The Three R’s

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God longs to pour his love and power out to your
children. But if you don’t understand the dynamics of renewal and
revival, you may never move your children into God’s world-changing
reality.

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“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you,
O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go
and meet with God?”
Psalm 42:1-2

Is there more to God than we’ve experienced? Most Christians
who’ve attained any sense of maturity in their walk with Christ
have at least wondered if they could experience more of God. And
most of us would pray, “If there is more, God, then I want more.”
But something deep within us that craves the genuine article also
adds, “But it has to really be you, God. I don’t want anything
unless it’s really from you.”

We do hunger for more, because God created us to want more. And I
believe the same hunger exists in children’s hearts. Given the
opportunity to be exposed to more of the living God, kids seek even
more of God with an unquenchable thirst. Still again–and
understandably so–since we have a shepherding role in kids’ lives,
we say, “It has to really be you, God.”

DO YOU WANT MORE?
When you hear the words “renewal,” “revival,” and “reality,” you
may react in one of two ways. Maybe two of the r-words 00 renewal
and revival — excite you. Or your reaction may be far less
enthusiastic. In either case, let me give you a fourth r-word —
“relax.”

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In Richard Foster’s newest book Streams of Living Water, he writes
that “God is drawing many streams [of spiritual experience -- such
as Orthodoxy and charismatic Christianity]together that heretofore
have been separated from one another. It is a little like the
Mississippi River, which gains strength and volume as the Ohio and
the Missouri and many other rivers flow into it. So in our day God
is bringing together a mighty ‘Mississippi of the Spirit.’ “

My purpose in this article isn’t to divide the waters but rather
to help draw the different streams together. Regardless of our
denominational ties, God is creating a yearning in us for more-and
how we experience that more doesn’t need to be doled out in
cookie-cutter fashion. God has a multitude of ways of giving
himself to sincere hearts that seek him. So relax in the goodness
of a loving and personal God.

WHAT IS RENEWAL?
The best definition I can offer is this: Renewal is experiencing
God’s love. It sounds simplistic, yet within that statement there’s
so much more. You can read “God is love” in 1 John 4:8, believe it,
and know in your heart that it’s true. Yet you still haven’t
plumbed the heights and depths and breadth and width of that love.
All of us can go further to experience God’s love for us — and
never reach its ending point.

Personally I’m not content to settle for believing a sentence when
I know God is waiting to shower volumes of his love on me. Yet I
also understand why many people shy away from something that
appears to be emotional human excess. And for those I offer this
advice: You don’t have to use a specific method to receive what God
wants to pour into you. Just as God has uniquely created you, he’s
able to draw you in and shower his love on you in a unique way.
After God is through drenching you with his love, he wants to do
the same for the children in your ministry.

REVIVAL DEFINED
Revival is a sovereign move of God. It’s God’s love, grace, and
mercy poured out on mankind with people responding in multitudes —
and individually. Revival is multitudes of people coming to Christ.
Yet your greatest personal revival is you coming to Christ. Revival
is also Christians “being revived” to more abundant lives. Whenever
and wherever these things are taking place, revival is taking
place.

Revival can be massive. In the early part of this century, a
limited number of revivals took place that were so large they
required extra police to handle the traffic. In one account, I read
that the U.S. Marines had to facilitate the crowds attracted to
outdoor meetings.

As grand as that may sound, revival is also taking place whenever
children share Christ in their school lunchrooms. Revival takes
place when high school youth gather around the flag to pray-drawing
others to Christ. These kids are being who God created them to be
and doing what God has asked them to do. That’s revival with a
touch of reality!

NEXT STOP: REALITY
Personally I’ve experienced renewal and revival — times when the
spirit of God was so present that I thought I’d never want to
leave. But the truth is: I’d rather dwell in reality-that place
where we become the people God has asked us to be and do what he
has asked us to do. That’s reality!

God brings different seasons — such as renewal and revival — to
awaken us and draw us back to him for his greater purposes. In
other words, I sincerely believe that God sends us times of renewal
and revival to move us into reality. If the experience of a renewal
or revival doesn’t move people toward reality, it’s nothing more
than an experience.

In his new book The River of God, Dutch Sheets writes, “As humans,
we thrive on and crave experiences. We want to see and feel. In
this pursuit, we are driven to endless activities and surface
relationships. Our pursuit of God can deteriorate into the pursuit
of one spiritual high after another. God is often lost in our
search for God! “

We have to dwell in the land of reality.

THREE R’S FOR CHILDREN
Can children experience renewal, revival, and reality?
Absolutely!

In a children’s renewal service, children are transformed. Some
kids who are tagging along on their parents’ salvation suddenly
realize their deep personal need for Christ. Some who’ve once
prayed a prescribed prayer have never truly committed their entire
life to Christ. Yet in renewal the spirit of God draws them in.
They feel a deep compelling love inviting them — a peace and need
to surrender comes over them, and they want to follow Jesus.

During one children’s renewal service, 8-year-old Leah came
forward to talk to me. I was playing the keyboard and speaking
simple words of encouragement to the kids. Leah knew this was her
time to invite Jesus into her life. It was real. Leah then moved
from praying for personal salvation to praying for other
kids.

When kids step out in renewal and pray for others, they’re amazed.
They’re touched and convinced of being at the center of what God
wants to do. Jason is now a teenager, but two years ago as a sixth
grader, he moved into something he felt was beyond him as he
allowed God to minister to others through him. I’ll never forget
Jason yelling over and over, “God used me!” Jason experienced
renewal and moved to revival. He couldn’t get over the fact that
God really used him. It created a new hunger in Jason.

Tyler, now a teenager, came to Christ as a child. He was highly
intelligent, yet deeply withdrawn. He would dress only in dark
clothes. He dangled on the edge of evil, but God drew him in and
then his family followed. And his family still marvels at Tyler’s
leadership in following Christ. They were overwhelmed with Tyler’s
transformation.

As a junior camp counselor, Tyler broke out of his dark wardrobe.
His leadership with kids is awesome; he’s one of the best young
leaders I know. Kids listen to him. They’re drawn to him and open
to having him pray for them. He has traveled with children’s
ministry leaders to minister to kids in churches, parks, and on the
streets. Does this sound like revival? It is.

Far too often we limit God’s work in children. We want to
predetermine “how much of God” they’re ready for. As children’s
ministry leaders and workers, we like to think we’re
pro-kids-in-ministry. “Our kids can do anything” speeches are
filled with talk about allowing children their proper place within
the church.

Yet most of us still want to be in control when it comes to kids
drawing closer to God. We don’t want anything weird or unruly
happening with kids.

We may think we’re the experts on children’s spiritual
development-but there’s only one expert in the field and he’s the
Good Shepherd. Is it possible that we stand in the way of the very
things we want for our kids? I have. And I’ve seen others stand in
the way also. “Being in the way” is born of good intentions. Yet
these good intentions can keep children from traveling through
renewal and revival to arrive at reality.
     

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