“Don’t Let Anyone Despise Your Youth”

Timothy is the young disciple Paul takes under His wing during the latter stages of his life. Paul takes Timothy everywhere and where Paul can’t go, because he prior commitments or is in jail for preaching the Word, he sends Timothy.

In this second recorded letter to his young apprentice, Paul encourages Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12).

We all have to start somewhere. People that have been doing anything for a while are quick to forget how long it took them to learn. Everything from acting to metalworking takes a while to get a hang of, and a lifetime to master. Yet we can easily look down on those who are just beginning.

The disciples turned away children (Luke 18:15-17) and believers that weren’t part of the “in” crowd (Mark 9:38-41). They even rejected Jesus at first because He was from Nazareth (John 1:43-46), the ancient equivalent of a one-horse town. The Pharisees turned away women (Luke 7:39), the sick, and social pariah (Matthew 9:11).

We can think of a thousand reasons why someone is not worthy, but Paul challenges Timothy to prove them wrong. In word and deed, prove them wrong. Demand your place at the table. And for those of us who are the “in,” our challenge is to keep our eyes and hearts open. Where we find exclusion, call it out. Jesus openly rebuked the disciples for pushing out the children. Paul called Peter out for neglecting the disciples. We must also be intentional about extending a warm welcome and following through with it.

Just look at Jesus’ invitation of Zaccheus, a despised tax collector (Luke 19). His dinner invitation changed Zaccheus’ life, so much so that he not only had an overnight conversion, but also became a leading and philanthropic member of society. Community changed people’s lives. It gives them a newfound sense of hope, purpose, and empowerment.

But first someone has to break out the Thor hammer and smash the socio-political glass ceiling to pieces.

So, if you’re new to whatever it is you long for, keep going. If you’re an old timer, stay open. We need each other to thrive.

Deuteronomy: Israel’s First Day at School

Israel stands just outside the border of Canaan, the land they are promised to inherit. Moses is there with them, but he will not follow them in. God has told him it’s the end of the line. So, the man who has lead Israel for 40 years now, delivers unto them a final address.

To be honest, it really does read like a parent giving last minute instructions to their child before he or she boards the bus for school. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Do this. Don’t do that. These are the “nice people.” These are the “mean people.” This is God. This is not.

Of course, in true children’s lit narrative fashion, there is a short list of good things that will happen if you obey the instructions and a very, very long list of bad things that will happen if you disobey them.

But the narrative does not end there. Because Moses is channeling the voice of God, we gain insight into later events that this fledgling nation won’t deal with for a while.

God tells them how a king should act. David wouldn’t become king for 400 years. God tells them that they will eventually turn away from His instructions, be taken over, and redeemed. That happened 800 years later at the hands of the Babylonians and Assyrians. He tells them that a prophet in the same vein as Moses would come. At the recording of the final chapter of Deuteronomy, no such prophet had appeared, yet we know that prophet, king, and priest to be our Savior, Jesus Christ, and He didn’t come onto the scene for 1400 years.

Thus, these simple instructions lasted young Israel not just into elementary, not just into middle or high school, but up into its college years, where Israel now stands poised to spread to the whole world (via the diaspora).

It’s into this transitional stage that Jesus enters, and He shakes up everything that Israel has learned. He hangs out with the “mean people.” He challenges the “good.” He grants mercy where before there was punishment. He works on the holy days. His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is full of statements like “you have heard it said, but I say…” In doing so, He does seek to negate the Law (Deuteronomy means “second law), but rather to deepen Israel’s understanding of it. Everything they have known about holy living and their relationship with God, He calls into question, not to invoke doubt, but to force Israel to delve deeper into the instructions they already know.

Why does He do this? Because 40 years after His physical departure from Earth, the temple of God would be ransacked and Israel would have to go out into the world to create a new national identity.

But Jesus did not send them out alone. He sends His Holy Spirit on our journeys, to continue our education through a deepening relationship with Him and an emphasis on critical thinking, which drives us to discern what God has to say to us in the very nuanced and particular situations we face in our lives.

I think of my own parents. When I was a child, they gave me simple and good instruction, the black-and-white “thou shalt”s that kept me happy, healthy, and safe. Now that I am older, they trust me to make good decisions and offer advice where they see ahead into places I have not been. My relationship with them is deeper than it was as a child. I recognize and appreciate the ways their mannerisms, behavior, and values have copied themselves into my daily life. I am as much their child as I am a adult, both fully theirs and fully myself. And the more I step into my own, the more I find my place in the Ybarra family.

Likewise, God is our Good Father. He raises us up to be more and more like Him and more and more into the person He created us to be. He continues to teach us through His Holy Spirit, offering us advice and instruction as we grow and mature. We are forever His children, yet we also disciple others, teaching them to be more like Christ and also themselves (Matthew 28:18). That way, we continue the legacy of the family of God.

Cupcakes in the Void

I teach youth on Sunday mornings. Great kids, but some can be a little bit like raptors at times. Allow me to explain.

There is a great scene in Jurassic Park where John Hammond reveals that the raptors routinely test the fences to see if there are any flaws in it, weaknesses through which they can escape and reek havoc.

We’re all a bit like that times. We habitually test the waters, seeing what we can get away with and for how long. We’ll keep tossing cupcakes into the void just to find out what sticks.

With that in mind, there comes a time where we as instructors need to put our foot down and say, “woah.” Otherwise, a student may walk right over us – or others. When that happens, not only will the lesson go by the wayside, but other students’ experience of it may be lessened as well.

