God’s Beautiful Gift of Transition

By Todd Forrest

We finally get settled. Life seems predictable. We have a sense of security in locations, relationships, and rhythms of life. Then, in what seems like a moment, everything is out of balance. The solid foundation of each day, our schedules and our futures are suddenly thrust into a misty unknown. This is where we must choose to thrive, we must choose to live with resolve. In reality, this is where we find God in a new way. His most intimate gift of our identity with him, beyond the things of this world, comes into sharp focus. The familiar is stripped from us, and an uncertain, unpredictable future unfolds, encouraging our security in the Lord as our guide, comfort, and peace in the unknown.

God leverages transitions

A brief look through the Bible shows the impact and life-altering results of God bringing people through transition. Abraham would never have become the father of a nation if he did not, in obedience, go from Haran to this foreign land with a foreign language and culture. Moses would never have been able to bear the rugged life of leading a nation through the desert if he had not first been extracted from the comfortable palace of Pharaoh only to forge an identity with God in the desert. Peter, James and John would have stalled out in life in the predictable vocation of fishing if Jesus Christ had not reoriented their world to be world-changing fishers of men. Hebrews challenges us to, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12:7, NIV) Transition will be hard and may feel like a hardship in life. However, God is doing his refining work in you and is leveraging this transition to position you exactly where he wants you to be.

Transition is entrusted to us, not forced on us

As you are preparing to make your exit from GCU, there are a million unknowns. There are an overwhelming number of steps, things to process and duties that all merge into a jumbled pile you call your calendar. Deadlines chase you, future plans elude you, and the days tick by to graduation. Do not fear this, let it inspire you. God’s discipline, as intentional shaping, occurs out of his love. He says, “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” (Heb. 12:8) It is because of love that God is entrusting transition to you. If he wanted you to stay the same, he would leave you where you are. However, God has bigger things for you. You can choose how much you will embrace the transition; how much you are willing to risk and how much faith you will have in God. God is not forcing you; he is positioning you for his work through you.

Embracing God’s beautiful gift

So, if you reluctantly want to embrace this gift, great! It will have some meaningful and joyful times. It may also have some tears and frustrations as transitions are, many times, uncomfortable. Hebrews finishes the thought of God’s discipline encouraging us that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11) Embrace this chapter of transition with humility and optimism. Relax, live in submission to God’s plan and pattern and allow him to direct you. No one has an easy life, but I trust you know that life with God as guide is the best life you could ever have. Happy transitioning!

Finish Well by Cherishing Last Opportunities

By Dr. Scott Hovater

Graduation is around the corner and your life is about to change. You will soon be entering the work force full time or heading off to graduate school. Many of you will get married and start a family. All of you are starting a new chapter in your life. Thanks to the education you received here at GCU, you are well equipped for the next challenges and adventures of your life. Over the past few years, you have been academically trained, spiritually equipped, emotionally strengthened, and have learned to engage with others in positive, meaningful ways. You are ready! Make your mark on this world! Go Lopes! 

While excitement is in the air about the adventures awaiting you, it is also important to take a moment and make sure you finish your time at GCU well. Do not let the dreaded disease of senioritis engulf you! Resist the temptation to just coast to the finish line. Instead, make the most of these last few days of college life by creating a list of things you want to do. We will call this the ‘Last Opportunities’ list. Checking off everything on this list will help you run full throttle towards that graduation finish line and provide you with great memories to cherish for the rest of your life.  

While everyone’s ‘Last Opportunities’ list will be different, here are some ideas to help you get started:

Plant the Seeds: Create Your Last Opportunities List

This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many best laid plans go unfinished just because we never took the time to plan them out first. We can dream all we want, but initial action is required. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 11:4 that “whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” In other words, do not just think about planting a crop, plant it and then remember to reap what you have sown. Create your list!

