When I Survey the Wondrous Cross Visual Journey

Four videos, four Scripture readings and three sermons intended to lead you to the cross of Jesus.  You are welcome to use these as you prepare for Holy Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.


Message:  A Cursed Curse from Galatians 3:10-14. Sermon audio here.


Message:  A Sanctified Sacrifice from Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Sermon audio here.


Message:  A Criminal’s Charge from Matthew 26:57-68. Sermon audio here.


A Scripture reading from Mark 15:33-39.

The Biblical Gentiles Were All Pagans


Drs. Hurtgen, Wigginton, Taylor and myself atop of Mt. Arbel over Galilee, Israel

It was just a passing comment from our tour guide Andy while teaching on Mt. Arbel overlooking the region of Galilee.  As we looked down on the valley floor below, our eyes rested on the fertile fields of west Galilee or the Jewish region.  Then he directed our eyes to east Galilee, on the other side of the lake, where he explained lived a majority of Greek Gentile pagans in the time of Jesus.

One side of the lake was primarily Jewish settlers; the other side was primarily Greek Gentiles or pagans.

He kept saying “pagans,” “pagans,” “pagans.”  And it hit me, all Gentiles were pagan idolaters.  All of them.

Every time the phrase “Gentile” is used in the Old or New Testaments, it is referring to someone who was not monotheistic, but someone who worshiped false gods.  It is meant to describe someone who bowed down in pagan temples, who sacrificed in the name of idols.  Every single time the word is used, it is meant to tell you something specific about the religious practices of that person.  A Gentile is a pagan.  Only the Jews, and later the Christians, were monotheistic in the biblical narratives; every body else was a pagan idol worshiper.

Our American, 21st century understanding of the term “Gentile” is neutered of its biblical meaning.  Today we hear it simply as a non-Jewish person and that’s about it.  We do not attach any additional meaning to the term.  We see the Apostle Paul as sent by God to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles and in our minds those Gentiles were basically non-Jewish unbelievers living in the Ancient Near East.

But they were much more than that.  They were worshipers of others gods, other idols.  They worshiped Greek gods, Roman gods, mythical gods, ancient Egyptian gods.  They worshiped Roman Emperors as gods in human flesh.  They worshiped statues crafted by human hands, images standing in great temples.  They were pagans through and through.

In summary a Gentile in the Bible is a pagan and a pagan in the Bible is a Gentile.  This basic truth has peeled back a layer of blindness from my eyes and uncovered how my postmodern mind has inserted atheism and agnosticism into the world of the Bible.  But those worldviews are simply not there. Either you worshiped the one true God or you worshiped pagan gods.  There was no other option – Jew or Gentile.

This truth may be obvious to everyone else, but it was a breakthrough for me.

When the Tourist Becomes a Pilgrim

Petra, Jordan

Over the past days, I made my second pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan.  I entered the state of Israel for the first time back in 2010 and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2011.  Both earlier trips were huge in shaping my passionate love for Jesus, the Holy Bible and the lands in which God’s presence has dwelled throughout both the Old and New Testament.

Another trip to Turkey and Greece in 2012 set this flame ablaze again as we journeyed through the Book of Acts, into Paul’s letters and to all 7 Churches of the Revelation.  I snapped more pictures on those trips than I could ever look at.

For all three of these journeys I have been primarily a tourist.  There is nothing wrong with being a tourist.  A tourist takes a lot of pictures.  A tourist needs to see the ancient sites with their own human eyes to supply their imagination with visual images and landscapes.

A tourist on these kind of trips is like a baby getting to eat ice cream for the first time – they are not sure what it is, but it is sweet and cold and wonderfully good and they can’t seem to eat it fast enough.  A tourist arrives at one site and is so excited about what they see, they anxiously rush to the next, and to the next, and to the next to keep getting their fix.  I love being a tourist; there is nothing quite like it.

