December 20, 2007

Christmas is just 5 Days Away!

As we approach the big day, here are some things I am excited about:

- Kara had her school choir performance today. They did a tribute to the holidays, singing songs about several different traditions. They actually talked about the birth of our Savior!

- Garren is learning the joys of courting. He is giving a Christmas gift to her today. At least I hope he is...he's a bit nervous. Go Garren!

- Kelsey is VERY excited about our trip to Concord Mills Mall this afternoon. We must be insane, I know the rest of the world will be there as well...

- Nancy is super party woman. She has been involved in volunteering at the kids' schools, and has been helping out all week with different party's.

I hope your Christmas season is turning out to be a happy time for you and your families.

December 13, 2007

On My Mind Lately

I continue to see the pandemic of Biblical illiteracy in the American church. This is something that I have realized for some time, but it has been impressed on me much more lately. I would guess that most church goers have a very limited knowledge of what is in the Bible.

Is that wrong? Yes and no. It's not that we have such a limited knowledge of what God says in His Word. It's that we are not pursuing that knowledge. Show up to church, listen to the Preacher, then go home and pretend it never happened. No wonder so many live day to day wondering what it's all about. We are defeated! We don't know why!

Get your Bible out. Start reading it every day. You don't have to read it all at once. Just read some. Be systematic. Get a chart, or a reading schedule. Just get in the Word. We cannot live our lives for God, if we are not listening to God.

December 05, 2007

The Greatest Book

I've been challenged lately by the number of people who claim to be Christ followers, who do not read the Bible. That's like saying that I am a student of physics, yet never crack open a physics book! How can this be?

The Bible is the greatest book ever written. It was given to us by God, through men who wrote down what the Holy Spirit was directing them to write. The Bible will change your life. It really will. It is powerful, it is alive, it will penetrate into the innermost part of who you are and show you things you didn't even know about yourself. The Bible has the power to transform and lead you into things we haven't even dreamed of yet.

Have you ever watched "The Neverending Story?" Toward the beginning of the story, a young boy who loves to read is confronted with a book that is described to him as 'unsafe.' His books are safe - he can become the character he is reading about, then close the book and return to real life. But this book is different. Once you enter into the Neverending Story, that becomes your reality, you cannot escape. It's more than just a story.

The Bible is not safe! Once you enter into the story presented in God's Word, you cannot escape. You join the story. You cannot separate reality from what you read in God's Word, because it is reality.

Sounds strange, doesn't it? Trust me, it's the real deal. I dare you to start reading the Bible, today, right now. It's not safe.

December 04, 2007

God helps me do big things.

The other day Kelsey (3 yrs old) came home from church with picture of David and Goliath. If you take your kids to church, you know they almost always come home with some kind of craft or coloring paper, right?

This one intrigued me just a bit, so I thought I'd share it with you:

In case you can't read what it says (it's kinda small):

God helps me do hard things like save me from the dinosaurs and He already helps me run so fast.

Isn't that awesome? Thank you to those who volunteer their time to teach our children about God, and how awesome He really is.

November 27, 2007

Where's the PASSION?

Hannah Montana is in town tonight. (in case you haven't heard)
The question that came up in our staff devotions today is this: "How is it that people go so extremely nuts over some 14 year old girl who sings on a stage, but won't dare tell their neighbor about the love that Jesus Christ has for them?"

Ever thought about that? It drives me absolutely nuts! Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate Hannah Montana. My daughter is going to the show. They're going to have a ton of fun! But it will be over in a couple of hours. We'll wake up tomorrow, and go back about our daily routine. In 5 years will we even remember it?

Our eternity, and that of our friends and neighbors is at stake. Why don't we get as excited about telling them about Jesus? I think it comes down to this: PASSION.

We get emotional about whatever we are passionate about. When it comes to Christ, we somehow muster up enough passion to sing a few well written worship songs on Sunday morning, and maybe even Wednesday night. But then we leave church behind and go and try to fill the void in our lives with the emotional highs we get from big shows and entertainment.

What will it take for Christians to become passionate about Jesus? I don't know. I do know this: where your treasure is there your heart is also. Where your treasure is, there is your passion. What are you passionate about? Do your neighbors know?

November 26, 2007

Living Consistently

I wanted to let you know about our next Wednesday night series. How many times have you 'tried' to live the Christian life--but failed miserably? We're supposed to have a quiet time, we're supposed to pray, we're supposed to worship. But when it comes down to it, those things never really seem to have any impact on 'real life.' You know the feeling?

And when it comes down to it, how do I really know for sure that all this Bible stuff is even true? These are normal questions, and normal feelings. The Christian life is full of ups and downs. The trick (if you want to call it a trick) is to learn how to live what you believe.

I hope you'll join us at Southbrook Church for the next four Wednesday nights as we look at these questions. We will look at the Bible and learn that we can know for sure that when we die we will meet Jesus face to face. We'll talk about the importance of personal devotional times. Prayer and worship are also very important. How do we take these practices and make them effective in our daily lives?

Come Wednesday night and find out...see you there!

November 15, 2007

Knowledge & Instruction

In our quest to build a solid foundation (our worldview which is based in doctrinal truth) we must accumulate knowledge. That's just the way it works. We do because we know. Knowledge comes through study and experience. It can be our own experiences or the experiences of others. What you believe is going to be partly rooted in what you know.

Knowledge – A good atheist spends time getting to know her beliefs. A good Mormon spends time learning about what they believe. In order to defend your beliefs, you have to know facts about your beliefs. Today it seems to be pretty common for people to claim that what they believe doesn’t have to agree with what we believe. What’s true for you may not be true for me. But that’s ok, we can agree to disagree. But in order to know what you believe, you have to know facts about what you believe.

As a Christ follower I can claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died to take away my sin so that I could experience an eternal and personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. But if I have nothing to base that on, what’s the point? How do I even know it’s true? I have to read and study the Bible, the book that contains the claims of Christianity, so that I can build on the foundation of my doctrinal beliefs.

Reading and studying the Bible happens in several ways. Yesterday I wrote about personal devotion. That is a great way to begin to gather knowledge about what I believe. Church attendance, small group or Bible studies are important as well. The important thing is that you have some kind of systematic instruction in your life. This means consistency. This means orderly, not just a shot in the dark hope I learn something today approach.

Systematic Instruction – Having personal times of devotion is good, but is usually rather unstructured. It is important to pursue some kind of systematic instruction. Whether it be through schooling, or classes offered through a volunteer organization such as the local church. It is essential for followers of Jesus Christ to pursue a systematic study of God’s Word. We can learn a lot on our own. We can learn so much more from those who are gifted in the area of teaching.

November 14, 2007

Personal Devotion

If doctrinal truth is the foundation on which our worldview is built, then we need to understand how to build that foundation. The fact is, the foundation is being built and has been built over the years - with or without any effort of my own. I either intentionally built the foundation, or it gets built for me. Every experience, every relationship, every book I read, every person I talk to has some input on my worldview - the foundation on which I base my decisions.

Personal Devotion – You will spend your personal time devoted to the things that support what you believe. If you believe there is no God, then to what do you devote your time? If you believe that money is the goal of life, then you will likely devote yourself to making more of it. If you believe that fun and excitement is what it is all about, you will spend a lot of time chasing fun and excitement. If you believe in a personal God who loves you and desires to have a relationship with you, then you will likely spend time getting to know this God through His Word – the Bible.

While there is only one way to God (through Jesus Christ His son) there are many ways to grow in our relationship with Him. It all starts with His Word - the Bible. Personal devotion for the Christ follower means we spend time in the Bible, reading, praying, meditating, memorizing. It is His word spoken to us. We have access to the very words of God! If I want to build my foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, I must spend time digging for truth. The bible is the source of all truth. I must devote time to the study of the Bible.

With so many resources available today, it is not hard to come across a devotional guide to help us get started. The bottom line is this - does the book, study guide, or devotional book base its teaching in the Bible? If it does, use it! If not, then find something else. Be very careful what you choose to spend your time doing, your personal devotion time. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.