Sow Kind Words: Be of Good Cheer
Keeping with the theme of planting a crop, one item on your list should be to support those around you by offering words of encouragement. Like you, many others are entering a transitional period of their lives. This can come with anxiety about what the future entails or even about whether they will pass all their classes! List out those who you feel need some encouragement and go and offer it to them. Proverbs 12:25 says, “anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Besides providing encouragement to others, your cheerful attitude will also likely rub off on you as well. Sow kind words and your eventual harvest will be great.

Sow Gratitude: Give Thank You Notes

A very tangible way to be a blessing to others and to end your time at GCU on a high note, is to give simple thank you notes to those who have contributed to your success. On your ‘Last Opportunities’ list write down the names of people who have inspired you, taught you, mentored you, and who were just there whenever you needed support. These can include your parents and other family members, your professors, classmates, roommates, friends, etc…  Offering thanks and demonstrating gratitude to others is one of the greatest gifts we can provide. Sowing gratitude is like watering and fertilizing your crop. It helps to create good soil that can produce a plentiful harvest.  This is because gratitude has a ripple effect. Those who are shown gratitude tend to offer gratitude to others. In this way, you are touching the lives of people you do not even know. How wonderful is that! Finally, while creating thank you notes does require a little extra effort it will be worth it. Galatians 6:9 tells us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Mend Broken Fences: Seek Forgiveness

On your list, you might also include those whom you may not have a good relationship with due to unfortunate circumstances created by you or them. Now is the time to mend those broken fences before it is too late. It is impossible to please everyone or for everyone to like us; however, it is possible for us to forgive those who have hurt us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Seeking and offering forgiveness is very difficult, but we are commanded to do so. Mend those fences so that no critters will get in and destroy the crop that you are carefully tending.

Reap Memories: Visit Your Favorite Stomping Grounds

GCU has a beautiful campus. Think about going on a walkabout all by yourself. While walking through campus reflect on the memories you have made at GCU. Take pictures and short videos that you can share with those children and grandchildren you might have one day! As we all know, GCU’s physical campus continues to grow and change. Capture GCU in its current form. Also take some time to go to your favorite spots. Sit in your favorite study spot, relax in your hammock one more time, eat at your favorite restaurant, bask in the sun on the GCU lawn, go to the spot you always go to when you just want to get away from everything. Take a trip down memory lane and jot down thoughts you are having. Your future self will appreciate it.

Harvest Mementoes: Collect Keepsakes

Find items that will help you remember your time at GCU. Buy a GCU magnet from the Lopes Store that you can place on your refrigerator, or some other token that when you see it and touch it, it will immediately jog your memory and take you back to your college days. Take the time to organize the pictures and videos on your phone. Put them in folders and write down the names of everyone in the photos and their relationship to you. You do not want to take a trip down memory lane in thirty or forty years and not remember names, places, or relationships. Again, your future self will appreciate the time and effort you put in.  

Offer Up Praise: Pay It Forward

After completing everything on your ‘Last Opportunities’ list, take time to offer up a prayer of thanks for all those who invested in your education and have helped you to become the person you are today. Each of us owes an unpayable debt to those whose shoulders we stand upon. While we cannot repay it, we can pay it forward by working on a new list: a ‘Future Opportunities’ list! Reinvest the harvest that you have reaped and plant new crops. In that way you can reap a harvest that is thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was initial sown into you (Mark 4:20).

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. Finish well and cherish those last opportunities.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

How Will Others Remember Me?

