Thursday, June 18, 2015

Final blog post for SBS!

Hello everyone!
After almost nine months of learning how to study the Bible, we are coming to the close of our school this weekend.  As I look back and reflect on what this year has been I have been amazed at how much I have learned, but I have been even more astounded by how much I have yet to learn.  It’s really easy for us as humans to think we have everything figured out, I guess because we keep our perspective so narrow that we don’t leave room for things to simply be bigger than we are, but closing our eyes to the hugeness of God doesn’t make Him go away.  Through this school my perspective has changed; I’ve grown in my understanding of how big God is, I’ve seen how insufficient my own ability is in light of my weakness, and I’ve seen how God’s patience cloaks this world in all of its frailty.  I’ve processed a lot of information about history, cultures, scholarly opinion, and literature, and my natural human response is to think that I know something other people don’t know, or I’ve somehow found the “key” to the Bible that hundreds of years of study have not unveiled to anyone else.  This is so deceptive because God has laid His truth bare and naked before humanity from the moment He said “Let there be light!”  He made it accessible to everyone, regardless of how much they know or what their experience may be.  This is so humbling because it means that no matter how much I study there will always be more things I don’t know, but at the same time I could not study at all and have all the knowledge I need for a full and complete existence by simply saying yes to Jesus.  That’s the beauty of the gospel; Jesus makes fullness accessible in a moment by accepting His sacrifice, but the process of learning to live out that fullness takes an eternity. 
There is so much I could say about what I’ve learned from the books in the New Testament, like how my identity was rocked by Ephesians, Hebrews showed me why I can have faith in God, John showed me the sweet tangibility of Jesus’ humanness and understanding for my weakness, and Revelation blew my mind with how incredibly in control God is and how good His plan is for His people; however, that would take much too long to elaborate on here so if you want to hear more about it I will be home in a week and you can message me and we can meet up.  Overall I think I am simply in awe of how available God makes Himself to us, and the Bible is proof of His care because He wanted to make sure that we knew who He was and how much He loves His precious creation.  I’m so thankful for this opportunity I’ve had to go through the whole Bible this year, and I’m extremely thankful for all of the support of my family and friends; thank you so much for walking through this journey with meJ

Can’t wait to be home again!

Love, Aubrey

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seven months in, two months to go!  It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on what we’ve been learning so I want to be able to do that, but first I want to thank everyone who contributed financially to me… my school fees are now paid off :D  Thank you for being willing to partner with me in my journey through the Bible, both God and I are blessed by your generosity.
