AJ Vanegas Returns to RCS to Speak at Impact Week
Submitted by Teresa Hendren in RCS Highlights on February 05, 2020
I graduated from Redwood Christian Schools in 2010 as a “lifer.” Immediately following graduation, I made the decision to walk away from a large sum of money to pursue a college degree at Stanford University. I graduated Stanford with a degree in Psychology and spent four years playing college baseball as a relief pitcher. Furthermore, I was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 and played 2.5 years of professional baseball, but was then released due to nagging injuries. After spending approximately one year wrestling with my next move in life, I decided to propel myself into Western Seminary. This is my third year there, and I expect to graduate in April of 2021. During this time, I helped coach the Middle School and High School baseball teams at Redwood, and I’ve been working part time at 3Crosses Church as the Community Group Coordinator. I’ve been married for five years to my beautiful wife Laura (who teaches third grade at Redwood Christian Elementary), and we just welcomed a brand new daughter into the world seven months ago, whose name is Ellie Lou. My wife gets more beautiful every day I spend with her, and our precious Ellie Lou is such a wonderful reminder of the beauty and gift of life.
In this current season of life, the Lord has been consistently reshaping my heart given my past pursuits and how much of my identity was wrapped up in them. Daily, the Lord opens my eyes to what is truly important in His kingdom. One major driving force in my life is the innate desire to do something productive with my life and leave a lasting impact or a legacy.This driving force has sent me running after what the world has told me fills that desire in my heart. However, the Lord is routinely teaching me that abiding in Him and being the best version of myself to my οικοσ (oikos which is the greek term for “house,” but is often used to describe the people in your direct sphere of influence) is the path to fruitfulness. Nothing I do or accomplish will ever fill this void because there will always be something more to be done. The one thing that satisfies is everything that Jesus has already done for me on the cross.
Looking back on my RCS experience, I would say that my education provided me with the practical skills I needed to learn; which was how to balance my time and energy. In order to improve my chances of getting into college, I was faced with the challenge to take as many AP and advanced courses I could, get involved with sports, learn an instrument and participate in the music department, and engage in other outside activities, while still maintaining a healthy social life. I will always be grateful to the RCS faculty and staff for understanding my lofty dreams and working with me to meet all of their academic expectations. This provided me with the skills that allowed me the chance to attend and thrive at a university like Stanford. Learning how to manage my time at RCS has influenced my current scheduling habits. RCS also equipped me to manage my priorities and tasks without becoming burnt out.
One final thought, I often juxtapose my RCS education and my Stanford education and realize that my gospel-centered education at RCS enlightened my studies at Stanford. At Stanford (and in any secular environment) I often found myself saying, “Yea I know! The Bible already says that!” Education centered around Jesus forced me to think about how Jesus influences all subjects, especially in the humanities department. The realization that Jesus is at the center of all of human history and all academia motivated me to spend these four years of my life studying His word more thoroughly!
For Spiritual Emphasis week, we will be diving into the book of 1 Corinthians in order to talk about dreams and ambitions. Middle School and High School are the ages where we begin to dream about how we can change the world and leave a legacy, much like my dream of playing professional baseball. However, when we set our goals and dreams we are often influenced by the wisdom of the world. What does it look like to center our ambitions around the person of Jesus? How do I know when my goals align with God’s will? How will my dreams, centered around a Hebrew who lived 2000 years ago, affect my life today?
As the world continues in its quest to acquire wisdom, the further our culture seems to drift from Jesus. The church of the next generation will be faced with tremendous challenges as the world becomes more dependent on its own wisdom as a standard of intellectual seriousness. Paul speaks to the port city of Corinth, at a time where it is the central hub of cultural growth and intellectual development, and writes these words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 –
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul rejects a worldview that is void of Jesus and shows us how the cross puts a new lens on our thinking and transforms the very essence of our lives in a satisfying and hopeful way. My hope is to turn this message of the cross, that may still be considered foolishness by some, and attest to the fact that it can have life-giving implications on their lives starting today!
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