By Todd Forrest

The title’s question is not one of insecurity, it is a legacy of blessing. As you are closing this chapter of your life as a college student, how you exit makes all the difference in how you will be remembered. What will your current friendships look like a year from now? Whom do you want to keep close in your life and how will you do it? Whom do you need to thank, affirm, and give honor before you make your exit? Most of this comes down to how you want to be remembered. For example, Joseph from Cyprus was a follower of Christ and is known for his intentional investment of encouragement. In fact, people did not call him Joseph, they called him (by how we know him), Barnabas which means son of encouragement. (Acts 4:36)

Pause to affirm adult influences in your life

Along this path over the last few years there have been adults that have made an impact on you. Have you let them know? Whether a professor, coach, counselor, R.A., or Life Group Leader, there are those that have helped to form you and shape you into the person you are becoming. Take a moment and make a list of whom you can give an intentional “thank you.” These means a lot even if it is simply a short email or sidewalk chat. Do not forget all those who clean our buildings and campus as well as those who serve you food! Many people have dedicated their lives and vocations to invest in your future. Be generous and specific with your gratitude to them during your closing days on campus.

Pause to affirm your friendships

You spend time daily with people that you may never see again after the tassel has moved to the other side of your graduation cap after you walk the big stage of graduation. Such a change does not make these relationships insignificant but may increase their value in your life. Throughout your life’s journey, numerous people will slip in and out of the chapters of your life, providing a profound and meaningful partnership in what you are presently facing. This does not minimize the experience or relationship. On the contrary, it just shows us how much the Lord loves us by connecting people to us for a short and meaningful investment during various seasons of life. Remember, we are providing the same investment in the lives of others too. As you prepare for departure, seal these relationships with a grateful heart and honestly explain what they have meant to you for yourself and to those who have walked beside you. Be vulnerable and find ways to depart GCU being a blessing to everyone you can.

Pause to realign future relationships

One of the most emotionally difficult times preparing for graduation is reorienting your life after college. The absence of the daily engagement with friends will be felt and missed. However, the blessing of modern technology is that you do not have to get too distant. Paths of life diverge in different directions, but the relationships forged at GCU amid late-night study groups, Havoc celebrations, and numerous other events can live on if you plan intentionally. For example, my college roommate and I moved to different states but planned a weeklong backpacking trip to reconnect. So, every year and met in different places and took time to hike, fish and catch up for about ten years after college. Just last year we went again just to catch up once again. It was 32 years after our time together in college but we are still close friends. Friendships can be just a phone call away.

Affirming and realigning your relationships must be a discipline in your last 100 days of GCU life. Your schedule only gets busier and if you do not make this a priority in this season, these affirmations will get lost in the shuffle of life and you may miss being a blessing to someone in a way that you never realized. Your intentional thanks and relational connection may be one of the most important things in the life of someone around you. Don’t miss out on the joy of gratefulness and don’t miss out on the joy of being an encouragement to others around you.

A Purpose Filled Goodbye

By Dr. Shelly Hogan

Hello Senior! The time has finally arrived. After years of classroom lectures, long nights of study, and assignment deadlines, you have almost reached the finish line, you are nearly ready to cross the stage, and you will soon receive your diploma. Your hard work is paying off and you will be celebrating soon.

College years are an important season in anyone’s life. Filled with friendship and love, success, and failure and so much more, it has been a pivotal time in your spiritual journey and personal development. Because of this, it is critical that you take the time to remember, reconcile, and redeem the important parts of your time here before the celebration begins and the confetti starts to fall.

Remember the moments that meant the most

Take time to walk through the places on campus that were special to you. Recall the memories. Reflect on how you felt and who you were with. These are treasures that you will take with you through the rest of your life so mark them in a special way.

Reconcile the moments that made life hard

Along with the amazing memories there were probably hard days and difficult discussions that caused wounds. It is okay, that is the way life is, and we must be willing to accept the good with the bad. However, we do not want to take the pain of those encounters into our next season and so steps need to be taken to reconcile our hearts. Recall those times of trial. Let yourself feel the pain and disappointment and choose to forgive with your whole heart. Be specific, list the actions that marred your heart, and then intentionally choose to release the offender. Once you have done that, thank God for the lesson learned and pray a blessing over the person involved. This may seem hard, but remember the words of Jesus, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). If you wholeheartedly do this, it will bring healing and joy back into those memories.

