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Living Outside our Walls
RETHINK Prayer IV
Forgive us as we forgive • May 24, 2020 • Aaron Young
As Jesus teaches us to rethink prayer, the second category of petition Jesus teaches us to pray and ask our heavenly Father for is "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors". The word forgive here is the Greek word "aphiemi", which literally means "to send away from, to let go, to release, to discharge". Our prayer is not that God would send us away from him, but that God would send our debts, our trespasses, our sins, our offenses away from us! The most dangerous part of this prayer is the "as", which just as easily could be translated "as, like, according to, as long as". Is that something we really want to pray, that our Father would send our sins away from us as long as we have sent the sins others have committed against us away from them? The reality is in this fallen world we live in, others will sin against us. It's not a matter of if, but when. Everybody at some point will sin against us, disappoint us, hurt us. Jesus teaches us that we need to forgive others. Why? Ultimately because our heavenly Father has forgiven us of an insurmountable debt. If God is willing to send the sins we have committed against him away from us, as his sons and daughters, shouldn't we be willing to send the sins others commit against us away from them? Let's be honest, this is not an easy teaching. Forgiveness is difficult. Perhaps this is why Jesus builds this sort of self-check into the Lord's prayer. When we ask our Father to forgive us of our sins, we are forced to consider who have I failed to forgive? Who am I harboring anger and resentment towards? Who am I holding indebted to me? Here are 3 steps we can take to move in the direction of forgiving others as our heavenly Father has forgiven us: 1. Pray for the capacity, the ability, the strength to forgive 2. Choose to forgive 3. Practice forgiveness Ultimately we have a decision to make, we can either send away the sins people commit against us, or we can send away the person, the relationship. When we choose to follow our Father's example and send away the sin, rather than send away the person, our Father's name is hallowed, our Father's kingdom comes, and our Father's will is done here on earth as it is in heaven.
RETHINK Prayer III
Our Daily Bread • May 10, 2020 • Aaron Young
Jesus is challenging us to rethink prayer, and has given us the Lord's Prayer as a template for how to rethink prayer. When it comes to the "Father Give" portion of the Lord's prayer, what kinds of things do you typically ask God for? Do you ask God for needs or wants? Jesus teaches us to ask God for "bread", this word that encompasses far more than simply bread, but involves all of our basic needs as human beings. "Give us today our daily bread." As our Heavenly Father, God knows that we have needs, needs for food, water, shelter, companionship, health, etc. Our Father also knows there is a huge difference between needs and wants. Jesus is teaching us to pray that our Father would provide for our needs. Jesus is also teaching us to pray for our daily provision, our daily sustenance, our daily ration, what we need to survive the day. So often we pray for tomorrow, what we need a week from now, a month from now, a year or decade from now. We worry and stress over the distant future. Do we trust our Father enough to provide what we need for each day, and each day alone, and tomorrow we'll do the same? After all, Jesus has told us "each day has enough trouble of its own". Finally, Jesus puts a double emphasis on "us" and "our". Jesus teaches us to rethink prayer as corporate, not individual. As fellow brothers & sisters, do we only care if God provides for our individual needs, but not those of our brothers or sisters? Jesus doesn't teach us to pray "Father give me today my daily bread", but "Father give us today our daily bread." At times like this, we need each other more than ever. We need to have a "we" mentality, a "we're all in this together" mentality. God provides our daily bread, and sometimes the source of that support is one another. If in the midst of this current crisis, you find yourself in physical need, please don't hesitate to reach out to the benevolence team. Shoot them an email at email@example.com. If in the midst of this current crisis, you find yourself in emotional or spiritual need, and need prayer, please don't hesitate to reach out to the elders. Shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
RETHINK Prayer II
Prayer as a Pious Position & Proper Perspective • May 3, 2020 • Aaron Young
