Praying for Ukraine

Click here to see the local news story.

If you’re looking for ways to support Ukraine, here are a couple of recommendations. Pray. And see if you can connect with Ukrainians in your vicinity. Just yesterday Cheryl attended two outdoor gatherings of support hosted by local Ukrainians. In fact each Saturday at 1:00pm, people have been collecting at 72nd and Dodge.

“It was really a great environment of affirmation, standing with local people who have connections with their family members back in Ukraine. I met several people who were so glad I came and offered to help hold flags and banners. I want to head out there every Saturday I can, so I can get reconnected with the same people and make some new friendships.” -Cheryl.

Later last night another crowd appeared at the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. “It was amazing – very cold weather – but I saw many of the same people as earlier in the day and they remembered me!” Cheryl would encourage you based on her (one afternoon of) experience, to just get out in your own community, find Ukrainians and start learning about them. Looking for ways to support them.

Praying for Ukraine

Another friend of mine on staff with GFM posted the following article from The Beeson School of Divinity. Anton is a seminarian at Beeson. He’s Russian. His wife Daria is Ukrainian. He has a compelling vision of what it means to pray, realizing that because of Christ we BELONG TO ONE ANOTHER in a powerful way. Prayer bullets are below, but I’d highly recommend reading the full article at this link.

Taken from Anton’s article:

“So what can you do? Some of these prayer requests have been shared with me by the natives of Ukraine.

  • Reach out to the Ukrainian people that you have come into contact with, and love them.
  • Pray for the civilians, that the Lord would spare their lives.
  • Pray for the soldiers who are defending the Ukrainian land.
  • Pray for Christians that they would make wise and God-honoring decisions in extreme situations.
  • Pray for comfort and peace for mothers who are caring for little children while their husbands are drafted.
  • Pray for safe evacuation for those who decide to move.
  • Pray for the elderly who decide to stay.
  • Pray that people outside Ukraine would continue to have communication with their loved ones inside the country.
  • Pray that Ukraine would receive international help.
  • Pray for basic physical needs, for food, water, gas, heat, baby goods.
  • If you would like to give, there are plenty of resources where you can donate online.”

Let me know what you’re learning from supporting Ukrainians in your community.

(Thanks go to David Suryk for bringing the Beeson article to our attention!)

Restore – Mark 5

Why bother?

Maybe it’s just me. I have prayed and prayed for people to be healed of horrendous illnesses, physical and mental. You just can’t be a Christian, in ministry for very long (or otherwise), and NOT be swept into circumstances that threaten the people you lead or the people you love. In my early days on staff, we had to walk with one of our student leaders thorough his battle with testicular cancer (between his sophomore and junior year at Illinois Wesleyan University). We prayed fervently for Matt’s healing. We lost Matt to cancer in less than a year. Did our prayers and faith even matter?

Why did Jesus heal people? He used his power and authority again and again to restore life. Miraculous power brought to bear on the humblest of needs. Repeatedly it says Jesus would stay after class and heal everyone they could bring him! They bashed in a roof, just to get a paralyzed man to Jesus! Jesus also gave this power to his disciples. The early church saw people healed (Acts).

Where did all the healings go after the early church? Where are they today? Of course compared to Jesus’ day medicine is able to bring proportions of healing unimaginable in antiquity. But disease is still with us today. Young and old even in developed nations die unhealed – even on the watch of the most engaged doctors and intercessors. Why?

Restore, study number eight in our series, looks at two simple healing accounts in the Gospel of Mark. Let’s take a fresh look at Jesus healing. Why did he do it? Why did he leave many un-healed even though he had undisputed authority over disease? What do we make of prayers for healing today? Get a fresh copy of Mark 5 and jump in with your colored pencils! This study as well as RE-07 features the Marcan Sandwich (scroll down to that post for a study guide on sandwiching)! Let’s dive in.

Daughter Number One – vv 21-24

1- A father approaches Jesus about his daughter who is critically ill. What is important to notice about him and his family?

2- What would his fears be? Why is he so certain Jesus can heal his daughter (consider the typical reaction of other religious leaders to Jesus and his ministry)?

