500 students challenged at NW Baptist event

By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist Convention

Students focus on tough questions during conference
Students from over 45 churches joined in worship under the leadership of Brady Toops and the Band at the 2013 student conference, sponsored by the Northwest Baptist Convention.

God can use anything for his glory, an extreme sports pro told Northwest Baptist teenagers at the April 26-27 student conference.

With approximately 500 in attendance, students were encouraged to explore hard questions about faith as they considered topics under the theme of “#realtalk,” a nod to the Twitter generation. More than 40 students professed faith in Jesus during the weekend, according to Danny Kuykendall, Northwest Baptist Convention student ministry specialist.

Vic Murphy, a BMX sportsman who has performed in 30 countries riding his “kid’s bike,” grew up in Alaska with his mom and sister after his parents divorced when he was young.

“All I cared about was riding my bike,” Murphy said. “Bikes are freedom to a kid who couldn’t concentrate at school. I even had girls like me, but I just liked the bike. I was so happy when my uncle from California said I could come and live with him if I stayed in school, because that allowed me to ride year round.”

At his first bike contest, Murphy received a first place title in the expert division and thought he was experiencing his dream as he began to travel and receive corporate sponsors.

“My heart was so rebellious,” Murphy noted. “My friends and I would sit around at night and talk about God, but no one knew what they were talking about. I got the idea to study world religions, mystical things, Buddhism and others. I decided to get a Bible, because you hear all kinds of things about Jesus from television and books, but so few take the time to read his words themselves. Most teens spend thousands of hours watching TV and listening to music, but never pick up the Bible.”

Murphy chose to read Jesus’ words himself in order to disprove them, but he discovered something unexpected — Jesus was a radical even religious people couldn’t handle. At 22, something stirred inside him.

“I still believe you should just read Jesus’ words,” Murphy said. “I realized I was lost and prayed to God. He answered my prayer and changed my heart. No ‘religion’ is right – Jesus is right. I was on the road to death and freaked out when the things I loved I started to hate.

“We say we are Christians but are not changed,” Murphy observed. “If you truly have the spirit in your life, it changes you forever. Open your minds and hearts and ask God the tough questions. He said we would have trouble and he knows your pains, but he will change your heart. God only has children, no grandchildren, so you must come to him yourself.”

Tough questions were addressed during breakout sessions students attended throughout the weekend where they considered such topics such as the viability of God’s existence, the reality of the Bible and the existence of evil and suffering. Students also considered if Christ was the son of God, was he really resurrected and if Jesus is the only way to come to God.

Youth pastors from each NWBC region helped organize the two-day event: Robert Vanlandingham, Curtis Lilly, Lance Logue, Mike Thibodeaux, Danny Brown and Ron Shelby. Brady Toops and the Band from Nashville, TN, led participants in worship.

Breakout leader Carlos Rodriguez learned to analyze evidence during his quest to become a lawyer and saw his faith grow. After practicing law in his native Mexico, he moved to Mexico City to become an actor, but eventually felt called into the ministry.

“Pray and read, but be careful about what you read,” Rodriguez said. “God is not scared when we have doubts and there is a lot of confusion in the world. Christianity is under attack in our society but God can handle our questions. Faith is not subjective, but something we can rely upon. While there is no scientific way to prove that God exists, we understand the universe was formed at his command. Although we can’t see God, his fingerprints are in nature.”

Rodriguez reminded students that biology proves the world was created not by accident, but with intelligence.

“We have a yearning to praise and worship God,” Rodriguez noted. “There has always been religion in this world, but the only thing that will satisfy your heart is God.”

Over 45 churches brought students to the conference held at Crossroads Church in Vancouver, WA. Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers once again used the conference as an opportunity for training as they prepared a meal for the participants.

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