Reflections on LIFE 2019 Conference
Thanks, Word of Life family for all the prayers, fasting, and support for our youth!
We put so much of ourselves into one week of the year that it is weird for it to be over.
There is almost a post-Life conference shock. We are still processing through everything that we saw and heard, adjusting to living in our contexts again, and, personally, I feel like I have to adjust back to doing normal pastoral things again. No more double-checking logistics and communicating airline regulations! Yay!
As all that is happening, there are some key points that are getting thought through right now:
Our group opened up and grew as a family in Christ. We opened up about the pain of injustices in the world. We opened up and shared how Jesus was at work in us. We opened up and shared even what some would say are trivial facts about ourselves. But the sum of all this was greater than the parts. Through all Christ was doing through the week to build our relationships, we grew as a family in Christ.
Tied to this, it seems like Jesus made our students (even leaders) braver. Brave to say what they are feeling, thinking, and sensing. Brave to let people into their world, to speak up, and speak out. Brave to rest in the promises and truth of Jesus and not the labels of the world.
Lastly, Life conference made it obvious that we have not lost a generation. I never thought we had. God is too faithful. I read the articles and hear the noise of all the negative views of the next generation. There is a difference however, between seeing the grimly spun statistics and experiencing God at work. The people hitting the panic button haven’t seen what we just saw. There were more than 4000 students worshiping Jesus with everything they’ve got. There were 34 first-time confessions of faith, 108 rededications to Christ. There were more than 300 students who heard a call to vocational ministry, whether missionary or pastoral. The more than 5,400 people in attendance gave over $200,000 (between cash gifts and online giving) for an orphanage ministry, called Silver Lining, in Myanmar.
Let that sink in. Let the reality of what Jesus is doing in and through teenagers sink in deep enough so that it is louder, more convincing, and truer than the latest complaint about them in media.
So, let’s have the youth do it! Sorry, I am not saying the youth should do manual labor, all the dirty jobs, or valet park cars on Sunday. Let’s have the youth do the work of the ministry! Let’s let them loose to teach English to Bhutanese refugees, lead community outreaches, guide prayer times, preach and teach, disciple others, help with agencies that are working to end human trafficking, and do all this for King Jesus, the advancement of the Gospel, and the growth of the Kingdom.
Will you still support them in this by sharing your time, your wisdom, and your encouragement? Will you still support them by humbly stepping aside, handing over the keys, and then watch to see what Jesus does?
I had the unique privilege of attending LIFE 2019 as a student leader. Before I left for the LIFE conference, when it came up in conversations that I was going to Orlando, people would ask me why I was going. I tried to explain that it was a youth conference for the high school students in our congregation, but I found myself struggling to define it to people who had never heard of it before. I had never been to a LIFE conference myself, so I really only knew about the seminars, worship time and service projects. As I tried to describe this conference to people outside of the CMA, I found myself sometimes questioning why we were going all the way to Orlando for some seminars, some worship and a service project.
What I experienced at LIFE 2019 is difficult to describe in just a few sentences, but one of the major messages I heard from our leadership within the CMA is that we - as followers of Christ - must invest in the next generation. As followers of Christ, we must invest ourselves to spread the gospel to regions beyond, and we must invest ourselves in the next generation. Nobody ever said those words, per se - it was just clear in everything that we heard, in the way everything was planned, in the quality of everything they did. Our young people are important, and we need to invest in them. And the investment they need most is our time.
I also experienced the joy of getting to know these young people at a level that simply is not possible during a once-a-week service on Sunday mornings. These young people have dreams, fears, plans, challenges, pursuits, hurts and hopes that are unique to each person and can be used as their greatest tool for beauty and kingdom growth in the hands of our God. Or those same things can be used as the enemy's greatest weapon against them. We must commit to do everything we can to walk with them, listen to them, seek to understand them and then share with them what we know about who God is and how He has worked in our lives.
What better investment could we make?
The Psalms are a treasure chest full of riches. Some, like Psalm 23 are well known while others are obscure. One of the most famous psalms is Psalm 119. Its notoriety comes from being the longest of all the psalms. Weighing in at 176 verses, it has derailed many Bible reading plans. It is the longest chapter in the Bible and has over twice as many verses as the next longest psalm! You may be surprised to know that it has become one of my go-to psalms in the Bible.
My love of the psalm started when I was going through a dry time in my devotions. My bible reading had become somewhat routine and perfunctory. At the same time, I was reading Ancient Paths by Corey Russell. I was startled to discover that Psalm 119 was one of his favorite psalms. He caused me to take a fresh look at it. But I don’t want to teach you about the psalm. I want you to encounter what I did as I began looking at the it.
Let me encourage you to start your devotional time with Psalm 119. Don’t read the whole thing, but read it a section at time. The psalm is an acrostic poem broken down into 22 sections following the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse in a given section starts with the same letter of the alphabet. Even though you cannot see this in the English text, it provides handy bite-sized sections to meditate on.
So read a section, then pause and reflect on the what it says. Perhaps you will want to underline different subjects. Say a prayer based on what you see and then move on with your regular bible reading.
I think you’ll be surprised at the results. The psalm is a reflection of David’s passion for encountering the Lord through the Word. As you work your way through the psalm over 3 weeks, you will find his passion to be contagious and your heart will soon be ablaze for Jesus and his word!