief for bashing homosexuals or other races? There is a definite double standard.
I don't regret seeing the movie, however I do regret being a Megan Fox fan. I see the effect she and others have on the teens of today. At some point I pray these celebrities will be accountable for the words they say. I do pray for Megan and hope that God will put some people in her life that will encourage and love her. People who will not want her for what she is as a celebrity but who she is as God's creation. Until then I guess I'll just keep beating my bible ya'll.
1 Peter 2:11-12 (New Living Translation) Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Here is a great review for Transformers 2:The Fallen at pluggedin online