God Puts People in Your Life for Your Healing

You need supportive relationships if you’re going to make it in life, and God has put people in your life for your health and your healing.

God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, and while it was a perfect environment, God also acknowledged that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. God had designed him for relationship, just as he has designed all of us for relationship.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:3 that God “has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family” (TLB).

When you were born physically, you joined the human family, the human race. When you’re born spiritually, you join God’s family.

The church is not an institution, a religious club, a society, an organization, or a business. The Bible describes the church as a family. That’s how we are to relate to each other.

The Christian life is not just a matter of believing; it includes belonging. And belonging to a church family is essential to our recovery and our healing.

You can measure your spiritual commitment by how much you love the church. The Bible says Christ loved it and died for it. It’s the support and foundation we all need.

People who don’t appreciate the church don’t understand its importance. They miss the point. They think they can be a Christian without a family. You need the support of a local expression of the family of God.

You belong in God’s family. There’s a difference between attending a church service and belonging to a church family. God doesn’t want church to be something you go to. He wants church to be a family you’re part of.

If you don’t already belong to a church family, take the initiative to find one, to plug in, to ask questions, to attend the information or membership class, to join a small group, and to volunteer and serve others.

Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity or the perfect church. Join the best church you can find that honors Jesus, teaches the Bible, and welcomes broken people, and then join it and work to make it even better!

How to Love People Who are Different Than You

God intentionally created everyone to be unique. And when we appreciate the uniqueness that we see in others, we truly honor the creative work of God around us. The world is a work of art, full of color and full of diversity.

Nobody looks quite like you look. You’re not one in a million; you’re one in 7 billion! And if you have a problem with people who are different from you, you really have a problem with God. Racism is essentially believing that God should have made everyone else to be just like you.

First Corinthians 15:38-40 says, “God gives everything the kind of body he wants it to have. People, animals, birds, and fish are each made of flesh, but none of them are alike. Everything in the heavens has a body, and so does everything on earth. But each one is very different from all the others” (CEV). That’s intentionality.

Then the Bible says, in Acts 17:26, “From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be” (CEV).

We all ultimately descended from two mutual parents, Adam and Eve. Our unity was fractured by sin and its effects, but God created us for oneness. And the church is ultimately the steward of that oneness. Every church should, as much as possible, reflect the diversity of its surrounding community and set the example for the rest of the world in terms of cultivating oneness in diversity.

We talk so much about the brokenness of sin in our lives leaving us all with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And those hurts affect every relationship in our lives. The obvious ones are with our spouses, our kids, our parents, and our siblings. But that same brokenness is evident when there is prejudice buried deep in our hearts toward people of other races and ethnicities.

Part of the journey toward wholeness and healing is making amends with the people we’ve offended and hurt, and that includes people we’ve pushed away because of racial and ethnic differences.

In other words, recovery isn’t just an issue of overcoming addictions. It’s also an issue of showing love to everyone around us.

And here are four ways to show love to people with whom you have differences.

1 Listen to them. When you listen to people, you’re giving them the ability to speak to you while affirming their dignity.
2 Look at them. When you give people your attention, you’re giving them the most important thing you possess your—time.
3 Learn from them. You can learn from anyone when you ask the right questions and when you are teachable.
4 Laugh with them. Humor is a great equalizer and lowers tension. The words humor and humility come from the same root. The mark of humility is your ability to laugh at yourself.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him” (NCV).

When you’ve experienced redemption through Christ, and reconciliation with God and with other people, you can’t help but turn outwardly and be an agent of reconciliation in all of your relationships. And that includes your relationships with people who are simply different from you by God’s creative design.

4 Practical Reasons for Small Groups

Small groups provide the kind of accountability and support we need to recover from our Hurts, Hangups, and Habits; so I want to give you four reasons why they are important to your congregation.

1. Small groups are relational.

You can’t have a conversation with 600 people or 60 people, but you can have a conversation with six people. Generally, when there are more than 10 in a group, people stop talking. It is impossible to learn how to love your neighbor as yourself unless you are involved in a small group of some kind. You don’t need a lot of friends in life, but you do need a few good ones, and you find those solid, supportive friendships in small groups.

