What identity do you have?

In America and in the rest of the world, people tend toward identifying themselves either by their occupation or by their “lifestyle” choice or choices. So, what kind of identity do you have? Is it one that you would be proud to show others or is it one that is looked down upon because it hinges on your beliefs rather than your lifestyle?

Some people hang their life, their identity on their occupation. Some do so to the point of obsession and it is so ingrained within them until when they retire…they die. Because they don’t know what they are or who they can claim to be when they let go of their occupation. Then you also have people who claim to be molded into a lifestyle based upon their preference for a sexual partner. Huh?

Sex doesn’t govern nor determine who or what you are? Neither does your job or occupation! God placed us here for one purpose and that is to bring glory and honor to Him in everything that we do! Sex was given to us as a means of pleasure but also of procreation and deciding to be with someone of the same sex as yourself doesn’t allow for creating another person! Your choice of “partner” doesn’t dictate your life or your lifestyle any more than your hairstyle would.

God loves us but we should not be defined by our sinful choices in life, no matter what those choices might be. Jesus died for each person alive and those to come. He didn’t die for a murderer or a fornicator or even a lawyer or a cowboy! He died for you! He paid the penalty for your life’s choices, your sins, your weaknesses so that you could gain His righteousness and be forgiven of those sins!

Life choices, whether they are good or bad, do not place you into a certain slot in life. What you do about those choices by choosing to follow Jesus or not determines your outcome in life or rather at the end of your life. Since this life is the “training ground” for eternity, we should be searching for our real and actual Savior in this life. Not fitting our daily lives into a mold or behavior that we feel is right for us, but seeking His life and His Kingdom so that we can be right in His sight one day.

By following your own choices and feelings in this life and letting those choices shape your life rather than searching for the Savior and Creator Who can give your life a real purpose and meaning, you are missing out on so much more than you realize. Sports and horses or Facebook and Twitter are distractions just like Pokemon and other games which take your mind away from meaningful pursuits like getting to know Jesus!

I know, Jesus is boring and bland and nobody wants to learn about Him much less follow Him daily. But consider this: what will your life’s interests do for you in eternity? Our lives are pitifully small in length in comparison to eternity, so if your interests and your passion in this life doesn’t involve knowing and getting to know Jesus then what will your eternity look like?BreadofLife

Something to think about before next Sunday’s sermon.

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Understanding your role

I did a sermon on the first chapter of James last week which I will break up into 2 sections. One will be here, which will be about half of the sermon, since it is a bit long. The second part will be at my other site, thelivingmessage.com. I pray that those of you who read this will take the lessons of it in stride because it has much to say about how we are supposed to live as Christians.

Faith responds with practical godliness under testing (1:1-27).

James uses the description of himself as a servant or in some other translations “a bond servant” of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to show that he willingly and lovingly served. He could’ve claimed status since he was the Lord’s half-brother, according to history. But, he didn’t. A bond servant serves out of love not because of being bound. This is the service that we should be giving unto Jesus and to our faith!

Your faith and your Christian life is no good if the people that you are around can’t tell that anything has changed in your life. Testing is like polishing a car or a piece of jewelry, it needs to be done from time to time so that your life reflects Jesus more than it does yourself. Sometimes the testing or pruning in your life may not be very enjoyable, I mean look at Job! In the first chapter of Job, God actually brags to Satan about him. Yet, when Satan challenges God on this he is given permission to do anything he wishes EXCEPT take his life.

Will we be tested quite that hard? It is possible, I mean when you are given a diagnosis of cancer or some other disease which can kill you, that is pretty hard testing. Sometimes the test is just getting through one day at a time, getting past the treatments and the medicine and the side effects of that. Lean on God’s strength when yours fails you and He won’t let you down. Because, James used the word “when” to say that we will go through testing because we are His servants in this world and this world hates Him.