Daughter Number Two – vv 24-35

3- Describe the woman mentioned here. How would you describe the extent of her problem?

4- Take a minute to look up this Old Testament reference: Leviticus 15:25-30. How would this woman’s physical condition impact the risk she was willing to take to get to Jesus?

5- What do you notice about how her healing miracle actually takes place? What do you think is meant in verse 30 that “Jesus realized power had gone out from him?”

6- Why does Jesus tell her that her faith has healed her? Wasn’t it Jesus’ power that seemed to bring it about?
7- Discuss the various levels at which this healing act would bring restoration to this woman (physical, emotional, etc)?

Back to Daughter Number One – vv 35-42

8- Assuming the report about the girl’s death to be credible, why might it be difficult for Jairus to understand what Jesus tells him in v 36?

9- The clean and unclean theme emerges again. With Numbers 19:11-22 as a background, what are we learning about Jesus and his contact with things unclean? [He should not have been touched by a hemorrhaging woman. He should not have entered a home where a dead body was located.]

10- How does this miracle compare and contrast with the healing of daughter number two (vv 24-35)?

11- Why does Jesus make his miracle explicit in the case of daughter number two, but gives strict orders to keep the miracle a secret in the case of Jairus’ daughter?

12- Why has Mark so carefully intercalated (sandwiched) these two healing narratives? What is he showing us about Jesus’ purpose for healing? What dynamic between fear and faith is Mark painting for us?

13- How does Mark 5 impact us today in our understanding of healing, fear and faith? Is there a physical, emotional or medical threat in your life you struggle to bring to bring to Jesus?

14- What would it look like for you or your loved ones to draw near to Jesus with your particular needs? Fear is obviously cast as an enemy to faith in Mark 5. What would it take for you use your faith in the face of your fears?

For more background on the healings of Jesus and the concept of clean and unclean, refer to the following articles from The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels and The New Bible Dictionary.

Thanks for looking into RE- study number 8. Watch for two more coming out on the blog by April. Comment here on the blog or email me:

Student Ministry in Ukraine

Regional Emergency Fund click here

InterVarsity as many of you know belongs to the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students – a worldwide family of similar evangelical student movements. I wanted to let you know where you could connect to stay informed and give to regional needs. The link in the caption above will take you to the giving page where a fund is being publicized. Look for this image to scroll by in the banner. If you’d like to learn more about the IFES, you can visit their website here.

Follow this link to read a message from Tim Adams, IFES General Secretary on responding to the crisis in Ukraine. We would long for your prayers on their behalf. Thank you!

Our first IFES summer trip on staff w InterVarsity – Vienna, July 1990

One of the very best ways to begin any ministry career! Cheryl and I along with two of our teammates from Downstate Illinois visited the IFES staff team in Vienna then staffed outreach projects in Cambridge, England and Arhus, Denmark.

A very young, very lovely Cheryl St. Pierre Perry – Oxburgh Hall, England

Thank you for your prayers for student ministry!

Reclaim – Mark 3

Strong Man or Robber?

“So Jesus called them over and began to speak to them in parables: … If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.” Mark 3:26-27

I used to teach Mark Manuscript (aka The Jesus Class). I loved doing the first read of chapter 3. First read is when you tell everyone to read it like they’ve never read it before. In many cases, people hadn’t actually read it- some in the class were so new to Christianity and bible reading. Many who’d been Christians for years had forgotten that they’d read it. We’d get to the question about the parable Jesus used to describe his authority over unclean spirits. “If Jesus is using this parable to clarify his agenda, who is casting himself as – the strong man or the robber?”

“The strong man!” Almost always the first person to blurt it out in class opts for Jesus being the strong man. “He can’t be the robber.”

“And why not?” asks the teacher.

Blank stares. I always cherished the smell of students’ brains simmering with cognitive dissonance. Usually Jesus lost half my class with his illuminating parables. And I loved it.