For this trip, however, I was no longer a tourist.  I became a pilgrim.  A pilgrim moves slower.  A pilgrim is calmer.  A pilgrim takes pleasure in seeing the giddiness of the tourist, but doesn’t have to feast at the buffet line of experience.  A pilgrim selects 2 or 3 things and relishes in their goodness, their completeness, at a deeper level.

Mt. Olives, Israel

The pilgrim’s journal is filled to the brim but their camera SD card…not so much.

This time I was a more of a pilgrim and less of a tourist.  And I liked that fact very much.  I moved at a different speed.  I sat down at the sites.   The texture of the trip for me wasn’t like an over-excited, crazy-wild Jack Russell Terrier, it was more like a solemn owl nestled atop of branch overlooking the beautiful forest.

What is a Pilgrim?
P – Pauses often to breathe and truly see.
I – Is in the moment, not the traffic.
L – Lingers in silence.
G – Grateful for pictures that others take because the camera sometimes doesn’t come out.
R – Reads, writes and reflects a lot.
I – Itinerary is not even on the radar.
M – Measures the experience not in days, stops, sites, or miles traveled, but in meaningful encounters with God, with His Word, and with others.

There was a simplicity to the study and depth of the trip.  My eyes were filled but more so my heart.  I love being a tourist, but being a pilgrim in the Holy Land is far more gratifying.  I hope I can continue growing as a pilgrim.

What I’ve Learned About KidMin While On the Road with LifeWay

vbs preview 3

VBS Preview Event in Ridgecrest, NC

For the last several weeks, I have been on the road with LifeWay Kids training VBS leaders from around the country and North America.  We have traveled to North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and will be in Florida this weekend.

There have been VBS leaders from every state in the union including Alaska and Hawaii and from our neighbors in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Once everything is finished, we will have trained nearly 6000 VBS leaders who will in turn train another 70,000+ leaders who will host and lead 3 million boys, girls, teens and adults in VBS this year.  I am overwhelmed by the power of multiplication and the enormous influence VBS has on Kids Ministry around the world.

vbs nashville 1 web

VBS Preview Event in Nashville, TN

Over the last few weeks of ministry, I have learned several important truths about those who lead and serve in Kids Ministry around the nation.

I have learned that…

1.  THEY ARE PASSIONATE.  These servant-leaders are absolutely passionate about their own personal faith in Christ and the work assigned to them by God in serving kids and families.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the next generation know Jesus and grow in Him.  Their passion and vitality is infectious.

2.  THEY ARE HARDWORKING.  These leaders go the extra mile and often do it without any appreciation or recognition.  Without exception, Kids Ministry is the largest people and volunteer network in the church.  It is usually the most demanding with all sorts of different needs among different age groups.  It is usually the most under-funded, yet all the while it is the single most effective evangelistic tool the church has at its disposal.  These leaders get it done week after week, year after year and I applaud them.

3.  Lastly, THEY ARE HUNGRY FOR HELP.  When a KidMin leader attends a training session, they sit on the edge of their seats hungry for any tip, any suggestion, any instruction we can give.  They take page after page of notes.  They listen with their eyes and ears and hearts wide open.  They are starving for anything that will help them lead better.

I have taught similar sessions for pastors, ministers and deacons and I promise you the sessions are not the same.  I am not slamming pastors (goodness, I am one), but the intensity level is not nearly the same as these KidMin leaders.  Pastors tend to generally appreciate the training but all the while are checking their phones, day-dreaming, catching up on some sleep, and running back and forth to the lobby to take a call.  Not so with the KidMin leader.  This is their chance to be equipped and they are in it full on.

My heart and soul goes out to these 6000 VBS leaders.  In the months ahead, they will labor to get volunteers, make preparations, decide about budgets, argue with the church maintenance staff, stay up late, get up early, all to share the love of Christ with kids and families.  We know their labor will not be in vain.

I am simply humbled and honored to be able to meet them, encourage them, and give them a glimmer of hope because I am a VBS salvation.  It still works and will continue to work for generations to come.

