So I had an old memory pop into my head the other day....it was a memory of my little brother forgiving me after a huge fight. The memory was completely random, but God through out this week has continued to push the theme of forgiveness on my heart. So the memory of Brian forgiving me, then while reading 2 Samuel God began to reveal to me the harsh impact of not forgiving.
Brian, my younger brother, and I for some reason one night were literally at each others throat's. We were young teenagers at the time, but we decided to fight like grown men, throwing punches, kicks, and whatever else our scrambling hands could find. It was total violence and chaos. On top of our hitting, our mouths were running as well, screaming just about every degrading word or phrase we could think of at one another. I can remember our mom crying because she had never seen her two sons like this before. After our Dad had shoved up apart we stood in the hall way with him between us. My brother was ready to make peace, but I could not drop it for the life of me....so I got one more cheap shot in, slapping him as hard I could across the face and walking to my room to go to bed. I held my head high, as if I had accomplished and proved my superiority. I laid in my bed with my fists clenched, telling myself how much I hated him and how dare he mess with me. I waited for him to walk into the room we shared and if he said one more thing to me I would knock him out for sure. He was scum to me, whatever little thing he had done I refused to let it go. I was right and he was wrong. I was stronger and he was weak. "Mess with me Brian I just Dare you," I screamed in my head as he finally walked timidly in. I wanted him to feel my hate I was feeling for him...I couldn't stand even hearing him...I was right!
Now Absalom had half brother named Amnon. Amnon had rapped Absalom's sister Tamar and threw her to the side. "Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar" (2 Sam 13:22). Absalom had built up a wall inside his heart and decided to not ever talk to Amnon...the hate, the clentching of the fists, the thoughts began to roll through Absolom's mind.
Absalom decided to not forgive his half brother Amnon for what he did to his sister. This haunted Absalom for years, in fact two years later is when Absalom decides to set up the murder for Amnon. Ordering his men, Amnon was killed. The part that is mind blowing is that this all took place two years after the inncident. Two years Absalom was haunted by this. Consuming his mind, until finally he was able to find the perfect opportuinity to kill his brother. The story ends by Absolom being caught in a tree and speared to death in battle. By Absolom not forving his brother, it caused a chain of events: two years of finding a way to kill his brother, killing his brother, causing his father to not talk to him, dieing in battle against his father.
Back to the other story, what my brother Brian did defines the power of forgiveness.
As I laid in bed with my fists tightened and ready to lash out at Brian at any moment...he did the unthinkable...what the flesh so highly is against...
"Hey Joel," he whispered to me. "What?" I said in the most hateful way I could. "I'm really sorry man," he spoke in a light calm way, "I never want anything like that to happen again, you're my big brother."
Fists loosened. Hate disappeared. Tears rushed down my face.
"It's ok man," is all I could bring myself to say with his mind blowing statement.
Everything seemed to disappear in that moment. Love rushed into my heart. I broke down. A dark mask that had been put on my face was thrown off as soon as he said those words. When he could have just ignored me and went to bed, and we probably would have just forgotten about it the next day...he said sorry. He did not have to...but saying that changed me.
It may feel like that last thing in the world you might want to say to someone, but if you want to give a person a peek of what God's forgiveness is like, then say it. Don't be haunted for years and years because you can't forgive someone...free yourself and stop any further damage for happening.
For the past couple years of my life I go to a student conference called Desperation at my home church.
Now these conferences that they hold are simply some of the best. With bands like Leeland, Hillsong, Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Starfield, David Crowder, and Desperation Band making their appearance through out the conference, it makes it a blast. Now thousands of kids show up to these and it is easy to lose your focus with all the hype that is going on around you. Of course the music is amazing, the teachings are powerful, and the atmosphere is more than you could possibly ask for. Once again it is so easy to lose sight of what the real goal is.
This year it struck me hard when I discovered a small something that God revealed to me.
In prior years at Desperation I got mixed up and lost in the hype that took place. It is a great time and God can almost be seen just as this big production that is taking place. Your friends are jumping to the music, you're staying out late, meeting the bands, the list goes on...but it so easy to miss the point.
Take a look at the logo of Desperation.
I have seen this logo for years upon years. Not only is this the logo for the conference that is held once a year but it is the logo for the youth band that played for me every Wednesday night for four years. So I have been extremely familiar with this Chinese looking thing.
Every time I'd see it I'd think to myself or even discuss with my other friends, "It is just a couple of swoops that make people think of Desperation, like the Nike logo, it doesn't really make sense..it is just there and looks cool."
That is what Desperation was to me. I did get taught and learn so much through the prior years, but overall it was a bunch of flashing lights that caught my attention. It was just a good time, a performance that showed me what a sweet church looked like.
The last session of Desperation was on this past Saturday night. Once again the message was moving, the worship had been flawless, and I sat in my seat during the sermon and looked at all the lights, screens, and mass amount of people that were around me. I looked up at the logo the was placed over the stage and began to sketch it on my notes. As I look closely at the details and I was still thinking that the logo was just a couple of slashes. I finished it...and God's still voice said to me, "this is what I am trying to teach you ever day." BOOM!!! I saw it. The logo instantly became alive to me.
No longer was it just a few swipes, but a man...on his knees...with his arms open to heaven...
That was the teaching of every Desperation song, sermon, and break out time had been focusing on, yet I had been so distracted by every thing else I had missed the main point. Get on your knees to God, open your arms to him, throw all your strength you think you have aside and become dependent on God. More of You and less of me. It just shocks me that I've been staring at this for five or six years and not once did I see what it was.
God sometimes has stuff right in front of you in your life and we can be looking at it for the longest time and not til years later realize the significance. If anything I learned that God does have multiple situations in my life right now that I might be trying to figure out, ignoring, or simply looking past, but God has these and He is going to use them sooner or later.
I can't help to be just in total awe of God now.
There is a peace in my heart because I know that I have overlooked or overlooking so much right now, yet God is going to use EVERYTHING in my life. There is nothing that is insignificant that is happening in my or your life. There is nothing insignificant that God recorded in the Bible. God's view is so much greater than ours. We exchange our attention for a few small lights and good times for what? For God's view, His will, and His purpose.
This makes me want to look so much deeper now...to realize God has much more than I can see.
Now looking at this logo I am reminded there is not one day I shouldn't get on my knees, open my arms, and cry out to God. Just that position can express so much more than I could say.
I just love that this is no longer a Chinese logo..
It usually isn't that he was human. Sure he was God, but he was also human.
Grasping the fact that Jesus was in fact a human being is one of the most crucial aspects when we think about Jesus.
Emotions pour out of all of us. Emotions are what set us apart from everything else. We're alive, but being alive isn't what makes us human, it is the strong element that we have emotions. Rage, hurt, joy, frustration, thrill, and these are just the subset of what we can feel. All these emotions that we can feel are often ignored, yet they control our lives, they indeed are what make us human. They set us apart from a tree, a plant, a rock, a cloud. But while they set us apart, they also make us connected with Jesus.
Now Jesus was a man. A human. Someone that felt emotions. Everyday, just like us. Remember that Jesus was God, but at the same time all human. God was a human.
I sit around so many times hurting, laughing, rejoicing, raging, and I forget that God felt all these things that I feel.
Everyone has had the, "no one on this earth knows how I feel right now" moment. That moment where the world hits you hard. The moment where the person you trust most hurts you. The moment in your room where you are all alone and it feels like you're the only soul on the earth.
But there is One that does.
Jesus knows exactly how you feel right now.
He knows no matter what the emotion is in your life right now.
If it is joy, then Jesus knows how that feels.
If is is anguish, then guess what? Yup, Jesus knows.
There is a famous verse in the Bible and it is famous because it is the shortest verse in the entire Bible.
The verse is John 35.
The verse simply reads, "Jesus wept".
It gets recognition for the sake of how short it is. For how two little words get assigned a whole verse. But what if there is much more to that. What if though all the translations and assigning of verses and chapters to the Bible, God wanted these two words to have a verse to themselves.
By saying Jesus wept, we can see that Jesus feels. That Jesus had moments where he was broken. There were points where there was nothing Jesus could do but weep. Jesus was perfect, he performed miracles , and witnessed to thousands, but there were times when all that came to a halt and Jesus just had to weep.
He was human. He wept. He felt like you did or how you feel right now.
Jesus gets it. He is the one that understands how you feel.
Yes, Jesus was God, but he also was human.
So the next time you think of God, remember that He is the All Powerful and All Mighty One, but that he is also the one that knows how you feel. Jesus came to the earth and lived just as you did and he has a lot more in common than you would realize. Just because Jesus was perfect and lived a perfect life, does not mean that he never felt an emotion. Because Jesus felt every possible emotion there ever was.
A few weeks ago I had fell into the world of "Joel". I was letting every little comment, event, or task bug me. Poor poor me. In reality though I was just spending way too much time worrying about stuff that today I couldn't tell you about.
