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The Three R's

Jerry Lenz

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.

"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."

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."

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.

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 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!

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.

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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