A year ago, I had a life-changing weekend.
It was rather random, you might say. A Facebook friend, who I still have not yet met in real life, invited me to like the page for a youth event. I might add that, at age 28, I had never been to a youth event. In fact, I had hardly ever done ANYTHING on my own.
I thought it looked interesting, but I wasn’t sure. I was a suspicious person, afraid of getting in the wrong place and being misled. I prayed about it, and thought that I felt God leading me not to go. But when my mom found out that I was leaning away from attending, she spoke up. “Well,” she said, “if you need someone to give you a push to go, I’ll give you that push.”
So I signed up.
Boy, am I ever glad that I did.
Fast-forward a year. So many things happened in my life since Youth Alive. I had already been making changes in my life for the last several years. But I experienced God in a new way last year at Youth Alive, and began seeing life beyond the borders of the box I had lived in for so long.
In addition, I found out about another conference, called Vertical, at Youth Alive. So in September, accompanied this time by two of my brothers, I made the trip down to North Carolina. It was another life-changing weekend, with teaching led by Bruce Lengeman. He spent the weekend teaching about our identity in Jesus–how Jesus needs to be first in our lives, not other people. How we need to seek to please Jesus, not others–such as our parents or other authorities. How I am a child of God, and that I live out of His power and life in me.
Something else happened there as well. There was a time of prayer for healing one evening. I am very near-sighted, and I felt God leading me to go forward and ask a certain brother in Christ to pray for my eyes. As he was praying, he asked me: “Is there something that God wants you to see, spiritually, that you’re not seeing?”
I didn’t know. And my physical eyes didn’t change. But there were certainly things that God wanted me to see that I was not seeing. And He began opening my eyes to those things. And I began making some changes.
A week and a half later, I interviewed for a new job, and got an offer on the spot. I accepted. By the end of the year, I moved out on my own, and began regularly attending at Emmanuel Alliance Church, which is only five minutes from my home. I had been worshiping mostly at home with just my family since March 2003–over 14 years. Half of my life.
As I came back to Youth Alive this year, I marveled at all the changes that God had made in my life in just one year. Interestingly enough, other people also noticed a change in me.
I can point to a lot of things that added up to make that change. But when I really look at the bottom line, it was all things from my Heavenly Father.
And that was what impressed me both last year and this year at Youth Alive. The teaching was great. But God’s presence had the greatest impact on me.
To be in the presence of God will change you. To see Him at work, spontaneously changing the schedule and doing things that no one expected. Obviously, God is everywhere. And Jesus promised that whenever two or three gather in His name, He is there. But this is something that I rarely experience on this level. And it’s impossible to explain. Because it’s not just an emotional experience. It’s a spiritual experience, where our spirits connect with God’s spirit and drink deeply of His living water.
I’ll add, too, that the greatest healing in my personal life has come from God speaking to me, comforting my heart, speaking truth to replace lies, telling me things that I had never seen, yet after He tells me, I see plain as day to be true. “How can I find this same healing for myself?” you might ask. It’s a little frustrating, because I honestly don’t really know. Why is it that I have found the love of God, when others in my situation have not, and have instead given up on Him altogether? But this I do know: it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, and the most important thing is to realize that God is not waiting to hit you with a baseball bat. No, He is a kind, welcoming father, ready to heal all those who come to Him. To take their griefs and sorrows upon Himself. To change you, not by ladening you with heavy rules, but by transforming your mind and heart, so that you actually desire to do the right thing. Trust me: it works!
Appropriately this year, the theme for Youth Alive this year was “True or False”, and the slogan: “Truth Will Set You Free”. So true.
So, for your encouragement, here’s some of the highlights of Youth Alive 2018:
For the full-length recordings of the conference see: