This year’s Youth Ablaze conference with Pearl Haven Christian Center was amazing (as usual.) Pastor Okumu and Sarah brought together an excellent team of ministers, and from day one, the Holy Spirit was speaking to the roughly 1000 youths about their identity in Christ.
The theme this year was “A Prince; Not a Supplanter” taken from the story of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 28. I had the privilege of opening the conference on Monday morning, and shared how Jacob’s identity was in struggling and manipulating situations to make a way for his own success. Our world today might call these people “survivors” because they know how to go through any situation and come out on top. There is a level of cunning wisdom to be admired in these people, yet their lifestyle excludes the need for faith. Jacob was a son of Isaac, and the grandson of Abraham – the father of our faith – and yet he did not trust the promises of God, and instead worked his own magic to make the life he wanted for himself.
When God met Jacob, though, there was a long, rough fight. Jacob knew in that moment that God is stronger than his own abilities, and when he begged for a blessing, his name was changed from “heel-grabber” to “God prevails.” When we realize that our identity, too, is to be one of faith as a prince in God’s Kingdom, we no longer struggle on our own abilities to survive. Instead, we rest in God as He makes the way for us.
This theme was continued throughout the week, as the lifestyle of a prince of God was shared through speakers like Pastors Ken Wavamunno, Moses Mukisa, Moses Semambo, Sabrina Watante, and Joseph Matura who brought the Masai team from Kenya.
Days 2 and 3
I spoke again on Tuesday, sharing some principles of the Kingdom in which we live. Using the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30, I discussed how in these last days, the fruit of the Kingdom of God will grow alongside the “weeds” the enemy has planted. We are not to set our eyes on the negative things we see in the world as “signs of the times,” but on the promise of God that “the gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Paul told us that the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20), and that as we live to follow Jesus’ command to the 12, and then to the 72 (Matthew 10:5/Luke 10:1) to go out proclaiming the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons, and even raising the dead, we are covered by the promise of Mark 16 that those signs would follow the ones who believe.
We are Princes in God’s Kingdom and His Ambassadors on earth, so we cannot live our lives from the perspective of the weeds!
(Even though I did not speak on Wednesday, I still enjoyed much of the conference and the worship taking place, although I did have to leave for some meetings in the morning.)
Sermon on the Mountain
Thursday of Youth Ablaze is always my favorite. The youth hike up Kakungulu hill which overlooks the city and do breakout sessions by age and sex. I spoke to the boys from ages 15-21 about the character of a Prince of God. Drawing from scripture and my own testimony, I challenged them to use that day as a turning point, to give up the worldly ties holding them down, whether drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, or anything else, and to begin to live with integrity before the Lord.
Friday was the last day of the conference, and though some youth had to leave early, making the journey back to their own villages, it was still a powerful day in the presence of God. By Friday, the worship has intensified, as God has touched so many of the teens. Many had come to be saved, some were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time, and others received a call to ministry.
My final message to the conference was speaking of three gifts Jesus left to His children, which the enemy will seek to steal from them in the days ahead. These are rest (Matthew 11:28), peace (John 14:27), and joy (John 15:11). When we know we are the royal children of the King, those things come naturally, but when we lose sight of His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33), then we will be filled with fatigue, struggling, overwork, anxiety, fear, shame, sorrow, and hopelessness.
As the day drew to a close, Pastor Okumu preached a powerful closing message, sealing up the lessons of identity, and though there were some struggles with power outages, the evening wrapped up with a praise extravaganza, led by Pastor Moses Mukisa and his team from Worship Harvest Church.
Please pray for these youth now as they have returned home, that the messages will take root in their hearts, and they will learn to live from their identity in Christ.