So after about six months trekking through the Old Testament we finally reached Matthew, and what a transition!  The climax of the Bible rests in the gospels; God has promised since Adam and Eve sinned to fix the problem of sin, so how are His people going to respond to it?  I love the chronological method because God’s plan is so clearly laid out through His covenants: He promised Eve that her descendant would crush the serpent that deceived her, He promised Noah that He would not give up on people, He promised Abraham that He would make his descendants a great people who would bless the whole world, He promised Moses to make Israel holy and set apart, and through the prophets He promised to send a descendant of David to come and make everything right, renewing God’s relationship with His people.  Jesus fulfilled all of these promises, but in a completely unexpected and shocking way to the Jews.  Jesus was so compelling and yet so frightening at the same time because he showed people a better way to live, but that way challenged just about everything they had depended on.
The Jews saw themselves as justified by their ancestry, but Jesus constantly said that faith, not Jewishness, made people healed.  The Pharisees thought that by following the law better than everyone else they could earn the favor of God, but Jesus came hanging out with sinners and prostitutes, claiming that it is those who receive forgiveness that are the most acceptable to God and not those who thing they don’t need it. 
Jesus confronted people on their hypocrisy and exposed the ways they depended on themselves rather than God.  His humility clashed with their pride, His boldness overshadowed their cowardice, His love melted their judgment, and His faith challenged their unbelief. 
I was challenged by Matthew and Luke in how I view other people and how I view myself: Do I expect things from myself that God is not expecting?  Do I think that by getting everything “right” I will somehow be in a better place with God and have His favor?  Do I wait for other people to “get it together” before I feel like I can love them or show patience and grace?  Galatians confronts this religious mentality, emphasizing that nothing in the physical can add to what Jesus does in the spiritual when people accept His sacrifice.  I loved Galatians 4:6 that says how we are children of God and He has put the spirit of Jesus in our hearts crying out “Abba! Father!”  This was His plan all along; from the very moment Eve and Adam chose sin God’s blueprint was laid out and He knew exactly how He was going to bring humanity back into relationship with Him.  Now Jesus offers us that same relationship, and we get to have access to everything the Father has, and we don’t have to do a thing to earn it, not a thing!
  I struggle sometimes with reconciling what God says about me with what I’m feeling in the moment, or what I see around me.  However, Jesus shows me that all I need to do is believe God, and that’s it.  When I’m feeling alone I can remind myself that the Spirit of God is permanently camped out in me, never leaving and always interested in everything I do.  When I feel intimidated by my own inadequacy I can remember that God said it isn’t about me, it’s about Him, so I don’t have to have everything together.  When I get frustrated because my plans didn’t work out I can believe God who said that He has a plan for me, and His plan is much better than anything I can come up with.  Jesus was perfectly at peace with himself in a fallen world because He knew that God’s plan was bigger than what people thought about Him, how He felt and what He saw; He now offers the same peace to us, and all we have to do is say “I’ll believe you.”  That’s pretty incredible in a world where everything has to be earned and there’s always a catch; there’s no catch with Jesus, there is only everything and we can get it through simply saying yes. 

