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Archive for August, 2012

The other day I was talking with Peter, our upcoming President of Impact at UAlbany, and we started to discuss Psalm 23.  An interesting Psalm and possibly the most famous Psalm.  Just by me typing Psalm 23, you probably have already said “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you (maybe you’d say thou) are with me…”  Upon reflection we both thought of funerals… this psalm can fit well at a funeral.

I asked Peter why he liked it and he gave a few points.  We then went through it line by line.

First though, here is Psalm 23 in it entirety:

1     The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
    he restores my soul. 
He guides me in paths of righteousness 
    for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, 
    for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; 
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

So V1

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Ok so the shepherd makes sure that the sheep have everything they need.  Food.  Water.  Safety.  Similarly, God is our shepherd taking care of us, providing for our needs.  I get stuck on the second part though.  “I shall not be in want”.  You know the 10 commandments?

You SHALL not….

You SHALL not….

You SHALL not….

You SHALL not….

I don’t know about you but I have always read those as ‘You should not.’

So when I read this is Psalm 23:1, I read ‘I should not be in want’.

How well do I do with the 10 commandments?

You shall not commit murder.  Jesus compares murder to anger… well I mess that one up…

You shall not commit Adultery… Jesus compares this action to be the same as thinking about it… have you messed that one up?

You shall not steal… I don’t think all the music on my computer has been paid for… how about you?

So I find myself struggling to follow these ‘Shall Not’s, hopefully you do better.  So I see this ‘Shall Not’ and it seems to be a struggle to follow.  It seems to be a struggle to not be in want, as much as I desire to be content.

Lets go to V2:

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

When I look at this verse the word that sticks out to me is “makes”.

It seems I’d be happy to lay down in this nice green pasture.  The idea the comes to mind is of having a picnic with the family and the dog.  It’d be nice to have the picnic blanket laid out and the family enjoying a lush green area, maybe in some shade on a summer day.  Everyone is relaxing but the dog. The dog wants to run around and do things and sniff things and eat things and probably chase things as well.  I also imagine the dad trying to calm the dog down and get it to relax with the family.  You have to make this dog lie down.

I so much see US in this verse.  How much do we desire to go here and there and be busy all the time.  God helps those who help themselves right? ummm… not really…

God has to make us sit down and relax.  He says to relax, to look around at the beauty that is around you.  Great green fields, calm beautiful water, maybe… maybe a mountain with a jagged rock face in the distance.  That seems like an area I could enjoy, how about you?

The thing is, a dog doesn’t care much about how beautiful an area is when there is something to do…

V3

he restores my soul. 
He guides me in paths of righteousness 
    for his name’s sake. 

Thank God.  We run ourselves ragged and then fall apart, but God will restore our souls.  He guides me.  In all the choices I have to make through the hours, days, weeks, and months, God will help guide me in the path of righteousness.

Why?

For His Name’s sake!

What is in a name?  Today, a name might not mean much, but back then a name carried with it the weight of the person.  So when you spoke of God, it wasn’t a vague idea of a powerful guy in the heavens, it was the God who delivered your people from Egypt.  It was the one who brought water out of a stone, who provided food each day.  It was the one who routed entire armies when your people only had 300 warriors.  So this idea of the name of God is a huge idea!  What could be bigger than the creator of everything!

V4:

Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, 
    for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

wait…um… WHAT?  I thought I was in a nice lush field by calm waters enjoying a picnic… I thought I was walking this path of righteousness by still waters…

‘you are, but that shadow isn’t from the Maple trees’

I see now why I had to be MADE to lie down!

I am in the Valley of the Shadow of Death!  This dangerous place seems so nice!  Sin often seems good at first too…

If I feared no evil, He wouldn’t have to MAKE me lie down, but I’m working on it!  I verbalize my trust because in my heart I trust Him and I want my actions to follow my heart.  If I think back to who God is and what He has done in the past, this trust thing becomes easier.  Ok… your power… your rod and staff, they comfort me.

V5:

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; 
    my cup overflows.

So we’re really doing this?  We are surrounded by people who want nothing but bad for me and you want me to relax and have a meal?

ok.  Trust in the heart.  Check

Trust in action… che… umm…. check…

V6:

Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

This is good news!  Even though I am in a bad spot, goodness and love will be there with me.  No matter what happens, I will be with the Lord!

So what do we learn out of this?

What is a message?

Why can God be trusted?

He doesn’t do this for you.  He does what He does for Him!  For His name’s sake!  What will bring more glory to Him, having you die, or protecting you so much that you can have a feast in front of your enemies?

Even though we are nervous and unsure, we can put our trust in the one who guides us because He can see a better, bigger picture than what we see.  He will guide us through the nice looking valley of the shadow of death and show us where the path of righteousness lies.  All of the people who wish to harm us will not be able to if we keep your trust and our eyes on Him.

And should His better, bigger plan lead to death for you but Life for others, fear not, “I (you) will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

-Zack

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Summer is almost over and as it winds down, the ministry at UAlbany is shifting into high gear!  Classes start in less than 2 weeks and Freshmen start to move in in less than 1 week!

