Hillsong Conference thoughts.

             I feel like God is wanting me to write my thoughts down. I experienced a lot of things this weekend. It was an amazing experience. I feel God wants me to sit and write about what He revealed to me. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard about Hillsong coming to California. I would joke, They are on my bucket list. Meaning, I wanted to hear them before I died. What I received was so much more than just a concert or even a conference. What I received from God was a life changing experience. Every song, every speaker, had something for me. The songs were an opportunity to praise God and give Him glory. The sermons each had relevant God wanted me to hear and know.
            Whenever anyone wants to do something outside of the norm for God, rest assured the enemy will attack. My attack came in the form of a cold. My family came down with the illness around the 11th of October. I knew I was probably going to get it. There was no escape or avoiding it. I prayed, Lord if I’m going to get it, let me get it early and recover from it even just partially before the conference. My voice was not 100% when I went. I’m so thankful for God giving me the finances to go to the conference.
          The conference began with one of my favorite (NOT) things. Driving to Los Angeles. It seemed like every driver in LA lost their ability to drive. I had three locations in my GPS necessary for the trip, the Nokia Center, my hotel and Fuddruckers. Hey, a man’s got to eat. Without knowing my way around LA, I picked a hotel within a couple of miles of the Nokia center. I know it’s a little thing but, thank God for giving me a room close to the center. I left Bakersfield at 11:30 am. I stopped for gas and rolled out. My check in time for my hotel wasn’t until 2 pm. My first destination was Fuddruckers. When I got to LA I checked my ETA to Fuddruckers. It was about 2:15 pm. I had a big burger, fries and a soda. I really didn’t need to stress. I stood outside for over an hour. As I walked in the door, I saw a sign. It had a list of things that were prohibited. One of them was weapons. I had a knife on me. I had two options, go back to my car or toss the knife. I decided to toss the knife. I still set off the metal detector. I had my coinage, wallet, KIA memorial bracelet, watch, and belt.
              I found my seat and found out I was really far away. I didn’t buy my ticket until I confirmed I had the days off. I sat in my assigned seat. It wasn’t an aisle seat but the three seats to my right were empty. To my left was a very attractive young blonde lady. She told me, it was her first concert. I told her, you are in for a treat. That was a serious understatement. I’m glad I was able to slide over. By the end of the conference, I needed the room to move. I’ve never considered myself a dancer. I’m a typical white guy.. I don’t have any rhythm. I freely admit that. Hillsong’s music got me moving, raising my hands until my arms were tired and praising God and His Son Jesus at the top of my lungs. I had to stop several times because my throat would dry out. I’m still hacking and coughing.
                 The first messenger of the conference was Bobby Houston. He’s the pastor of Hillsong Church. His topic came from the song “Oceans”. He talked about the great mystery of faith. He talked about the wonder of God including us in the mystery of ministry. The song “Oceans” is about the night Peter and the apostles were sailing on the sea of Galilee. Jesus wasn’t with them. Late at night, during a storm, Jesus was walking on the water. Seeing someone walking on the water terrified the apostles. Jesus called to them and told them it was Him. Peter calls to Jesus, “Lord if that’s you, call me to come to you”. Jesus, said, “Come.” Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus. He’s fine as long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus. When Peter looks at the waves and wind, Peter starts to sink. It was surprising how much Pastor Bobby Houston emphasizes the ministry of the local church. Another part of the sermon, He discussed the subject of diversity. He said, “Evangelism is like breathing. God breathes in sinners and breathes out saints. The church at Jerusalem breathed in diversity and breathed out unity. The church at Antioch breathed in unity and breathed out diversity.” One of the interesting things he demonstrated was the relationship between the song “Oceans” and the scripture. I was surprised to learn all of the songs the musicians write are reviewed by Pastor Robert Fergusson for doctrinal soundness. This makes the music groups accountable. It also includes them in the overall ministry of the church. I didn’t know Hillsong is the church. The musical groups are extensions of the church. God is breathing in people who he wants to change and breathing out saints who He wants to begin reaching others.