A. Faith responds with joy when it faces testing (1:2-4).

This one is tough, especially when you may not be in the midst of testing right now. But, if you ever have been I am sure it didn’t seem like a joyful time. Our joy comes from knowing that Jesus is also God and He won’t let you down, no matter what. “Joy comes in the morning” is something which I turn to almost every day when my legs and hips hurt and when my spine feels like it won’t flex at all. (Psalm 30:5)

God is there with you in your pain and in the joyful times. He is near when tragedy strikes and when a child is born. In all things give thanks that He loves you and is working the best out in your life so that others will see Him in your life! Trials will cause you to develop patience and endurance in Him, if you will stay close to Jesus during your trials. Don’t think or even consider that your strength is enough to get you through any trial, regardless of the hardness of the trial, because if you do Satan can make the trial hard enough to make you look to Him even though he isn’t trying to turn you toward Jesus our Lord.

B. Faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (1:5-8).

In our trials, whatever they may be, we truly should seek God’s wisdom during these times. Trying to lean on your own understanding and your own wisdom will bring more problems and even harder testing because you think that you can get through without God! God’s Word contains all of the wisdom that you need to get through trials. Prayer and fasting can increase your faith to bring you even closer to God and His Wisdom. Even Jesus said that “when ye fast”, it was not a command but He knew that even in our time, there will be days and problems which require fasting to bring the solution to our knowledge from God!

Alternate beliefs, really?

You may wonder why I didn’t put a subject behind that but there is a reason. It is because we are giving legitimacy to many religions and beliefs when we shouldn’t be! There are too many subjects which would fit in that title. What are they? Dowsing, pyramid energy, mediums who claim to be using “angel cards”, ouija, etc.; all of these and more are part of the occult and people shouldn’t be consulting with them, but they are.

Giving these “optional” beliefs legitimate status doesn’t help us to get the message out into the world that Jesus is the way to salvation, not “alternate religions”. There are so many different beliefs in the world until it is hard to understand just why there are so many. Satan has been working very hard to give people an alternate viewpoint which can be molded into a new religion or faith. It seems that today it is so easy to put your faith in almost anything besides God and Jesus!

separatechurchesWe talk about religion and being religious as if that covers all of Christianity but you can be religious about anything. Just because someone seems to be religious doesn’t mean that they are a Christian. They could be religious about any one of the hundreds of different religions out there, you could even be a religious atheist! My point is this: don’t give religions other than Christianity a legitimate foothold!

I know, I am not being inclusive of all people and their beliefs and I will own that. What I am trying to get people to think about here is ETERNITY!! There is only one God and Jesus the Christ Who can grant you access to eternity, or at least one that you would enjoy living in! The Bible states it plainly that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, all other paths, even though they may be morally good, will lead you elsewhere for eternity.

Some faiths don’t believe in eternal punishment like the lake of fire foretold in Revelation. But, if God says that is where you will be and He doesn’t lie, then that is where your choices will take you! Seek out Jesus and His gospel, believe in Him and repent of your sinful ways and then follow Him, reading His Word and praying for strength each day because it is through Him that we are given eternal life and forgiveness.

 

Why do relationships go wrong?

Truly the reason that this happens is because of the foundation. Many marriages begin on the wrong foot and certainly on sand or loose gravel for a foundation. Why do we pursue a relationship that ultimately will fail?

IAM-JesusWe do this because we haven’t found the Relationship which can’t fail. We are born searching for something or Someone but for years we search and look for things and people to fill that void, that empty place which always feels as if it needs…to be filled. It is a scientific principle which states quite accurately that “nature abhors a vacuum”. At some point, something will fill that space whether it is good or bad, God or Satan, it doesn’t matter which, but it will be filled.

If we try to fill it with a career or a family, that can work for a while but it isn’t permanent. If we try to fill it with drugs or alcohol, our life and our relationships are doomed to fail because those things are designed to destroy whatever they come in contact with! But…if we will seek out our Savior, Jesus the Christ, and repent of the attempts which we have tried before, and ask Him to come in and clean our heart up, then our life will be placed on the right path.

