Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My testimony: 2001-2011

It's amazing to see how God has worked in the past 10 years since I graduated from New Tribes Bible Institute (NTBI)! I remember at that time thinking I was doing pretty well, but the truth is I still had a lot of growing to do. The summer after I graduated I went on a short-term missions trip with Pioneers to Buryatia in Siberia, Russia, and I thought maybe I would be a full-time missionary there, but I needed to pursue further education first. After working as a cook at NTBI Jackson for a year, I went to Appalachian Bible College (ABC) in West Virginia, where I met my future wife, Angelina, and got my Bachelor's degree. Over those years the church in Buryatia had been growing—praise the Lord!—and maybe I wasn't as suited for that ministry as I thought I was...

While I was at ABC I went on a couple missions trips to Utah, and I saw that as a mostly unreached place dominated by the LDS, so my wife and I thought maybe that would be the place for us—but we had to pay off our school loans first. We settled in Columbus, Ohio to wait for the Lord to direct us to the next place. I got a job at Wal-mart nearby our apartment, so I rode a bicycle to work. Six weeks after Angie and I were married, I was hit by a Ford F-250 truck as I was riding my bike. I needed immediate brain surgery, but there were people praying for me all over the world, and after 3 weeks I was able to go home. I wasn't able to work at all for about 6 months after that, but God provided for us in many amazing ways, and I had a lot of time to think. Even though I didn't suffer much injury in the rest of my body, the head trauma did present me with some limitations I didn't have before, so I had to learn what I could do and serve God with that. I realized that much of what I had planned on doing was because I thought it was what I should do, and I didn't really think about whether it was what I was designed to do. Angie helped me a lot with that, and getting hit by a truck helped me get my head on straight, so to speak.

I was so focused on life in church groups and Bible Colleges that I really didn't know anything about real life—and there's a lot more to ministry than getting good grades. God used the "accident" to help me slow down and see what is going on in the world. I learned that I am an intellectual, information guy, and while Angie helps me to care about people more than I used to, I needed to use the skills God produced in me. It was time for me to become a librarian.

Looking back, I could see how God had been directing me towards this all along—I had worked in the library at ABC all 3 years I was there, never knowing what it was preparing me for. I worked for Legal Services for the state of Ohio, and during that time I developed some handy computer skills. I went to Clarion University of Pennsylvania to get my Master’s in Library Science, and I was kind of expecting to become a Young Adult Librarian at a public library somewhere. I worked in the public library while I was in graduate school, and I was amazed at the opportunities I had to share the gospel being a part of that community. Then God worked it out that it was time for ABC to look into getting a new librarian, and everything fit together. I am now the Associate Librarian at Appalachian Bible College, assisting students as they prepare to go into ministry all over the world! I never could have seen this coming—God is totally in control!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Believin' don't make it so

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I can't believe in a God who would _______."? Maybe you've said it yourself. Think about that for a second. God is who he is and who he has always been, and what anybody believes about him doesn't change a thing. If you believe with all your heart that it will be a sunny day, does that make any difference at all whether it will rain or not? God has revealed to us who he is through the world he created, and in more detail through his Word, especially in what we read about his Son, Jesus Christ--that is who God is. Often people try to reach beyond that to make God more like a human so we can understand him better, but it doesn't work like that. True, all humans are created in God's image, so all life is precious, but we are just a shadow which has been distorted by sin. We are commanded NOT to try to create God in our image (Exodus 20:4-6).

God is infinite, which means for all eternity there will be more learn about him and his ways. For now we have the Bible. The Bible is full of both clear truth and mystery. From the beginning the only way God gave people to be made right with him is by faith. Every human who ever lived--except for Jesus Christ--is a sinner who commits sin. Jesus came to Earth from Heaven to die to take the punishment of every person on Himself. Even that is something we cannot imagine. Because Jesus is the one sinless man, God was satisfied with his sacrifice in place of all humankind. Because Jesus is God he rose from the dead, never to die again. Christ died for all, but only those who accept his sacrifice are God's children. That's enough from me--just read it for yourself:

"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:14-24 ESV)