November 13, 2007

What I Believe Determines What I Do

How do you make day to day decisions?

Each of us has what is called a worldview. Each of us has a filter through which we view the world. It is based on this filter that we make decisions. We base our lives on what we believe. Many of us never really think about it. We rarely consider the foundation on which we are basing our lives. But we should.

Doctrinal Truths – What do you believe and why? The most basic foundation on which everything else is built is the doctrinal truths to which you subscribe. What do you believe about God? What do you believe about man? If there is a God, how does He interact with man? If there are many gods, what is our relation to them? Maybe there is no God?

Why do we exist? Do we exist? What about moral – good and evil? Is there such thing as evil?

All of these questions deal with our doctrinal beliefs – our doctrinal truths. Whether you agree or not, every decision you make in life has its roots in your doctrinal beliefs.

November 07, 2007

Running on Empty

This last several weeks I have faced some serious and difficult circumstances with people. Not anything personal, but difficult none the less. I have been to more funerals in the last month than in my entire life combined!
Last week was especially tough. I spent my week reaching out to a young couple who lost their son. He went to be with Jesus last Tuesday.
It's been an emotionally draining week, but God has taught me some amazing things:

1) It's only in His power that we can accomplish anything - as I walked into the hospital room to meet the family, my mind was racing with "what do I say?" As I left, I remember thinking "Wow...God totally took over and spoke through me." It has nothing to do with me - what I am going to say - it's all about letting God use me to love others.

2) God will replenish our strength as needed - Saturday night after the funeral I remember feeling just drained. I didn't know how I would have the strength to get to church on Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning as fresh as ever. God will honor our faithfulness. He not only gets us through the valley, He gives us the strength to climb the mountain on the other side.

May God encourage and strengthen you today.

November 01, 2007

Hearing Problems

I’ve heard enough. My blood boils every time I hear preachers start talking about hearing from God. They make it out to sound like you have to have some special ability, or some special favor, in order to hear and do God’s will. That’s another one that really gets me going – knowing God’s will.

Why do we try and make it so hard? Hearing from God really isn’t so mysterious. There is no preparation. There are no special steps to go through. Sure, there are a few pre-requisites, a few requirements if you will. But come on! Quit making it sound like I have to jump through certain hoops and wait for some amazing miraculous revelation of God’s will in my life!

Did Moses ‘prepare’ himself to hear from God? NO! He was minding his own business, tending the sheep, when God appeared to him in the burning bush. Moses was not ‘waiting to hear’ or ‘preparing to hear’ from God.

What about Abraham? Did Abraham sit around wondering “Hmmm, when will I hear from God?” Again, no. But when God spoke, Abraham obeyed.

The problem is this: we have somehow come to think of God as some kind of vending machine, or a mystery needing to be cracked. If we insert the right amount of change, or get the combination right, God will finally break forth and give us His message. He will finally be able to tell us what we need to hear. It’s really not like that at all!

As I mentioned before, there are a few pre-requisites: the first being a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, you have to be saved before you can hear/know God’s will for your life. Then, as a Christ follower, we are to live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided life. This means we follow God’s directions, given to us in His word – The Bible. That’s right. Too many Christians sit around with dust on their Bibles asking God to show them what to do! We ‘wait to hear from God’ but fail to read His word!

As a Christ follower, we are called to live pure and holy lives. Stay away from sin. Avoid immorality at all costs. Submit to your authorities. God has already told us what we need to know. He has given us guidelines for living. It’s really not a mystery. It’s right there in black and white. “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

You want to ‘hear from God?’ Do you wonder why you haven’t heard from Him? Maybe it’s because you aren’t listening. Or maybe it’s because you aren’t reading! Stop praying for God to speak until you are willing to read His Word.

October 23, 2007


What is "it?" We work all of our lives to achieve "it." We graduate from high school, then go to college-to study for "it." We then put together a resume and search the job market, all the while trying to accomplish "it."

Maybe "it" is not the end. Maybe "it" is not something we finally achieve, at least not in this lifetime.

Could it be that we have missed the real question? Maybe we should be asking ourselves if we are being used by God to accomplish His work for us no matter where we are or what we are doing. The thing is, no matter how many times you thing you have finally reached "it," you are left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. We get there and then stand around wondering "now what?" There is more to life than getting to the top, accomplishing goals, finishing projects. These are all good and important things. Goals are important. But if all we live for is to get to the end of the next goal, to finally achieve "it," then we have completely missed the boat.

Where does God have you planted right now? Are you being used by Him, right where you are, to accomplish the job He has for you?

October 18, 2007

Hugs & Kisses

Kelsey turns 3 this month. She has been going through a stage that is rather humorous to me. Every time anyone tries to leave our house, Kelsey HAS to give them a hug and a kiss. If she is busy doing something, and I walk out the door without the hug and kiss, she will begin screaming hysterically, running out into the drive, tears running down her cheeks, screaming "Don't weave! I regot to give you a hug and a kiss!"

This morning as I was leaving, I said "Kelsey, I'm leaving now." She was in the middle of painting a picture at the table. She said (very calmly for a change) "Daddy, let me give you a hug and a kiss or I might start screaming."

Where do they come up with this stuff? Who knows...I just hope she never stops giving me hugs and kisses.

October 15, 2007

Why Do We Get Nervous?

Why do we get nervous when we talk to people about spiritual things? Is it because we are thinking more about what people might think or what God might think?

This question really challenged me. We spend so much time trying to make everything "relevant." We spend so much time trying not to "offend" those who don't believe the same way we do. We overthink every word, every thought. For what? So that we might be less offensive to a "seeker?" We want to protect a "potential believer" from the truth of God, because they might not be ready to hear the truth?

Why do we get nervous when we talk to people about spiritual things?

What about people who already follow Christ? We talk about accountability. We say we believe in God, but act like we don't. We protect our little kingdom at all cost, pushing aside the Kingdom of God - all that really matters.

As Christ followers we have the responsible to speak truth into the lives of those around us. Not in an arrogant, condescending way. But in love. We mustn't waste opportunities to help each other grow.

Why do we get nervous when we talk to people about spiritual things?

It's time we set aside out own agendas and fears. It's time to stand up and live what we say we believe.

October 13, 2007

The 80/20 Rule

Football season is in full swing. Have you ever stopped to think about what is really going on during a game? Look at it this way - there are 70,000 fans in desperate need of exercise watching 22 men in desperate need of rest do all the work.

Church ends up being a lot like this. Look around the next time you are in church. It is estimated that about 80% of those who attend church do nothing more than just sit for 1 hour each week. The other 20% are doing all the work. No wonder so many volunteers get burned out! But it's not just in the area of service that this is true. It holds true for giving as well. About 20% of the givers give over 80% of the total amount that comes in! Unbelievable!

If we could see things from a bigger perspective, from a Kingdom perspective, we'd be much more likely to give our time and money to the things that matter most.

Pray that God will show you what you need to do now.

October 10, 2007

Burn For You

At Catalyst last weekend I had the opportunity to hear some great worship music led by Steve Fee. One of the songs on his latest CD is called "Burn For You." This song puts into words something that I have been feeling and experiencing in my own life. Check out the words:

There's a stirring in my heart, unexplainable
There's a calling on my days, undeniable
There's a fire in my bones, uncontainable
And it's causing me to burn, causing me to burn
It's causing me to burn for you!

I'll go anywhere
I'll do anything
At any cost for You my king

There's a passion in my heart for the world to see
Revival fires burning, great awakening
And there's a raging fire inside this soul of mine
And it's causing me to burn, causing me to burn
It's causing me to burn for you!

I pray that God, if He hasn't already, will put a passion in your heart to see the world come to know and love Him. That's what it's all about. I hope the fire never dies in my own heart.

October 08, 2007

Effective Parenting

In our small group last night we continued our journey through a study on parenting called "Effecting Parenting in a Defective World."
The main point was to focus on the importance of the relationships we have (or don't have) with our children. No matter what we do, or make sure our kids do, as a part of growing up, if we don't develop a relationship that bonds, our children are much more likely to make poor choices when they grow up.

