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!