Thank you so much for all your prayer and support, we are so close to the end and yet have so much more to do; I would really appreciate prayer for clarity and openness in my heart as well as endurance to really finish this school well and get all God wants to show me.

Love, Aubrey

Friday, February 27, 2015

Just Some Pictures

An attempt at an exhaustive list of the characteristics of God

Study Time!

Dressing up as Bible characters during Esther week to celebrate Purim:)

Funeral for Jerusalem during Lamentations, looking very mournful

Monday, February 23, 2015

(Sorry, this one’s going to be long, just to warn youJ)
Happy February!  Here at the base it’s been pretty sunny lately and I find myself complaining to my Canadian friends how it just doesn’t feel like winter, then they ask if it’s an unusual thing to have such hot weather at this time, and I sheepishly reply that it’s actually quite normal for here, and I haven’t known much different, there are just times when I wish the cold would linger a bit longerJ  Overall the weeks since Christmas break have gone by fairly quickly, but so much has happened in them it feels like forever since I last wrote.  We are currently finishing up Daniel and Obadiah, Daniel being the last major prophet (we made it!).  In my last update I touched on the prophets and how I was seeing God’s mercy and love through the predictions of judgment as He knew that Israel had to go through exile in order to get rid of their mindset of idolatry so that He could bless and restore them.  Since break, however, I have made a more personal connection with the prophets, which I will try to explain as briefly as possible since it has been extremely impactful for me and there’s a lot to it.
Coming back from break we plunged into Isaiah, a monster of a prophet with 66 chapters (and we had to chart every one of them).  I was sick, having already been sick for a week, and we were coming back from laid back break to scheduled, rigorous CSBS, so I was having a hard time diving headlong into the homework and was feeling pretty content to just not finish the book (since that does happen at times in this school).  On Friday, however, our staff had a talk with us as a school and basically reminded us why we were here (having observed us being very distracted, having conversations and overall not being super motivated).  They talked about their own struggles in CSBS and how they at times felt apathy and discouragement but they pushed through and believed they were going to get good things out of every book, and reminded us how valuable this time is and how rare an opportunity to study the Bible full time is.  I felt like my heart was being turned inside out as I saw my selfishness and complacency, not just in that week but in general.  I saw how much more I valued having “my time,” seeking out things like social interaction and facebook to distract me because I thought that’s what I needed, but really it wasn’t helping me because I was practically ignoring God throughout the day.  I didn’t finish Isaiah, but I did about 30 charts in a span of 24 hours after that talk, and every chart was like a prick going deep into my heart.  I saw the prophecies about Jesus and how He let Himself be abased and unattractive and rejected for the sake of love, contrasted by how much I feel the need to be desirable, affirmed, and accepted by people.  I saw the heart condition of the people Isaiah spoke to and how they were constantly offered healing and restoration if they would only repent, but they refused.  And refused.  And refused.  This verse went pretty deep for me: Isaiah 57 18-21 “I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.  Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them.  But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud.  There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.”  About ten verses before God passionately tells His people that when they cry out they should let their collection of idols deliver them, since that’s where they’ve put their trust.  Our culture has so many idols (things we turn to for security and comfort and peace) that we are often oblivious to.  “Go on, let your phone deliver you from your stress!  Let the television take care of that relationship!  Go to Google to find all your answers!  Let the doctors fix your body, how’s that working for you?” Was all I could hear as I read God’s pleas to His people that they would stop turning to meaningless, futile, human-made objects to try and get the safety and peace they so desired, and the result was that their heart was like a tossing sea, always raging and completely void of peace.  I was reminded of how God is the only answer to peace, and submission to Him is the only way to get it. 
To briefly explain, the week after Isaiah God asked me to do something in response to the idols He showed me in my heart, one being fear of what other people think of me.  For the application part of my homework I asked God what He wanted me to do in response to this, how He wanted me to combat fear of man, and He told me to cut my hair.  After some back and forth it became clear that this wasn’t a slight trim, but a drastic all-off bye-bye scary terrifying haircut, and I knew I had to do it.  What terrified me was the unknown about it: how I would look and what people would think, if they would think I was crazy, stupid, irresponsible, and maybe even if they thought I looked like a boy or just ugly.  That was part of it, the other part was that I loved my hair, and I’ve never worn it short, like really short, and I was very insecure about what I would look like.  It was a process, but I did it (with some help from a friend, and some confirmation from Jeremiah 7:29 which I found the next day during our first read) and it was hard, but God had grace for me to do it (I’m so thankful He did because I don’t think I could do it again) but what it’s doing is helping me to rethink the way I’ve viewed pretty much everything in my life, seeing more how I evaluate my worth through what the world tells me instead of how God sees me.  If you would like to know more about this process and what it’s done you can message me, but for the sake of not being too lengthy I’ll end with this verse:
Isaiah 12:3-4 “Those of a steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock”
I would encourage all of you to ask the Lord where you are not trusting Him today, and let Him show you where in your heart you are lacking true, constant, refreshing peace.  If He asks you to do something, He will help you do it and He will not let you down because He is good.  Don’t be afraid to jump, because He absolutely, completely, without a doubt will catch you.

Thank you so much for supporting me through my journey through the Bible, love and peace to all of you!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Month two of Bible School!