Has your prayer life grown stale? Do you find yourself offering up the same "canned" prayers over and over again, prayers you say by heart, but not necessarily with heart? Perhaps now would be a good time to rethink prayer and turn away from your old habits and ways of thinking about prayer, and turn in a new direction. In the Lord's prayer, Jesus attempted to give us a new model for prayer, a new template to follow. His goal wasn't to teach us the exact words to pray, but to teach us how to pray. For most of us, prayer is about asking God for this or that. This isn't wrong, God specifically tells us that in every situation, we should bring our prayers, petitions and requests to God. He is attentive to our voices. This is just an incomplete view of prayer. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus gives us what I have called three "pre-petition postures". Three postures we should take in prayer before we ask God for anything, before we bring all of our prayers, petitions and requests before our heavenly Father. These postures are meant to prepare our hearts, similar to how an athlete stretches and does warm-ups before exercising, or how a musician or vocalist warms up before performing. These pre-petition postures help get us in the right frame of mind. The first is, "Father, let your name be hallowed", on earth as it is in heaven. The second is, "Father, let your kingdom come", on earth as it is in heaven. And the third is, "Father, let your will be done", on earth as it is in heaven. We live in a fallen, broken, sin-stained world where these 3 statements are not facts. They are not givens here on earth, as they are givens in heaven. This is why we need to rethink prayer as "pious priority". As his sons and daughters, are we going to give priority to God's name, God's kingdom, and God's will being done here on earth, in each of our own personal lives, or are we going to give priority to our name, our kingdom, and our will being done? How much damage and destruction has been caused on earth by my giving priority to my name, my kingdom and my will over God's name, God's kingdom and God's will? When we prioritize God over ourselves, this also gives us "proper perspective". We are able to get the vertical view on our lives and our circumstances, that it is next to impossible for us to see here on the ground on earth where we only see the horizontal view. We need to rethink prayer, and specifically these 3 pre-petition prayers, as a means for giving us proper perspective before we begin asking God for anything.
RETHINK Prayer I
Prayer as a Privileged Position • April 26, 2020 • Aaron Young
May is just around the corner, and as we slowly begin reopening and emerging from our shelter-in-place orders, none of us know exactly what this next month holds. Will it be more of the same? Or will things start to get back to some semblance of "normal", whatever that new "normal" may be? In the midst of this uncertainty, now would be as good a time as ever for all of us to rethink how we think about prayer. Perhaps our prayer lives have been stuck in a rut. Maybe our old way of praying, or our old way of thinking about prayer, needs a reset, a reboot, a restart. Maybe we need to think differently about prayer, repent of our old ways. Philippians 4:6 tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" I don't know about you, but in our present circumstances, it's hard not to feel anxious about all kinds of different things. Is it possible for us to not be pulled apart, pulled in opposite directions, divided, to go to pieces, in the midst of trouble and the inevitable storms of life? In the very next verse, God promises us that the result of prayer is "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus". Prayer is the precursor to peace in the midst of any and every situation we may find ourselves in. So how's your prayer life? Prayer is not about religious duty or obligation. Prayer is not about appearances. Prayer is not a performance. Prayer is not about an abundance of words or repetition. For followers of Jesus, those who have put their hope, faith & trust in Jesus and what Jesus accomplished on our behalf on the cross, prayer is about privileged position. Jesus has given us access to a new relationship with the God who created the Universe and holds it in a coffee mug in his hand. We are no longer strangers to God. We are no longer estranged from God. We are not insignificant specks of dust marooned on an insignificant speck of dust planet in the Universe. In Jesus, we are now adopted sons and daughters of God. God is our Father, who knows us, is attentive to our voices, and who loves us dearly. Jesus has made it possible for us to have the same kind of intimate relationship with God that he has. Jesus constantly referred to God as Father in his personal prayers, something which prior to Jesus, nobody did. The only time Jesus referred to God as God in prayer was in that horrible moment when he cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus went from referring to God as Father to God as God so that we would be in the privileged position to go from referring to God as God to God as Father. Let that reality sink in. Take a few minutes each day this week to consider the fact that God has given you the privileged position of son or daughter, and that prayer is about this intimate relationship and connection you now have with your Father in heaven because of Jesus!
Don't Waste It
RISING Church Online • April 19, 2020 • Aaron Young
I 100% believe God wants to use this time, redeem this time, for our good, and for his ultimate glory! I pray that we will take Isaiah 55 to heart. I pray that we will repent, this word meaning to think differently, change our minds. I pray that we would turn towards God and seek God while we still can. We do not have an unlimited amount of time to seek God, so lets turn away from our old ways, our old ways of thinking, and let's turn towards God, his ways, and his way of thinking. As believers, could this be the wake-up call we desperately need? As non-believers, could this be the final call? I pray that through this, we would have a change of perspective, and would move towards a God-centric view of the Universe, rather than a me-centric, egocentric view of the Universe. I pray we would view our current struggles and troubles in light of the fact that God's ways are higher than our ways, God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth. I pray that this time would not be wasted on us. I pray it would not return empty and void, without accomplishing what God desires for it to accomplish in our lives. That's my prayer through all of this, what is yours? Where do you personally need to repent, think differently, change your mind and turn in God's direction? That's going to look different for each one of us. In what areas of your life, do you need a change of perspective, having a God-centric, and not egocentric view of the Universe? If we get specific, what are 3 things that you have started doing during this reset, reboot, restart, that you want to continue doing once everything goes back to "normal"? And what are 3 things that you were doing before this reset, reboot, restart that you want to be sure you don't go back to doing should things return to "normal"? What will your new normal be after all of this? Don't waste it. Don't let this time of refinement return empty and void and without accomplishing what God wants it to accomplish in your life!
I am the Resurrection
Easter Sunday • April 12, 2020 • Aaron Young
I hope you were all able to celebrate the true power and hope we have because of Resurrection Sunday this past weekend. The reality is Jesus is with us in this current storm. When Jesus sees us, when Jesus sees our condition, our struggle, our brokenness, Jesus weeps. As we talked about this past Sunday, Jesus just plain ugly cries. His heart breaks. Jesus knows exactly what it will take to bring us peace, God's peace, a peace which surpasses all ability to understand. Jesus knows this peace will protect us. Jesus knows this peace will keep guard over our hearts and minds. Jesus knows this peace will act as a shield around us so that we do not need to fear. Jesus knows that he is the source of this peace. Without Jesus, there is no peace. Jesus desperately wants us to have his peace, and this is why when Jesus ugly cries over us and our condition, he says, "if you, only you, knew what would bring you peace". Ultimately Jesus laid down his life so that we could have his peace. As Isaiah's 700-year old prophecy proclaimed, "the punishment that brought us peace was on him." As Jesus so confidently assured the disciples both before his crucifixion, "my peace I give you", as well as after his resurrection, "Peace be with you!" Today, in the midst of our current troubles, we desperately need this peace. Jesus is our refuge, our shield and rampart who will guard our hearts and minds so that we can have peace of mind, even in the midst of the storm. He is with us. He has come to deliver us. In him and him alone, we are complete, whole, at rest. My prayer is that as this current storm continues, each of us will truly find our peace in Jesus and Jesus alone!
Palm Sunday • April 5, 2020 • Aaron Young
On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters the congested city of Jerusalem along with thousands upon thousands of other pilgrims, all in town to celebrate Passover, this annual celebration of God's deliverance of the Hebrew people from the hands of their Egyptian oppressors. This was a tense time, especially for the Romans, the Jewish people's current oppressors and overlords. If there was ever going to be a revolt against Roman tyranny, surely it would happen during Passover. So as Jesus enters the city, the people begin crying out "Hosanna", which literally means "Save Now! Deliver Now". This was their rallying call, like chants of "U.S.A." during the Olympics. The people start declaring of Jesus, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Both of these shouts of praise are shouts of expectation. Both references to Psalm 118:27-27, a messianic psalm looking forward to God's deliverance of his people once more. The crowds believe Jesus is the prophesied and long-awaited Messiah. So why do the crowds' shouts of "Save Now! Deliver now!" on Palm Sunday, turn to shouts of "Crucify Him!" on Good Friday? Well what happens when what you think and hope is going to happen, doesn't happen? That's the question that we all need to wrestle with in the midst of this current storm we are in. I don't think there is a single one of us who doesn't want God to deliver us now, save us now, from this current trouble. We want immediate deliverance. We don't want this crisis to drag on indefinitely. We want to get back to life as usual, the way things were a little over a month ago. We, like the Jewish people 2000 years ago at the time of Jesus, are living under the oppressive regime of a foreign power. Not the power and might of Rome, but the power and might of COVID-19, the power and might of fear. We are desperate for deliverance. We cry out to God, "Hosanna! Save us now! Deliver us now!" We expect God to deliver us on our time, according to our schedules and agendas, and in accordance with how we want him to deliver us. We want our way, not his way. We want our will, not his will. We want our plans, not his plans. After all, we know better, right? 