Home is where you go to rest. Home is where your bed is, home is where your toilet is. Home is where you can go and be comfortable, relax and be at peace. I think what we enjoy the most about home is that it’s safe to us. We live in a culture where so many people have insecurities and are self-conscious of themselves. The world we live in and the culture in our world tells so many people to be yourself and be who you think were meant to be. But what has occurred within this idea is that in a search for self-identity so many people have become lost and confused as to who they are meant to be and where their true identity can be found. What is important to understand is that when we try to find our identity, we also seek to find a place for our souls to rest, a place for our souls to have identity and a place for our souls to call a home.

In Luke 15 there is a story about a man who had two sons. This story is titled “The Prodigal Son.” In the story, the younger of the sons asks his father to give him his share of his inheritance that would usually come after the father’s death. The father then divided his property between the two sons and gave the younger son his half of the inheritance. It was not many days later that the younger son gathered all that he had and took a journey into a far country. Here the son began to live a life of fun and excitement spending his inheritance on a wild life of partying and women. But eventually, the son had spent all that he had and found himself homeless and needy. With no source of income, the son hired himself out as a servant. As the son was working and feeding the pigs that belonged to his employer, he was filled with hunger, a hunger so strong that caused him to yearn for the slop that the pigs ate. At this moment the son realized that he could go HOME and try to hire himself out to his father as a worker, for he knew even his father’s servants had it better than he did currently. So he decided to come up with a speech that he would tell his father and tell his father that he knew that he was not worthy to be his son anymore. As the son was making his way home, the father saw his son off into the distance. Feeling compassion for his son he ran out to him and embraced him and kissed him. As the son attempted to give his speech to his father as to why he was not longer worthy to be his son the father called out to his servants to bring the best robe and put it on him and to kill a fattened calf to eat for they were to celebrate the return of the son. The father with great proclamation stated: “For this, my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

What’s so intriguing about this story is that for us as readers it is easy to question the younger son and ask how he could do such things? How could he leave his father, his home and waste the inheritance he was given? It’s simple really. The son was looking to find his own identity away from home. He was looking and searching for something other than what was the better option. He was looking to be his own person, to be who he wanted to be. He was looking for a place where his soul could find identity. We read this story and question it, but I think we often forget that we are the prodigal son. In life often times our souls will begin to want something other than what has always been there. When this occurs, we begin to allow our souls to wander off and waste the gift we have been given. We start to search and seek after all the “homes” that the world has to offer only to find out they are temporary and more like hotel rooms than real homes.

It took the son to reach rock bottom to realize that he had wandered away from his real home where his father was. It would make sense in this story for the father to tell his son what a fool he was for wasting his inheritance and for returning, but the father ran out to the son embracing him with arms open wide. The father in this story shows us who Jesus is to us. In the times where we wander and we seek out self-identity in the offers of the world Jesus waits for us and embraces us when we return home, though time and time again we find ourselves with the pigs.  Christ embraces us with arms stretched wide, just as they were on the cross showing the widths of his grace, mercy, and love for us.

Home is safe. Home is where we go when we have nowhere else to go. As our souls will often wander I ask the question are you letting your soul rest in its real home? Or are you continually searching for your own identity in the world? Jesus is the home where the soul rests. Is your soul resting in Jesus? Is your soul’s identity found in the saving grace of Christ? Your identity cannot be found in what you want for yourself, and what the world has to offer, but only in the home of who Christ is. So return home sons and daughters. Return home to a Father that embraces us with arms wide, return home to where your true identity is found in something greater than yourself.

Count it all Joy
James 1:3-4

3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Some day’s life just sucks. Everyone has those days where everything seems to be going opposite as to what we have planned. There are seasons in life that are joyful and peaceful, but there are also seasons in life that are hard. It’s pretty easy to be thankful and full of joy when everything is going our way. But how do we respond when it seems like everything is out of control?