Hey everyone, thanks for keeping up with me on my journey through the Bible, my updates are probably going to be about once a month or so because there is so much that I’m having to focus on with our assignments, but I want to give you an overall idea of what I’ve been learning.  So far we have studied Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel (1 and 2), and now we are finishing up Kings (1 and 2).  What has struck me most since starting the school is the beauty of the story’s continuity, because the Bible is indeed a story.  It’s a story of God’s love and creative design and purpose for the world, contrasted by humans continually choosing to do things their way instead of trusting in God’s way, summing up the essence of sin.  However, as much as it is tempting to stop the story there, it doesn’t end yet.  Throughout the mess and chaos that humans create as a result of their rebellion and continual determination to use their freedom of choice to do things their own way, God reveals the majesty of His sovereignty as He slowly unveils the plan He had from the very beginning to right all the wrongs and bring redemption to the very ones who rejected Him.  It is easy to allow frustration and hopelessness to fester as I read through Exodus and Numbers and marvel at the Israelites rebel against God and refuse to trust Him for both their small needs and their big ones (These were the people who, only a year or so before, witnessed God do unthinkably impossible things on their behalf to deliver them from one of the richest, strongest, most educated nations of the world at the time).  It’s tempting to get angry at the Israelites in Judges who, despite the beautiful, practical and completely culturally relevant law God gave through Moses, did “what was right in their own eyes” as the book continually tells us, and horror, destruction, and moral degradation are the result.  Samuel is a bright light when David comes on the scene, but it’s followed by Kings which falls right back into the cycle of rebellion, chaos, rebellion, destruction, etc.  The question I’m faced with is how is there any hope when people act like this?  God knows everything people do, and yet He never rejects them or disowns them, but instead says that people are made in His image, destined to be like Him (Genesis), supposed to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus), and throughout Numbers and Deuteronomy calls Israel His “people.”  How can He do this?  He says that people are made in His image, yet they act in ways completely opposed to His character. 
Leviticus showed me something that I wasn’t expecting as I realized that the point of the law was to show people who God is, and thus who they were meant to be (ie this is what God looks like, so this is what you are meant to look like).  What the point was ­not was that this is a bunch of stuff that people have to do so that people can be holy and people need to figure out how they can follow all these rules: the revelation? It’s not about people!  The whole thing, from Genesis to Revelation, is about God, from creation to the law to God’s redemption it’s never stopped being about Him.  When we get into trouble is when we start to get focused on ourselves and think that we need to have the answers to life and we need to take care of ourselves and we have to have everything just the way we want it otherwise the world will fall apart.  This was Adam and Eve’s issue, the people of Noah’s time’s problem, the Israelites’ problem in the wilderness and in the early years in Canaan, and it definitely was the problem for the kings of Israel and Judah who continually did what they thought was right based on their perception, not God’s. 
So, what does God do with this?  He’s not in the least surprised or shocked at our selfishness, but He does know how to deal with it.  The thing that I loved most in reading Joshua was to see Israel (who has had such a hard time obeying God in the past) fully yielding themselves to Him and taking the land they were instructed to take even though they were hopelessly outnumbered and disadvantaged in a human sense.  Most had never seen war, they didn’t have sophisticated weapons and they were on the offensive in a land they didn’t know and that was completely different from anything they had ever known, and yet God gives it freely into their hands and they have almost no opposition.  What brought about this trust and obedience?  These Israelites were the ones who did not grow up in Egypt where there was bountiful sources of food and security in living circumstances and a mindset of slavery where they depended on their masters, but they grew up in the wilderness where there was no one and nothing to depend on but God.  They saw death, suffering, hunger and pain, but in the midst of that they saw God bring life, healing, love and provision for all their needs.  This was enough to show them that depending on their own strength and understanding was not enough to get them through, but instead they needed to rely on God and His strength.  This is what God does continually throughout His dealings with Israel when He allows pain and suffering to come as a result of their rejection of Him in order to show them the hopelessness of relying on themselves, versus the life and hope that comes from relying on Him.  This is something I am taking to heart this week as I seek to ask God to show me the areas in my heart where I’ve been self-focused and relied on what I can see and understand instead of trusting in His wisdom and, what a concept, asking Him what He thinks before jumping to conclusions myself (something that is surprisingly hard in life).  I hope these musing minister to you as they have to me, and I hope they find you well! Please pray for my health (I’m fighting off the remnants of a cold) and my emotions as God takes me deeper in this process of surrendering my will to Him.  Blessings!

Love, Aubrey

PS I also want to let you know what my financial situation is like.  I have been able to fund my first two quarters (Yay Jesus!) but I still have one more quarter that God needs to provide for.  The total that I need is around $2700 and it will be due sometime in the early/mid spring.  If God asks you to contribute financially to my school then you can donate online at and write Aubrey Simons for the name and CSBS for the school.  If you would rather send a check then you can mail it to 13621 Wheeler Pl. Tustin, CA 92780 and make it out to me (that way I can pay directly from my account).  Thank you so much for your prayers and support, I’m so thankful for all of you and look forward to sharing more about this journey as it goes onJ

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Back in YWAM!