2000 years ago, God had a plan, and it was to save and deliver us from spiritual oppression. It was to save and deliver us from the power of sin, death, Satan, hell itself. It wasn't to save us from the next physical enemy, whether Rome or COVID-19 or whatever comes next. In this fallen, broken, sin-stained world we live in, there will always be another force, another power, that threatens to destroy our lives. Jesus came to save and deliver permanently, not temporarily. This world we live in is not heaven. Lower your expectations. If it were heaven, Jesus wouldn't need to come and rescue us. It is precisely because this world is fallen, broken, sin-stained, that we need to be rescued from it! As we prepare for Good Friday on Friday, and Resurrection Sunday on Sunday, let's take some time to contemplate and consider 2 questions. Question 1: What expectations do you have of God? Write these out. Make a list. Be honest. What is it that you think God owes you? Long life, job security, health, wealth, achievement, accolades, recognition? Once you've written these down, go back and look at each one individually. What's the source of this expectation? Is this from God, and if so what Scripture do you have to back it up? Or is this from my Enemy, whose sole desire is to steal, kill and destroy me? If it's God truth, write TRUTH next to it. If it's Satan's lie, write LIE next to it. Question 2: What are you going to do if God's timing is not your timing? What are you going to do if God's ways are not your ways? What if God's will doesn't match yours? What if God's plans don't match up with yours? In our current circumstances, what if God delays in delivering us and saving us? What if he doesn't rescue us immediately? What if God is up to much more than we can currently see at the moment, like God was up to something much more than anyone could see the week of Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday? At the end of the day, at the end of this storm, will we be shouting "Hosanna!, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" or will we be shouting "Crucify him!"? Will our faith remain strong, or will we turn our backs on God? This is a tough, but pertinent question. Ultimately, it may come down to the expectations we have of God, and whether they are true or false.
Social Distancing BUT NOT Relational Distancing
RISING Church Online • March 29, 2020 • Aaron Young
Hebrews 10:23 states, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." This Greek word translated "unswervingly" was used to describe how in the midst of a tempest or storm, a ship's captain would bind or restrain the ship's wheel and rudder with ropes in order to stay on course. Failure to "hold unswervingly" would result in shipwreck. We are all in the midst of a storm, perhaps the largest and scariest storm any of us have ever experienced in terms of size and scope. This storm will test our resilience. This storm will test if we truly believe in this hope that we profess to believe in as followers of Jesus. Is this hope true, or is it just a nice sentiment we sing about with our lips, but struggle to truly believe with our hearts and minds? Is God, the one we put our hope in, faithful? Will he deliver on his promises? The answer is yes. God is faithful. God keeps his promises. God keeps the promises he has made, but God does not keep promises that he has not made. And while God never promises us a problem-free, storm-free, pain-free, sickness-free, trouble-free, death-free life, God does promise us in John 16:33 that even though we will have trouble in this world, in Jesus, we can have peace. We can take heart because Jesus has overcome this world. This is why we need to hold "unswervingly" on to our hope in the midst of the storm! Hebrews 10:24-25 gives us 3 strategies for holding on to hope in the midst of the storm. The first is to not give up meeting together. We need each other if we're going to hold "unswervingly". We cannot afford to abandon one another, desert one another, leave each other in a lurch or in dire circumstances. We need to be like the Giant Sequoias who don't stand alone, but stand together against the storms. Their roots are intertwined with one another, standing together as one. Second we need to encourage one another. We need to comfort and console one another. Third we need to spur one another on. We need to provoke, incite, stimulate, irritate one another on toward love and good deeds. Both encouraging and spurring is best done in relationship with one another, in connection with one another. We are not complete strangers, we are brothers and sisters in this together. We need to come alongside one another. So the question in the midst of this current storm, is how do we maintain social distance, without creating relational distance, so that we can meet together, encourage one another, and spur one another on as we hold unswervingly on to the hope we profess? Well, we're going to have to get really creative aren't we? Here are a few suggestions. First, take advantage of technology to make it face to face. Use Zoom. Use Google Hangouts. Use FaceTime or Facebook Live. Share stories. Share pictures. Share prayer requests. Share song lyrics. Share Scripture. Second, take care of one another. See a need, meet a need. As part of this church body, if you need help, ask for help. We are all in this together. As a family, we're not going to let our brothers and sisters go without. Third, pray for one another. Praying for others, opens my heart to others. It gets me outwardly focused instead of inwardly focused. Prayer empowers me to be selfless rather than selfish. So pray for one another. We can get through this storm if we do so together. Nobody's faith needs to be shipwrecked. We can all hold unswervingly on to hope through this storm. Let's lean into our relationships with one another and weather this storm!