Including myself, I would say that for the most part when life gets hard we begin to question and ask ourselves “What can I do to fix this?” I believe all humans are wired with the desire to feel in control. But as soon as that feeling of being in control goes away there is a sense of panic. As followers of Christ, we sometimes believe that we should get to live an easier life than those who are not believers. But scripture tells us time and time again that there will be times of pain. There will be pain and there will be hardship throughout any person’s life. This is where Christians have an opportunity to stand apart from everyone else. We can stand apart by how we respond to the pain.

James writes in his New Testament letter instructing fellow believers to count it all joy when these times of hardship arise. It’s a crazy idea to think that we should be joyful when life becomes hard. This joy comes from the realization that our pain has a purpose. This purpose is the production of faith and trust.

God will allow times in our lives to go against our current plan. The key in finding joy in all times of life is by understanding that all things are according to His plan, not ours. We so often try to map out every little detail of our lives, but when it doesn’t seem to go as we planned we think God has made a mistake. The question I ask is how can we find joy in the struggle and in the midst of pain?

My answer is: Embrace it.

When the struggle comes don’t fight it. God is there for you. Let Him do the fighting. You are not alone. We are able to see that He has such a greater plan when we can begin to see our hardships as purposeful. True joy is found when we are able to see Christ as our provision and the satisfaction of our need during our time of struggle.

These times in our lives are what make us who we are truly meant to be. Every season of life, the good and the bad, molds and forms us into the people that we are meant to be. It could be so easy for us to become angry with the circumstances of life but the word of God instructs a better response: “Count it all joy.” When we do this we are promised that the testing of faith will produce steadfastness and in this, we are made complete.

It will be a completeness in Christ that can’t compare to anything else this world has to offer. So I pray that as we all endure different seasons of life that we would learn to see the purpose and always find our way back to His word counting it as joy through it all.

How often are we so concerned with what is to come? How often can this concern become a distraction? We all have hopes and dreams for the future of our lives, and we all have something inside of us that makes us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But how often do we find ourselves so caught up in what we hope will one day come that we miss out on where we are right now? Now, this is not me saying the dreams that you have are wrong. They very well may be good and can be used to glorify God in great ways one day. But what if I told you the obsession you have with your dream, and the time you are putting in on chasing your dream has become something that is keeping you from where God has called you to at this very moment in your life?
I believe the reason we become so concerned with the future of ourselves is that we are not content with where God has placed us. It can become very easy to become discontent with God’s placing of us when where we are is not ideal and not what we have in mind. In these times of discontentment, God calls you to be obedient. It can be very easy for us as believers to try and avoid the here and now and focus in on what’s ahead. Often times when this occurs we become disobedient to what God has called us to, where God has called us to, and to who God has called us to. Our disobedience to the here and now is our saying to God “The plan I have for myself is better than the plan you have for me.”
In the past month or so I was reading about the process of how diamonds are made. It was fascinating to see the process or the “recipe” of how diamonds are formed. In the article that I read it summed the complex process up into a few steps.

1. Bury carbon dioxide 100 miles into Earth.
2. Heat to about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Squeeze under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch.
4. Quickly rush towards Earth’s surface to cool.

When I read this, it made me realize why diamonds are so costly. The process that a diamond goes through is not an easy one, and it takes an extended amount of time. On the other hand, there are what’s called synthetic diamonds. These are diamonds that are not natural diamonds and are made in a lab by human hands and machines. The process that the synthetic diamond goes through is much less complicated, and time-consuming making it much cheaper than a natural diamond. What I realized is that much like natural diamonds the process that God allows us to go through in life may at times be complicated, hard, and time-consuming, but the result and the finished product is valuable. While on the other hand when we try to create plans for our own life and cheat the process God is allowing us to go through, much like the synthetic diamonds the end result will not be as valuable and rare because it has been created by man and not by God. God has called each and everyone one of us to different places in life. Where we are called to and placed by God is not optional, but it is given to us by God to serve Him. When we do not trust and obey the plan God has for us, we can miss out on the people that God will bring us to and miss out on showing them the love of Christ. So I ask the question are you trusting where God has you? Or are you concerned with what is to come? God has uniquely created you to be uniquely placed where He has you. Are you trusting the process God has you in or are you attempting to make a plan on your own? Maybe, just maybe God wants to use you to change the world right where you are at.