Hello everyone!  I have been in Youth With a Mission LA for 3 weeks now doing a nine month Chronological School of Biblical Studies (CSBS) and so far have successfully completed both Genesis and Exodus (homework and all).  First I’ll explain a little about how the study process works.  The first step is to read the designated book non-stop (except for two short breaks) out loud (usually with a group).  We have several days of teaching, but the majority of our time is spent completing the homework assignment for the book.  Without going into too much detail, the first part of the assignment is to do extensive research on the author, intended reader, characters in the book, and cultural/historical background of each. 
We then complete charts for (nearly) every chapter in the book for which we make at least ten observations using a provided list of observation labels, and from those observations make at least two interpretations about what the passage meant to the original reader, characters, or God’s redemptive plan.  From those interpretations we form “Timeless Truths” which can be applied in any situation for any person at any time.  The idea is Observe, Interpret, and Apply to our lives. 
This method is great because it forces me to look at the Bible first through the eyes of the people who were intended to read it, and then I can better gauge what the intended message is for me in my culture and apply it practically to my life. 
There are many things I could talk about as God is revealing Himself in so many ways, but I want to focus on some themes I have come upon strongly in Genesis and Exodus.  The first one is identity.  I was surprised at how many times God repeated throughout Genesis that He made people in His “Own image” and “likeness.”  When He created Adam and Eve, He stated their purpose right off:
 “27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
 male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Gen 1:27-29 ESV

There are three things God says He created people for: To reflect His likeness, to have authority over the earth, and to have relationship.  This relational aspect has three parts as well; humans were created to have relationship with nature, God, and other humans.  However, Genesis makes it very clear that the source of all this purpose is God Himself, and trying to find purpose in anything else results in destruction of relationship and peace.  The area that God focused on with me was acceptance, which is why reading that I am made in His image with His likeness was so meaningful to me.  I have striven for human approval and acceptance for so much of my life and God has shown me that acceptance only comes from Him, but it’s really hard to take a concept and make it a belief sometimes.  Every time I read the words “created in His image,” I could hear God speaking acceptance over me, saying “You’re ok, when I made you I said you were ‘good,’ that means that you are whole and perfect in my sight, and I made you just like me.”  I was impacted by this, meditating on this truth and remembering that my purpose comes from God, nothing else.  I have copied my application that I wrote for my homework below which gives a little more insight into this:
Application based on Genesis 20:2
Timeless Truth:
Building faith is a process; it takes failure and struggle, but God is right there the whole time.

Understanding the necessity of obedience has been something God has told me of in the past, and I get it for the most part.  God gave us a will so that we could choose Him, so inevitably He wants us to choose Him.  However, the perfectionistic voices in my head warp obedience from being all about God to being all about me; I obey because I need to do it right, not because of who God is.  In getting to know Abraham, I was awed by how many times he messed up, I mean really messed up.  One time lying about your wife being your sister and, essentially, prostituting her so that you could be safe is bad enough, but he does it twice, without a second thought!  God tells him multiple times not to be afraid, and is constantly reminding him of the great promises that He gave and that He would fulfill, yet Abraham is constantly trying to do things his own way and repeatedly acts out of fear.  And yet, despite all of these things that Abraham did clearly counter to what God was telling him, God calls him righteous.  Why?  Because, “He believed God.”  Was he believing that God would take care of him in Egypt when he lied the first time about his wife, or in Gerar when he lied the second time?  No, but he believed God.  Was he acting out of faith when he impregnated Hagar, going along with the cultural answer for barrenness instead of God’s answer?  No, but he believed God. 
Here’s the thing that I struggle with: It’s ok to make mistakes.  But aren’t we supposed to obey God?  Yes, and the way we get to obedience is often through failing and falling on our faces every day.  For me, I want to open my heart up to God to show me all pride in my heart that says that I must get it perfect every time (which, by the way, makes it all about me) and start focusing more on God’s real plan for my life, and that is to be in perfect, complete, restful, beautiful relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, like He lays out in Genesis.  Whenever I feel the shame and fear try to come in about how I didn’t get something right, I want to start turning my eyes off of myself and look at God, because He’s the most encouraging person I know.
Aubrey Simons

This is one thing God has been laying strongly on my heart, especially as we are plunging into Leviticus which reveals God’s holiness: I am created to be like God, and nothing I do or say will change that.
I am so thankful for you, all my wonderful friends and family, and I would ask that you would pray when God lays it on your heart for my mind and emotions to be open to whatever God has for me, and that my heart would be soft towards Him.  It can be tempting to get stressed or caught up in the work because there is so much of it, but God is teaching me to focus on Him for every chart and not think about how much time I have left or when I can get everything done, but it definitely takes fighting for that peace.  Also I would love prayer for my fellow students as we all go on this journey together, for one of them English is her second language and, although she’s doing beautifully, it is a challenge to finish things on time because she doesn’t always understand it right away.  Please pray protection over our whole school that nothing would get in the way of us capturing God’s heart during this time.

