Bethany Beyond the Jordan


I bet you never envisioned the Jordan River to look like a KY backwoods creek.  Well here it is in living color.  Plus a reading from John 1 about a voice crying out in the wilderness.  This is wilderness my friends.

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.

Biography Biography Biography (and Star Wars) – Summer Reading List 2013

Here is my 2013 summer reading list.  It was mostly biographies this summer.  I love reading real stories of real people.  Some are relatively recent biographies, others are from times long ago.  We took an extended vacation so I had a bit more reading time on my hands.  Plus I now use Kentucky Libraries Unlimited which allows for downloads straight to my Kindle.  I highly recommend it.

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney – Very interesting read about the professional game of golf, which I love to watch but don’t really know much about technically-speaking.  I learned more about the golf swing that I will never ever have.  It was also interesting to learn about the corporate machine that is Tiger Woods.

Polar Crusader: A Life of Sir James Wordie by Michael Smith – A great polar tale of adventure and adversity.  I read this book while sitting at the pool.  I prefer warm climates over freezing cold.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich – I saw the movie a while back but the book really dives more into the nature of corporate life and how a single idea can change the world.

Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Rosen – Fascinating story of transformation through Christ and a willingness to do Gospel ministry in very difficult places.  Encouraging to my soul.

C. S. Lewis – A Life by Alister McGrath – I have been a Lewis fan for years.  This bio really helped me put his life into context with this writing and scholarship.  Great book about a hero of mine.

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart – This was a very intriguing look at the political and societal happenings leading up to the American Civil War.  I was particularly interested in how you market social change through media, publications and civil protest.  I was surprised to learn I really didn’t know much of what was happening before Abraham Lincoln was president or how our country plunged into bloody war.

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda – I love the Middle East and love to read stories of how the Middle East became the Middle East during the British colonial period.  Sir T. E. Lawrence is a legend since his movie, but his real life is just as fascinating.  He was a scholar, a military hero, an adventurer, and an archeologist all wrapped up into one.  Like Indiana Jones.

Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady – Just like golf, I know how to play chess, but after reading this book, I now know I have no idea how to really play chess.  This book is really about compulsive obsession and complete devotion to a single thing.  It made me feel lazy and distracted.

Decision Points by George W. Bush – I have always admired G. Dub.  Reading his memoir is like listening to him give a speech.  Informed, natural, and completely likeable.

And to scratch my fiction itch.

Heir to the Empire: Star Wars (The Thrawn Trilogy): Star Wars, Volume I by Timothy Zahn – This was my beach read.  I am trying to get prepared for the new movies coming in 2015.  They probably won’t use this story line, but it was nice to get back into the universe that is Star Wars.

Life of Christ Q and A

I am really excited about a new project I am working on called CU 100 Chapel Online.  Basically at Campbellsville Univ. we needed a method to help our fully online students with chapel.  All of our undergraduate students are required to get 48 chapel credits during their 4 years with us.  But as our fully online undergraduate programs have grow, we recognized this group was missing this very important part of their Christian college experience.

So a group of us were tasked with figuring out a possible solution for them.  We are building a website that will have multiple functions, including video of all our on-campus chapel services, plus virtual Bible studies, video curriculum, and a prayer room.

One of the parts I am most excited about is the Life of Christ Q and A section.  I will be creating and posting 20 small (3-4 minute) videos of me teaching through the person and work of Jesus.  Here is the listing of videos.

1.  The Preexisting Christ – In him and through him all things were made.
2.  God the Son – Three in one.
3.  Messiah Foretold – Over 200 Old Testament prophecies pointed to him alone.
4.  Born of a Virgin – Born of woman, but not of man.
5.  Lineage of David – A king whose kingdom shall never end.
6.  A Man from Nazareth – A carpenter living in a small, out of the way town.
7.  Introduced by John – Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
8.  Tempted in the Wilderness – Tempted by Satan himself, yet was without sin.
9.  Preacher & Teacher with Authority – He speaks as one with authority, not like the teachers and scribes of the Law.
10. Miracle Worker – Power over creation.
11. Forgiver of Sins – Power over sin and evil.
12. Disciples Maker – From now on, you will be fishers of men.
13. Cross Bearer I – Why a cross?
14. Cross Bearer II – Why in Jerusalem?
15. Cross Bearer III – Why a criminal’s death?
16. The Suffering Servant – He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.
17. The Atonement for Sin – The veil is lifted; the scape goat has been killed.
18. The Resurrected One – He is not here, He is alive just as he said he would be.
19. Commissioner of Disciples – The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
20. Promise Keeper – We shall see him face to face.

If you think there is something I should exchange or reconsider, I would love to hear from you.  Imagine the audience as a person with little or no information about Jesus, hearing for the first time who Jesus was and what he came to accomplish.  We want to be thorough, but clear and concise.