How Many Seeds Are In a Pomegranate? – A Spiritual Question for the Produce Aisle

While on our first Holy Land tour of Israel back in 2010, our Jewish tour guide Shimone told us that every pomegranate grown on the face of the earth had exactly 613 seeds.  He explained that if you opened up any pomegranate grown in any part of the world and de-seeded it, you would find exactly 613 seeds.  I didn’t believe him then, but I had no way of proving it.

Now why Shimone believed every pomegranate in the world had 613 seeds is important.  But you are going to have to wait for it.  There is a point, I promise.

So since that trip, I have been on the search for pomegranates.  The only problem is that you can only buy them in KY for about 1 month – from late October through early November.  And if your local grocery store doesn’t have them (which most don’t in Campbellsville), you are out of luck.

pomegranate trays 2

My Pomegranate Experiment

But then yesterday, we were in the Whole Foods Market in Louisville and Jennifer spotted a whole stack of pomegranates.  So I bought one (for $2.50 mind you) to test the hypothesis.

I carefully opened the fruit and removed each and every seed.  Then I organized the seeds into a muffin pan so I could count them accurately.

The result?  The total number did not even come close to 613; instead only a meager 374.  Shimone’s little fib had been proven false.

So what is the point to all this seed-counting business anyway?  According to a Jewish legend (that obviously Shimone believed), the pomegranate is a living reminder of the Laws of God.

Beyond the 10 Commandments we all know from Exodus 20, there are a grand total of 613 laws in what we call the Levitical Laws given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.  These 613 laws govern all of life for the Jewish people.

It is these 613 laws that Jesus came to fulfill (Luke 24:44).  The 613 points us to our absolute inability to be good enough to earn God’s favor (Romans 5:20-21).  There is no one righteous, no not even one (Romans 3:10).  Therefore we need the righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ.  His perfect life given as a sacrifice for our horribly imperfect one.

While the pomegranate may not have 613 seeds, I can assure you it is just as difficult to perfectly obey 374 laws.  Each seed reminds us that we have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

I give God praise because He knew I would fall short and so made a way for me to be stand right before him.  Romans 6:14  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under graceI will never look at a pomegranate the same again.

Fall 2013 Ministry Preview

fall leavesThe fall school year has officially started.  My classes are packed.  I am really excited about this semester and how God is going to work in and through my students.

Along with school, the Lord has been so faithful and kind to opened several opportunities to encourage folks here in KY and around the nation.

Here is a snapshot of the fall ministry plans.

  • Through September – Preaching each Sunday morning at the Hodgenville Christian Church.  Helping out my new friend and pastor Bro. Carlton Puryear as he takes a few weeks off.
  • Sunday, Sept 15 – Leading “The Calling of Every Christian Parent” workshop at Ormsby Heights Baptist Church in Louisville.  Joining my long-time friends Pastor Steve and Michelle McKelvey, who serve on the staff there.
  • Sunday, Sept 22-25 – Preaching the fall revival for Stanford Baptist Church.  I will be joined by some great worship leader friends: Caleb Phelps, Kristina Critcher, CU Sound, and my old friend from Lancaster BC, the one and only Nehemiah Wilkinson.
  • Oct. 8-9 – Jennifer and I will be leading 3 breakout sessions for the LifeWay Christian Resources Kids Ministry Conference in Nashville, TN.  We will be teaching: 1) Teaching Children Contemplatively, 2) The Full Spectrum of Family Ministry Models, and 3) Memory Makers.  This will be our first time to lead together as a couple.
  • Oct. 13, 20 and Nov. 3, 10, 17 – Preaching Sunday mornings at Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.
  • Oct. 27 – Preaching for Campbellsville University Day at Lancaster Baptist Church in Garrard Co.  I can’t wait to visit my dear friends at LBC.  I have missed them greatly over the past year.

And I am getting ready for another huge January, February and March, 2014.