Redeem the moments that seemed to be wasted

Regret is an inevitable aspect of life, yet one of the hardest things to live with. Remember that mistakes cannot always be avoided. In fact, they are a part of the human experience. However, if not reconciled they can hinder future plans. Take a moment to reflect on what you wish you would have done and what you wish you could take back. Be open to feeling the disappointment and sorrow and forgive. Though we cannot change the past, through forgiveness and God’s grace, we can change how we feel about it.

In the end, your story is still being written and your future is filled with hope and opportunity. Do not let past regret ruin future promise. Remember and treasure the good times, reconcile yourself to the hard days, let God redeem any moments of regret and take the time to pause and rejoice over the gift of the journey.

Sammy Alfaro

Sammy Alfaro, Ph.D. 

Professor of Theology


Dr. Alfaro is a Phoenix native of Mexican descent. He received an M.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies (2002) and a Ph.D. in Theology (2008) from Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA). He is an ordained bishop (Church of God, Cleveland, TN) and pastor of New Day Church. He is married to Miriam, and they have two teenagers, David and Marissa. 

Brett Berger

Brett Berger, Th.M.

Director, Barnabas Program

Department Chair, B.A. in Christian Ministry


Brett Berger was born and raised in Arizona.  He completed an M.Div. from Phoenix Seminary and a Th.M. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  His academic interests include biblical theology, ethics, and spiritual formation.  He and his wife, Audra, have three sons. In addition to his work at GCU as Coordinator of the Barnabas Pastoral Program, he serves his church by leading a small group Bible Study and a ministry focused on the integration of faith and work. 

Ryan Brandt

Ryan Brandt, Ph.D. 

Professor of Christian History and Theology 


Dr. Brandt teaches theology, historical theology, and honors Christian worldview for the College of Theology. He has published chapters and journal articles on the beatific vision and theosis in Christian thought, contemplation, spiritual reading (the lectio), theological interpretation, and spiritual formation. He is an editor and contributor for the book, Spiritual Formation for the Global Church: A Multi-Denominational, Multi-Ethnic Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2021), as well as the upcoming monograph, Theological Interpretation of Scripture for Spiritual Formation (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2023, forthcoming). He is managing editor of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in central Phoenix with his wife, Laura, and daughter, Evelyn. He enjoys astronomy, gardening, hiking, and video games. 

Pete Charpentier

Pete Charpentier, D.Min.

Assistant Professor of Theology and Pastoral Ministry

M.Div. Department Chair


Dr. Charpentier is a native of Louisiana.  He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biblical Studies and New Testament, respectively. His D.Min. work focused on personal disciple-making in the context of pastoral ministry.  Dr. Charpentier has served in various ministry roles for over 30 years. 

John Cheong

John Cheong, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of Missions

Missions Course Lead


John was born and raised in Southeast Asia. He completed his Th.M. and Ph.D. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and serves as the course lead for intercultural studies at GCU. He spent over a decade in missions in Southeast Asia doing evangelism, discipleship, and teaching in two seminaries. He researched and published many writings on the intersection of the social sciences, theology, and missiology and was a consultant for churches and mission agency workers in missions. His academic interests range from World Christianity, contextual theology in discipleship, the anthropology and sociology of globalization, missionary elenctics, ethnicity and identity in missions, money and mission, Asian spiritual warfare, trinitarian and diaspora missiology, and urban missions. He is married with three daughters and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Manny Cota

Manny Cota, M.A.

Instructor of Philosophy


Manny is an Arizona native and grew up on the border in Nogales, Arizona. He completed an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University, and subsequently spent two years at the Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount University where he completed an M.A. in Bioethics.  He has been teaching philosophy, theology and bioethics in Phoenix since 2012 at several different colleges and universities, including GCU, before starting at GCU as a full-time faculty member in 2015.  Currently, he is writing towards a Ph.D. In the area of philosophy of science and bioethics at the Free University of Amsterdam. He resides with his wife Kendra and son Moses in Glendale, Arizona.