Here are 8 keys for building relationships that bond. Which ones are you good at? Which ones need work?
  1. Unconditional Love - Have you committed to love your kids no matter what?
  2. Scheduled Time - Is time with your family as important as scheduled meetings at work?
  3. Focused Attention - Do you listen with you full focused attention when you kids talk to you?
  4. Eye Contact - Do you look at your kids when they are talking to you.
  5. Ongoing Communication - Do you have dinner as a family? Do you put your kids in bed? Do you share experiences together?
  6. Meaningful Touching - Do you hug (or wrestle with) your kids regularly?
  7. Have Fun Together - Lighten up - no need to be so serious all the time.
  8. Pray Together Often - Do you make it a point to pray for and with you kids...often?
So? How are you doing? I hope you will pick one area and work on it this week.

October 06, 2007

Catalyst 2007

I just got back from Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, GA. I thought I'd share a few of my favorite quotes from some of the difference speakers.

Shane Claiborne
  • Community is surrounding ourselves with people who are like what we want to become.
  • I'm giving up Christianity to go and follow Jesus.
Francis Chan
  • Every time I get up to speak the Holy Spirit is supernaturally speaking through me, through God's Word.
  • Say whatever God has told you to say, don't hold back, don't be afraid of the people.
  • If Jesus or Paul had a church, mine would be bigger, because it would be cooler. People would leave their churches to come to mine. Because they would call their people to a higher level of commitment. (let that sink in...)
Craig Groeschel
  • A Practical Atheist believes that God exists but lives as if He doesn't.
  • We become practical atheists when we believe that our efforts are greater than God's power.
  • We become practical atheists when we believe that our private life doesn't effect our public ministry.
  • We become practical atheists when we believe that we must please people more than we please God.

September 27, 2007

Never Gets Old

I love change. I love to mix things up. I love new technology. I am all about finding the newest, the latest, the greatest. These days it is nearly impossible to keep up with all the new things coming out all the time.

Why do we always look for the new best thing? Why do we feel the need to fill our lives with the latest? As we were singing a worship song in church last night, I was struck by the words. They were about Jesus, the precious Lamb of God, who was slain on our behalf. Jesus died to take away the sins of the world, and through Him we have the opportunity to enter into an eternal relationship with God.

That is the oldest story in the world! It is the same story that was told in Genesis 3:15. It is the same story we read in all the Gospels. It is the same story we hear preached around the world today. Why doesn't it ever get old? What drives us to show up at church 1 or 2 times a week to sing about and preach about the same old story week after week, year after year? The story never changes, yet it never gets old!

Maybe it is because this story is the only story that is able to fully satisfy the deepest longings and needs within each one of us. Maybe it is because this story is true, and there is no other truth. It is complete, it is satisfying, and it does not need to be changed in any way.

While I love all the new things the world is marketing, I would never trade all the latest and greatest for the story of God sending His own Son to die for me--so that I could experience eternity with him. If you've never asked Jesus to save you from sin, do it now.

September 25, 2007


Our staff took the last couple of days to gather at the beach and dream. It's been quite an amazing experience. Twelve totally different people sitting around a table for two days can produce some pretty amazing results.

Our Executive Pastor Paul Allen was kind enough to bring along his fancy shmancy Starbucks coffee maker. He gladly filled orders for mocha's and chai. It was great!

That night Pastor Rob started complaining about a headache - but we pressed on. The next morning we all placed our orders again, enjoying every last drop of coffee and chai. Then sometime around noon, Mike Cruse spoke up -- "Paul, do you have anything that is not decaf?" I thought for a second, realizing what was going on. By this time there were about 4 or 5 of us with major headaches coming on. I said "Are you telling me all that coffee we've been drinking is decaf?" Paul said "Yup." It was at that moment that all of us with headaches realized what was going on! We were suffering for caffeine withdrawals!

There, now you know, half of the staff at Southbrook Church is addicted to caffeine.

September 21, 2007

Dream It Anyway

Martina McBride sings a song called "Do It Anyway." I think it's a great song. And yes, I like country music. "Hate me if you want to, love me if you can."
Anyway, one of the lines from her song goes like this:

"You CAN chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway"

Pastor Rob has been asking us as a staff to dream. To dream about the future of Southbrook Church. To dream about what God could do, and what we would love to see happen in our various ministries at the church.

I had a dream not too long ago. I hadn't really thought about it has a dream until just this week:

Two years ago I moved my family from Las Vegas, NV to the Charlotte, NC area so that I could complete my seminary studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary. We sold our home, loaded a moving truck, and drove over 2000 miles. We had no job. We had no idea what the future would hold. But we were following a dream - to finally finish school.

Soon after moving here, we were introduced to Southbrook Community Church. As we walked out of the first service we attended, I remember thinking in my head - "I want to be a part of this staff. I want to join forces with Southbrook, and work with this amazing group of people."

As I look back, I realize how far fetched that was. It scared me - I certainly wasn't as cool or smart or qualified as I needed to be. There was no way that this was humanly possible. There were no openings on staff. The church wasn't hiring. But I continued to dream it.

A few months later I was able to schedule a lunch meeting with Pastor Rob. We discussed ministry. I told him I wanted to work at Southbrook Church, and I would do it for free. He told me to just "get involved in a ministry, join a small group, take the classes, and we'll see where that goes."
So I signed up to play guitar with the worship team, I started a small group, I took the classes.

A few months later I found out that a staff position had opened up. So I sent Paul Allen and email, we met for coffee, chatted about it, and the next thing I know I am supposed to be organizing and starting small groups. I was on staff part-time (dream half realized). Now I was really scared. I completed school in May (woohoo! It only took me ten years). We made it through the summer, and then it happened - I was asked to come on staff full time.

I remember walking to my car this week thinking through the last two years. I remember very clearly saying to myself two years ago "I want to join this staff, and ministry here." God took that dream and has given me the privilege of being a part of the Southbrook staff. I am humbled, and I am grateful. I am also overwhelmed and scared out of my mind. Which I have learned is a good thing. God won't be able to use me to accomplish His will if I think I have everything under control.

Southbrook Church - I love you guys. I look forward to dreaming with you about the future. I can't wait to see the amazing things God has for us just around the corner.

September 19, 2007

Fearless Fighters

Last night I asked for a show of hands: "How many of you have no problem sharing your faith in a non-threatening way with you friends and neighbors?"
Only one hand went up. Actually, only about half-way up.
Talking to people about Jesus can be unnerving. It can be scary. But it can also be very rewarding. Actually, it is our duty as Christ Followers. We should pursue nothing more than pursuing lost souls.

So why are we afraid? Fear of rejection is a big one. Romans 1:16 says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."

If you have the power of God living within you (and all Christ followers do), then why are we still afraid? "I don't know enough." "They might stop liking me." If you know Jesus, you know enough. Your story is the most compelling evidence you can give anyone about your changed life. You know what Christ has done for you - just tell that.

The key here, I believe, is to simply start making friends. Reach out and just get to know some people. How many of your neighbors do you know? Just walk across the street and meet them. You don't have to freak them out with church and the Bible the first time you meet. Just live the Christian life. They'll see Jesus in you as you reach out and love them.

On October 20, we are going to offer a great one day seminar on talking to other people about the gospel. I think this will be a very important day for many people. I hope you'll plan to be a part of this day. There is so much work to be done, and time is running out.

I hope to see the Video Cafe filled to capacity as we learn to overcome our fears, and befriend people so that we can share the love of Christ with them.

