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(This post is to give you a feel of what a retreat with Impact is like)

 

… Nov 6-8 2015…Retreat Weekend…Impact Christian Fellowship…At the base of Hunter Mountain in the Catskills…

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At the overlook of the North South Lake campgrounds.  Back row from left to right: Sarah, James, Carlton, Lynn, Kevin, Nick, Zack, Charles, Kevin, Chris.  Front row from left to right: Simone, Taylor, Steph, Jon.

 

 

 

On Friday, as 14 students and myself packed clothes into suitcases and suitcases in to cars and ourselves around the suitcases in said packed cars, Impact headed on retreat!  Our months of lessons are culminating in a weekend of holistic teaching that includes the community, mind, and body!

We are leaving the class room behind, and going into the woods to see what it looks like to walk a literal path, and how that will teach us how easy it is to stray from God’s path.

We started months ago talking Genesis 1, then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We talked about the specific land God is giving them, and their role they are to play, “I will bless you so that you may be a blessing.”  God has put His people in a specific location to bless the people that will pass through the crossroads of the earth, the land of Israel.

God wants to bless not only Isreal, but all of Usreal (“Usreal” Can I trademark that?)

Why does this God want to take care of us so much?  All other gods want to be served, but this god comes to serve?

Friday night: Lesson 1: How Does God see us?

In Exodus, God shows His love for us in a wedding (starting in Genesis 15 actually).  He brings His beloved out of Egypt and takes them to Sinai where the middle eastern reader sees all the aspects of a marriage.  A cleansing in the Red Sea, a covering of smoke, an exchange of vows, and a desert honeymoon.  God loves His bride, us.  We need to know this.  Our God isn’t in some far off place, judging, waiting, and scheming, but instead desires to be as close to us as a husband is to his wife.  God desires to take his bride and put her in the center of the world, for all to see, for she will represent Him to all people.

Saturday morning: Lesson 2: What is our response?  It isn’t good.

Hosea is a prophet, the voice of God to His people.  What is the message that Hosea is told to give to the people of Israel?  Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.This is verse 2 of chapter 1.  Straight to it.

How does God see us?  As His beloved!  How do we see Him?  Not well.  Hosea describes how we have turned from God:

(She is referring to the people of Isreal)

She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
    who give me my food and my water,
    my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’
Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

The Lord provides for us, and we turn and say others have.  He gives grain and wine.  He gives us gold that we use for worship of Baal…

Don’t fret, for the prophets also bring something else, they bring hope.

Hosea 14:9:

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.

Saturday Afternoon: Lesson 3: Into The Woods!

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Into the woods!

“The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” 

This lesson is the favorite lesson of many people.  Every aspect teaches.  We went to a local park and quickly left the road for a trail along the lake.  Our lake side hike is a lesson in what it means to follow and how to show the people who come behind you the path.

Know this, a rabbi only allows you to follow him if he believes you can walk as he walks, that you can understand the Torah and live it as he lives it.

“Come follow me as we go into the woods, walk as I walk.”

Already the message is tangible.  The line forms behind me as I am already being engulfed in trees and the people in the rear begin to rely on the people in front of them to know where to go.

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A great place for a lesson! 

After a couple minutes, I step up and over a boulder instead of the easy path around it.  How well are we willing to follow?  The next person steps on the boulder… so does the 3rd… the fourth doesn’t… nor the fifth ,sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth… until the fourteenth.  He accidentally finds the path as he steps up on the bedrock for a better photo.

How can we expect others to know the path that God desires for us if we ourselves aren’t looking for it?  If we don’t walk it and model it to others, what hope will they have?  With luck, they might stumble across it, but we could all have walked it if we followed the one who goes before us.

(Such a good day)

The hike is full of these lessons.

People like to go ahead of the leader, or walk next to him, or not even be close.  Some like to follow right behind and see everything that is going on, others hang back to help the group traverse creeks without falling in.

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Zack performing his best John the Baptist in 45 degree water

We ended at a lake where we heard the call of John the Baptist to turn from our way, a way that is different than God’s and to turn back and return to the path of righteousness.

Sunday Morning: Lesson 4:  As you are going…

(some back story for the reader:  Our weekly studies have focused on who God’s people are: hospitable, caring, forgiving people, who are to put him on display to the world. We have focused on where God has put his people: Israel, the center between two major cities.  Israel is located in the route people would take from Egypt to Asia.  If God wants his people to be a blessing to the world and the world passes through this area every day, this is the perfect location.)

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I love that we see early on, the job of the God fearer is to be other focused.  We see that for, I think literally, every story.  We see that for Abraham, we see that given by Moses in Deuteronomy, from an Israeli slave girl in Kings, and the church in Acts.  We see that God has put His people in a location to be a blessing, not sometime in the future, but now, right now.   Consistently we fall short.  Continually we turn away.  God is always calling us back to Him, because He loves His bride.

We might lose the path, but if we will come back, and focus on the One who goes before us, and fall in line with a Paul who is asking us to follow him and he follows Christ, there will be more rejoicing in Heaven than many people who never fall away and choose to return.

 

We have been placed here in the world.  The students are at UAlbany.  I am in Latham, you are ___________.  They are students, I am a campus minister, you are a ___________.  God has placed in where we are to be a blessing.  He has placed us where we are to walk His path, and talk about His ways, and in that we will reach the world around.