Love to you all!


Friday, August 30, 2013

There and Back Again...

     Hi everyone, thank you to all who have supported me financially and prayed for me on this trip, I'm so thankful for all that the Lord has done through it!  I came back home last Saturday and went straight into school this week, including a new job, so things have been less than ideal for sitting down and writing a blog post; I apologize for the lateness of it.
      Ecuador held many new and beautiful things for me, and God showed me many things during my time there.  First I'll just summarize what I did:  The first week consisted mostly of preparing for vbs and meeting many new people, getting to know Juan Diego and Jose (Nube's nephews), playing with the Vogans' kids Timmy, Debbie, Mateo and Sammy,  and overall settling in.  The second week had much more activity as our team from the church was doing two different vbs's in separate villages during the afternoons, and in the evenings I conducted English classes for all who wanted to come.  The final week (up until Wednesday, as I left on Thursday) I was teaching English classes and we were organizing all the stuff from vbs to be used for next time.
     That being said, God showed me so much through my opportunity to live with the Vogans and share ministry with them, but I want to focus on a couple of things.  First of all it was amazing to witness how God is working in different churches all over the world.  I was able to attend many meetings with the small church that meets in the Vogans' house, including Sunday morning, youth group, Bible study, and worship discipleship.  My spanish improved while I was there and though I didn't catch everything, I probably understood on average about 70% of what was being said, and I was blessed by God's presence there.  Nube led a devotional one night about what it means to be "blessed" as that is what the Bible calls us, and so often we think purely on a physical level when we say that we are blessed, as though blessing is something only to be seen, touched, felt, etc.  But, the word of God is clear that our lives will not always (if ever) look like we plan them to, so blessing is more than a state of possession, it is a state of being.  We ARE blessed, no matter what our circumstances look like, and God has been speaking to me about this over the past few weeks.  No matter what I do, no matter what I see and regardless of what I or anyone else thinks, I am accepted in the beloved of God and totally, completely blessed by Him.  I was encouraged by spending my time with the Vogans and their church family, God is doing beautiful things there and I'm glad I got to be a part of them.
       Another major thing God was showing me more about is His desire for oneness in His body, regardless of differences in opinion or practice.  South America is predominantly traditional Roman Catholic, although there are a lot of different types of churches present.  I found through talking to people in the city about why I was there, the first question they ask when I say that I'm with a church is "Are you Catholic or Evangelical?"  Honestly the differentiation took me back a bit at first because I'm not used to making such a distinction, but I began to realize that there was a wall being put up that God never intended to be there.  My response to that question when I was talking with a lady on the bus was, "I probably lean more towards Evangelical, but I don't see there being much of a difference because we serve the same God, we both love Jesus" and she laughed saying how true that was.  We proceeded to have a very deep conversation about God and how seeking after material things was so empty and worrying over our lives brings nothing but pain and burdens, and how we need to live our lives trusting God every step of the way.  Did she have a full awareness of God's heart for her and the truth in the Bible? Probably not; I don't know anyone who would raise their hand to say they did, I certainly wouldn't.  She was Catholic but she loved Jesus and had an awareness that her relationship with Him should affect the way she lived her life.  This is what God has been showing me personally: instead of judging because someone serves God differently or has a different opinion about something, it doesn't mean that I can put up a wall and place them in another category, or try to get them to fit into my category.  The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us from glory to glory, so if there is healing that needs to come or truth that needs to be administered I can trust Him to take care of that in His time and I can pray and listen for His guidance, otherwise I just need to love because that's what Jesus did.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support,  I feel that God is going to take me back to South America sometime soon so I'll keep you updated when that happens!

Love, Aubrey