In January and February, I will be joining the LifeWay VBSi Team again at Ridgecrest, Nashville, Fort Worth, and Kissimmee, FL as we train over 6000 VBS leaders from across North America.  I will be preaching during the main worship service and leading a breakout session.

And then in March, I get the great privilege of traveling back to Israel and Jordan for the second time in 5 years as part of the Campbellsville Univ. School of Theology Holy Land Tour.  This time I will be joined by my dad and brother in Christ, Danny Garrison, along with many CU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends.  Space is available, if you are interested in joining us.

I would really covet your prayers for me, Jennifer, the boys, and these opportunities to preach and teach about our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

May 2012 to May 2013 : A Ministry Look-Back

mayEvery May, at the beginning of my summer break, I try to stop and look back over the past year and reflect on the opportunities the Lord has opened for me to do what I love and was called to do.  This particular 12 months has been a little bit of everything.  Ministry opportunities have flowed from all sides.


  • Traveling to Greece, Turkey, and Switzerland with the Apostles & Epistles Tour.  You can’t beat teaching Revelation 1 on the Island of Patmos overlooking John’s cave.  Indescribable.
  • Finishing one interim pastorate at Lancaster Bapt Church and beginning and finishing another at Living Grace Church.
  • Training young pastors for LifeWay’s CentriKid Camps and then being a camp pastor myself for a couple weeks.
  • Preaching in various pulpits around KY like Corinth BC in London, Immanuel, Pioneer, Hopewell and Bruner’s Chapel BC all in Harrodsburg, Simpsonville BC, and First Bapt Clarksville, TN.
  • Leading training workshops for Eubank BC, Beechland BC, Pioneer BC and First Bapt Clarksville.
  • Teaching breakout sessions at ministry conferences – the CU Transformational Church Summit, the KBC Seminary for a Day, and CU Louisville’s Contagious Churches & Leaders.
  • Serving alongside the tireless LifeWay VBSi & Preview Team as a speaker & breakout session leader in 4 cities: Ridgecrest, NC, Fort Worth, TX, Nashville, TN, and Kissimmee, FL.  This opportunity has been one I will never forget.
  • Great times of sharing with my students outside of class like doing the DNow Team training, teaching alongside Jennifer for BCM about relationships, pre-marriage counseling in our home with Chris Price and Anna Step, witnessing Jacob Howard, one of my guys, ordained to the Gospel ministry, and taking a group of 13 to LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville for CU Day at LifeWay.
  • All the while completing two amazing semesters with my students in class after class.  Year 5 was my best in class teaching year so far.

It is simply amazing for me to see what God has done in my life, if I would make myself available to Him and His purposes.  As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and kindness toward me and my family.  This is way more than I could have ever imagined back in 1996 when I surrendered to the call of ministry.  God has taken my 3 loaves and 2 fish and multiplied them time and time again.

Where will God lead from May 2013 to May 2014…who knows?  But wherever He leads, I will follow.

Spring Tour of KBC Churches

rural-church-on-cape-breton-islandFor the past few weeks (and the next few months ahead), I’ve been on a little tour of KY Baptist churches teaching and preaching on youth and children’s ministries and VBS.

A couple Sunday’s ago I had the great honor of being at Hopewell Baptist Church in Harrodsburg with pastor Doug Wesley, a CU alum and now a CU dad, talking about raising up the next generation for Christ.  They had kids running everywhere.  God is working to help them reach children and families in their rural community.

Then onto Eubank Baptist Church in Pulaski Co this past Saturday to spend the morning with pastor Shelby Reynolds, youth pastor James Griffith (CU alum), family pastor Jeremy Johnson and a great group of parents discussing how to disciple our children in Christ.  We had parents from EBC, Beacon Hill BC and Polly Ann BC join us.  Great time together.

Looking ahead a few weeks to April, I get the privilege to spend an evening with the fine people of Hillcrest Baptist Church in downtown Lexington with pastor Tony Hancock and his sweet wife Mrs. Rhonda, the children’s director, sharing about VBS and helping them train their leaders for the upcoming summer.

