Sunday, August 30, 2009

Have you met Him?


while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him

This is possibly the one verse in scripture that most encapsulates the Father Heart of God. Jesus is telling a story that we now call the prodigal son. It should be called the rejoicing Father. The story has somewhat to do with the Son but everything to do with a Fathers heart for his boy.
So often Christians preach about a God who loves conditionally. He only loves us when we have it all together, when we are fulfilling our religious duties or when we are on our knees full of shame at what horrible wretches we are. Here Jesus turns that up on it's head. He paints a picture of a Father standing on the balcony of heaven peering down waiting, yearning for his kids to come home. Waiting for his kids to realise he is the source of all love, joy, peace and hope.
It must drive Jesus nuts at how wrong we get his Father. Consistently one of my favourite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Jesus came to reconcile man to God, not God to man. God didn't have to have his mind changed about us. He didn't have to be convinced to love us. Jesus came to point us to the Father he talks about in this parable. A Father who loves us unconditionally. A Father yearning for his kids to turn to him.
We often think, and tragically are often taught that God has one hand on the smite button, waiting to gladly send us to the pit of hell. Just waiting for us to screw up so he can say 'See, I told you they deserve my wrath!". The son thought this and was coming back to his Father with a nicely rehearsed religious prayer. He thinks his sorrow and repentance will open the door to his Fathers heart. Maybe a huge dose of humility and a lot of repenting and weeping and wailing will maybe, just maybe get him a job with the servants and a bed in the stable. He comes back to his Father with his nice religious prayer
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

What happens next is astounding. The message translation says
But the Father wasn't listening

It's not about us, it's not about what we do. It's about the Father. It's about the Father who didn't want to hear his kids religious prayer, he just wanted him home. It's about a Father who ran to his boy, threw his arms around him and kissed him. It's about a Father who shouts
"MY SON'S COME HOME, LET'S THROW A PARTY FOR HIM!!!"

That's who God is. Yes sin is drastic and can keep us away from the Father but guess what? He's peering down from heaven waiting and longing for his kids to come home. Staying away from God because of our sin means we don't know the heart of our Father. While we were still sinners Christ died for us, we don't have to have it all together. In fact he know's we won't but again, guess what? He loves us anyway. He loves us. We don't come to the Father to escape the fiery pit of hell, we come to the Father because he's our Father, because he's jealous for us, because he's mad about us and we make his heart leap when we think about Him and it does the same when he thinks about us. He really is that good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teenstreet




It's pretty hard to cram two weeks of awesomeness into one blog, nevermind the fact that it's been two weeks since we got home from the aforementioned two weeks.
What is teenstreet you may ask? First of all it's the worst possible name for a christian conference ever, especially if you need to find information on it and you type 'teen street' into google; never a good idea.
What it actually is is a conference for teenagers across Europe to come and hang out with 3,500 other teenagers who share their faith in Jesus. It's purpose is to equip them to run the race of faith and also to impact those around them when they go home. It's not just a case of 'fill us up' but it's a case of 'fill us up; send us out'.
Myself and Jane went a week early with about 15 or so others to pray, worship and prepare for the main week. When I say 15 others, that was just the program team. There were probably a few hundred others there preparing and setting up for the week. It's a big set up preparing for the invasion of 3,500 teenagers!
It was such a huge blessing to be able to spend time with such awesome people seeking the heart of God for what he wanted to share with the teenagers. God being the amazing Father that he is poured his heart out on us incredibly during that first week. Speaking words of truth to us and reminding us what he thinks of us. I just wanted to pour my heart out to him for who he is, what he's done and what he will do, yet time and time again he just blesses us. He loves to bless his kids. It had been a while since I'd been able to be the lead worshipper for a group of people so it was a real precious time for me to be in the presence of God surrounded by people who are chasing after Him too.
Usually the week itself takes lumps out of us; it's nonstop and can be a tough time serving at such a high pace. Yet, this year there was a different atmosphere. Peace reigned. The team having such incredible hearts was a huge factor in this, but also God answered our prayers and made it easier than it's ever been, for me and Jane anyway. It wasn't without it's difficulties, yet they paled into insignificance when we saw what God was doing in the lives of the teens.
The speaking was off the charts. Josh & Deb did a truly incredible job of sharing God's heart with the teens, as did Luke, Aimee and Dan. I had the awesome privilege of leading the worship on the Wednesday and Thursday nights. It was an honour to be able to facilitate that many people coming into the presence of God. He was so present and I know he was pleased with our worship.
During the week we also had the opportunity to facilitate chat rooms. They're a time when the teens can come and chat about certain topics. It's not a seminar as the aim is to give the teens a chance to input and to have their say and also ask questions. I love them. The ones I did where ones very close to my heart. They were 'Worship', 'How to hear from God' and 'Where's God when it hurts'. They were great times.
From the chat rooms to the times of prayer I had with the teens to the chats with other program team members, for me it seemed like the overarching theme through everything was God revealing his Father heart to his kids. Revealing who he truly is and what he thinks of us and these kids who are cherished in his sight. It was amazing to hear God speak so clearly to some of the kids (and also to some of our team!), things that only he could know and it was a real honour that he used amongst others, Jane and I to speak into their lives. God also healed people of various afflictions and it was so awesome to witness and be apart of that too. I think it rocked a few people but I'm learning more and more that the more you experience God the more he rocks your theology and the more you know Him the more there is to know! He's that big, awesome and good!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pearl Jam, o2 London, August 18th 2009