RISING Church Online • March 22, 2020 • Aaron Young
Psalm 46 confidently begins, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." For many of us, it feels as if the world around us is shaking. The seas around us are in complete chaos. Our lives are being shaken to the core. In the midst of such uncertain times, is it possible for us to not fear? Is it possible for us to not be shaken? Or are those just empty and hollow words we sing with our lips, but not our hearts, in the latest worship song? Perhaps the key to not being shaken during shaky times is found toward the end of Psalm 46 where it states, "Be still, and know that I am God." In other words, "cease striving and know, acknowledge, be aware that I am God." This brings up 2 key questions. First off, is it possible for us to know, acknowledge, be aware that God is God if we are never still? Second, is it possible for us to know, acknowledge, be aware that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, the reason we do not need to fear, if we never cease striving? Perhaps the perspective we need to take during our present circumstances, is this is a once-in-a-lifetime, system-wide opportunity for all of us to hit the reset button and reboot, restart. This is our chance to cease striving, be still, and have time to reflect, rethink, re-prioritize, rededicate, refocus our lives on what truly matters. In Jeremiah 29:11, God makes this profound promise to the Israelites, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God makes this declaration as the Israelites are literally being dragged out of their homes, out of their villages and communities, out of their jobs and lifestyles, out of their families and out of their country into exile in Babylon. I guarantee that at this time, it didn't feel like there was any reason to have hope. It didn't feel like there was any future. The Israelites were in need of a serious reboot where they would re-prioritize God in their lives. The end result of this time of shaking is found in Jeremiah 29:12-13 = "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." May that be the end result of our time of uncertainty and shaking as well. May that be the end result of our reset, our reboot, our restart. May we call on God, pray to God, seek God and find God when we truly seek him with all of our hearts. May God and God alone be our refuge. May God and God alone be our strength. May God and God alone be our ever-present help in trouble. May God and God alone be the reason we do not fear. May we cease striving, be still enough so that we can hear our heavenly Father's voice reassuring us, "Remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. I am for you and not against you! Nothing can separate you from my love!" May he draw each of us into a deeper and more vibrant relationship with Jesus!
What is our Anchor?
RISING Church Online • March 15, 2020 • Aaron Young
We are living in historic times. None of us have ever faced anything quite like this before. Maybe we aren't sure how to respond? In the midst of this chaos and uncertainty, is it possible for us to have peace? Jesus made us this promise in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus is clear, in this world we will have trouble, "thlipsis", this Greek word that literally means "pressure; being constrained, hemmed in, restricted without options". We live in a fallen, broken world. Tribulation and trials are inevitable. In this world, you just plain have trouble. If we are going to have peace in the midst of that trouble, we have to remember God's promises. Jesus promises us that in him, we can have peace. Peace is definitely a possible outcome for us. Times like this will test the quality of the anchors that we have each anchored our hope, our faith, our lives in. When you rappel off of the proverbial cliff, will your anchors support you, keep you, hold you, or will you fall into the darkness of the abyss? As those who have anchored our hope in Jesus, this firm and secure anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19), we can have peace despite the "thlipsis" in these 3 amazing promises: 1. God is with us always, even to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20) 2. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31) 3. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)