Sometimes I hear people say they don’t want their church to grow larger because, if it does, they won’t know everybody in the congregation. Based on that mindset, a church shouldn’t grow beyond about 60 people. The average person knows 67 people.

Small groups allow you to know people, regardless of how big the congregation becomes. You don’t have to know everyone in the church as long as you know somebody in the church. If you miss a weekend service, not everyone will know you weren’t there, but your small group will know. Even the largest congregations seem small when your members are in small groups.

2. Small groups are flexible.

Small groups can meet anywhere. They can meet in a library, at a coffee shop, in a park, in an office during lunch, or in a home. The Bible says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 NIV).

3. Small groups are expandable.

You will run out of space and money if you try to build enough classrooms for your groups to meet at church. On the other hand, if your small groups are meeting across the community, then you will never run out of space.

We have small groups spread over 100 square miles around Saddleback Church. Don’t let buildings limit the number of small groups you can have. That’s like letting the shoe tell the foot how big it can get. Buildings are just a tool for ministry. Invest in people; they will last forever.

4. Small groups are economical.

When people meet at the church, we pay for the lights, and we pay for the janitors to clean up. But if a family hosts a small group in their home, they don’t expect the church to pay for utilities that night or to send a janitor over to clean up. In fact, they’re usually glad to take care of those things as part of their ministry to others.

Here’s another thing: You bring a guy into the church for a meeting and he might sit there like a bump on a log, but you put him in a home and give him a cup of coffee, and he may talk his head off. Why? Because you’ve put him in an environment that encourages fellowship.reccover

4 Reasons to Show Mercy

God wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world.

Everyone needs mercy because everyone has messed up. We’ve all hurt other people and made mistakes. We’ve all sinned and we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups as a result of the mistakes we’ve made.

Mercy changes the lives of people who have made mistakes, and we who have received mercy freely can change the world around us by showing mercy to others.

Here are four reasons to keep showing mercy to others.

1. Show mercy to others because God has been merciful to you.
The Bible says that God is merciful. It is emphasized all through the Bible. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of verses that talk about God’s mercy and his love, his compassion, and his grace.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace you have been saved” (GNT).

The point of that Scripture is this: God wants me to act in the same way to other people.

2. Show mercy to others because God commands you.
In Micah 6:8, God speaks through the prophet to give us three big instructions for our lives. “The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (NLT).

God says if you want a summary of what life’s all about, and if you’re going to be in his family, this is what’s required of you: You need to do what is right with others, to love being merciful to others, and to live humbly in fellowship with God.

One third of God’s requirement for you on this planet is to learn mercy. Why? Because God is merciful.

3. Show mercy because you’re going to need more mercy in the future.
You’re not going to be perfect between now and when you get to Heaven. The Bible tells us we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give.

James 2:13 says, “You must show mercy to others, or God won’t show mercy to you . . . But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment” (NCV).

Don’t you want to be able to do that on judgment day? To be able to stand without fear on judgment day? It says the person who shows mercy can stand without fear on the judgment day.

It isn’t the people who have kept more rules than anyone else who get to face their eternity with the greatest confidence. It is believers who have shown mercy to other people.

4. Show mercy because it causes happiness.
Showing mercy brings happiness. The Bible teaches over and over that the more merciful I am, the happier I’m going to be.

Proverbs 14:21 says, “If you want to be happy, be kind to the poor; it is a sin to despise anyone” (GNT).

Being kind to other people actually blesses you and makes you happier in life. And mercy certainly produces greater joy in those to whom you’ve shown it.

Would you rather live in a world that is harsh or a world where the people around you value mercy?

You get to help shape a world of mercy around you and allow more people to find freedom from their past when you’re willing to show mercy.

CPR Saved My Life

Christ-Centered Recovery Saved My Life

By Roger Nix

Hi, my name is Roger Nix, and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. I’m celebrating recovery from sexual sin and from anger issues that have come from parenting a special needs child.

I have been in ministry all of my adult life. At 18, I felt a call into ministry. After four years of ministry preparation at Oral Roberts University, my wife and I were newly married and part of a team that helped launch an evangelistic ministry (which happens to be one of the producing entities of the film Home Run.) For the past 16 years I have been privileged to pastor a beautiful community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Believers Church.