You’ll notice this is the second time I’ve titled a redemption moment “Reclaim”. In RE -03, we looked at the lived-parable of Hosea’s life and calling. God was reclaiming his people from idols just like Hosea reclaimed Gomer from prostitution. Here in the New Testament Jesus reclaims what rightfully belongs to him. Reclaiming that which had been stolen. Let’s look at the passage together. Click on the link to download a fresh copy of the Manuscript. Let’s get started.

Freedom and Faith

People are not a blank slate. When we invite non-Christians to consider Jesus, it’s not as though they are spiritual free agents just waiting to be recruited. People are deeply situated in their communities – virtual and real. They already belong. They already identify. And if they’re not Christ following believers, their belonging and identity are distinctly NOT Christian. Can we start there?

What seems to possess people today – what claim is on their identity and sense of self (from the outside)? Do you think people far from God first need freedom from default claims on them in order to even consider him? Or do they need (in some measure) to believe in God in order to get that freedom as a consequence of their faith? When I look at systems that have a deep grasp on people spiritually, two absolutely jump off the screen at me. Consumerism. And narcissism. Do you see that as well? What other sources of power suppress true spiritual freedom today?

When Jesus broke open his public ministry, the gospels show us what he really saw. He saw people as sheep without a shepherd. Harassed. Helpless. He also saw an entire spiritual power structure paralyzing people. Jesus wasn’t just a great preacher. He did more than restore broken bodies. He came to free people from real spiritual influences that severed them from finding their true self in him.

The set-up. Mark 3:13-19

1- What does Jesus authorize the Twelve to do?

2- What does this say about the role of authority in Jesus identifying and calling them?

The Sandwich. Mark 3:20-35

In this passage notice how the second and fourth paragraphs form a sandwich around Jesus’ teaching about exorcism. At first it might seem that Mark is merely reporting what is happening at the rapid pace with which he’s known for employing. Mark 3 contains the first of many events in his gospel he portrays in “Sandwich” format. Give vv 20-35 a fresh read and see if you can spot the slices of bread versus the meat in the middle.

The top slice of bread. Mark 3: 20-22

3- Jesus’ family and the Jewish authorities both have a problem with him. How are their issues with him similar? How are they different?

4- How would you describe the element of power or control in these verses?

5- Who or what is Beelzebul (v22).

Strong Man or Robber? Mark 3:23-30 (aka The Meat!)

5- Why would this be a good time for Jesus to break out in parables? He’s got two sets of people very mad at him. Two groups incredulous with his actions.

6- According to his first explanation about a divided kingdom, what is Jesus saying is NOT happening with public exorcisms he’s been performing?

7- Now on to Jesus’ second explanation. Who is Jesus identifying as the Strong Man? And who according to his parable is the robber (the one doing the plundering)?

8- In Jesus’ parable, who or what is being plundered?

9- How are verses 28-29 an answer to what Jesus is accused of in v 22? What are the consequences for the teachers of the law?

The bottom slice of bread Mark 3:31-35

Take a look at the study notes for this passage. Revisiting the idea of a sandwich, think about why Mark has crafted his narrative this way. The family once again pops into view.

10- Mark uses outsider/insider language in this section. Who are the outsiders? Who are the insiders?

11- Jesus has just redefined “family” on very different terms than family of origin. Why is that significant?

12- What is Jesus teaching his disciples through interaction with these two antagonizing groups (Jesus family of origin and the Teachers of the Law from Jerusalem)?

13- What can we learn about doing the mission of Jesus today in a world where people are not free to follow Jesus in discipleship?

Here’s a glance at the rest of the RE-series which will be getting wrapped up this spring. Stay tuned for a single volume PDF with the entire series (as well as a chart with links to the posts here on the blog).

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Ever been to Atlanta?

I have never spent more than an hour our so in Atlanta (airport layovers). It’s a pretty cool place! Our regional leadership team meetings were held there last week. A few highlights…

  • Great food! We had Hawaiian, Indian, Mexican, Thai and Korean! (those are just the ones I can remember)
  • Really good to be with team-mates in person (two couldn’t be there due to Covid).
  • Nasal swabbing for rapid covid tests – an acquired sensation!
  • Time in scripture! Psalm 31/61 and 2 Cor 2.
  • Revisiting our strategic plan – The 2030 Calling
  • Having a meal in three different GFM staff member’s homes!
  • A very spacious Air B&B with plastic plants growing out of the walls!
  • My teammate Michael’s very cool Nike shoe collection (seriously a different pair every day).