September 14, 2007

A Long Day

Yesterday was a long day. We had the funeral for my Grandfather, Dr. J. Allen Blair. He was an amazing man who followed intently after God. He is is one of few preachers who lived what he preached.
His favorite Bible verse was 1 Peter 1:5 - "who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
I shared a short devotional on 1 Peter 1:3-5 as a part of the funeral ceremony. Peter talks about the Living Hope that we as believers have. This hope comes from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, my creator, sent his only son, the Lord (ruler of my life) Jesus (God in the form of man) Christ (the promised Messiah, my Savior) so that we could experience His mercy through our spiritual rebirth.
Being born into the family of God means not only that He becomes our Father, but we earn an inheritance as well. That inheritance (our salvation by grace through faith in Him) is incorruptible - it will never rot or ruin. It is undefiled - pure, holy, without fault or blemish. It will never fade - it will never wear out, it will never go away. And it is reserved in Heaven for us. God will keep His promise. He has given us a Living Hope, He has blessed us with salvation from our sinful lives.
Finally, Peter tells us very clearly in verse 5 that we are protected, or kept, by the power of God. Nothing can separate us from God's love for us. Once I enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ His son, I cannot be removed from His kingdom. I am his, and I am kept. And one day I will see Him face to face.
Grandpa is there now. His favorite verse has been realized. He is in the presence of Jesus.

Do you know God? Don't wait until it's too late. Give your life to Him today. Don't delay.

September 12, 2007

An Amazing Legacy

This past Sunday, September 9, 2007, an amazing and inspiring man stepped from earth into the presence of Jesus Christ. My grandfather, Dr. J. Allen Blair, was 94 years old. He had been married for 69 years. He had been in the ministry for most of that time. He pastored several churches, and co-founded Glad Tidings with his wife Elva.

But more than being a great preacher, he was a great man. He was a man of integrity. He lived what he taught. He was very intentional about being the man God made him to be, not just preaching and writing about it.

I have been personally challenged and impressed by several things over the years. One is the number of times he read through the Bible. In one of his books, he shares that if you read 3 chapters a day and 5 on Sunday, you can read the entire Bible in one year. I have been looking through his Bible over the last couple of days, and in the back he has a Bible Reading Record. It only goes back to 1974, but it starts with #51 for the Old Testament, and #79 for the New. The record only goes through 2003, with OT readings at 94 and NT readings at 125! That is unheard of these days! I'm working on 4 or 5!

The other thing that Grandpa was very disciplined in was Scripture memorization. He had hundreds (maybe thousands) of verses committed to memory. He had a box of index cards with verses written out. He would review the cards daily, always keeping the verses he had memorized fresh in his mind. Sadly, most people can count the number of verses they have memorized on one hand!

Grandpa was an amazing man of God. He will be missed, but his legacy lives one! He has 3 daughters, 9 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. His radio broadcast will continue to air for several years. Many people have come to meet Jesus through his ministry. Many more will come as a result of his legacy.

September 04, 2007

Finishing Strong

I know many of you have been patiently awaiting the finally of my 200 mile bicycling adventure. I apologize for leaving you hanging - thanks Paul for the reminder.

Stage 7 (17.8 miles) & 8 (21.85 miles)

Arriving at exchange zone 7 was a big step. The next stage would be the shortest of all the stages - just under 18 miles. If I can just make the next 18 miles, I'll have only one stage to complete. I'm almost done! I can't believe I only have 40 miles to go to complete my first 200 miles in one day! Things are starting to look up, and although it was never terribly hot, things are starting to cool down as well. The cool breeze is a welcome change.

As I pull out of exchange zone 7, I make a left turn. About 1/2 mile down the road, Nancy pulls up beside me in the van: "You're going the wrong way" she says. "Not again" I think to myself. O well, at least it's only 1/2 mile. I turn and get back on course.

I don't remember a whole lot from stage 7. I do remember exchange zone 8. The volunteers there looked rather bored, and totally unimpressed that I had just ridden 180 miles to see them. They just wished I would hurry up and move on down the road so they could go home. So I ate a few snacks, refilled water bottles, and hit the road. My brother and his family were there to cheer me on. He let me know that the next climb would be short, but very steep. How right he was!

I began the ascent. It gradually got steeper and steeper the further I went along. The road was winding back and forth. The urge to stop and walk was overwhelming. Finally, about 1/3 mile from the top, I did stop, and I did walk. It was either that or fall over sideways!

Upon reaching the top, I remember some guy in a car stopped to ask directions. "I am not from around here. I don't even really know where I am" I told him. I mounted the bike, and began the descent. It was as steep going down as it was going up! This was a pretty scary moment. Back and forth, around the corners ahead, hoping a dog or a deer doesn't decide to jump out in front of me!

I made it down, then up another longer grueling climb, and back down the other side. The scenery again was absolutely stunning. God's creation was screaming out all around me. It was almost surreal. I finally made it to the final descent into Asheville. Nancy was there to guide me along the last few miles. I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID THIS! I just couldn't wait to get to the finish line! I envisioned a big sign with the word "FINISH". I envisioned a race official ready to record my final time. I envisioned Nancy and Garren standing there yelling and cheering me across the finish line...

I made my way through 8 or 10 stop lights. Traffic around me was oblivious to what I had just done. No one seemed to notice me as they whizzed past. I turned right, then rode through a couple more stop lights. I strained to see any kind of activity, a route sign, something to let me know I was heading in the right direction. We went about 1 mile. Nancy finally pulled up beside me: "We must have missed the turn. We are looking for the courthouse. It was supposed to be 1/10th mile from the last turn." So we looped back around. We finally found the courthouse. I coasted up on my bike. No one. No signs. No race officials. No cheering. What in the world? The course was supposed to stay open until 10pm. It's only 8:30pm. Did they forget about me? Did they give up on me?

Nancy wanted phone numbers - now. She wasn't going to have any of this! I said: "Who cares. I finished. You know I did. I know I did. I don't really care right now if anyone else knows. Let's go home."

So we did. We found a hotel. I crashed (after an amazing shower and a Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy's). I was emotionally and physically drained. It was the strangest feeling I've ever felt. But I am so glad I did it. (Where do I register for next year?)

So where was everyone? Why wasn't there anyone at the finish line? I finally was able to connect with the race organizer. He told me that he never heard from the volunteers at the final exchange zone (that's right, the ones that didn't seem to care what was going on). He apologized profusely. He left the finish line just minutes before I arrived. We just missed each other.

August 30, 2007

Encouragement for Moms

My wife Nancy wrote this today - I thought I would share it with you all:

Hello my friends who are moms!

I was reading in my Bible and came across this verse:

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the oxen."
Proverbs 14:4

You may look at this and say "so what, I don't have oxen or mangers (feeding troughs)". We can still get the meaning of the verse -- if your manger is clean then you aren't using it to feed oxen and therefore have no animal to help produce your crops.

As I read this verse I changed the words a little to read:

"Where there are no children, the house/minivan is clean,
but abundant joy comes from a home filled with children."

As a mom I sometimes get overwhelmed with the mess and clutter that my kids can make in the house and in our minivan. It seems as though a large amount of my time is spent either cleaning up after them or, in the case of my older two, staying on them to clean up after themselves. This verse reminds me that without my children I could have a wonderfully clean house and minivan but what JOY would I miss out on. The time will come too soon when they will be older and will move out on their own. That is the time when my house will be clean and I may drive something other than a minivan. I am sure that then I will miss the mess!

So as an encouragement to you I say, enjoy the mess and remember the JOY your children bring. Life would be so boring without them. What a blessing from God they really are!

Have a great day,

August 29, 2007

I'm a Father!

Yesterday I was at the Christian bookstore. I picked up a couple of books. One of them is called Sexy Girls: How Hot is Too Hot. As the father of a 12 year old girl, I thought it would be a great way to help her understand the importance of how she dresses and looks.

As I was checking out, the lady behind the counter scanned the books, and when she saw the Sexy Girls book, she paused. Then she looked at me and said, "Are you a youth director?"

"No," I said, "I am a father."

She looked at me with a look of disbelief, then said, "O really? What church?"

I told her I was with Southbrook Church. It wasn't until I was walking out the door that I realized why she gave me that funny look. She must have thought 'priest' when I said 'father.'

Next time I better say 'dad!'

August 28, 2007

Is Your "System" Working?

I am reading a book by Dallas Willard called The Divine Conspiracy. I read something today that really caught my eye, and although it may seem obvious, I bet we don't usually think about it this way.