Then back to Mercer Co. and to Bruner’s Chapel Baptist Church for their spring revival April 21-24.  I will be joined by my dear brothers and fellow CU alums Brandon Carrier, Jason Dunbar, Tim Hervey and Zach Rice of Sola Grace leading the revival.

Finally at the end of April, my wife Jennifer and I doing a family conference for Beechland Baptist Church in Louisville for youth pastor Corey Young, one of my former CU students.  Corey and his wife Jessica are approaching their first year at Beechland and are doing a tremendous job with the students and families.

With all this, I have to mention Seminary for a Day April 13 at Greenwood Baptist Church hosted by the KY Baptist Convention and Campbellsville Univ.  I will be leading a morning session on preaching, which I am really excited about.  It is always a pleasure to be with bi-vocational and part-time pastors encouraging them in their service to the body of Christ.

Ministry opportunity abounds.  God is gracious and kind.

LifeWay VBS Preview & Institutes

It has been a great joy over the past two weekends, and again in the coming two weekends, to be part of the LifeWay VBS Preview team.

As many of you know, I came to faith in Jesus Christ through the ministry of VBS (Vacation Bible School) back in the summer of 1987 in my home church, Lewisport Baptist Church.  Since that time, I have been passionate about this ministry to unbelieving children and families through the Gospel bridge of VBS.

So being invited to speak and teach at these 4 events has been an absolute joy and treasure.  I am praying that my story will inspired thousands of VBS leaders, volunteers and teachers to share the Gospel with unbelieving children this summer.  My hope and prayer is that they will make an extra effort to build a bridge to unbelieving children so that they might have a chance to hear about God’s love for them in Jesus Christ.  My desire is to encourage them to go the next mile and make sure we are not hosting another event for our church-kids, but to truly dig deep and think about the spiritual orphans in their neighborhoods and communities that have no access to the Gospel in their homes.

I am asking God to make this VBS summer a banner year in which more children, teens and families hear the Gospel, possibly for the very first time time.  Say Yes to VBS.

Special thanks to Austin Adamec , our worship leader for the events, for the photo.  From Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.

Travis Ave

Summer 2012 Recap

Riding a hot air balloon on the 4th of July.

When the blog went down in July, I frantically tried to get it back up and running.  And when I finally got the thing going again, I just didn’t have anything interesting to say or post.  So I haven’t.  But now the summer is nearly over, so I thought I would fire some one-liners about life, ministry, parenting, and the culture.

  • The Olympics – Team USA is awesome, but the Chinese are machines. 
  • Living Grace Church – I am 1 month in and am having a very good time.  The health of the church is tremendously better than compared to 3 years ago when I was here before.  That goes in a very large part to the leadership of Pastor Jason Fox.  His steady hand and commitment to biblical health for the church paid off.  I tip my hat to you my friend.  Well done. 
  • Jennifer’s father – Earl – was in the hospital nearly all of July with a serious infection through out his body.  He is home now and we are very thankful.  God spared his life.
  • CentriKid Camp – Getting to be camp pastor of CentriKid camp was way too much fun.  3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders are so sweet and gracious.  They actually paid great attention to the messages each morning and evening, which I didn’t expect.  Organized Mass Chaos (OMC) was pure craziness.
  • Both boys in school – Isaac started 1st grade, Ethan started pre-K.  For 3 hours each morning, not one kid is in our house.  Very strange phenomenon.  I think Jennifer likes the quiet mornings.
  • Chick-Fil-A – Americans can’t spell the name of the store, but they sure do love themselves some Jesus chicken.  The original and the spicy are my favs.
  • Summer movies – Didn’t see anything at all.  Not Batman, not Spiderman, not Brave.  Nothing.  Nada.
  • Books – Great reads this summer mostly from the secular world.  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakaur, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, Theodore Rooseveltan Autobiography, and The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptist by E. Belfort Bax.
  • Downtown Abbey Season 1 – Extraordinary.  Season 2 needs to get on NetFlix asap.
  • Jennifer’s book – The Leaders Guide to “Christian History Made Easy” – was released in July and we got a copy.  I am so happy she beat me to the publishing punch.
  • Greece/Turkey Trip – The May study tour has really helped in preaching and teaching.  I will start my series on the 7 churches of Revelation in September and have tons of video to show.  The dates for Israel/Jordan 2014 are available if you’re interested in traveling with the School of Theology.
  • My sister Crystal got married.  Small, sweet ceremony in a quaint Methodist chapel.  Congrats Sis.
  • Finally Turning 35 – With July came my birthday and officially rolling into the middle-age demographic.  All demographic studies have 21-34 and 35-54 as categories determining young adults and middle adults.  10 years of marriage, 2 kids, a mortgage, a Buick sedan.  Yup, we are middle adults.

