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.