"Your system is perfectly designed to yield the result you are getting."

Willard is dealing with the question of the gospel -- as presented in the Bible compared with the way in which many churches present the gospel. There seems to be some kind of disconnect between "faith in Jesus" and "real life." We teach that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. But what does that mean? That we know we are going to heaven when we die? What about life right now? Why doesn't a relationship with my Creator have any impact on the way I live my life here and now?

"Your system is perfectly designed to yield the result you are getting."

In Willard's book, he is referring specifically to the system of preaching the gospel in churches. There's a lot we could say about that. But I was struck by this comment in a much broader way. Am I happy with the outcomes of my life so far? Am I pleased with the way my family life works? Am I satisfied with my finances? The bottom line is I have a system set up that yields results. If I don't like the results, then I need to challenge, and probably change my system.

If you attend a church that hasn't baptized anyone in the last year, then no matter what your purpose statement says, your system is broken. Maybe you need to check your system? I know I do. There are a lot of results in my own life that could/should be different. And as much as I would like to blame it on my parents, our culture, or even my dog, the problem is my "system."

Do you have the guts to change your system? I dare you!

August 27, 2007

What Is The Gospel According to You?

I ran across this poem today - seemed like a pretty good follow up to my last post:

I'd rather see a sermon, than hear one any day,
I'd rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing; but example's always clear.
The best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it, if you let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
The lectures you deliver may be wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do.
I may not understand the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
- Author Unknown

August 23, 2007

What Do I Believe?

Have a look around. We (in America) live in a pretty amazing place. Some refer to America as a "Christian" nation. Others not so much. Did you know that 74% of Americans claim to be Christian? The fact is, we are terribly confused by the very term "Christian." We've (and by we I mean the church) turned it into a term that can be applied to anyone who wants it. What makes someone a Christian? Apparently living within 10 miles of a church! 74% is a lot of people.

My biggest problem isn't with the fact that 74% of us call ourselves Christian. My issue is with the lifestyles of the 74% of people. Jesus said that everyone would recognize that we are his disciples if we love one another. Now try this. Go to the grocery store and watch people in line waiting to check out. I don't see a lot of love for one another going on. Drive in traffic for a few minutes and watch how people act. Love one another? If we are supposed to tell that someone is a disciple of Jesus by their love, then I must only be seeing about 26% of Americans on a daily basis. It seems that the majority of Americans are out to love themselves! Of course, these are my own observations, I could be terribly mistaken.

Let's look at another arena of life. Personal morality. Over and over we are exhorted in the Bible to live pure and holy lives, to abstain from sexual immorality, to respect the property of others, and so on. Have you watched TV lately? Check out the news. Look around you. The divorce rate is well over 50%. There is no difference between churched and unchurched. Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem like those who call themselves Christians would have a better track record than the other 26%?

Here's my question to you. What do you believe? If you call yourself a Christian, then ACT LIKE ONE! Please? Don't flip off the parking lot volunteer as you leave church. Don't attack the police officer who is directing traffic in front of your church (you think I'm making this up? read this).

"They will know you are my disciples if you love one another."
Do you call yourself a Christian? Great! I am glad you are a part of the family of God. But for the sake of Christ, please don't call yourself a Christian unless you really believe and intend to be obedient to His Word! If you aren't going to love one another, then don't claim to be something you are not.

August 06, 2007


Stage 5 (29.6 miles) & 6 (25.75 miles)

After the reality sets in, it’s time to focus. It’s time to re-establish some goals. It’s time to quit dwelling on past mistakes, and look forward to the finish line. The only word I can think of to describe the next 50 miles of this ride is pain! Pain is such an interesting thing. It can either bring you to a complete stop, or motivate you to push through it. This is the portion of the ride where I began to contemplate quitting. The route is relatively flat, compared to other stages. There are no major mountains to climb. However, there are plenty of rolling hills. Ups and downs. The ups hurt the worst. My left knee begins to feel the most excruciating pain I can remember feeling. It literally causes me to cry out every time I rotate the pedals. Eventually the right knee decides to join in. How can I manage? Will I be able to finish? I could quit now, and the pain would go away.

But I have to remind myself (many times) that this is the day I have been preparing for all year. This is the ride of my life, and quitting now would leave me feeling – well, who knows what. If I quit, I have to tell everyone I didn’t finish. If I quit, I have to wonder if I could have made it. If I quit…

As a Christ follower, quitting often seems like the easiest way out of something. If I quit, I don’t have to worry about this or that. What’s the big deal if I don’t follow and obey everything Jesus called me to? I can do “my best.” He loves me just the same. So I may as well avoid as much pain as possible.

But that is not what we are called to. Jesus came to this earth, and endured unbelievable pain and suffering, so that we could spend eternity with Him. Quitting on Him would be like spitting in His face (as if we haven’t already done enough of that!).

Paul tells us in the New Testament that life is like a race. We have to endure suffering, press on to the end, look forward to the finish line. We must run the race with everything we have. Jesus Christ will empower us, He will give us what we need to make it through.

Life is full of ups and downs. The ups are tough. We strain to overcome certain habits, or to develop better ones. We suffer through difficulties, we try to overcome temptation. It’s these times in our lives that make us stronger. We must learn to trust and obey. Don’t give up, no matter how hard it looks, or how much it hurts. God’s plan for you is much bigger than you can see right now. Just keep pedaling!

August 03, 2007

Reality Hits

Stage 4 - 22.8 miles

This stage is supposed to be relatively flat. At least compared to the last one. The other solo riders are only about 5 minutes down the road. If I ride hard and fast (and don’t get lost again) I can catch them. I can do this!

I spend the rest of this stage trying to make a crucial decision. I am pushing with everything I have to catch the group that is somewhere ahead of me. I never catch them. In cycling, it is almost impossible for a lone rider to catch a group. Groups just go faster. They are able to conserve more energy because they are working together.

I have wasted a lot of energy on this stage. By the end, I realize I am going to be riding alone for the rest of the day. I have to refocus myself. I have to finish this ride, I have to resolve to ride alone and finish strong.

Life as a Christ follower is a lot like this. When we get off track (and we do) we think we can some how ‘catch up’, some how make up for lost time. But that’s the thing about life, you can’t get any of it back! Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There are no do-overs. There is no catching up. You have to face reality. Face the consequences of what you have done. Own up, take responsibility, and get on with it. Learn from your mistake, and keep moving forward.

How wonderful it is to know that we have been forgiven for our past sins. Jesus welcomes us with unconditional love. And although we can't go back and do it again, we do get a second chance. We get to move forward from here and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we have the opportunity to make the right choices.

Are you dwelling on the past? Are you wishing you had never made that 'wrong turn'? Do you long to go back and make a different choice? Jesus offers forgiveness to all, if we will just humbly accept it. We can't go back and undo our mistakes, but we can start right now making better choices. Put your trust in Him, allow Him to be your guide, and quit wishing the past would change - it won't.

July 28, 2007


Stage 2 - 26.2 miles
The second stage was a amazing as the first. The scenery, the mountain just doesn't get much better than this! I cruise along, mostly alone, enjoying the beauty all around.

Stage 3 - 29.2 miles

Riding alone isn’t so bad. When others are around, I just feel like I have to keep up. I always feel like I have something to prove. When I’m alone, I can set my own pace. This can be good, or bad. Stage 3 is where the first steep climb will present itself. As I am trying to pace myself up a short climb on Hwy 105, I am passed by three other cyclists. I jump on their back wheel and climb to the top. As we cruise along at a pretty comfortable pace, two of the guys start wondering if we missed a turn. I pull out my cue sheet. I misread it and conclude that we are on the right road. Two more miles till the next turn. They pull off at a fire station to assess the situation. But I am so sure of where I am that I just continue on my own. About 10 minutes later I realize that I am indeed on the wrong road. How did we miss that turn? I call Nancy on the cell. We try to figure out how far off course I am. I turn around and begin heading back. I am way behind now. How far did I go? Why didn’t I stop with those other guys? Will I ever make it back on course? I begin to feel very stressed and irritated. This is really not the way my day was supposed to go!