Cheers to Summer 2012.  You’ve been a wild one.

Apostles & Epistles Tour of Greece & Turkey

Here is the first installment of pictures from my trip to Turkey & Greece with the CU School of Theology.  More photos and videos are coming.

Winter Ministry Opportunities

With the first winter snow still on the ground, I thought I would give everyone an update of some ministry opportunities for Jennifer and I over the next few months.  God keeps opening doors for us to serve Him in a variety ways throughout His kingdom.

@Campbellsville University.  Of course, I am teaching a full load this time including classes in Leading Small Groups, Children’s Ministry, and Gospel & Postmodernity.  My Small Groups class includes 17 students who will each be leading a small group of their own.  The potential is to see over 100 student discipled in a network of small groups based out of our class.

Jennifer is also teaching Women in Ministry this semester as an adjunct instructor.  She has 22 in her class which is the most this class has ever had.  She gets back to her Ph.D. course work in February.

@KyBaptist Imagine Conference.  February 10-11, I will be one of the key note speakers at the 2nd Imagine Preschool and Children’s Ministry Conference at Parkway Bapt Church in Bardstown.  Last year there was over 500 people in attendance from around the state.

@BCM Valentine’s Service.  Jennifer and I get to share with the Bapt. Campus Ministry students this semester on biblical manhood and womenhood during their V-day worship service.  This will be the first time I’ve been asked to speak to a BCM group since we’ve been back to CU.  Very excited.

@Lowell Avenue Baptist Church.  In March, I will be leading an one-day Bible Study Teacher training event at Lowell Ave. BC, a church here in Campbellsville.  A great church led by Pastor Dave Walters and Assoc. Pastor Trent Creason.

@Lancaster Baptist Church.  I continue serving as the interim pastor of LBC.  We have agreed as a church to walk together in the 90 Day Vision which attempts to make an impact on every generation in Lancaster and Garrard Co. in the next 90 days (Jan. 8 till April 8).  We are praying for over 600 in attendance on Easter weekend, which would be the largest attendance in more than 8 years.  God is able to do abundantly more than we could think or ask (Eph. 3:20).

Finally, in March Jennifer and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary with a special trip.  Our anniversary is actually on April 6, but that is on Good Friday.  Not the best day to travel.  So during spring break, we will take some time to thank God for 10 great years together and rekindle our relationship with a no-kids trip to a warm location.

2012 Thru the Front View Mirror

All leaders want to look forward and see what’s coming on the horizon.  Every year I write 5 to 7 goals for myself in several categories: spiritual, financial, marriage & family, career, personal.  I like to think, envision and dream about the future.  If you don’t have a target, you’ll hit it everytime. 

For 2011, I met 5 of my 7 goals (71.4%).  Not too bad.  Those were:

  1. Spiritual:  Finish Bethany Bapt Church well.
  2. Financial:  Wipe out medical and credit card debt and pay for everyone’s (Jennifer, Isaac and Ethan) school tuition in cash.
  3. Parenting:  Build the boys a tree fort and have a camp out.
  4. Personal:  Get below 170 lbs for the first time since we were married.
  5. Marital:  Determine Jennifer’s career re-entry plan.