If we take a look at the numbers, there are 4,000 new freshmen coming on to campus this year (and every year!).  On average, 600 of them self identify as born again/evangelical Christians.  Statistics show that 70-80% of Christians who go to college fall away from the faith, that means, of the 600 who consider themselves followers of Jesus, 480 of them will not be in 4 years.  

480 students out of the incoming 600 who identify as Christ Followers will leave Christianity.

That leaves a class of 4,000 students with only 120 Christians.  

How can we make a difference?

As students come to campus, we will have fliers on every entrance and exit of the dorms, by every elevator to read as you are waiting, by all the dinning halls and on each pillar that we can staple a sign on to.  If you are new and you are looking for something to be a part of, we are as visible as we can be!

On Aug 29th we have our first fellowship meeting!  It is going to be superb!  God has been leading in ways that will bring this night together in ways that I couldn’t have hoped to do last year.  The whole night will revolve around “Do you love your neighbor“.  There is a game of the same title, we will look at Luke 10, and it will end with an invitation to NYC on Sept 8th to help serve those in need with a ministry to the homeless and those less fortunate called Hope For The Future.

All of our new friends that we get to know over this first day are invited to join us for a movie night on Friday the 31st!  We will show everyone how to make the trip to the local mall and we plan to see a movie or something.  A good activity that will bond and also give us something to do and relate about afterwards.

The following day, Sept 1st, we have a Welcome Picnic planned!  We head to a local park and play games, walk the trails and feast on BBQ!  With good weather, this is a great time!  With bad weather, we feast inside and watch a movie and play games.  Still good!

As the semester goes on, we have many other things in the works!  We are planning trips through Albany, hikes in Thatcher Park, spelunking, battle ship tour, apple picking and laser tag!

Also sprinkled through the semester are outreach programs of all sizes.  I would like to highlight a few of the bigger events we have planned!

Starting back in the spring of 2011, we held a series of talks on intellectual topics in Christianity. We called it our March Monday Meetings! We had special speakers come in and speak on topics in which they were knowledgeable.

We had a muslim physics professor speak on Creation and how his study of physics has made him believe in it more.

We connected with a nationwide group Reasons to Believe and their local branch here in Albany and they came out to discuss Stephen Hawkings book “The Grand Design”.

We hosted discussion on multiple topics:

Judaism&Christianity,

Islam&Christianity,

depression&suicide,

and ended by bringing in a nation wide speaker, tv host, radio host, and author named Dr. Frank Turek.  Dr. Turek has a presentation called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  In this discussion (with an open Q&A at the end) he covers 4 points in two nights.  Does Truth Exist?  Does God Exist?  Are Miracles Possible?  Is the New Testament reliable?

All of these have been great events with the biggest number of people showing up for Dr. Turek’s talk (107 people)

These discussion from 2 school years ago continued this past year.  We brought back a few of the bigger draw speakers.  Frank spoke again this past April for two nights and 163 people showed up to hear his message.  From that night, we made a connection with a Jewish group on campus, Aish Torah.

In the coming year, we will join with them in bringing back Dr. Frank Turek to once again present “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” on the campus.   

Something new that we are planning is to bring a concert to the campus!!!  I am really excited about this one!

 We have contacted the band SANCTUS REAL about coming to UAlbany and playing a concert on the big field in front of the campus, Collins Circle.

     I remember during my Junior year at UAlbany, I remember being on the 18th floor of the Colonial tower and hearing a band playing on Collins Circle, it was all a buzz on AIM (who remembers AIM? This was before Facebook!!!).

WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY TO BRING A CHRISTIAN BAND TO THE CAMPUS TO PLAY AND PREACH WHERE YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO ESCAPE THE MESSAGE!

Like all of these events, we want this to be free and open to the college and the community!  God is opening up so much to make this possible.  We have made contacts at multiple Christian radio stations who put on concerts, I have been told of a Christian Concert Promoter in the area that I will get in contact with and I have recently been a part of a prayer meeting with a group of pastors who want to make a difference on the campus!

Wow!

I sit back and look at all of these things that are coming together and this concert looks to be very much doable as long as people are faithful to their callings!

     Finally, we are looking to partner with other groups on campus to bring in this next discussion.  One of our leaders for next year, Shelly, is also going to be the president of another group, Heart of Justice.  Heart of Justice is a student group that partners with the world wide organization Love 146 to fight human trafficking with a focus on child sex slavery.

Working with HOJ and some Greek Houses that support the same cause, we hope to bring in Pastor Craig Gross from the XXXChurch and Ron Jeremy, Adult Film Star in a discussion called the Great Porn Debate.

They will be debating pros (Jeremy)  and cons (Gross) of the pornography business.  This is a great opportunity to draw people in who might want to see Ron Jeremy and give them this other side of the issue.

     These are the big events that are being put on by a handful (hopefully more) of students.  Please be praying how you can join and help!

We have big dreams to make a big impact for a big God!

-Zack

*Impact Event
Psychiatric Term;
-An event or time in one’s life that had such an affect that it can be recalled clearly at a moments notice.
i.e. 9/11/2001, 11/22/1963

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