A random memory from when I was younger that keeps popping up in my mind:
I was really young, maybe four or five, and I was playing the “Do you love me more than…” game with my dad. It was just me asking a series of questions, and Daddy would always respond that he loved me more than whatever it was I was asking about. Until I asked one last question: “Do you love me more than Jesus?” Daddy paused for a moment, slightly surprised, and responded, “Nobody loves you more than Jesus.” Even at that young age, more than a decade before I submitted my life to the Triune God, I remember that his answer blew my mind. Somebody loved me more than my Daddy? How was that possible?
God still blows my mind daily with His amazing love.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27
I had the joy and pleasure of going to college group tonight. I’ve wanted to go for some time, but class often keeps me from attending. I find it mildly ironic that college is what stops me from attending college group.
We referenced a passage tonight in John, and part of that was the verse quoted about. As I read it, I realized something strange: the sheep hear, and they follow, not because they know the person whose voice it is, but because that person knows them. I’m going to try to make an odd analogy here… we’ll see how this works:
My family has a nickname for me that no one else does. Thus, if I hear this name being called out anywhere, I don’t respond. Whoever is saying it doesn’t know me, so why would I turn around? But when it’s one of my parents or siblings, I listen. I recognize their voice saying that name, and they know me. I can pick out my sister’s, mom’s, dad’s, or brother’s voice anywhere. They stand out in a noisy crowd to me. This is where the analogy starts to break down, because obviously, I know them, too.
But here’s the thing: We hear the voice of Jesus, and we follow. We can ignore all the other voices calling out to us, because He gives us ears to hear His voice. And we hear it above all others, not because we know Him, but because He knows us. The Son was given us as a gift from the Father before the foundations of the earth, most certainly before we could ever possibly know Him and hear His voice.
I did not follow Christ because I knew Him beforehand. I certainly knew about Him, but I did not know Jesus until November 24th, 2008, when He called and I followed. But He knew me all twenty years of my life prior, and even before that. And because He knew me, I was able to hear His voice.
What a wonderful Savior.
Ack, it’s been over a month since I wrote anything for my lovely friends and family back home. I’ll try to be informative, but not too long, else you won’t read. ;) As a warning, my writing heavily reflects my thought process tonight – somewhat disjointed and wandering through tangents.
Here’s some wonderful news: My amazing older sister, Brianne, gave birth to Noah Jacob on March 10, 2011, our dad’s 47th birthday.
He is beautiful and precious and perfect, and I can’t wait to meet him in person later this year. I am SO proud of my sister and her husband!
In other news… much less exciting than a new baby, but I will be starting at Wells Fargo on Tuesday, while maintaining my job at Massage Envy and school. If you think about it, pray for me, that I would be able to finish up this last half of the semester well, while maintaining good relationships with my coworkers and demonstrating a high work ethic, to the glory of God.
Working two jobs means that I will be staying here in California over the summer. Homesickness seems to hit me in waves, and I have been desperately missing my friends, family, and church recently. Sometimes, I honestly wonder what the heck I’m doing out here on the other side of the country, leaving an amazing church, a good-paying job, and some of the best relationships I’ve ever had. But God has called me to Eternity Bible College for a season of my life, and I have to trust in His sovereignty and faithfulness. I am loving what God is teaching me here in school, and to go back without completing this part of my education would be to stagnate. I feel like I’ve learned so much already, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I am hungry for a deeper knowledge of His word and, of course, of the Triune God Himself. Can I just say how amazing it is that the Creator of the universe has revealed Himself in written word for us to get to know Him personally and deeply? It blows my mind.
Speaking of EBC – we have been granted candidate status in the accreditation process. Praise God for that! However, we are still deeply in financial debt. Please consider helping our school out, and visit www.eternitybiblecollege.com to learn how you might help.