I was cured of my self inflicted illness one Tuesday night... I came into worship practice and started setting up. Our youth Pastor saw me across the room and gave me a wave and nod that signaled over to him. He asked me if I would be willing to go pick up a 7th grade student that wanted to learn about the worship team so he could play on it one day. Pastor Troy then told me that Ryan's father had pasted about 6 day ago....
So I got in my car and headed over to his place. I didn't know what to expect when I got there. My mind raced, trying to find the right words to say on the ride back..
As I pulled up to his apartment I took a deep breath and said a little prayer asking for some kind of wisdom. I walked up to the second floor and knocked on the door of 204.
The mother answered the door. In the background I could see a 5 year old boy peeking around the corner. He was holding a toy tight to his chest. I smiled at him. "Ryan will be right out, he is just packin up his guitar right now," the mother said to me with a exhausted smile on her face. In the mean time the boy in the background was hidden behind his mother's legs. I could only see his two eyes. "What's up buddy?" I said softly to him. Immediately he came from behind the safety of his mother and desperately took hold of my shirt. What was I supposed to do? This kid had just lost his dad a few days ago...and now he is reaching out to me? No words came out of my mouth, rather just a pat on the head.
Now Ryan came out of his room. Bright blue eyes, medium length blond hair, and a skinny little 7th grader is what he looked like. His eyes were his most distinguishing feature. They were large and shining, but they also had the installment of the loss of his dad still.
I said bye to to the mother and his brother and we went off to practice.
Our conversation in the car was normal. We talked about music, school, and girls.
I was supposed to be there for him...being a youth leader...but he was there for me too. He woke me up to see that this world isn't about me. This world is about others. Serving. Helping. I see Ryan every Tuesday night still and we continue to grow together.
Worship... What is it? Why do we spend so much time and effort on it?
Worship has consumed most of my life. I live for it. It is my favorite time of the week. It is my favorite time of church. It lets me lay down everything I have to God. I can lift up my voice and shout to God. I can praise and thank my Heavenly Father for all He has done for me. Thank Him for all He is, for all He has done, and for all He will do.
Worship is a practice.
It can feel awkward if you have never done it before. Walking into a Wal-mart size room, with unfamiliar music blaring, and a massive amount of people jumping around, lifting hands, and crying out can be an uncomfortable atmosphere. The fact is that worship must be practiced outside of the church. It must be done in everyday activities and events. Acting worship outside of the church makes it all the more beautiful. When you worship God through school, work, relationships, and spending alone time with Him.. conjoined time of worship arrives, it becomes almost natural, special and exciting.
Lose "Me" in Worship
Lose yourself. I find when I stop think about myself, the quality of the music, or who is around me it is then when I find God. Worship isn't about me or you. It is about connecting with the Holy Spirit. Just sit and listen for His voice. Really focus on the words. I guarantee that each and every song has a specific meaning for your situation. Focus. He will show up...every time He will show up. Remember that Worship isn't about pleasing us. We do this act of worship to glorify someone that expands past our comprehension and understanding. When it becomes about Him, you see the true meaning of worship.
Why do people lift their hand? You can praise God without lifting hands. This is a conversation and topic that I've been hearing a lot.
Is it wrong to not lift hands? Nope. Not at all. God looks at the heart. He doesn't just connect with the people that lift their hands at the perfect time during the second chorus.
What are the benefits of lifting hands? This is a benefit. It doesn't hurt you in anyway. It doesn't mean that you're worshiping less in anyway...but it is a spiritual booster. When we show this act of raising our hands, it is a physical act to God that we want to connect with Him. "I need you, I love you, You are everything to me, I don't care what people think about me, I'll go against my flesh..." All of these can be a sign of what you're saying to God. It is literally displaying to God that you're serious about worship.
What about the people that do it for show? I hear the comment that people lift their hands just to get attention from other people or to try and show up others. Why do we even talk about this? "I saw Sally lifting her hands at worship the other night, but I heard her say a cus word right before service." Quotes like this I am sure we've all heard...and the point is who are we to judge them? Our job isn't to focus on who is lifting hands...or focus should be on a much bigger purpose. So next time you find yourself in that situation...just remind yourself that Jesus is present and no distractions should get in the way.
Worship is a necessary part of one's walk with Christ. It is a vital part for each day we walk with Him. It was made by God to benefit us. It should not be taken lightly or ever taken advantage of. We are blessed beyond our imagination to have the chance to worship our God everyday. I personally know that I look past my opportunity to truly worship.
Chase after God. Find out what pleases Him. Worship Him in every aspect of your life.
The King of this Universe...He wants to have a relationship with you...He wants to know you...He wants your heart.