Friday, November 24, 2017

Time on Earth

"Work on your relationship with God, and everything else will fall into place."
That's the biggest word that stuck out to me when we attended the Your Life Speaks event in Topeka, IN, where Nathan Harmon shared with many youth groups his struggles when he was younger and where his hope came from to be freed from drugs, alcohol, self harm, and suicidal thoughts.  What a powerful testimony to youth of focusing on God, and when doing that, their life will fall in line as they seek HIM and HIS plan for them.  So much that night spoke to me as a part of my journey that I've been going through over the last year.

We are given so much time, here on earth, to live out our purpose.  Are we actively pursuing God's plan for us or our own?  What if His plan looks different than ours?  I've been pondering thoughts for a couple months, trying to sort them all out and piece them back together.  Focus on God, and He will make the negative and bad flee and will rise up the good and blessings as we draw closer to Him.  If you're struggling with alcohol, don't strive to not drink.  Strive daily to become closer to God and serve Him, and He will take the urge away as you are drawing closer to Him.  You become filled with His goodness instead of the desires within your flesh.  It can apply to many areas of life.  HE can fill voids, bring healing, and strengthen areas that have room for improvement all by focusing on Him.  That takes life out of our hands and puts it into His, which is where He desires each of us to be. 

 We all know that there is strength in numbers.  What if we actively pursue Him in numbers.  Even if it's just within our family?  Do husbands and wives pursue God's calling as a couple?  Do parents pursue God's calling for their children?  Might sound strange, but let me explain.  If we see a gift or talent that our children have that can be used for the kingdom, shouldn't we encourage and help them pursue that as a way to minister to others?  Instead we let them experience many things, that they choose they want to do, and we bounce around from activity to activity, outside the family unit, with parents separated trying to support each child.  Separation.  That's what the enemy loves in a family and uses for his purpose.  When a family isn't keeping God focused, then it allows the enemy to creep in and steal peace, faith, joy, contentment, a bond, and many other things.  Are we pressing toward the mark of the higher calling or pressing toward our own mark?  Are we teaching them to press toward the higher calling or their own satisfaction and achievements?  I love seeing youth serving together and ministering together.  In our family, we've incorporated our gifts into ministry as a family.  Some of us do music, give food, send encouraging cards, plan kid's activities, etc.  We all work together at serving.  We take our children along and be the example of  serving in our gifts.  This keeps the family together, pressing toward the higher calling and seeing results of our faithfulness to God.  Such a greater reward than personal achievements. 

Don't misunderstand me.  If God is calling you or your child to a particular activity, then He must want to use you in that area.  Don't get caught up in your or your child's glory and successes, but stay focused on God's plan.  God has recently been showing me this in my own life.  When I reach out to a lady that I know I can encourage, what do I do when she doesn't respond to me or rejects me?  Do I go cry, because she doesn't want to be my friend?  The Father has opened my eyes and mind in keeping my response focused on His plan.  If God's plan is to use me in her life, then I want to pursue her.  If His plan is to use someone else, then I need to step aside without sulking and feeling rejection and allow someone else to be obedient to what He wants them to do.  I don't want to waste time and energy on having a pity party for myself.  When we put the focus on ourselves, it's completely taken off of Him and becomes our plan, our agenda, our purpose, and our own desires.  Don't let those get in the way of living out HIS plan. 

We are finding that as we serve alongside our children, we are teaching them respect for others, team work, putting others first, real life pain and struggles that we can help and pray people through, how to serve as one body, putting aside personal beliefs and/or opinions.  When we serve together as a couple, we are finding that we are growing together beyond what we imagined.  We are finding that the bond of marriage grows stronger, not allowing room for the enemy to creep in.  The areas that we longed to be changed in the other, just naturally does because God is our focus, and HE is changing that within us as our relationship with HIM grows. 

The song that says, "You won't relent until You, have it all", rings within my mind and heart as I desire to turn it around and express to Him that I won't relent loving Him until I've reached the mark.  As we've been in more and more contact with hurting people needing and wanting change, we know we can't stop running after His plan, because what if He wants to use us to reach one more person we can pull out of the enemy's pit of drugs, alcohol, suicidal thoughts, stress from the demands of life and being successful, and every day struggles of being a faithful follower of Jesus.  We don't want to miss it!!!

Our family isn't perfect!  We are still learning, being disciplined, growing, and hopefully taking strides forward of making changes for the good.  Some things that we've chosen to make a regular part of our lives are:

~Family worship
~Discussing Scripture (even if it's one verse)
~Pray blessings over the children every night
~Encourage open eyes to see who needs help
~Not forgetting the importance of the elderly
~Using gifts to bless others (even when it's uncomfortable)
~Expressing daily what we are thankful for

I want to encourage you to serve together as a family.  Decide what you want your family to represent to those around you, then set out to live that way, bringing your children up with hearts focused on serving and loving in that manner.  Here are some ways you can do that, teaching, instructing, and serving alongside your spouse and children:

~Make and send cards to the sick or shut ins
~Prepare and deliver food to someone with a health challenge, new parents, or elderly
~Volunteer to watch a single mom's children
~Visit a nursing home
~Help at a homeless shelter or food bank
~Collect coats for a winter coat drive
~Rake leaves for someone
~Shovel snow for someone
~Be friendly to neighbors
~Smile at everyone you make eye contact with
~Pray together for certain needs and watch them be answered
~Walk your neighborhood as a family and pray for those who live in each home
~Talk over the dinner table of ways you served or encouraged that day. 

Maybe you can use some of these ideas in your own family or come up with others that fit your family and where you are at in your journey.  As Christ followers we can get so complacent in our every day life that we miss the real battle going on for each soul out there.  It's real.  No matter how much we go to church, read our Bible, pray before every meal and at bedtime, or sing a hymn or chorus in praise, there is still a battle to take over the souls that are doing that.  The fight is real.  Take it seriously, brothers and sisters.  We wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities.  It takes numbers to fight for each other.  It takes intentional living at following God's plan to have victory over sin and darkness.  Won't you join us?  Won't you step your faith up a notch and get out of your comfort zone to reach the hurting and broken, or to reach those that HE is calling you to reach?  Maybe it's the widow next door.  Maybe it's the orphan child that lives with grandparents.  Maybe it's a couple from church that needs encouragement.  Maybe it's the drunkard within your own family.  Maybe it's your children that need to have the continued teaching and example of godly living.  It doesn't matter who it is!  Be warriors and fight the battle with boldness, with His strength, with relentless love for the Almighty, the Creator of all human kind and with love for all people. 

All of the photos were taken at the community event with Your Life Speaks and the Night of Community Worship at Prairie Heights.  Our family has been ever so blessed to be a part of both of these events.  Reaching out and serving our community in the giftings He's blessed us with to bless Him and others.