I am a white 22-year-old male from a small town in South Georgia..Cordele, Georgia. Cordele is an interesting place. The town is divided by a railroad track. On one side is populated by predominantly white people, and black people mainly populate the other side. On the “black” side of town is where the “projects” are, and many of my white peers and people older than me called it “the bad side of town.” From a young age, I didn’t understand racial divide or realize what a huge issue it was. As I grew older and came to Christ and saw how few black people went to the First Baptist Church, I attended I began to see that the most segregated time of the week was on Sunday morning. This bothers me severely.  Our schools are multicultural, where we shop is multicultural, the TV shows we watch are multicultural, but our churches are not.

Over the past few years, there has been a rising of what is called the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Where there have been many events of police brutality towards black people this movement has become very prevalent to bring attention to just one of the racial problems we seem to have in our country.

As the news broadcasted story after story of young black men being murdered, I saw a humongous divide arise among white people and black people. I saw in our country a divide created that made me so angry at what our world had become. I saw so many Christians find more importance in picking a side of the divide instead of picking to unite in love. I struggled with this because the majority of the white people I knew seemed to find reasons to excuse the actions of police instead of seeking to find reasons to share the hurt of those who were hurting. Since when is “being right” more important than comforting those who hurt? Maybe the world around us is falling apart, and the world is dividing us so that the church of Jesus Christ can be the anomaly that stands up and says: “WHAT THE WORLD SEEKS TO DIVIDE, JESUS LOOKS TO UNITE.”

Galatians 6:2 writes: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I pray that I am a man that seeks to bear the burdens of those who hurt. I believe that Jesus emulated and was the human example of carrying the burdens of all people. Bearing the burden’s of Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and any and every race there is.

I have had Black Lives Matter explained to me like this. Imagine you are walking in your neighborhood, and there is one house on fire, and you say “All Houses Matter”… yeah, that’s true, but are you still going to choose to let that one house burn down? I don’t think so. Black Lives Matter . . .because they do to Jesus. The church must quit ignoring the racial issues in our communities. Yes, it will be uncomfortable, and there will be awkward moments, but this has to happen for there to be a change in the world we live in. So let us as followers of Jesus quit looking to be right and looking to win arguments and simply look to unite in love and Jesus. It is when we do this that the world will see that the church and Jesus are for the healing of hurting hearts, and the healing of those that are broke and those that don’t understand what’s going on in this crazy world we live in. So yes Black Lives Matter, because they do to Jesus, and they should to you too. Quit looking to be right and instead look to unite in a love that is so much greater than we can ever understand.  A love that brings understanding to our unique cultural differences and a love that brings together people in a way only Jesus can. A love that created all people differently to glorify God in many different ways.

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.