On a more personal level, without going into details, God has shown me His love, faithfulness, and merciful forgiveness over and over again. I seem to have lost the freshness of what I’ve been saved from over the past year or so, knowing it in my mind, but not caring to see it and be amazed by it every day. Through a series of decisions, I came to a place where I had to either admit that I wasn’t living as a Christian and leave both the church and my college, or confess and repent. It sounds crazy, but it was so hard to repent – not because I desired to sin anymore, but because I didn’t understand how God could possibly be waiting for me to turn back to Him, with loving and open arms. He used music (oh, how well He knows me…) to break my heart and bring me to that place of repentance, and I am restored to Him and the church – praise Him for that! Has it been easy? By no means! But the joy of being aware of the presence of God, of experiencing His mercies fresh and new every morning, of seeing how He (once again) uses my regret to draw me closer to Him than I have ever been, makes this journey back home more than bearable. To quote one of everyone’s new favorite bands, Mumford & Sons, “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome you receive at the restart.” God has used His Church, this amazing body of believers, to demonstrate His love and forgiveness and remind me that, though we sin, we who are in Christ are sinners no more, but saints, joint-heirs to the throne with Christ.
I had the pleasure of watching a Pacific coast sunset the other night. The ocean always seems to be where I feel closest to God…
It was very cold and windy, despite the eighty-degree weather we’ve been receiving here. Oh, but how the wind reminded me of a beautiful verse, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
And the ocean, of course, leads us to a song. You should know by now that everything reminds me of a song.
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
And, of course, the beautiful sunset. As we watched the sun dip behind the horizon, a large orange orb, with the wind of the Holy Spirit all around us, I was amazed and overjoyed at the thought, “That sun is setting on the sins I have committed today. God forgives them, and chooses to forget, and as that same sun rises tomorrow on a fresh, new day, so will His mercies be fresh and new for me again!” Oh, what a refreshing thought!
Thus, my friends, I leave you with a question: Today is the only day that it will ever be March 20, 2011. It will never be this day in history ever again. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is simply wonderful. What will you do to make this day momentous and memorable?
In the workplace…
First, God has blessed me with a job, for which I am extremely grateful. Got my first paycheck in five months yesterday for a grand total of about $175. Woot woot! Even better than that, though, are the relationships I get to build. Last week, I was working with two other sales associates, who were talking amongst themselves of relationships, sex, etc. I think they were worried that they might offend me, little Christian Bible college student that I am. For those of you who know me, I am pretty hard to offend. ;) I informed them of that, sharing one minute detail of my past (which I won’t share here, but feel free to ask), which they found hilarious and immediately put them at ease. A couple days later, I was working with one of the girls, whom we shall name Em, and she asked, “How the heck do you go from [that past] to being a Bible college student?” What an AWESOME opportunity to share some of my testimony of how God has completely changed me! We had a great conversation, and she asked so many questions. I was amazed at how God used something from my past to open up the door for me to talk with my coworker – all by her prompting, not mine! The conversation continued today, and I am hoping it does the length of our time together.
Things to pray for…
That I might be a light in my workplace, building relationships, loving people, and speaking the Truth
Humility – genuine humility, not the kind where one prides oneself in being so humble. Defeats the whole thing of it.
Melina – one of my friends who moved to Atlanta (today!) in order to learn more about the sex-trafficking industry and ways to bring justice for these girls
Eternity Bible College – we are in a HUGE financial need right now, and could use both prayers and monetary support. Want to be an answer to prayer? Visit http://www.eternitybiblecollege.com/support/welcome.html
Josh and Briana – two friends of mine from Rochester who are in their fourth month of an eleven-month long missions trip around the world. Check out their blog at http://joshandbrianarene.theworldrace.org/
The Mormons – I’ve been visiting weekly with two Mormons that live across the street from me, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Sharpe, learning more about Mormonism and trying to talk with them about Christianity. Please pray that their hearts and minds would be open to hearing what I have to say, and that the Holy Spirit would speak through me, expressing the Truth of God in love.
Ben Suprunowski – He was in a terrible car accident at the end of December, and finally got to go home from the hospital yesterday. Check out updates on his blog here.
Jon and Christi Miller – their twin baby boys are a month old now, and are still recovering from the effects of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. They also have updates here
Oh, the start of another semester. The joy and excitement of seeing friends again, meeting new students, taking different classes, and looking for a job. I suppose I should give some updates, as I have not in some time…
I had the pleasure of going back to NY for three weeks, which was wonderful fun. I got to see many friends, and spent a week in PA with my family. It was so great to play with my cousins and see my pregnant sister, in addition to the rest of the family. I think it snowed pretty much every day I was there, which was nice. However, I am certainly glad to be back in CA where it’s 85 and sunny today. :) Snow is only fun for so long. A picture of two of my favorite girls from NY and myself from this last trip:
I am once again taking four classes this semester: Foundations 2, Old Testament Backgrounds (OTB), Old Testament Survey 2 (OT2), and Cross-Cultural Church Planting (3CP). Foundations is a continuation of last semester’s course, as is OT2. As for OTB and 3CP, there’s not much to say about the specific classes yet, having only had one class. But I am excited for both, and already have a head start on my homework. I am determined this semester to stay on top of my assignments, and never pull an all-nighter again. We’ll see how that goes, but we’re off to a good start.
I do have a job now, which I will be starting on Wednesday. I’ll be a Sales Associate/Receptionist at Massage Envy here in Simi. Again, not much to tell, as I haven’t started yet, but I’m excited.
As for the rest of life… we have a new roommate, Abby, which makes four of us in our apartment. We all get along pretty well, and for that I am grateful. Also, I’ve been having some conversations with the Mormon guys that live across the street from us, which has been interesting. They come over about twice a week, and it’s been very informative. Please pray for me that I might represent Christ well, speaking with them in grace and truth. And the final update with which I leave you is a picture:
Yvonne, who is both my mentor and the school librarian, and I went to get matching anti-helix barbell piercings last week. A painful bonding experience. :)
Eternity Bible College
Friends and Family of EBC,
To begin, let me apologize for not sending newsletters more frequently. We will try to do a better job of keeping you informed of the many exciting things happening at EBC.
As you probably know, EBC isn’t like other colleges—our tuition is only $100 per credit ($125 online). Some people would call this cheap, but as you know, nothing is cheap. In fact, it is quite costly. EBC is unique because we pass on as little of that cost to our students as possible. In order to continue to offer education at this affordable price, we rely on a staff and faculty that are willing to make personal and financial sacrifices for the sake of the school, we avoid all unnecessary expenses, and we rely on donations from ordinary people like you.
At our current rate, we are facing a deficit of $100,000 by June 30, 2011 (the end of our Fiscal Year). We are confident that the Lord will provide for us. As you are thinking about your year-end giving and planning for your giving for next year, would you please consider being a part of that provision by investing in Eternity Bible College as a way to invest in the lives of the future leaders of the church? One time gifts are a great blessing, but if you are able, would you consider making regular investments in EBC? As always, gifts to EBC are tax deductible. There are about 500 subscribers to this newsletter – if each of you gave $200 extra this year, that would cover our entire deficit.
There are several ways you can donate to EBC:
1. Cash / Check – Simply mail it or drop it off at the office. You can find our address at the bottom of this newsletter.
2. Automatic Checks – Set this up through your bank to be sent to us each month. If you don’t know how, let us know and we can help you out.
3. Credit Card – Give us a call at 805.581.1233 and we’ll set up either a one-time or recurring donation.
You can find more information on how to donate on our website here.
Winterim with Dr. Tom Schreiner
Dr. Tom Schreiner, the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be teaching a Winterim course at EBC on Gender and Sexuality. The course is January 3-9 (5:30 p.m. M-F; 9:00 a.m. Sat). Each evening Dr. Schreiner will be covering an additional topic of interest for the last hour with significant Question & Answer time. We’d love for you to join us for this incredible time to interact with a gracious and wise scholar. It is $50 to take the course for personal enrichment and it is also offered for credit for students of EBC. Contact our office for more information.
This is a very significant year for EBC in the process of accreditation. In November, 2009 we submitted our first self-study to the Association for Biblical Higher Education, our accrediting body. They sent a team of five evaluators to visit our campus September 13-15, 2010. The evaluators examined all the various aspects of the school with a fine-tooth comb and submitted a report to ABHE and to us. We are currently responding to their report and will know whether we are granted Candidate status at the ABHE annual meeting in Febuary 2011. Candidate status is the “halfway point” in the approximately eight year process from Application to Initial Accreditation. It is a significant milestone for us, so please be praying that our hard work pays off and we have favor with the committee.
Looking ahead, we will go through a similar process from November 2013-Feburary 2015 to determine whether they will grant us Initial Accreditation. The earliest that would happen is February 2015. Please pray for our perseverance through this long, but profitable process.
