The Kingdom of God is at Hand
Sitting in Heaven
This past Sunday Bree and I spent some time with a group of elementary age kids as part of our current monthly Sunday school committment. One of my favorite things to do with kids is to encounter heaven in some way and then figure out a way to bring whatever we experience into the earth. This may sound a bit lofty or ethereal, but it really is part of what every believer has access to in Christ.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus - Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV
So we are sitting in heavenly places ever since we were born again. We just don't always see it. One of my favorite things about children's ministry, is that in general kids don't have nearly as much trouble seeing heaven as we adults often do. Usually we can just tell them, "close your eyes, and look for Jesus" or "picture heaven in your mind" and they will start to share some of the most incredible things. This works for adults as well, it's just that we tend to have lost some of our ability to see things through our spiritual eyes. Kids by and large just believe unless they are taught otherwise.
The kingdom of God is a very real place, but it is often invisible to our natural senses. Learning to use the eyes of our heart to see an invisible reality and access the power within it is part of our lifelong walk of faith as Christians. This reality is something we want to fight for to establish as a foundational truth in our children.
Seeing or perceiving the kingdom is the first part. The next challenge is to somehow manifest the kingdom in the earth or our natural experience bringing the invisible into the visible.
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. - Matthew 6:9-10 NKJV
Jesus' life was one of talking about the kingdom being at hand and then demonstrating it's availability to everyone around Him. He then exhorted us to do the same. Bringing heaven to earth was actually the first thing Jesus taught His disciples to pray for. My current understanding of this is basically, "Lord heaven is a particular way. Let it be that way in earth too." In heaven there is no sickness, death, poverty only health, life, joy, peace, abundance. God wants it to be the same here now!
Down to Earth
Most of what I have said so far is casting vision. So practically how do we do this with kids? Here's a few things that we have tried with good results.
For experiencing heaven:
1. Ask the kids to close their eyes and then look for Jesus or picture heaven in your mind. Basically anything to help them start to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is revealing. This doesn't take long. Children often see things before you can even finish praying.
2. Coach the kids through some things. Ask them if anyone is seeing any pictures in their mind, is anyone feeling anything, do you see any colors. This is where learning to trust the Spirit ourselves comes in. I will often perceive a wind blowing in the room even if I don't actually feel it physically. I will just say, "some of you may feel a wind right now". More often then none, kids will then raise their hand confirming that they felt it. The fun part is when kids start sharing things that you didn't even mention.
3. Give kids opportunity to share. Kids really do want to talk about their experiences. Letting them share things they are seeing / experiencing will often open up a door for a greater corporate experience.
4. Affirm that what the kids are experiencing is real and not just imaginary.
For bringing heaven to earth:
1. Give kids opportunity to share. Mentioned in first list, but this really is a key to heaven starting to invade the earth. We have often seen kids sharing what they are experiencing lead to manifest encounters with the Lord, healings, deliverances, and other sorts of breakthroughs.
2. Ask kids what they think their experience means or how they should respond. Steering interpretation is often needed here. Helping kids recognize God as good is important if you get someone sharing something heavy handed or condemning. Kids will filter their interpretations based on what they have been taught, so having a good perspective of the Lord's heart for us and helping the kids recognize this is important if negativity gets in the mix.
3. If kids have an idea of how to respond to the Lord, find a way to let them do it (within reason of course). If a kid sees a picture of Africa, ask them if they want to pray for Africa right there.
4. If kids don't have an idea of how to respond, come up with one:) Giving an opportunity to take action is important. Declaring, praying, shouting are sometimes appropriate responses, but there are really unlimited options. Again, leaning on the Holy Spirit for ideas is our challenge as adults helping kids.
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