I didn’t complete two goals: 1) career – find a publisher for Theology 4 Kids (my book).  I was turned down 3x’s.  Stink!  Or 2) financial – buy a new car in cash.  Both vehicles are still running fine and didn’t need replacing, which I am very thankful for.

So what’s on the horizon for 2012.  Here’s the list. 

  1. Spiritual:  Finish Lancaster Bapt well.  Ending an interim pastorate is like landing a plane on an air craft carrier.  You have to do it perfectly or a lot of people get hurt.  This will be my 4th landing.
  2. Financial:  Knock out a huge chunk of Jennifer’s Ph.D. tuition, maybe the whole thing in one year.  That would means a lot of extra work.  Summer school here I come.
  3. Marital:  Celebrate our 10 year anniversary in a big way.  Can we say Honeymoon 2.0?
  4. Parenting:  Read all the Gospels to my boys.  We are halfway thru the 7 Chronicles of Narnia books and it is going really well.
  5. Career:  Find a publisher and get a contract on the book.  Gotta keep pushing and seeking the right fit for this project.
  6. Personal:  Travel on the Apostles & Epistles Tour to Turkey & Greece.  This will complete my biblical lands cycle (e.g., Israel, Egypt, Rome, Italy, and Jordan).
  7. Personal:  Select a charity and get involved at a higher level.  Preferably something the whole family can volunteer in and support from our community.

What’s your goals for 2012?

2011 from the Rear View Mirror

Usually I dislike reading The Year in Review.  Whether on TV or in magazines, I don’t find myself wanting to read what was hot and what was not.  I prefer setting goals for the upcoming year and moving forward.  But 2011 has been pretty cool for the Garrison family, so I would look back and look ahead.

In January, I spent time in Amman, Jordan teaching teachers which was a great honor.  Jordan has quite a few biblical locations which means plenty of sight-seeing.  It also meant spending some time with a dear friend and brother.

In the winter and early spring, Jennifer got to teach her first two college courses at CU and began the admission process for her Ph.D.  After years of being a full-time stay-at-home mom, we came to terms with her future career plan, once the boys are in school.  She loves teaching and loved the college environment, so doctoral work became her goal.  She got into the Ph.D. program in Family at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In July, I finished being the interim pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Louisville and in August became the interim pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Garrard Co.  God keeps providing ministry opportunities in strategic churches where I can, hopefully, be a blessing in times of transition.

In August, Jennifer started school and everything changed at our house.  Her work demanded an intense regiment of reading, studying, and writing.  Our weekly schedule shifted to include multiple “Boy Conferences.”  This is where mom is in my office (which she calls the chamber of secrets) and we boys entertain ourselves.  I became Boy Conference president in October.  Ethan did a great job as president last year. 

Also in August, I received the Non-Tenured Faculty of the Year award from CU.  I couldn’t believe I won.  These first 3 years have been so amazing.  Additionally, I was placed on the SACS 10 Year Reaffirmation team, which means great job security for the next 4 years.

Finally in August, we also had both of our boys in part-time school.  Isaac as a half-a-day kindergartener and Ethan as a 2-day per week glowworm.  Both at the Campbellsville Christian Church Center for Christian Education.

In September & October, it was all soccer.  We learned Isaac is pretty good and is built for the game – good speed, good accuracy, leadership in competition.  Ethan continues to show great skill and ability in all things athletic.  He will be a force next year.

In December, we celebrate that Isaac has read 150 books so far this year.  He is seeking a new school record of 243.  And Ethan has been on the green light all semester long, which is a miracle in and of itself.  Jennifer has made it through her first full semester in flying colors and will be teaching “Women in Ministry” this Spring at CU.  My interim at Lancaster BC is going very well.  Work at CU could not be any better.

