Archive for the ‘Event Highlights’ Category

(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…


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!


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.


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.


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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The second day of being in Israel, we explored more of what it meant to be in the desert.

Let me attempt to set the environment:

We leave our hotel by the Dead Sea.

It is around 8am.

It is around 90 degrees.

The morning shower was hot.  There wasn’t cold water.

The rooms are hot, the only have power when your key card is inserted into the wall.

Drinking water is from the bus, which is hot.

The Dead Sea is surrounded by mountains, thousands of feet tall.

It is an amazing scene.

This is what you’d imagine it to be when you hear desert.

We begin our day reciting what we will call the Jesus Shema:

Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.

And love your neighbor as yourself.

After a quick morning lesson, it is onto the bus to travel to a drop off point.

Dropped of in the Desert

Dropped of in the Desert

The bus just left us here.  We drove for a little bit, the bus pulled off to the side of the road and we hear

“Come, let’s go”

and our leader, Marty, steps off the bus and starts walking away.

We all quickly scramble to follow, as the days go by, we will get better at this and become good at it, but not this day.

We start down a path that is pretty rocky.  Well, everything is rocky.  This path, is more like a dried water bed (that is actually the definition of a wadi).  We walk maybe a half mile and we come over a ridge.  Marty has stopped and is allowing us to catch up.  It is tough to follow this guy!

We all circle around him and he says how was it?

Fine.  A little tough.

He says “I know.  Go back.  Do it again.  But this time, stay off the path.”


Go back.  Go back to where the bus dropped us off and don’t walk the path.  Walk along side it in the rocks.

Confused, we go back.

It is tough to find out where the path is and isn’t.  It was pretty rocky every where.

One of us falls on the way back. Sarah’s knee is cut pretty bad.  It is not yet 9am of day 2.

Most of us make it back to Marty, a few are helping Sarah.  We wait.  and wait…. and wait…

She finally comes back with a bandaid on her knee with a knee brace holding it on.

In a moment of rabbinic genius, we ask Marty what we will do if she is badly hurt.

“It is very difficult to follow the rabbi” says Marty.

Sarah continues the hike with us.

When we are together, we sit and Marty asked what we see around us.

Stones.  Lots of stones.

Not just stones, but small ones, big ones, in between ones.

If we look at these stones, he says, some of them are small and might get stuck in a sandal.  An annoyance, but easy to kick out.  Other stones, a little bigger, you might stumble on, but you can kick them out of the way for the next guy.  A bigger stone might need a hand or 2 to move.  Then you come across the BIG stones that aren’t moving, so you have to navigate around them.


Here is a big part of walking the path.  When you do it, you naturally knock out the small stuff.  As you walk, the small stuff gets kicked to the side.  The medium stuff gets moved out of the way.  And the path around the big objects is obvious!  When we walk the path, the path becomes more defined and easier to follow.  On a path, you can see where it is safe to set your foot.  When you are following others who are walking the right path, you don’t have to worry about where you set your foot, you can see it is the good way.

The rabbis look at following God as walking His path.  There are small things that are annoyances. There are some bigger things that might have to be conscientiously changed.  Some of those might take more effort than others.

Some things just have to be avoided all together.

In our faith, as we follow the way of Jesus, the path becomes clearer.  As we remove the small things and work to over come larger problems, the way our faith works becomes clearer to the people behind us.  They can walk the path easier because we have gone before!

The more you walk the path, the clearer it is for people who come after you!

The more we walk the path that God lays out in scripture, the easier it becomes..

The more we walk it, the more we kick to the side vices and issues that once tripped us.

The more we walk it, the easier it is to avoid the things that once made us fall.

Most importantly, the more we walk it, the easier it is for others to follow Jesus using our example.

Walking the Path

Walking the Path

That makes me stop to think:

Is the way I am living my life fitting the path that Jesus talks about?

How about you?

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Solomon's stairsHow can I describe a trip that I pitched to people as an indescribable experience?

I arrived back from Israel on July 30th after 20 days of travel, miles and miles of hikes, experiencing 100+ hours of teachings, having amazing joy, heat sickness, rocket threats, great friends, bad food (good food too), and a seemingly endless list of other things.

I came back and spent days talking with people about the experience and I so much want to tell YOU about it, but how?  I can’t send the 500+ pictures, the hours of discussion, the passion, the excitement, via blog!  I think in the past couple days though, I have found a way to hopefully share some of the experience.