As a Christ follower, I have made many wrong turns. Coming down from a spiritual high, a mountain top experience, can give you a sense of pride, a feeling that you cannot be defeated. You get the idea that you know all you need to know, and end up "leaning on your own understanding." Rather than trust those around me, I made a foolish decision to strike out on my own. It ended up costing me valuable time. I could have listened to the advice of my 'small group,' but instead ignored their warnings and made a bad decision all by myself. And what do we always do as soon as we are in trouble? We call out to God for help!

Finally I see the road I am supposed to turn onto. I’m back on course. I try to call Nancy, but cell reception in the mountains isn’t always so great. I wind through a mountain golf course, then turn onto the beginning of the first big climb of the day. If I keep up a good pace, I might be able to catch up. Is there any chance anyone is still behind me? I must have ridden an extra 8-10 miles. I won’t know for sure until I get to the next Exchange Zone.

I finally cruise into the Exchange Zone just passed Grandfather Mountain. I am the last rider now. The closest group left 5 minutes ago. It’s time to kick it into high gear and catch those guys, or I’ll be alone all day!

July 26, 2007


Stage 1 - 24.8 miles

The air is cool, almost cold. The scenery is breathtaking. The pace is fast. Not much exciting happens on the first stage. It is mostly downhill. It almost makes you think it’s going to be an easy day! I am able to pace with two other riders, at least for a while. As we turned right onto 194 South, we begin a gradual ascent. One rider drops off the back, the other goes ahead. I eventually catch two more riders on the climb, and we ride together again for a while. The pace is high. Still working out the jitters. The reality still hasn’t totally sunk in. My instinct is to push harder, ride faster. But I’ve got a long ways to go. I find myself riding alone for most of the stage, which I find to be quite surprising. I would have expected the other riders to have wanted to stick together more, helping each other draft. Then just around the bend, in the mist, I see the first Exchange Zone. One down, 7 to go.

I’m reminded of life as a Christ follower. When I first experienced the refreshing presence of the One and True Living God in my life, I felt like I was on top of the world. I could do anything! I was ready to face life, ready to take on whatever obstacles lay ahead. Life as a Christ follower can be an exhilarating experience, much like starting a long descent on a bicycle down the side of a mountain on a cool, crisp morning. But we must not be fooled. Although things are great for the moment, we must always be prepared for the valley below. Anything can happen. We have to be ready.

July 25, 2007

Black & Blue Relay - 200 miles - July 21, 2007

I did it. The Black & Blue Relay is a 200 mile bicycle ride through the Black Mountains of Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This was the inaugural ride. I was part of an amazing day of bike riding, and I will never forget it.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of my experiences. I hope you enjoy!

Getting to the Start

I set two alarms. The clock radio in the room, and my wrist watch. 4:10am. It’s the night before the longest ride I’ve ever done in one day. 200 miles. When I tell people what I’m doing I get all kinds of responses. Everyone has an opinion. Some think I’m crazy. Some wonder if it’s possible. Others try to compare it to something they’ve done – horseback riding, hiking, running – everybody wants to connect to it in some way.

The alarms are going off. I force myself to sit up. I look at the clock – 4:10am. As sleepiness begins to take a back seat to the reality of what I am about to do, I am suddenly wide awake. I stand and walk across the room. As I begin putting on my bicycling shorts, I realize that I better wake up Nancy and Garren. They are going to ride SAG. SAG is the support vehicle in a bicycle ride. They will be driving the route, supporting me, refilling water bottles, having food ready, and helping me to stay on course. I roll the bike out of the hotel room into the cool mountain air. It’s going to be a great day!

After a 40 minute drive to the start, I begin to unload and make final preparations. It’s still dark outside. The sky is beginning to lighten up gradually. 17 other teams are at the start, ready to take on the challenge of riding 200 miles, from Grayson Highlands State Park, VA to Asheville, NC, through some of the most beautiful mountains on the east coast. All the riders are gathered at the start line. Everyone seems a bit nervous, but ready to get going. At 6:00am, we get the go ahead, and begin our descent into the valley below.

July 10, 2007

The Right "Stuff"

A friend of mine who rides was telling me about an experience she once had while working her way up a long mountain climb. Cyclists tend to be pretty eccentric. We buy all the right stuff...from the helmet to the shoes, and everything in between. We like to match, we like to look professional. We somehow convince ourselves that if we have all the right equipment, if we look good, we will somehow be faster and more successful riders.

While working her way up the mountain, she was slowly but steadily passed by some guy in tennis shoes. He had a big long beard and did not look the part. His bike was an old clunker, but there he went, right past my friend and on to the top of the mountain.

How is this possible? He wasn't dressed right, he wasn't riding the best bike, and he didn't have the latest computer gadgets on board. How could someone like that ride so well?

This is such an important lesson for us. We often get the idea in our heads that if we just have the right kind of music, the most eloquent speakers, and top of the line technology, we will somehow be a better church. But having all the right "stuff" is not the key to spiritual success. Living the right life is the key. Submission to Jesus Christ in everything. Prayer in everything is the key to being a successful church.

The same is true in our personal lives. We don't have to have all the right "stuff" before we can be effective for the kingdom of God. You don't need a seminary degree. You don't need to know everything about the Bible. You just need to know Jesus. Trust Him, follow Him, and obey His commands.

Stop relying on having the right "stuff". Instead focus on doing the right thing.

June 27, 2007

Love Stretched Out - Part 2

It's one thing to say you love deeply. But how do we do it? What are some ways we can show God's love to those who are most difficult to love?

There are countless ways we can show God's unconditional love to those who need it. But it isn't easy. It doesn't happen naturally. In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable.

Here are a few ideas:
The Unlovable Neighbor - You may have one of those people living next door to you that are just plain weird. They seem to hate you and everything you do. Your grass is too long one week, too short the next. You're kids leave too many toys laying around. You dog leaves...(well, you know) in their yard. The only interaction you want to have with this person is...none!
How do you love someone like this? Offer to cut their grass or wash their car. Invite them over for dinner. Ask them how you can pray for them. You will most likely have to make these offers more than once. And they may never accept. The point is you reached out.

The Unlovable Boss - Is your boss one of those people that seems to enjoy making your life miserable? If so, why not offer to do something nice for them? Offer to pick up their lunch. Offer to go the extra mile by doing some menial task around the office that everyone hates. It doesn't matter so much what you do as how you do it. If you offer to help out in a way you normally wouldn't, with a bad attitude, their will be no love shown. Offer with the best of intentions, expecting nothing in return. You may never know how you impact someone by your kind, unselfish actions.

The Bible doesn't give us a checklist of things to do - it simply tells us to love one another. How are you doing? You probably have shown Christ's love in your own way. I'd love to hear about it. We all need to learn to make loving others a regular part of our daily lives.

Love Stretched Out - Part 1

When's the last time you told someone you loved them, and meant it?

It's easy to tell lovable people we love them. It's advantageous to tell some people we love them. But there are certain individuals that can be rather difficult to love.

1 Peter 1:22 says that Christ followers should "love one another deeply from the heart." Some versions use the word fervently in place of deeply. The idea behind this word is stretched to the limit. Have you ever stretched your love to the limit? Like I said, it's easy to love people who are easy to love.

Sometimes we are forced to work with, live with, interact with people that we can't seem to love. We find it very difficult. The argument usually goes something like this: "I try to love him, but he just doesn't do his part." Or "I'm tired of being the only one who is trying."

When I think about love, God's definition, not our own, I have a hard time accepting those kinds of arguments. Romans 5:8 is a statement of God's definition of love. We didn't deserve it. We weren't lovable. In fact, we were so lost in our own sin that we didn't even know we needed His love. But He loved us anyway.

If that is our example, then there really are no excuses for not loving others. "Love one another deeply from the heart." A love stretched to capacity. A love that we could never give in our own power.

It's one thing to say it, but how do we do it? I have some practical ideas that I'll share next time. In the mean time, what do you think? What are some ways we can show God's love to those who are most difficult to love?