God is faithful.  Serving Him is a joy and honor.  10 years of marriage with hardly no disruption.  Two great kids.  We are blessed beyond measure.

KY Traveler

Over the weekend, in just about 24 hours time, I traveled through 10 KY counties.  I live in Taylor county, but we won’t count that one.

On my way to Richmond, I went through Marion (1), Mercer (2), Boyle (3), Garrard (4) and ended in Madison (5).  Then on Sunday as I was driving to Monticello, I went through Adair (6), Russell (7), Pulaski (8), Wayne (9).  And as I came back home, I decided to take the  country roads home through Clinton (10).

I like cruising the backroads.  I like using a paper map, not a GPS system.  Navigating out in this great state of ours is fun to me.

Summer Ministry Opportunities

I am looking forward to a busy late spring and summer season of teaching and consulting ministry.  I get the honor of working with several new churches and participating in an amazing leaderhship conference.  As always, I am thrilled to be invited and look forward to beginning new relationships with these churches.

May 16-19 – Contagious Churches & Leaders Conference – Campbellsville Univ. Louisville Extension Center, Louisville, KY – I will be presenting a main session on how Millennials are reacting to the cultural shift of postmodernity and how that is radically shaping their worldview.  The main session speakers are Dr. Leonard Sweet, Dr. Steve Ayers, Dr. Kevin Cosby, Dr. Jeff Eaton, and Jon Weece.

May 20-21 – Hope Community Church, Frankfort, KY – Christian Parenting Conference – I will be presenting two seminars for Christian parents and preaching in the Sunday morning worship services. Hope Community is pastored by Dr. Jeff Eaton.

June 6-10 – VBS at Campbellsville Baptist Church – I wouldn’t miss VBS for anything.  I am working with the preschoolers again this year.  I hope I get to do preschool music.  Gives me a reason to jam out on the guitar.

June 11 – Anchor Baptist Church, Richmond, KY – Transformational Church Leadership Summit – I will be leading Anchor through the Transformational Church process. Anchor is pastored by Chris Carroll.

July 24 – Crestwood Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY – Children’s Ministry consultation – I will be presenting a Bible Study Teacher Training workshop and preaching in the Sunday morning worship services. Crestwood is pastored by Dr. Michael Hail.

And I am still the interim pastor at Bethany BC in Louisville.  I believe they are getting closer to a candidate, but I am committed to staying on until they secure a senior pastor.

God is so gracious to use broken vessels to serve others in His name.

Journey to Jordan Reflection 4 – Real Teachers

Real Teachers

Teacher Workshop

Imagine you are a language teacher.  Your students come from all over the world.  Places like Australia, the US, Germany, Holland, England, Latin America, and South Korea.  Their ages range between 17 to 55.  Some have college degrees, others have never studied beyond high school.  Some are single, others are married, others are married with children living at home, and others are empty nesters.

Some have studied and speak numerous foreign languages, for others this is the first language (other than their native tongue) they’ve studied in an academic setting.

Some of your students have chosen to come and study your language on their own freewill; others are being required to do so by their employer and didn’t have a choice in the matter.

No matter the age or experience of the student, every single one of them are living way outside their cultural comfort zone.  They are living in a new place with new norms, new patterns, new customs, and new ways of fitting in.

Now mix one final ingredient in this educational stew:  the language you are teaching is one of the most difficult languages to read, write and speak on the planet. Some say it takes at least 10 years of diligent study to be even close to fluent.

Teacher Workshop

In my humble opinion, this is real teaching. This is higher education at a whole other level.  This is the setting for the teachers I recently worked with.

They are working under extraordinary circumstances and parameters.  Their student base is as diverse as any I have ever witnessed.  But year after year, they pump out graduates who are exceptionally capable at speaking Arabic.  For nearly 60 years, the  program has graduated thousands of students who are ready for continued work and service in the middle east and in the Arabic-speaking world.

They are truly dedicated teachers who make my job look VERY EASY!