But long before I ever heard God’s call into ministry, long before I ever was married or was involved in pastoring, I had an encounter when I was 10 years old that would nearly destroy my life and take everything I held precious and dear to me. One day my buddies and I decided to go dumpster-diving in hopes of finding buried treasure. What we found, however, was a pile of Playboy magazines. To a group of young boys who were just starting to get curious about girls, that was like saying, “Sic ’em!” to a dog. That moment opened a door in my life that would take the next 25 years to shut. I developed a bad case of sexual bulimia. I would binge on porn, and then out of guilt and shame I would purge and have periods of sobriety and health.

Fast-forward into my young adult years. My shame just drove me deeper into hiding, and my secret grew. I desperately wanted to get free. The more my secret struggle continued, the higher the stakes got. I had been so entrenched in a cycle of sin and shame for so long that I began to despair that I would disgrace not only myself but also my wife, my family, the ministry I was a part of, and, ultimately, God himself. I knew that I couldn’t go on like this anymore.

I joined my first 12-step group before Celebrate Recovery ever existed. Whatever faith and knowledge of God I had experienced up to that point, I realized that there had to be more. God showed me deeper levels of his love and grace that began to heal me and set me free. While my path toward freedom was a long and arduous one, I can tell you this: Jesus set me free. I am healed.

When I became a pastor 11 years ago, I knew that I wanted two things in our community. First, I wanted to see other people’s lives transformed and set free. Second, I wanted to see it happen through Christ-centered recovery. So when Celebrate Recovery came on the scene, I knew this was an answer to prayer. I also knew I needed a safe place for my ongoing recovery, so when the very first Celebrating Pastors in Recovery group was launched a few years later, I jumped in with other pastors from our city.

At first, walking through a 12-step group in a room full of other pastors can seem a little intimidating. We all wondered if we could really be vulnerable and trust our deepest secrets, hurts, and fears to other ministers across the city. To our surprise, we quickly experienced deep-spirited friendship and a vulnerability that allowed each of us to encounter healing and freedom. There’s no greater joy than to witness every person in the room meeting God in a new and life-changing way.

I have since had the joy and pleasure of leading six other CPR step groups and consider it one of the most significant parts of my service to God. Celebrating Pastors in Recovery has become a lifeline for wounded and broken pastors, many of whom were on my own staff.

One of the reasons pastors need their own CR is not because we’re special, but because we’re slow. That’s why I say that CPR really stands for Celebrate Pastors Remedial group. Can you imagine the cross-talk in a room full of pastors? Seriously! Another reason, however, is that sadly, many pastors are scared of what will happen if they get honest in their communities because many church communities aren’t safe places. I’ll never forget hearing one senior pastor in our CPR group who was going through ministry burnout say this: “My people told me they want me to get well, but they just don’t want to be the ones to walk with me through the journey of getting well.” I believe that Celebrate Recovery is changing the atmosphere of churches all around the world, making them refuges for healing and transformation for pastor and parishioner alike. It’s why pastors need the CR community to make church the safest and most radical place on the planet. Thank you.

Benefit from Your Weakness

4 Benefits That Come from Your Weaknesses
By Pastor Rick Warren
Clay Pots

I’ve been a Christian for many years. I’ve been around thousands and thousands of believers and I would say most Christians have yet to experience the depth of Christ’s power. Why? Because they haven’t admitted their weaknesses and they haven’t expressed gratitude for them.

I love 2 Corinthians 12:9b in The Living Bible: “I’m glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.” You may not realize it but your weaknesses are actually blessings in disguise.

Here are four ways that’s true:

1. Having weaknesses guarantees God’s help.
When you attempt to face a challenge or solve a problem in your own power, God says, “I’ll step back and watch. Be my guest. Go ahead and do it. If you think you can handle this on your own, great. If you think you can solve that problem at work, if you think you can make that marriage hang together, if you think you can turn that kid around in your own power, be my guest.”

But the moment you come to God and say, “God, I’m weak. I don’t have what it takes for all the pressures that are in my life. God, I need You.” God says, “I knew that. I just wanted you to realize it.” Then he plugs you into his limitless power supply and you experience peace and a deeper understanding of God’s love. You’ll find power you would never have on your own. A power to thrive and not merely survive.