The morning after the Manchester show we got the train to London and had the awesome pleasure of hanging out with our friends Roly & Paula and Meg. We sat and chatted over a tasty coffee. It was such a treat to get to see them and we were stoked they made the effort to come hang with us for a couple of hours.

The show itself was a notch up from the night before. They were so tight and on form. Any show that starts with 'Release' is going to be a good one! Never mind following 'Release' with 'Animal', 'Corduroy', 'Why Go', 'Small Town' and 'Immortality'. Yowza. The crowd was quite different than the night before. In Manchester it seemed like everyone had grown up, gotten married and where content to chill out, sing out and enjoy the show. The London crowd where a little younger and a little more boisterous. Not necessarily a bad thing as the band seemed to get a buzz out of it and made sure that everyone was ok, even getting everyone to take three steps back at one stage to make sure everyone was good at the front. They seemed to play forever, going over curfew by 20 minutes which was sweet. The only thing missing from the show was my mate Hoey. Highlights were the opening 5 songs. 'I Got I.D' (love that song), 'Rats' so good to hear that song. He dedicated it to "someone who was going to be playing here" which is Micheal Jackson due to the 'Ben' reference at the end of the song. 'Whipping', 'Light Years' dedicated to a friend who passed away the day before, 'Insignificance', 'Blood'; that was raucous. 'Hail, Hail' in the encore, awesome. 'Footsteps', 'Leaving Here', 'Porch', a bangin version' and 'Yellow Ledbetter'. Man, pretty much the whole gig was a highlight. 28 awesome songs. 47 different songs between both nights makes the trip more than worth it. Here's the setlist.

Release
Animal
Corduroy
Why Go
Small Town
Immortality
The Fixer
Even Flow
I Got I.D.
Rats
Got Some
Whipping
Light Years
Insignificance
Black
Life Wasted
Blood/Atomic Dog
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Supersonic
Hail Hail
Footsteps
Love, Reign O'er Me
Do The Evolution
Alive
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Better Man/(Save It For Later)
Crazy Mary
Leaving Here
Porch
Yellow Ledbetter

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pearl Jam, Manchester, August 17th 2009



Pearl Jam have consistently held the crown of being my favourite band ever since my friends in school Aido and Bago introduced them to me when I was a 13 year old with the dodgiest undercut known to man. They didn't grace Ireland on their short European tour so I got tickets to see them across the water. Mind you I probably would have done that if they were playing Ireland anyway. The thing that's so great about a Pearl Jam show is that you have no idea what they're going to play. Gone are the days when I wanted them to play the rarest song ever at the show I was at, purely so I could say I was there. I just want them to play an awesome setlist and rock my face off. They duly obliged. Jane, who wouldn't be as enamored with all things Pearl Jam as I am came with me, mainly due to her awesomeness in wanting to share something that was a big deal for me. She gained a new appreciated for how good they are. The night was mildly marred by sound problems with vocals and guitars but Pearl Jam aren't exactly known for hitting every note right and for some reason that definitely endeared them to Jane. Eddie Vedder has a tendency to forget lyrics and the band managed to screw up the end of 'Go', a song which they've played over 250 times.
Highlights for me where 'Last Exit', 'Why Go', 'All Night', 'In Hiding', 'Sleight Of Hand', 'Given To Fly', 'Go', 'Smile' and 'Leash'. All of it was awesome really. It was fun to see Eddie interact so much with the crowd, chatting to the front row and dedicating 'Smile' to a girl who had been to 70 shows and giving her his harmonica afterwards. Super glad we went.
Here's the setlist...

Long Road
Last Exit
Why Go
All Night
The Fixer
Low Light
In Hiding
World Wide Suicide
Not For You
Evenflow
Present Tense
Save You
Grievance
Sleight Of Hand
Got Some
Given To Fly
Rearviewmirror
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Go
Daughter
Do The Evolution
Alive
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Smile
Black
Leash
The Real Me
Indifference