As more blogs get posted, I will try to share another story, and another story… probably until I go back again in 2016.

I think the key to this conversation comes in a more relate-able subject.  In early August, Melanie and I bought our first house!  It is very exciting and it is true, when you walk into the house that is for you, you will know it.  We walked in and both said “wow.” We moved in on August 16th and all of the stuff we have accumulated over the 5 years at the last house, has practically doubled our belongings.  All of it was boxed, and moved in to a house much bigger than the tiny place of 570sqft we have been living.  We now are going through the process of trying to figure out where to put stuff.  How does this fit in the new house?  Why do we still have this?  or that?  Where is the top of the blender?  Why would it be packed in a different place?

This is oddly a similar discussion to Israel…

For the trip, I studied and prepared and brought all of this knowledge with me that I’ve accumulated over the years.  The time in Israel was amazing.  The hikes were tough!  The heat was crazy!  The sun… didn’t burn thanks to sun screen.  The lessons, from the small details to the big picture, changed what you thought you knew and things went from being fragmented ideas that someone clung together to “of course, that makes sense” “oh, that isn’t confusing, it makes sense”.

Let me give you a story:

ON THE FIRST day, after leaving our hotel in the Negev desert, within two miles our tour guide Yehuda pointed out of the side of the bus and casually mentioned there there were some shepherds taking care of their flock.  Marty (the Impact staff who was leading the trip) got excited and asked if we could stop.  We got out of the bus and watched from a dry desert hill as the bus pulled away.  So began our first lesson.

What do you imagine as a shepherd?  I’ve always imagine the old man like Moses.  Long flowing robes, a crook, hobbling around grassy field.

Marty simply asked us what we observe.

Shepherd throwing stone

(Click the photo to see it larger)

There is a little girl running around.  Maybe 8… maybe 10…

There are sheep and goats in the herd.

There isn’t any grass… only tough looking desert bushes.

The sheep stay by her donkey.

The goats are all over.

Marty tells us that the job of the shepherd is normally the job of the least of the family.  “You go spend your time with the smelly sheep”.  The little girl is running almost constantly.  Why?  She is running out in front of the goats.  The goats are going up one mountain side.  She runs in front and throws rocks towards them so they turn around.  They then go up the other side.  She runs a head of them and throws a few more rocks.  This is what she did the majority of the time we were there.  The sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd and do what they are told.  They stayed with the donkey.  The goats think they know a better way.

Am you a sheep or a goat?

We see the weapon of the shepherd in the hand of her older brother who was standing by the donkey as the younger sister ran around.  It was about a 2 foot stick.  His rod and staff.

Marty finds this small tuft of yellow “grass” and says this is what the sheep eat.  I couldn’t see any of it on the ground.  All I see is desert and rock.

We watch this little girl throw rocks. and more rocks.

“Think of David” say Marty.


This unexpected, unplanned, gift from God was an amazing experience and a beginning to a crazy 18 days.

This was only stop one of the day.  Not even a planned lesson.  Each day was filled with 3-5+ lesson that realigned your view from a western perspective of something like green pastures, to seeing this desert that had yellow grass that gave a faint hint of green if the sun hit it right.

I find my self back home (in a new house), trying to figure out how the stuff from the old house fits in the new house, and I am also taking these amazing lessons from Israel and Turkey and looking at the new frame work I have of Christianity and thinking ‘how does the stuff from my old framework fit in the new?”

Like every move, there will be things that you throw out. “Why do I still have this?”

There is stuff that wasn’t packaged correctly.  “Where is the blender lid?”

Items will be arranged differently. “Our new living room is the size of our old house! (almost)”

How can I describe the indescribable to you?

If you’ll bear with me, I will continue to try.

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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!

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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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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:




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!!!).


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!


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!


*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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This past Sunday, I had a chance to speak at a church and share the ministry of Impact with a whole group of people. It was a fun morning and my first time speaking in the pulpit. I was able to record it and I wanted to share it with you. I edited the service down to the sermon and the benediction. It is about 35 minutes, a little longer than what the good people at New Covenant Presbyterian Church (NCPC) are used to but I hope they enjoyed the message and the introduction to Impact. People invited me back so hopefully this is the beginning of a good relationship between Impact and NCPC!

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