When God is all you have, you turn to him and realize he’s all you needed in the first place.

2. Having weaknesses prevents arrogance.
Second Corinthians 12:7 says, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (ESV).

A thorn is a limitation I’ve inherited or cannot change, something that causes me pain and limits my ministry. Some thorns are temporary in our lives. Some thorns are removed gradually. Some you have for a lifetime, as with Paul.

What does a thorn do in my life? It’s that persistent problem that causes me pain, gets my attention, keeps me dependent upon God, and humble before him. It acts as a governor on my life. It guides and directs me, and it motivates me.

If God is ever going to use you in a great way, expect a thorn. He will do it to get your attention. It may be physical, relational, emotional, or some other kind of thorn, but it will come because it prevents arrogance and it guarantees God’s help.

3. Having weaknesses causes you to value others.
One of the dangers of strength is that it breeds an independent spirit. God made us to value each other, and our weaknesses keep us from being self-sufficient so that we lean into the support of other people.

You’re pretty weak, and I’m pretty weak, but together we can do things that nobody thought possible. That’s why it’s so vital for you to plug into a local church, get involved, develop relationships, and get in a small group, so that when a crisis hits your life there’s somebody there to support you. And you’re there to help others when they go through crisis.

4. Having weaknesses gives you a ministry.
God puts you on earth not just to live for yourself, but to help other people. Your greatest ministry will flow out of your weaknesses.

The greatest life message, the message that God wants to say to the world through you is going to come out of your deepest hurt. The very thing that causes you the most grief and pain, God can use in your ministry and can use it as a message to other people to encourage them.

The thing you’re most embarrassed about, the thing you’re most ashamed of, the thing you don’t want anybody else to know about, God wants to use to encourage other people. Pain sensitizes us to the hurts of others. If you want to have a Christlike ministry, that means sometimes other people are going to be helped, encouraged, and even healed by the wounds in your life.

God never wastes a hurt. God will use the thing in your life that you are most ashamed of, most embarrassed by, most heartbroken over, to encourage other people if you’ll learn to admit it, see what God wants to do in it, be healed through it, and begin to share it with others.

Tiffani’s CR Story

Healed to Help Others: Tiffani’s Celebrate Recovery Story

By Celebrate Recovery


Hi, I’m a grateful believer in Jesus. I struggle with codependency, anxiety, and the effects of past abuse. My name is Tiffani. I became a Christian when I was 30 years old, and for many years I volunteered in children’s ministry. I served as a Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher and coordinator. I also served as a youth group leader, teen chat leader, young adult leader, and eventually as the children and youth ministry coordinator. All the while my life was secretly spinning out of control. The poor choices I made left me feeling unloved, unworthy, and lonely. When my chaotic lifestyle came into the light, I was asked to step down from all of these positions that I loved and found my worth in. My heart broke; I had to accept I was not a good example for the children. I was hopeless. Fortunately, a counselor told me about a local Celebrate Recovery program and I started attending.

After a few years in Celebrate Recovery, I went to my first One-Day event where I attended the breakout session for Celebration Place. I remember thinking – this is it, this is what I am to do; I just know it! I wanted to start immediately. However, God had a different plan. He not only wanted to equip me to lead Celebration Place; he wanted to heal me. My passion for teaching children never went away, but the shame, guilt, unforgiveness, codependency, and anger over the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse I endured as a child were still present in my life. During the next two years, I participated in two step studies. The healing was incredible! The time I spent serving as a CR leader was equipping me to run Celebration Place.

At the Celebrate Recovery Summit in 2014, I attended the sessions for Celebration Place and received the go-ahead from my ministry leader to start. I went home and started with two other ladies. Unfortunately, I didn’t start as I was taught by the regional representatives. I knew a better way — my way. The first six months were awful.

When I read the lessons, I felt the children would not understand them so I would change them. I was not enforcing the program guidelines for the children either. I was still holding on to pride and not trusting the process of recovery. I understood the DNA of Celebrate Recovery but wasn’t following through with the DNA of Celebration Place. The serenity prayer says, “trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will.” That word if is a small word but sure says a lot. I had to yet again completely trust God and surrender Celebration Place to him. He proved to me again that his ways are always better than what I had in mind.