From Plumber to Pastor
On December 11, EBC held its 10th Commencement Ceremony bringing our total number of graduates to 69. One of the graduates that morning was a part of our initial class back in August 2004 when our tuition was even cheaper – $25 per credit! At that time Kevin Pisano was a plumber working in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He could only take classes at night and I had him as one of my first students. He was involved in ministry with Life Groups at his church, Shepherd of the Hills in Porter Ranch, CA. As he steadily grew in his understanding of scripture, his church saw the benefit of bringing him on staff as their Life Groups Pastor so he could have more time freed up for ministry. That also freed up some time for him to take more classes. He poured himself into ministry there and the Lord gave him great fruit. As time went on Kevin eventually was asked to come back to the church that he originally came to know Christ in, South Valley Church, and preach a few Sundays because their pastor had left. The church felt that the Lord was calling Kevin and his family to come and be their pastor. Kevin realized it was indeed the Lord calling and he came on staff to plant a new service within the church. So the tranformation was complete – the Lord had taken a Plumber and made him into a Pastor. If you’d like to hear more of Kevin’s story, see his bio.
Kevin had a significant impact on my life while here at EBC and God is using him in many lives. Will you join me in thanking the Lord for Kevin and his wife Kathy and for their time at EBC? Please pray that God will be honored and glorified in their ministry together.
EBC Delivered Where You Are
Last February, we realized that in order to be consistent with our core value of “A biblically sound partnership with the local church” we needed to make some changes. We had always resisted doing Distance Education, but we realized that if we didn’t do something we were only going to be able to partner with churches in Simi Valley. So over the summer we worked hard to put together a Distance Education program that truly partners with local churches to bring Affordable, Rigorous Bible Education to churches across the country and the world. We are really excited about the possibilities that this offers. The program involves every student having a pastor / mentor within their own local church who will be involved in their life through their time at EBC. They will provide the face to face relationships that are so important for education to impact a life.
The program has grown quickly. We already have professors in three different parts of the country and 30 students from all over the country and into Canada. We are anticipating incredible growth in this program as people realize that they can get an entire Bible Education for about $16,000 TOTAL without having to move across the country or around the world. Please help us get the word out. The easiest way for people to find out more is to visit our website for Distance Education. You can also view many of the videos from the classes for free.
If you are interested in hearing about Distance Education on a regular basis, you can sign up for our separate Distance Education newsletter.
Thank you for all of your support and prayers. For more information, you can watch videos about EBC, read about life at EBC from our student bloggers, or find general information about the school, please visit our website.
Thank you for your support!
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Romans 8:28 – 30
We love to quote Romans 8:28, that first sentence. We even make it into a song: “You make all things work together for my good.” We think of the “good” as our own, and we see “good” as a satisfaction of our desires. We fail to read on, content with that nice little quotable verse. Our good is that which conforms us to the image of Christ. We are predestined for this. And those whom He predestined, He called. Those whom He called, He justified. And those whom He justified, he glorified. Glorified… why, that word is mentioned only a few verses up, in conjunction with suffering:
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” – Romans 8:16-18 (emphasis added)
So glory comes through suffering, as Christ did. To be conformed to the image of Christ, to be glorified, means we must go through suffering. Suffering is necessary. If we want to be like Christ, we must endure it. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. And that means going through pain. Yes, God blesses us also, but we cannot forget the flip side – it’s all things, not just the “good” stuff. And what is good for us is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
There is a hymn that I love for the juxtaposition of the last two verses – pain, then glory. I have listed them below, as taken from the song, In the Hours:
“Thou the hated and forsaken, Thou the bearer of the cross. Crowned with thorns, mocked and smitten, counting earthly gain but loss. When scorned are we, we joy to be the more like Thee. When scorned are we, we joy to be the more like Thee.
Thou the Father’s Best Beloved! Thou the throned and sceptered King! Who but Thee should we adoring all our prayers and praises bring? So blessed are we, Savior Lord, in loving Thee! So blessed are we, Savior Lord, in loving Thee!”
Take joy in scorn and suffering. It makes us more like Jesus. In the end, it is nothing compared with the glory that awaits us.