I really appreciate the effort my regional leaders put forth to get our team together, to pray, and hear from God and each other. It does us so much good to revisit our goals and our leadership seeking God’s refreshing and resharpening. We typically spend four days together either in December or January. Covid has disrupted this greatly the past two years. So it was especially life-giving to be together. I always get to look at my work from a different angle when I’m with colleagues. Especially men and women who do my job better than me.

Me and Georgia Tech mascot, Buzz!

We would appreciate your prayers as we lead our staff teams into a new year. We took aim on several important items. Here are a few you can wrap your prayers around in 2022:

  1. Planting witnessing communities on more corners of more campuses.
  2. See more students and faculty respond to appropriate gospel invitations.
  3. Increase staff recruitment w. emphasis on people of color and women.
  4. Fully resource our work with adequate ministry partnership and financial support.

I’m eager to lean into our strategic plan in the coming days. I’m kind of itchy for results and momentum after being cooped up in this pandemic. Most immediately from the list above, I have two new staff that will be transitioning to my team in the weeks ahead. I‘ve written briefly about Sarah. In a future post I hope to introduce you to Chad who will be joining us in Ames, IA. Our team is planning an in-person retreat in St. Louis April 8-10th. That will be a high-water mark for us as we welcome Chad and Sarah. We also anticipate having our volunteer staff with us! That will be a team of eleven if we can pull it off! At some point our biggest threat to being together won’t be Covid, but ourselves! Feel free to start praying now!

We visited Atlanta’s High Museum of Art on Thursday afternoon.

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Three Minute Feedback Form

Here’s my annual ministry partnership appeal. It’s helpful for me to know how you plan to connect with me in 2022. Most of you know the drill by now. If you need a few details on my budget check out my previous post. I would love to know if you’re able to help out next year like you did this past year. And I’d love to know if you’d be able to help with a small budget increase. This is also my chance to catch up with you if your address has changed or if you’ve had a major life event I should know about.

Click here to be taken to my 3 Minute Feedback Form

I’ll keep this link out here the entire month of December – my apologies if you get a little tired of seeing it. Each of the past three years I’ve tapped my base and gotten just a few more forms back each year. Let’s make this an outstanding year. I’d love to hear from everyone!

And that my friends is it. Have a terrific week! (probably the shortest blog post I’ve ever written)

New Team Member!

Kaleb, Sarah, Cecil and James

A definite highlight of mine this fall has been welcoming a new Provisional Appointee to our Central Area Team. In case you forgot how I joined staff 4 years ago, this is the process. A person first applies for staff, is interviewed and an offer for contingent employment is given. Then the fun begins! Our new staff member is called a Provisional Appointee and begins her fund-raising. As the funding process gains momentum, a PA actually transitions to employment when funding hits a sustainable level. My own provisional appointment lasted from Feb 2017 till September of that year when I was able to begin part time.

Welcome, Sarah!

Sarah Gregory is a Provisional Appointee in St. Louis, MO preparing to join GFM staff at Washington University.  She is an InterVarsity alum from DePauw University in Indiana where she received her undergrad degree in Vocal Music in 2013.  Sarah also completed her MA in Christian Education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and has worked on church staff teams in the rolls of worship director and director of discipleship.  She has also freelance written and published in the area of family and children’s curriculum. Her and Kaleb met while at DePauw where he received his BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies.  Law school took them to the St. Louis area – Kaleb finished his JD at Wash-U in 2020. Sarah and Kaleb are parents of Cecil and James and are expecting another child in April 2022.