We must keep our hearts and eyes open, allowing detours when needed and providing guidance when required. We, as instructors, are always learning ourselves. That’s how everyone grows.

Aaron’s 1st Musical: CDs Now Available!

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I am incredibly ecstatic to announce that the first shipment of “Into the Word” CDs are now in! This has been a two year process, off-and-on.

Definitely took me on one of the most exciting adventures I’ve been on, spanning two states, involving lots of new friends, and learning tons from seasoned professionals.

Check out IntotheWordMusical.com for more information.

Bless you all!

My Faith Story

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Hey friends,

Many people over the years have asked for my testimony or personal faith story. Truth is, there are so many different stories I could tell. Recently, I have opened a new chapter in my life. I think it’s worth telling that story because it shows have great and loving and forgiving and strong God really is, and how small I am in comparison.

In 2013, I was pretty high on life. I had a good job, a good group of friends, and had a lot of fun on the side with filmmaking and competitive eating and other random stuff. Plus, I had the respect of my peers and parents as well as a clean slate financially after years and years of student loans.

On the eve of 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to (A) lead a film crew in a new short film series, and (B) lead a group of young adults in a new church outreach initiative. For years, I have wanted to pursue ministry and the arts in a professional capacity. People say I have a knack for these things. So, it was my dream to make the most of it. Even when both the film series and ministry showed signs of storm clouds ahead, I decided to push onward, because this was my dream and no one could take it away from me.

The answer was “no, someone could take it away.” God could, and He did. He allowed me to have a go at it for a while, but then things started to fall apart. The film crew, as great as it was, was sideswiped by unexpected drama, and expenses started piling up much more rapidly than I was bringing money in. Plus, numbers in the church group dwindled and yet the higher ups in the initiative continued to push for results. As both situations took a dive, I tried coping as best I could. Not running to God, but away from God. Not reaching our to others, but into myself. Soon this formerly peaceful, kindhearted dude found himself full of lust, pride, and drunkenness. My finances were shot. My nerves were raw. My relationship with my wife was in the toilet. Finally, I got to the point where I turned to Katie and I was like, “I gotta get out, or this thing I’ve created is gonna kill me” (this being barely an exaggeration).

We finished the films and made a less than graceful departure from the initiative, then moved to North Carolina (from California) in 2015. I didn’t know what waited next. My first few month were rocky. I couldn’t find a job. But I did find a church. One day, the youth pastor at that time asked me to write him a drama for an upcoming event. I wrote him a musical. I’d never written one before. The first draft (the final being not far from) was done in two weeks. God was up to something. Then, the youth pastor felt called away from his position and offered me the job. What ensued were four months of intensive growth and healing, followed by a full-scale production of said musical.

It was amazing! Within a matter of two years, God had taken everything away from me only to give it back again. True, the old demons still vie for my heart and mind. I’m still in debt. But my wife and I are good again; I’ve been writing a lot; the church I’m at is great (the new youth pastor is amazing!); and the musical will soon be ready for full-scale distribution any day now.

From all this I’ve learned that God is good, and He uses all things, even those things that are hurtful to Him and His name, for His glory. Thank you Jesus for being the God of Four-Hundred and Ninety Chances!!!

Also let me take this moment to assure you, if you feel like you are down and out, especially out, God loves you, God wants you back. Run to Him. He is ready and eager to bring you back to glory. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by an Awesome & Mighty Creator! 

Blessings and love,

Aaron D. Ybarra

Sueño

A boy wakes up, goes to school, learns things;

he gets homework assigned, he goes home

eats dinner and speaks a few words to his parents

before hitting the books.

Later, red-eyed from staring at pages of overwrought words

he hits the hay,

he dreams-

dreams of asking out that one special girl at school,

dreams of making his friends laugh and think he’s cool

 

dreams of winning his parent’s respect.

He’s always been in his brother’s shadow, you see,

and he’d like to get out.

The next day, he wakes up and goes back to school-

Yes, it’s back to same old routine.

Sometimes, he forgets his homework at home;

sometimes, he does well;

but for the most part he rides a solid B-/C+ grade,

just above average-

and he never talks to the girl,

and he never becomes the popular kid,

and his relationship with his parents remains strained.

Still, every night, he hits the hay and dreams

and dreams

and dreams.

Soon enough, the boy grows up.

He graduates from high school and moves out

to go to college.

He gets drunk and has sex.

He has some fun.

His grades drop.

Soon, a young woman tells him that she is pregnant with his child.

He drops out of college and

takes a job at a gas station.

There is a shotgun wedding,

weeks before the baby is born.

 

The boy turns into a man,

he works hard,

both he and his wife-

it takes him a while to get used to that word-

spend a lot of sleepless nights together,

raising up the fruit of their loins.

 

They spend a lot of time doubting themselves,

their ability as parents,

but they smile widely anyone stops to

say how handsome their little boy is.

The man gets fat and old,

his wife is still beautiful.

He knows much more than her name now.

He sees the multiverses in her eyes and in her smile.

He holds her hand.

He tries to let go as seldom as possible.

 

Their kid grows up.

He goes to school.

He catches on quick and gets good grades.

The teachers say, “what a fine boy he is!”

The man says, “you can thank his mother for that.”

It’s tongue-in-cheek, but really he’s eating up every word.

 

 

The kid grows up and moves out.

The man goes to bed one last time.

He can hear his wife sleeping beside him.

He knows his time is near, still he doesn’t want to disturb her.

So, he simply leans over, kisses her on the forehead,

closes his eyes, and dreams.