June 25, 2007

Cowbell Challenge

Well, I did it! I managed to 'hang in there' for a pretty amazing and unforgettable mountain bike race. I rode in the Cowbell Challenge. This was a 12 hour mountain bike race on a 10 mile loop. The goal? Complete as many loops as possible in the given time. My goal was 7 loops - I did 6 - I'll explain why later.

I got to the trailhead, along with about 175 other racers, as around 8am. each team set up pit areas, basically tents lined up next to each other in the parking lot. Once everything was set up, we lined up for the 10am start. Then we were off! The first lap was pretty congested. A lot of people were pretty excited, a lot of people took off pretty fast. Most of them would slow down later.
My plan was to stop and refuel (eat, refill water bottles, cool off) after each lap. I spent about 10-15 minutes after the 1st and 2nd laps. After the third lap it was getting pretty hot (about 95?). So I rested for almost 30 minutes - soaking myself with a cold wet rag, drinking water, and eating a delicious can of chicken noodle soup.
My 4th lap I felt horrible. It was hot, I was tired, my stomach was feeling tight - a bit nauseous. The 5th lap was a totally different story. I felt like it was the first time I had gone out all day!
Like I goal for the day was 7 laps (70 miles). I was on schedule to finish as planned. The rule was that you had to be on the course after 9pm in order to get an official finishing time. And no one was allowed to start another lap after 8:59pm. So as long as I timed it right, I would be OK. About 2/3 through the 6th lap, a stick popped up, getting caught between my chain and my rear spokes. This caused the rear derailleur to bend into the spokes as well. I had to stop and assess the damage. I was able to pull the derailleur out of the spokes. None of the spokes were damaged, thankfully. But because of the damage, I could no longer shift into the lower gears - a much needed option considering the hills I had just passed through. I managed to get the bike rideable, and was able to pedal back to the finish line. Unfortunately, there would be no 7th lap for me. The damage had been done.
So I parked my bike just before the finish line, walked around to my pit area and waited until just after 9pm, so that I could cross with an official time.
It was an awesome day! I can't wait to do it again!
I am feeling more confident than ever now as I look forward to my big ride - the Black and Blue Relay, on July 21.

June 18, 2007

Care Bear Band-Aids

I went mountain biking this morning. It was awesome. Until my front wheel got caught in some roots and I went flying over the handlebars. The end of my handlebar caught the inside of my leg, leaving a rather ugly mark.
When I got home, I showed it to my 2 1/2 year old daughter, Kelsey. She looked at it and said: "Daddy, we don't have anymore Hello Kitty band-aids. I used the last one."
I looked at her and said "Oh no! What am I going to do?"
She said "I have some teddy bear band-aids upstairs, you can have one of those."

It's so great to know that my youngest has my back.

June 13, 2007

What's Your Problem?

It never ceases to amaze me how many people all around us are struggling with life issues: relationships, personal habits, insecurities, lack of direction. Every time I meet with someone who is dealing with some issue, feeling hopeless, not sure what to do, and even less sure how they got to where they are, I ask them a series of simple questions.

1) Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

2) Are you spending time with Jesus daily, through Bible study and prayer?

3) Are you in a small group, living life in community with other believers?

4) Are you faithfully attending worship services with other believers?

9 times out of 10, the answer to one or more of these questions is “No.” These are not some magic potion, or a magic series of steps that will automatically make everything in life perfect. These are, however, a series of things that will enhance our ability to cope, to deal with the struggles of this life. Everyone has issues. Everyone has struggles. Hard times bring us all down. Life is hard – for all of us.

But if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if you have chosen to follow Him, having committed your life to him, and if you are spending time with Him daily, reading and studying the Bible, and praying, life will be noticeably different. If you will join a small group of believers, and join in a weekly time of worship with other believers, you will notice a significant change in your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.

I want to challenge you to check yourself in these four areas. Don’t turn it into some sort of check list, thinking that if you check them all off, then you will be fine. But make these things a part of your life, just like eating is a part of your life. We have to breathe, we have to drink, and we have to eat. Without these things life would become quite difficult (and very short). God created us for relationship. We have a God-given need to be in relationships, both with Him and with other people.

Are you struggling? Don’t go it alone. Follow Jesus. Spend time with Him everyday. Join a small group, live in community with others. And don’t give up meeting with other believers.

June 04, 2007

3 Mountain Madness

Some of you have already heard about my personal fitness goal this summer. I plan to ride the Black and Blue Double Century Relay, a 200 mile bike race on July 21. I know, I am a little insane...ok, a lot insane. But I just love to put myself to the test, to see how far I can push myself.
This past weekend I did a ride near Winston-Salem, kindof a warm up ride, to see how things were going. 3 Mountain Madness was a 95 mile ride, with 3 major hill climbs: Sauratown, Hangin Rock, and Pilot Mountain. Total elevation gain - 11,017 ft. It was awesome! I finished in 6 hours 51 minutes. My goal was 7 hours.

May 30, 2007

Red Brick Walls

Last summer, I went to Ethiopia with my family. It was an eye opening experience for all of us. We saw things most Americans can't even imagine. As a part of our preparation, we went through an orientation before we left on our trip. One of the things we were taught was to remember that we would be living in a different cultural context. People who live in different cultures think about certain things differently. One way of doing things is not necessarily better than another, they're just different.

Difficulties arise when we forget we are in a different culture and expect everyone to understand what we are talking about, or why we do things a different way. For example, in Ethiopia people are very relational. It's all about relationships. Family is very important. In fact, family and friends are more important than time. Here in America, we are alway in a hurry to get to our next appointment. If while traveling in a foreign country that is more event oriented than time oriented, we may become frustrated with the people who aren't in as much of a hurry as we are. We have to be aware of our culture, and be willing to change our way of thinking in order to adapt.

The American church has done a terrible job of contextualizing over the past 50 to 100 years. We have thousands of churches all around us. Most of them tend to do things as though the year were 1939. We play hymns on organs. We pray in King James English. We do and say things that make no sense to the culture around us.

What if I went to Africa and expected everyone I spoke to to just understand and convert to my way of living? I would not be very successful in my mission. Very few would be interested in my message. But we have done this very thing with church. We have taken something that was relevant 50 years ago, boxed it into our little brick buildings, and now we sit and wait, hoping someone will be interested enough to come through the doors and join us.

I am not advocating that we change our message! But we MUST change the way we present the message. The gospel is relevant to ALL generations. But the way we present it will not reach the people of this generation if we present it the way it was presented last century.

Trying to bring friends to non-relevant church services is like trying to fly people from other countries to America to teach them 'the right way' to live, as if the way America lives is the right way.

No. We have to change our way of thinking. We have to study and understand our culture. We have to go into the world and get to know people and love them and share Jesus with them in a culturally relevant way (which does not mean watering it down).

Are you culturally relevant? Are you living in the world, or have you isolated yourself behind your red brick church walls?

May 23, 2007

Chosen to Obey

It is simply amazing and mysterious that God chose me and you before the foundation of the earth. He chose us to be like Him, to follow Him, and to obey Him. That’s right, He chose us for the purpose of obedience.

Salvation is a mystery to us. The prophets who first prophesied about the coming Messiah didn’t understand what was going on. The angels even want to know more about what is going on (really…check out 1 Peter 1:12). And we so often take this salvation for granted.

Salvation from our sins, because by our sins we are separated from God our creator, is the most amazing and powerful act of love. God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to live here on the earth. He lived, and died a gruesome, torturous death. But then He overcame death on the third day, rose from the grave, and offered to us the opportunity to experience eternal life with Him.

But that is not the end of the story. While the gift of free life is indeed free, we are commanded to obey as a result. We can’t do any work to earn that gift, but once we receive it our only desire should be to obey the One who freely gives life to us. 1 Peter 1:1-2 says that we were chosen…to obey Jesus Christ. Are you being obedient? What has He asked you to do? Are you doing it? It may be something small or something very big. Either way, remember that you were chosen by God, not only to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, but to obey Him now.