Click here to be taken to Tim’s donation page at InterVarsity

I’ll be doing Ministry Partnership Development training and coaching with Sarah from now till she’s funded. She’ll eventually settle into a 20 hour per week part time role working with two other GFM teammates at Wash-U. Sarah and Kaleb are already involved with law students through a small group that meets in their home. One further creative wrinkle about Sarah’s on-ramp to staff is that Kaleb’s work will be taking him to Pittsburg next year (starting in Aug 2022). He will be a clerking for a federal judge for a year-long term. They then plan to return to the St. Louis area. Yes, we do have GFM work in Pittsburg! We’re going to have to loan Sarah to the Midwest Region for a year. But we’ll get her back!

Please be in prayer for Sarah as she works on funding in the coming months. As you can tell she’s got her hands full as a young mom. She’s been working on her first support presentations for individuals and groups. Over the holidays the Gregorys plan to be back in Sarah’s hometown – partly for time with family and partly to share her ministry with church connections there. In those first weeks of making calls, setting up appointments and making support presentations it can be a roller-coaster spiritually and emotionally. Pray for God to connect her with generous and helpful people.

Thanks so much for your prayers. In these last posts of the year, I want to make sure you can find the link to my support page (above). Several people have been sending in their year-end giving. Thank you so much for your financial partnership!

Drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing.

Green, Gold or Blue?

Each November we make sure you know how our funding is looking for the year. The first thing I’m always struck with when running the numbers for Fall support projections, is that there is a community of people out there who supply my budget every year! That’s a lot of dollars when you add up my salary, my benefits, and all my ministry expenses. If you’re an active donor to my ministry, you’re part of a community of 91 people who give financially so I can do InterVarsity’s mission with faculty and graduate students. Thank you! I don’t deserve you, and I know it! I need all 91 of you (and then some) to make budget each year. I hope you know how blessed I am by you.

Click here to go to Tim’s donation page at InterVarsity

InterVarsity’s fiscal year runs from July 1st to June 30th each year.

If you are Green…

Each year my ministry account gets reset on July 1st. The clock starts over! You are in the green part of the donut most likely if you are a scheduled giver who contributes monthly. Greens are great because every month I get to see the results of your partnership with me. Thank you! Thank you for working me into your monthly giving budget. Most greens give not only to me, but several other causes as well. The consistency of your gifts helps me know I can keep doing this from year to year! Go Green!

If you are Gold…

Money savvy readers will realize that some Golds are just Greens as their gifts keep coming into the account. Fair enough. But you could also make the gold part of the donut by being an annual donor. Golds like to give in larger amounts – usually once a year. Many golds give around this time of the year because they plan their giving around the calendar year-end. If you’re gold, it’s helpful for you to get a reminder around now so you can transact your gift before calendar year end. Just hop on that link above and you’ll be taken to my donation page at InterVarsity. Thank you Gold!

Ok, about Blue…

Why does it seem like EVERY faith-ministry donut has a blue chunk? I long for the day when all I have is a Green-Gold donut to talk about in November. This isn’t that year. The blue chunk represents new support dollars I need to find before the end of my fiscal year come June 2022. Two things happened this past year in the blue zone. Covid wiped out about $8K from my support system. Some donors couldn’t or didn’t give due to their circumstances. Some of those donors have bounced back. Last year at this time, InterVarsity offered me a gift match to help recover those losses. The match filled in a deficit and helped me find 9 new donors! What looked like a very discouraging year, actually finished in the black in June.

This year I’ve got a blue chunk again but partly for a new reason. I think I have continued to lose some support since July 1st, but not at all like the previous months of the pandemic. I also have increased my budget to accommodate a much needed pay raise (my first since taking this job 4 years ago).

How can I help with your BLUE, Tim?

If you are a current donor and would like to increase your giving amount, that would be a terrific way to help me beat the blue! Consider a percentage bump of somewhere between 5 to 10 percent. If everyone in green/gold bumped their giving by even 5 percent, I’d almost be able to cover half of the gap.

If you haven’t been able to give to my budget, maybe you could start as a new donor in the coming calendar year. You can use that same link above to jump on my donation page and get started. I’ll also be working over the coming months to find new supporters. If you’re a Green/Gold and you know someone who might like to partner with InterVarsity by all means introduce me! I’d be happy to buy us all lunch and talk about it!

