For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV
We are quickly coming up on Valentine’s Day weekend, which for the Tennessee District United Pentecostal Church means Winter Youth Retreat in Sevierville, TN. This is an awesome event packed full of fun, worship, and the preaching of the Gospel. As vans full of youth arrive at the Sevierville Convention Center, some are beyond excited, while others are nervous (first timers), but everyone knows it’s going to be a great event.
This year Vertical Student Ministries is taking 19 students, and three of them are new to the youth group. As their student pastor I wanted everyone to be prepared for this event, because I knew without a shadow of doubt, that all of them would come back with their lives changed. I’ve experienced this countless times as a youth myself, and later on as a youth worker. There is just something about young people, who are passionately seeking God in worship, that causes the universe to explode (ok, maybe not that violent), however in all honesty it is a very powerful experience. It reminds me of the Book of Acts when the disciples were waiting for the promised Holy Spirit in chapter 2. Once the Spirit arrived, it was powerful, and caused many to question “What is this?” I believe that when our young people arrive back home on Monday, many will proclaim “What is this!” and ask “What has got a hold of these young people?”
On Sunday I taught a lesson to the youth titled “How to Prepare for Youth Retreat.” I covered having fun, meeting new people, participating in all the activities (which is important for the experience), but that’s not the most important thing. I told them that this week they need to be in prayer for Winter Youth Retreat and focus on what they want to experience from God. I pointed out to them that if they prepare now to receive, just like the disciples did in Acts 2, then they would also have a powerful experience with God. They took it to heart and made up in their minds that tonight at church they wanted to start preparing to receive from God a powerful experience.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, our youth have been in focused prayer, and these young people have really been preparing themselves lately to touch God. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday night. They worshiped, they went to the altars after the preaching, and then they had a life changing experience with God. Many of them prayed like I haven’t heard them pray before. My wife was touched in such a way that she was used in the gift of Knowledge, which is one of the Gifts of the Spirit spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12.
I’m proud of our young people for making up in their minds that they were not going to settle and wait for Winter Youth Retreat to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. They are realizing that seeking God is more than having book smarts and theology degrees, but we accomplish it when we study his Word in focused prayer. In order to receive from God, we must first be actively seeking him, and then we must be ready to receive.