I would love any feedback if you have a suggestion.  Once the videos are completed, I will post the links for anyone to watch on this site as well as the CU 100 Chapel Online.

Decision Making and the SBC Related School

Denominationally affiliated colleges and universities are slightly different than secular, state-owned colleges and universities when it comes to the distribution of campus power and the process of decision making.

The following graphics are from my Ed.D. dissertation entitled Models of Academic Governance in Southern Baptist Related Colleges and Universities (2009) which shows in rank order who holds the most and least power within SBC-related versus secular, state-owned institutions.

For SBC-related schools…

power holders

For state-owned institutions…

power 2

Three key observations:

1.  SBC-related schools have denominational leaders, which are obviously not present in secular, state-owned institutions.  Denominational leaders are in the middle of the pack in institutional power and decision making.

2.  Legislators and federal/state governments are at the bottom of SBC-related schools, but are obviously much more involved in the secular, state-owned institutions.  This makes perfect since state funding and accountability are directly routed to state-owned universities.

3.  The president and trustees/governors/regents are always at the top in both categories.  The non-administrative faculty are in the middle for both categories.

Conclusions:

The conclusion of my dissertation is that with a slight exception here and there, SBC-related colleges and universities follow very similar decision making paths as secular, state-owned institutions.  There is not much deviation between the two rank orders.   I contend that this makes perfect, tangible sense because of regional accreditation issues, federal regulations for all degree conferring institutions, and the need to be competitive in the higher education market, which is full of all sorts of players – public, private, for-profit, non-profit, online, international.

However, I do believe and can confirm from personal experience, that SBC-related institutions are unique in wanting to balance the influence and partnership with denominational leaders.  The connection between churches and SBC-related schools is a needed relationship.

As there is diversity within SBC churches and their individual relationships with the state and national denomination groups with some closer, some further away, so goes the SBC-related college and university, some closer, some further away.  The reason for the variance is the same as with the churches – leadership, history, future vision, priorities, and frankly investment dollars.

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.

InGen Photo Shoot

Thanks to CU Communications Office for taking this photo shoot of my Intergenerational Ministries course.  These are some of my best students in one of the best classes ever.

Caleb & Brad

Chelsi & Austin, Kristen & Chance, Me & Nathan

 

Darryn, Warren, Me & Chad

 
  

Caleb, Holly D, Brandon, Nathan, etal

 

Anna, Holly D, Michael, Caleb

   

Instructions for the Class

 

Austin, Warren, Darryn, Chad, Brandon T, Brad, Sarah, David, Brandon B, Brad N

  
 

Chad, Brad T, David, Brandon B, Brad N

  

Chelsi, Kristen, Anna, Mendi

 

InGen from the Backrow

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?

Is Postmodernity the Cause of the Young, Restless & Reformed Movement?

I think I am on to something here.  This idea has probably been written about by numerous authors and theologians in years past, but truthfully, I’ve not heard anyone say this exactly.  Here is my hunch. 

I believe the full embrace of postmodernity (or POMO) by the larger American Evangelical church over the past 40 years is a significant contributor to the re-emergence of reformed theology, especially among younger Christians.  There it is friends, my ity-bity contribution to the theological and cultural conversation of our time.  Let me further explain.

Postmodernity, in its American iteration, has several core convictions.  One, there is no absolute truth from religion, science, empircal evidence, period.  Two, there are no perfectly moral right or wrongs which every person must live by.  Third, no person can push their view of morality on any other person.  That would be intolerant which is the unpardonable sin for postmoderns.  And fourth, all religious expressions are equally valid even the choice to have NO religious expression at all. 

If you consider carefully the 4 basic POMO convictions, you can easily see where this worldview left an enormous void.  The void of definitive truth.  My thought is this void has been filled predominately by the re-emergence of reformed theology, especially among younger Christian who swoon over the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YYR’s) movement.  YYR’s  are demanding a hard look at Evangelical Christianity and are pushing for a radical pendulum shift. 

Unlike any previous Evangelical movement over the past 40 years (including the Billy Graham Crusades, the Jesus Hippies, the Mega-Church phenomenon, the Moral Majority, the Prosperity Gospel, or the Emergent Church), YYR’s are more biblical, more theological, more hostile toward vagueness, more passionate about the exclusivity of Christ, and are entirely intolerant of any biblical Christianity that is wishy-washy.  They want black and white period; reject all hints of greyness.

It is my contention that POMO created this vacuum.  POMO shifted our culture toward an extremely hyper-passive, morally confused haze that reformed theology (especially Neo-Calvinism) is diabolically opposed to.  YYR’s celebrates declarative theology and has a no-holds barred view on truth.  The movement has little room for debate and forces each individual to take a side: either you’re in or you’re out.  There is no room for POMO tolerance, indecisiveness and perennial ambiguity.  Get on the train or be left behind.

So here is my hypothesis:  Without postmodernity, there would not have been the renewed interest in reformed theology.  With postmodernity now in full bloom, reformed theology will be around for quite some time.

Millennials on Online Relationships

While driving back from Catalyst 2010, I took the opportunity to quiz the students I was traveling with on how they view online relationships & cell phone etiquette.  What’s legal and what’s rude.  Here is a sampling of their responses.

1.  First interaction online (thru Facebook or Chat) does not equal a real first interaction.  If they saw each other the next day, they would still feel awkward as if they were interacting for the very first time. 

2.  They will share more about themselves online than face-to-face, only because its private and behind closed doors.  However, you are not allowed to bring up what they posted online unless you were there with them.  That is an invasion of privacy.

3.  Cell phones – You can take a call from a friend while with others in public, but they expect you to leave the table. If someone is on a call in a group setting everyone else will get quiet.  They don’t want to interrupt your call.

4.  Text messages – They are legal at all times to take.  But not legal at all times to respond.  When Millennials are in a group setting where folks are facing each other (like in a circle), they don’t want to look like a text addict (on the CrackBerry), so they will take the text, but wait till afterwards to respond. 

However, when they are in an academic class setting (my world) with everyone facing forward, everything is legal because there isn’t any peer pressure from other Millennials.  In church, receiving and sending is totally legal, especially during the preaching.  At work, all is legal as long as your boss isn’t looking.

5.  Ear Buds & iPods – One bud in the ear is legal all the time.  Both buds are considered rude when in a conversation with someone.  However, both buds in are an indication that they don’t want to be bothered.  It is a sign to others, I’m not open for business.  Come back tomorrow.

6.  Finally, they love their online personalities but they still want personal interaction.  Girls don’t like to be asked out online.  That’s icky.  They also don’t want to receive a thank you through a text, they want something personal.

FUN FACT:  One side note I learned is that Millennial girls will send a “mistaken” text message to a guy they are interested in.  They will say they were trying to send the text to a girlfriend, but “whoops” it went to the guy.  Something like “Oh, he’s hot” or “I’d wish he’d ask me out.”  So the guy will get the text message and know the girl is interested.  And they will just play it off as if they don’t know what happened.  “I just got this phone. I must’ve hit the wrong button.”

It appears new courtship rules apply in the digital age.

Mid-Year Reading List

Here are the books that have been filling my head so far in 2010.  A wide range of topics and themes.

  • The Wired Church by Len Wilson
  • SimChurch by Douglas Estes
  • The Trouble with “Truth Through Personality” by my dear friend Chuck Fuller
  • The Son of Hamas by Mosab Yousef
  • Raising Dad by Thom and Art Rainer
  • A Short Life of Jonathon Edwards by George Marsden
  • Experiencing the Resurrection by Henry & Melvin Blackaby
  • Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper
  • The End of Christianity by William Dembski
  • Steering Through Chaos by Scott Wilson
  • Jonathan Edwards by Perry Miller
  • God Among the Shakers by Suzanne Skees
  • Perspectives on Family Ministry by Timothy Paul Jones
  • Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation by Michael Anthony

Next on my reading plate are:

  • Radical by David Platt
  • Jesus on Leadership by Gene Wilkes
  • Untamed by Alan Hirsch
  • Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer
  • Generation Me by Jean Twenge

Summer 2010 Reading List – P.S.Q.

P.S.Q. Puritans. Shakers. Quakers. My summer 2010 reading list will focus around the early colonial religious groups known as Puritans, Shakers, and Quakers. We’re headin’ back in time to when it all began here in the New World.

As for the Puritans, I am going to continue my study of the life and times of Jonathan Edwards.  I read a short biography of Edwards during my Israel trip and it sparked much interest in the subject.  This summer I am tackling a larger biography written by Perry Miller (1949).

As for the Shakers, I am reading a contemporary history written by Suzanne Skees entitled “God Among the Shakers” (1998).   Skees went and lived with the last remaining Shakers in Maine and has written both a history and a first-person account of their religious views and practices.

As for the Quakers, I am still looking for the book I will read on them.  If you have any suggestions, send them my why.

As for the WHY?  Why spend your summer reading histories about early American colonialism and the spiritual climate of that time.  Well…the short answer is that I want to remain a life-long learner and I love to read.

Secondly,  I know very little about this time period and feel like I might benefit from a historical journey.  I am hoping to learn a lot about our present spiritual climate when studying our past.  Going to the beginning of our American spiritual experience might shed light in our postmodern present age.

We shall see.  Or maybe I should say, “If God has preordained it.”

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