 

Where do we have more influence than where God has placed us and given us influence, friends, and family? With strangers?

As I look at our closing scripture for the retreat, Matthew 28:19-20, I am reminded that God’s call is the same from the beginning.

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

I heard a smarter man than me say we could also translate this “As you are going, make disciples…”

The call has never been to go.  The call has always been as you are going, follow God.  If you lose the path, come back, for He loves unconditionally.

As you are going, follow Him, sing His praises, following the one who goes before you, and teaching others to do the same.

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     Yesterday was our first meeting of the school year!  What at first meeting it was!  Our planned lesson spoke about giving to God what is God’s.  If Caesar’s belongings are his because his image is on it, then we are God’s because we are made in His image!  “Will you give yourself to God this semester for His purpose?”

Even better was the unplanned lesson that God had for us!

It started in the God Watch part of our meeting.  What’s a God Watch?  It is a time to share how you see God moving in your life.  It can be answered prayer, and incident that only God can do. It can be seeing God’s perfect timing or seeing how God has lined things up in your life!
Shelly, our new President of Impact at UAlbany, shared how she had said something hurtful to someone 2-3 years ago and it has been on her heart to make amends with them.  The temptation to send a Facebook message was there, but she wanted to speak face to face.  Yesterday, they crossed paths.  The other girl tried to cover her face and remain hidden in the crowd, but Shelly saw her and made the effort to speak with her.  Small talk ensued, and Shelly brought it around to apologizing for her words, and that she never meant it in a way that would hurt like it did.  Her friend had been carrying this hurt for years, and through seeking forgiveness, the burden was lifted from both Shelly and her friend.
This God watch of saying how God lined this up to happen and that Shelly’s heart was ready to apologize and this person was there to accept it opened up another person to talk about a relationship they reconciled.
And another.

And another.

The theme of broken relationships came up.

Something we can all relate to.  There always seems like there will be more time to fix a relationship.  There is always tomorrow or next week, or next time, or year.  What was shared, was that there isn’t always tomorrow.  People move out of our lives and the chance is gone.  People pass away and we are left with a sadness that we never repaired that relationship or built it to what we thought it should be.  It was a great night and an unexpected lesson.  In a group where most people don’t know each other, these people were opening up faults and being honest and sharing what forgiveness really looks like in their lives.
It was a good day to be on campus!
-Zack

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This coming Wednesday is the first move in day for UAlbany!!!

The Summer is almost officially over!!!

Right now, across the region, state, country, and world, people are packing suitcases, boxes, minivans, and stomachs for what is going to be their first time at UAlbany!

What will my roommate be like?

What if classes are too hard?

When is all that construction going to be done?

What will my new life look like with all new people surrounding me?

This Wednesday, the beginning of a new chapter of life will be starting for the freshman who are moving into the tower!  This first day, only the freshman towers are open, and this year there is only one, since the Mohawk tower is under construction (a 2 year complete gut and remodel).  On Thursday, Thousands of other freshman make it to campus and on Friday EVERYONE ELSE!!!

The calm summer is about to be replaced by confused students, lost, looking for classes and figuring out new friendships.

Among all of this IMPACT CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP is starting back up!

Every Wednesday that classes are in session, we hold our weekly meetings of fellowship, food, and scripture.

I know I am looking forward to it and hearing the response of our student leaders, I am excited for what God can do with a willing heart!

If you are a student:

Join us on August 28th at 8:08pm in the Campus Center Room 375!

If you are not a student email us to see how you can get involved:

getinvolved@impactalbany.com

EVERYONE: LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE:

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/IMPACTALBANY

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Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 1.32.52 PMGod is good!  I spoke with a guy named Shaul, a volunteer that works with me at UAlbany, and he said that God was giving him the idea that whatever will happen this semester will be done by the STUDENTS, not by us.  We will be there to help and direct, but they will step up!  Two Days before, I received a text from Kevin, one of our student leaders, telling me that God has been teaching him and pressing something on his heart that he wants to share with the group!  Immediately you can see part of God’s plan coming together!

He led us through Ephesians 5 on the tough topic of relationships, “wives, submit to your husbands…”

KEVIN KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK!  

He spoke for around 35 minutes and covered not only the wives submitting part, but went on to talk about the rest of the chapter where it points out the job of the husband!  The husband should live as Christ lived and when he does that, submitting shouldn’t be a problem!  It was inspiring to see one of our students wanting to teach the whole group!

That was just the beginning!

Kevin also wanted Impact to hold extra Bible studies over Lent.  So this past weekend, he started a men’s study digging into James.  Sarah and Liza also stepped up to lead a women’s Bible study!  It is exciting that only 3 weeks into the semester the students are taking control and becoming workers of this plentiful harvest at UAlbany!

It is exciting to see what else this semester will bring!

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This past Wednesday at UAlbany, classes were suspended so everyone could study for finals starting the next day, it is what they call Reading Day.  BEST TIME TO CELEBRATE THE END OF THE YEAR!  Every Reading Day we host a party and this semester we had a student decided to follow Christ in Baptism!

Where ever you are in the world, it is exciting that we can share this with you!  This is just a trailer to a bigger video coming soon!

 

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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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