            The next speaker was Bobbie Houston. She is Brian Houston’s wife. One feature pastor Houston encourages is letting women take a role in the worship service. I grew up in a Freewill Baptist church. My church did not allow women to speak in the church service where men were present. Women could teach younger men or teenagers but, teaching older men was not allowed. Pastor Houston has a rather interesting view about this situation. He believes if you silence women, you are silencing over fifty percent of your church. Her topic was to accept people for who they are.

            The next speaker was Pastor Robert Fergusson. He is the doctrinal pastor of Hillsong. All pastors are doctors. Some are surgeons. Pastor Robert refers to himself as a surgeon. He spoke about the definition of Grace. The definition of Grace is unfair. Jesus is the Son of God. What was fair about his coming to earth to save humanity? As the Son of God, he owns everything, because God owns everything. Jesus gained nothing in coming to save us. Jesus gave up everything to come down here. What did he gain? Jesus gained an agonizing death. He had to put up with all of the problems involved with being human. Jesus had to deal with temptation. He had to experience being tired, frustrated, disappointed, and angry and the list goes on. There was nothing fair in his coming to earth and dying for us. Now, we are adopted children of God. Jesus will share his inheritance with us.

            The next speaker was a fiery little woman named Christine Caine. She brought out this illustration of developing film. I remembered taking photography in high school. She talked about developing film. Developing film has to be done in total darkness. I remember trying to use a bag to unload film from a canister. I couldn’t do it. I had to use the darkroom. She used the illustration of film being developed in the dark. It took time and the chemicals. The film can’t be exposed to light too early. If the film is exposed to light too soon it will be ruined. I’ve been praying for a long time for God to reveal where He wants me to serve. I’ve come to realize His not giving me an assignment wasn’t ignoring me or thinking I’m not good enough. It was my time in the darkroom. I had to be prepared for the ministry which God has for me. I don’t know what that ministry will entail. I’m starting to get some idea where and what. I think it might have something to do with helping my fellow veterans who are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of them need to know there is a God who loves them and knows what they’ve gone through. There is a God who can give comfort like no one or nothing in this universe. 

            The final speaker was Pastor Judah Smith. His sermon title was, “Don’t take what’s yours.” That sounds counter intuitive. He used the parable of the man who owned a vineyard. He went to the square in the morning and hired a group of men to work for him. They agreed to work for a day’s wage. The owner of the vineyard went out at five separate times and hired groups of men. At the end of the work day, the owner of the vineyard inserts the only tension in the situation. He decides to pay the last group of men first. The men are paid for a full day’s work even though they only worked for, at most, an hour. The owner proceeded to pay each succeeding group the same wage. Finally, he comes to the last group of men. These men have worked all day long in the Middle Eastern heat. I know this heat very well. I spent the better part of a year living there. These men didn’t notice a trend? The owner paid every preceding group of workers the same. I don’t understand why they expected more. The first group was the only group with a verbal contract for the day’s work. They stood there complaining about the pay they received. The owner asked them, “Isn’t this the price to which you agreed?” They said yes but weren’t satisfied. In the end the owner told them to take what they had earned and go. The owner would never employ those men again. What a tragedy, to be told by God, “Take what is yours and go.” How much better for them had they rather said, “If you need any help tomorrow afternoon, I think we are available.

            I went there not quite sure of what to expect. I expected to hear some great music. I wasn’t sure about the preaching. I’ve been in church since I was five years old. I’ve heard a lot of preaching. I’ve heard some of the best preachers in the Freewill Baptist denomination. I’ve been privileged. Both the men and women brought dynamic messages. I was leaving the conference and a lady from Hillsong University asked me what I thought. All I could say was wow. I was speechless. I was so amazed by what God had done through the music, preaching, and talks, I was having trouble processing it. So much was going through my mind, I was trying to process what was going on. I felt like my mind was just overwhelmed. It was like drinking from a fire hose. I also had this burning desire to write this down. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this. I already have one request for a copy. I think that’s part of the reason I was burning to get this down. Pastor Russ was complaining about men being unemotional in church. He contrasted it with how some men act when they shank a golf shot or their favorite team is being beaten like a goat tied to the goal post. As he was saying this, I thought “You want to get them mobile and praising God, Send them to a Hillsong conference. As stated earlier, I’m a white man. I have no rhythm. By the end of the conference I couldn’t keep still. I would raise my hands and praise my God as loudly as I could.