Knowledge of God can come from various places. Sometimes it comes from parents who have committed to raise their kids in a Christian home or from a life-long friend who has always been there for us. However, head knowledge does not save us. Transformation by the Gospel of Jesus leading to total surrender saves us and gives us a new heart and identity.
Shaken to the Core
Brandon Blair was one of those people surrounded by Gospel truths his entire life. His dad was a pastor in Angier, North Carolina, and his childhood was filled with hearing his dad deliver sermon after sermon. Looking back on this time, Brandon admits, “I knew a lot about the Lord, but I was living for the world.”
Fast forward to the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001. This event shook Brandon to his core. It moved him so much he couldn’t stand still and decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Brandon had never considered the military before the events of that fateful September day.
“I knew a lot about the Lord, but I was living for the world.”
It took Brandon a little longer than expected to get into the Marines because other individuals with prior military experience had decided to reenlist. In 2003, Brandon left for boot camp in Paris Island, South Carolina. When he arrived, he was given a gift—a Testament from The Gideons. Brandon did more than pack his new copy of God’s Word. “On many nights, I read the pages of that Scripture when soldiers were given time to read or write letters. The Scriptures brought me a lot of peace,” he remembers.
Out of the Pit
Brandon ended up serving in two full-time combat tours. On his last tour in 2006, as soldiers were getting on the bus, he was again handed a Testament from The Gideons, and he placed it in his left chest pocket.
War is brutal in many regards. The environments are often challenging, and one never knows what may take place. In August 2006, Brandon was shot by a sniper. He took it to the chest and didn’t know if he was going to live or die. “I begged the Lord to spare my life,” recalls Brandon. He said this knowing his injury was severe. He eventually arrived at the hospital and, to his surprise, realized he had suffered no internal bleeding from the gunshot wound. It was a miracle. At the time of his injury, he was in a mobile unit with armed vehicles outside the wire. They didn’t have a base to come back to at the end of the day. The only time soldiers would come in was because of injury or if a roadside bomb hit them.
Brandon continued to receive medical treatment. A friend from Tennessee came to visit him. Just a week after the visit, the friend, too, was shot by a sniper and passed away. The reality of war had just gotten personal for Brandon. Looking back, he said, “This was an extremely low point for me. My friend was just 19 years old and engaged to be married. I asked the Lord, ‘Why not me, Lord? Why did you take him and not me?’”
After his friend’s death, Brandon was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by four walls. He had no television to watch and no phone to call people back home. Then he remembered the Testament in his left pocket and wondered if it was still there or if someone had removed it. The Testament was still there. Brandon found the book of Psalms and read about a time when David was at a low point in his life. He read the words from Psalm 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Brandon had heard Bible verses his entire life, but this time it was different. God brought Brandon out of his own pit and changed his life in an instant. He asked God to forgive his sins and accepted forgiveness through salvation in Jesus Christ. “I told God I would serve him from that day forward. Before I was shot, spiritually, it was all head knowledge. After I was shot, it was true surrender—I was all in for the Lord,” says Brandon.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”
A new Heart
In 2007, he was honorably discharged from the military. Remembering his promise to the Lord, he felt called to serve in ministry. He enrolled at what is now Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and then went on to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has been serving in ministry ever since, beginning full-time ministry in 2008.
Youth ministry was the first area of service for Brandon. One evening, while speaking at a youth event, Brandon met a photographer named Tristan. They soon began to date and married in 2009. Today, they have three adopted kids.
Brandon served as a youth pastor for 11 years. In 2019, God moved the Blair family to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Brandon is now the senior pastor of Loveland Baptist Church. For 13 years now, he has faithfully taught the Word of God that changed his life while lying in a military hospital bed. “The Word of God changed my life; just the Word was enough. I often say, ‘The military gave me a purple heart, but God gave me a new heart.’” Pastor Brandon also has a great appreciation for the ministry of The Gideons International. “I may never know the Gideon that made the Testament available, but I do know his reward is in Heaven. That Scripture changed my life forever. I love The Gideons and their mission and encourage them to keep pursuing all God has for them.” An accessible copy of God’s Word allowed Brandon to move from head knowledge to heart transformation. This is the power of Scripture and the message of Jesus Christ.