Celebration Place has helped me grow in my recovery as I prepare each week to teach the children. The lessons are the same as for the adults but easier to understand. I have had many of my own ‘aha’ moments while teaching the children in Celebration Place. Watching the children grow closer to God and overcome their struggles has brought me a tremendous amount of joy. God is using all my past hurts and experiences to help not just adults but children, too.

God has the confidence in me that I lack. He has even given me the privilege to be the Northeast Regional Representative for Celebration Place. Today I get to help others start Celebration Place programs in their area. I am in awe of how God has turned my life around and that he entrusts me to work in such an important ministry as Celebration Place.

In the Bible, Acts 20:24 says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the grace of God” (NLT).

Thanks for letting me share.

Doug’s CR Story

From Drug Addiction to Life in Ministry: Doug’s Celebrate Recovery Story
By Celebrate Recovery
Recovery Road

My name is Doug, and I’m a faithful believer in Jesus who’s in recovery for substance abuse. I grew up in a good, God-fearing home. I have two wonderful parents that loved and provided for me. You could say that I had a good childhood, but a very sheltered one. I was 15 years old the first time I smoked marijuana. I liked it! I liked the way it made me feel, carefree and very chilled out. At first it was only a once-in-a-while thing at parties or camping out with friends on the weekends. It didn’t take long for this to become an every-chance-I-could experience to eventually an everyday habit. At first I didn’t buy it, just smoking when someone around me had it. Eventually I was not only buying it, but getting some for other people. This was the beginning of years of dealing drugs to feed my own habit.

I wish I could say that marijuana was where I drew the line, but I went to places where other drugs were also available. Marijuana brought me into a drug culture where people were buying and selling all kinds of drugs.

When I was 18 years old I tried LSD. Wow, was that an experience. I didn’t know it yet, but I had an addictive personality. I loved the effects that acid had on my state of mind and the euphoria it gave me. I was still smoking a lot of pot and now hashish. Binge drinking was a common event as well. I was “having fun,” or so I thought. I was a drug addict and didn’t realize it at the time. Through the next couple of years, I started using cocaine and speed, not all the time at first, but it soon became a common occurrence in my life. I was selling drugs, stealing, and doing anything else I could to continue to get as high as I wanted, when I wanted (which was all the time).

I was a full-blown drug addict, but when I turned twenty-two it got worse. Someone introduced me to prescription pain medication (OxyContin) and my life took a turn for the worse. Pills became my life’s goal and it came to a point that I couldn’t afford my habit, even though I was selling pills. One day I was with a friend who had heroin. I tried it and instantly fell in love with it. Within a few months I was injecting it, and for the next eleven years this was my method of drug use. In just seven years I was a junkie. I quit smoking marijuana (something I loved doing) because it didn’t give me the high I needed.

Those were the darkest years of my life. I was now a strung-out drug dealer, selling thousands of dollars’ worth a day and using about four to five hundred dollars’ worth a day. I sold drugs to two different close friends resulting in their overdose and death. I sponsored two abortions during this time period. My moral compass was broken. I didn’t care about anyone, not even myself. My drug addiction got to the point that if you couldn’t inject it, I didn’t use it.

One day in June 2010, I woke up like any other day during the previous 18 years (11 as a junkie). I left the house expecting to make a drug deal, but God had other plans. While I was driving, I heard a voice and felt a presence unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The voice said that if I would get close to him, he would get close to me (James 4:8). I instantly knew it was God and that my whole life was wrong. I started to cry, and I hadn’t done that in years; it felt good. Problem was I didn’t know anything about God. I contacted a local pastor and, instead of making that drug deal, met this man at his church and gave my life to Christ.

Within two weeks, I was clean and sober from all drugs. What Jesus did for me that day was change my “want to.” I no longer wanted to get high. Praise God! That’s a miracle! My life Scripture is Psalm 40:1-3, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord” (NLT).