May 15, 2007

A Day at the Lake

Today I went with the rest of the pastors from our church to Cane Creek Park for a time of prayer. It was a beautiful day. We gathered around some picnic tables and listened as Rob laid out for us several of the giants we are facing at Southbrook Church. It is so exciting to hear about all of the opportunities and challenges ahead. He challenged us to go off for an hour and pray individually about these issues. So we did. I walked, read the Bible, and prayed for the next hour. Confessing sin and seeking God's face.

We reconvened and several shared their insights, and how God was speaking to them. Then we headed back into town for lunch.

I love days like today. I love to just get away from the normal routine and pray and read God's Word. It's important. And it is truly amazing to me that God actually hears and responds to our prayers. We know we have a big job to do, but do we have enough faith to move forward? We know there are giants in our path, but can we step up with our little slingshots and nail them in the forehead? The answer is "No!" We can't do it, not alone. We have to have faith. We have to trust God. In and through His power much will be accomplished.

I can't wait to see how God is going to knock down these giants.
That's all for now. If you're dying to know more about who, or what, these giants are, then plan on joining us on the weekends for the next five weeks as Rob leads us through our next series - "Facing the Giants." This is going to be an amazing time here at Southbrook.

May 10, 2007

Let's Party!

It's so hard to believe the day has finally arrived! On Saturday, May 12, I will graduate from seminary! It's taken nearly 12 years, but I've finally made it.

You can come to the graduation located at SES...(10am) or you can just come to the party afterwards (at my house around 1pm).

I would love to have you be a part of the celebration. Anyone is invited. All I ask is that you RSVP so we can plan for you!

May 03, 2007

Feeling Left Behind?

Check this out: The Bible tells us that God said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Isn’t that our biggest fear? That we will be left? That we might be forsaken? Nobody wants to be left alone. Nobody wants to be on the outside looking in. We all want to be a part of something. We all need community.

That community presents itself in many different ways for different people. Starbucks is a great example. People go to Starbucks and pay more for a cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever) than they typically would. Why is that? Yes, the coffee is that much better. But besides that. People love and need to be a part of something. We all want to fit in. No one wants to be left behind.

“But what about those people who say they don’t want to be a part of anything? They are better off alone? They just want to be on the outside?” Sure, there are those who say that, but aren’t they ultimately a part of those who say they don’t want to be a part of community? You can’t avoid it. We all want to be associated with something.

God said He would never leave us or forsake us. So what? Well, think about things you’ve been a part of. Where are those things now? I was a part of a high school graduating class. But I haven’t heard from over half of them since the day we graduated, and there were only 12 of us! I’ve been a part of clubs and organizations. And inevitably, those clubs, organizations, and people leave, they let me down. We go into things with high expectations, and then we get dropped, and wonder what the heck happened.

God said He would never leave you or forsake you. Think about what that really means! If you give yourself fully to be a part of the amazing Kingdom of God by following in the steps of Jesus, loving Him and obeying His commands, you get to be a part of the family of God. And God promises, that no matter what, He will never leave you or forsake you. You can’t do anything that will turn Him away from you. Once you join the family, you’re in! Pretty cool?

I think so. I know I don’t deserve the love of God. Neither do you. I praise God for His promise to never leave me or forsake me.

Have you thanked Him for that recently?

April 30, 2007

Less Than the Best

I was listening to Erwin McManus the other day. He was talking about beauty. Sometimes we recognize beauty, or at least we think we do. Many times, however, I'm afraid we don't recognize true beauty.

After Jesus rose from the grave, the Bible says that as He was walking along the road He approached two men who were walking along the same road. Jesus began to talk to the two men, and they walked and talked until they arrived in the town of Emmaus. They even invited Jesus to have dinner with them, which He did. Jesus took the bread, broke it, prayed over it and began giving it to the two men. Suddenly they recognized Him. They had just spent hours with Jesus, talking about the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem (the crucifixion of the great teacher and prophet, Jesus from Nazareth). They didn't even recognize Him until He revealed Himself to them. Then their eyes were opened to the true beauty of the Savior of the world.

We just got back from an amazing Encounter Retreat. We took 22 people and helped them experience and recognize Jesus in their own lives. They were challenged to recognize the best. They were encouraged to settle for nothing less than the best.

We so often settle for good enough. We get tired of trying and striving, so we give up and hope that we've done a good enough job. I'm not saying we have to be perfect (although we are commanded to try). We are still battling the selfish nature of the flesh. But we should not give up the race! We should not stop and walk if we are running a marathon! We must keep pressing on toward the goal!

Have you trained yourself to settle for and appreciate less than the very best? Have you become so accustomed to settling for less than the best, that you no longer recognize true beauty? Think about your own life. What are the things you are involved in? What do you like to do? Is it the best use of your time? You may say "It's good enough." But is it?

God sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth so that we could enjoy an eternal relationship with Him. Would you recognize His beauty if you saw Him today?

Think about it...

April 27, 2007

Encounter God

I'm off to be a part of a Southbrook Encounter retreat. These retreats are special times for all those involved. Many lives have been affected deeply by attending and being a part of these weekends.

What is it? It's a time to get away from the distractions of everyday life, and put your entire focus on Jesus for about 24 hours. During this time, through different experiences, you have the opportunity to have an encounter with God, who desperately wants to have an encounter with you.

I am looking forward to what God is going to do this weekend. Please pray for the entire Encounter Team, as well as for each of the individuals who are attending, that they would truly have a face to face encounter with God, and that they will never be the same again.

April 24, 2007

Growing in Obedience

I promised the kids that when I finished school, we would get a dog. We went Saturday afternoon and picked out a beautiful little lab mix from the animal shelter. Her name is Abby. Now we get to endure the wonderful phase of house training. Joy.
She's pretty smart, so it's been going pretty well. In fact, she has been a quick learner all around. When she wants to be, anyway.
It kinda reminds me of our relationship with God. We hear God when we want to. When a treat is in hand, we come running. When it's time to stop chewing on that thing we shouldn't be chewing on, we seem to be pretty good at pretending we don't hear God say "No!"
But eventually she will learn. Sure, she'll 'forget' every now and then. She'll mess up, slip up, call it what you want. She will disobey. But as puppies grow into dogs, if they are trained right, they will become obedient and faithful to their masters.
As a child of God, do you find yourself becoming more obedient to God? We all 'mess up' (it's called sin). We all misbehave. But as we progress through life, we should find ourselves becoming more and more obedient and faithful to our Father in heaven.
I'm looking forward to the day when Abby hears my voice and obeys me. Are you listening to and obeying the voice of God?

April 21, 2007

Water Pumps & Yard Work

What do water pumps and yard work have in common? These are the things I 'get' to do now that my school work is completed! You see, for the past several years I have been so focused on finishing up my masters, that I haven't had time to do the things normal car and home owners do. I never thought I would enjoy changing the water pump on a car as much as I did this one. I never realized how much fun yard work can be until now. I am so thankful that my studies are done!

I better wrap this up, I think I hear a home improvement project calling my name...

April 18, 2007

Spring is in the air, and in my backyard!

The other day I walked out into the backyard, and found three birds nests, in three different trees, all with eggs. I showed the robin's nest to my two year old daughter, Kelsey. It was the day after Easter. She saw the eggs and immediately said, "Maybe we can take the eggs and open them and get the candy out!" After I finished laughing, I explained to her that little baby birds would be coming out of those eggs. Then she went on to talk about how she was a baby, and that she came out of an egg one time...does this count as "The Talk?"

A couple of days later as I was cutting the grass, I discovered a rabbit's nest, just three feet from our back porch! We have been watching them grow bigger everyday. It is simply amazing. The mother comes at night and feeds them, and they just sit there huddled together 24/7.

Spring time is the time when things start over. It's the time of year when new life appears in the most unusual places. God can do the same thing in our own lives. He can renew us, give us new life, and teach us to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. As you check out the beauty of spring, remember the Creator who made it all. And let Him change you into a new person today.