Following Him, learning about Him by reading and studying the Bible, praying about your family and your problems, all of these will begin to fix your pathway and your life in such a way that your foundation will become complete and solid. When this happens, your relationship with your spouse and your family will begin to level out and become less bumpy and more smooth. This is the foundation which should guide our lives today but we tend to follow along with the rest of the crowd at school or church, if we go at all.

If everyone at school or at church is just going along to get along for the sake of being thought of as a “pillar of the community”, that is the wrong reason. Trying to earn a place in the eyes of people and “fair weather friends”, no matter how you earn it, doesn’t help you in the long run. Why? Because it isn’t built on God’s foundation which is Jesus.

You can decide to ignore this advice if you wish or just don’t read this at all, it doesn’t hurt my feelings one way or the other. But…what if I am right. When your life is going to hell on a slippery slope, which of your friends could possibly pull you out of it? A rich kid that you went to school with? No, they are likely off enjoying life just as they think they should. What about your dear friend from work? Not likely, they come home feeling even more tired than they did last year.

The only One Who can get your life back on the right path and give you strength enough to make it through all of your trouble is Jesus. No other religion or “holy man” or prophet can do that because all of them are dead! He is alive at the Father’s right hand and He is able to help you in your time of need. Seek Him out and make sure that He is your foundation and your Solid Rock, your Savior. Because without Him, we can do nothing.

It is well with my soul

Many times, in church and even on social media sites, I get requests for prayer either in person or by a message. Prayer is a necessary part of a Christian’s life, just like breathing or drinking water, yet many people don’t seem to think that God listens to them so they ask their pastor to pray for them. I don’t mind, but if you are a child of God you have the same privilege and right to step into His Presence at anytime.

Sometimes, people just don’t exercise their right as a Christian until it gets to be so bad they just hit their knees in agony. God can and will answer your prayers, particularly when you pray about a family member’s illness or an accident. I don’t mean to say that He won’t answer a prayer about your children or your keys or other “small” thing, but God looks for ways to bless you in areas where He is the real solution for the problem!

So do you seek out God when things are going good or do you wait until He is the last resort? Don’t you think that when things aren’t going very well, you should seek out the One Who can do something about the situation? The Creator that made all of our universe and every molecule in your body can fix any problem in your life, regardless of the cause! If you will give Him the chance to do so.

When life throws a curve ball at you, swing at it because you might hit it. God can give you the strength and the ability to make it through any real problem in your life, regardless of whether it is one involving your spiritual condition or a medical problem. God is bigger than ALL of your problems or any of the problems in our world today or at any time in the future.

Each of us has a choice to make. To ask Jesus into our lives and repent of our sinful ways or to keep doing what we feel is right, what makes us feel good. To keep being selfish and prideful in what we can do and to do it without anyone telling us that it is wrong. In reality, the Bible doesn’t tell you anything like that. There are no rules about what to do or not, but when you truly realize that you need Jesus and you come to Him in repentance…then you will change. You won’t do it on your own but you will change by the influence of the Holy Spirit after you ask Him to live in your heart!

When that happens, and you begin to change into a new creation, a new person. Then you won’t crave those things which you did before. You won’t go to the places that you went to before. The rules have changed because you aren’t the same anymore. Not because of rules from the Bible, but because your heart, your soul, your inner person has changed and is changing. While you learn more about Jesus and read His Word and pray about this new life, you are changing and becoming the person that God has always known you were since before you were born.

When this change occurs then it will be well with you no matter how life turns out, good or bad. Why? Because you are an adopted child of God! The Creator and King of the universe! How could you possibly feel down or depressed or unloved when God loves you more deeply than anyone on Earth could ever understand? Yes, there will be days which you may be depressed, but with prayer and reading God’s Word it won’t last for long. Seek Him and His Kingdom and all of the things which God has prepared for you will be yours.