Thanks so much for your prayers and for your giving! I hope you’ve been able to enjoy a wonderful time with your family here at Thanksgiving. If we haven’t caught up in a while, drop me an email. Let me know how I can encourage you and pray for you!

Reframe – Matt 5, Part 2

Ever hear of BCP?

Every discipline, every industry, every profession has its own version of BCP. Best Current Practice. Or simply, Best Practices. Theorists are the ones researching new technologies, studying stubborn problems, uncovering new ways to think about old challenges. Practitioners are the ones making it work in the field. Standard practice follows innovation and theoretical work. BCP is driven by pragmatics. Find what works. Find what works better than anything else. Then make everyone do it that way. Best practices are “successful, reliable and safe”. Until Jesus gets ahold of them, that is. Matthew 5, part 2 is what happens when Jesus’ definition of righteousness confronts Pharisaic BCP.

Matthew 5, Part 1 is Jesus reframing what it means to be the people of God living in the blessings of his kingdom. God favors a surprising sort of person. In part two, the surprises continue. What God expects of people in his kingdom is not just righteousness (right relationships, right actions and decisions). That was nothing new to Jesus’ audience. It was the DEGREE of righteousness that blew them away. Without a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, Jesus says, you won’t even get in the front door! If there was ever a people group excessive about righteousness, it was famously the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus has reframed the conversation entirely away from industry best practice. And its troubling that Jesus did so, NOT by saying that the Pharisees had made righteousness too hard, but somehow too EASY! What does it mean to actually practice faith, obey God’s word and live out what God desires for his people? Jesus is reframing.

The chapters leading up to the Sermon on the Mount area a terrific set-up! Spoiler alerts everywhere! John the Baptist says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near… prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” It would be quite a let down for Jesus to show up and simply baptize the status quo! The good news Jesus announced about this kingdom came with demonstrations of power – his teaching, his healing and his forgiving of sin. The baptism of Jesus is meant in his own words as a “fulfillment of all righteousness.” What will this new righteousness look like?

Here’s how we’ll approach Part 2. Let’s look at what Jesus says first about righteousness and the law. Then we’ll consider seven test-case scenarios (if you will) of where true righteousness and BCP clash. You know the routine by now. Print a fresh manuscript, mark it up, then come back for a few discussion questions.

Practicing True Righteousness

1- Read Matt 5: 17-20. Why does Jesus have to begin with the disclaimer found in v 17?

2- The Law and the Prophets was actually shorthand for the entire Old Testament. What are Jesus’ interests in the law? What is he trying to prevent? What is he trying to do?

3- Jesus implicates those with leadership and teaching responsibilities in relation to the law. Who is he talking about?

4- What does Jesus mean by asserting that entering the kingdom of heaven is a matter of righteousness? What would make ones righteousness greater than that of a Pharisee?

5- Read Tim Keller’s word study on Righteousness at the link below. He states that “righteousness is a life of right relationships… right with God and therefore committed to putting right all other relationships in life.” How could this definition help us understand why Jesus found pharisaic righteousness so deficient?

Everyday Righteousness – Seven Case Studies

Jesus takes us further into his mind about true righteousness. The righteousness his audience knew was an accepted best-practice version he relentlessly confronts. “You have heard (BCP)… but I say to you (true kingdom righteousness).” Here’s an exercise you can do over the course of a week.

  • Get seven 3×5 notecards and title each of the seven case-studies (one per card). In my manuscript I’ve labeled them, Reconciliation, Lust, Divorce, Oaths, etc. You might title them differently.
  • Identify the Best Current Practice thinking that Jesus is confronting. What must have been the accepted understanding in order for Jesus to confront each one the way he is?
  • How does Jesus REFRAME the prevailing best current practice? What is new?
  • Lastly, what kind of life are kingdom people to have as their goal? What kind of world are we hungering and thirsting for?

At the end of the week, consider re-reading Matt 5 and looking again at your case studies. On the back of each card journal about the following questions:

Does true righteousness in this area (anger, reconciliation, lust, oaths, etc) matter today? Why? What is one specific way Jesus invites me to a higher, better, and more complete righteousness?

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