Today I’m an ordained minister, associate pastor of a church, and WV State Representative for Celebrate Recovery. I share my experiences to let others know there is hope. Is marijuana a gateway drug? It was for me! Does everyone who smokes pot become a junkie? No. But every junkie I’ve ever known started out smoking marijuana. For me, marijuana led me down a dark hole that only God’s love and grace could bring me out of. Just remember, no matter if it’s marijuana or heroin—there is hope.

Thank you for letting me share.


Seth’s CR Story

Once Addicted, Now in Ministry – Seth’s Celebrate Recovery Story

By Celebrate Recovery

Once Addicted, Now in Ministry – Seth’s Celebrate Recovery Story


My name is Seth, and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. My struggles with drug and alcohol addiction brought me into recovery.

I grew up in a small town in North Central West Virginia. My family included a loving mother, a father who expected perfection, and a sister with whom I competed for my parents’ attention.

At school, I craved to fit in with everybody. This led to my first experience with drugs and alcohol in 7thgrade. By my freshman year in high school, I was drinking alcohol every weekend and smoking marijuana every day.

When I graduated high school with honors, I was a fully functioning drug addict. I was captain of the soccer team, an all-conference performer in basketball, and a member of student council and honor society.  I was also using hard drugs regularly and selling them to classmates to support my habits.

I followed my friends from high school to a small college about 45 minutes north of my hometown. I drank every day for over two years straight, not even missing a major holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving, and experimented with every drug available to me. Soon after graduating, I discovered what became my drug of choice, OxyContin. It was an instant love affair. It took away my feelings of worthlessness and made me feel like Superman.

After college, I landed a job as a registered nurse at a big university hospital.  For the first year, I could keep my ballooning addiction to painkillers and my career separate. This all changed one morning when I entered the elevator after a long and trying night shift. I got on the elevator and made eye contact with another nurse I knew from my addiction. As we were the only two people on the elevator, he pulled out a vial of an IV drug and asked if I wanted to go get messed up. I had my hesitations, as I wasn’t that addicted, but I eventually caved.

Soon I was stealing and using IV medications at work. Now that my addiction and career had intersected, there was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to get my fix. Drugs controlled every second of every day. I couldn’t go to sleep or wake up without them.  I started picking up extra shifts at work so I could more easily have access to the drugs I craved.

The next thing I knew, someone filed a complaint against me at work for drooling on a patient while I leaned over to check his breathing. I was called into the nurse manager’s office, where I faced all three of my immediate supervisors. I just about manipulated my way out of the situation — until they inspected my arms. They sent me to employee health for a drug test and then had security escort me out of the building. My emotions were mixed; I felt a sense of relief that I no longer had to lead this double life, but I felt fear at the possibility of living my life without drugs.

I managed to get my nursing license back and found a nursing job. This only lasted for about one year. After losing my nursing license a second time, my addiction went back into full swing. I felt shame and guilt over the person I had become. During my addiction, at least two people I knew of died of an overdose. These were people I had introduced to intravenous drugs, even taking the liberty to do it for them the first couple of times.

I broke every one of the 10 commandments and kept thinking, “How could I ever be forgiven for all the suffering I have caused others? How would I ever make things right? One night, I prayed harder and longer than I had ever tried before. I confessed to God all I had done. I asked him to change my heart and use me for his purpose. Feeling broken, I asked Christ into my life that night as I fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up with the strangest sense of peace I had ever felt. The weight of the world had been taken off my shoulders, and I could breathe again.

Matthew 11:28-30 has become very special to me. It reads, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

On July 16, 2014, I took my last drink or drug and started attending Celebrate Recovery with a friend from a church I had been visiting. My friend and I immediately signed up for a step study. In that step study, with my sponsor and accountability partners, I worked through my resentments with God. I was able to forgive myself as Christ forgave me. I opened up and shared all the horrible events of my past with my sponsor, and he didn’t judge me. He prayed for me!  Principle 6 states, “Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.”

Today I am a ministry leader of a growing Celebrate Recovery group in my community. Working the principles of Celebrate Recovery is helping restore my life. I have a hope and a peace through Jesus Christ that I never thought possible.

How to Experience Real Freedom

How to Experience Real Freedom, Forever

By Pastor Rick Warren


In John 8, Jesus made an incredible, profound statement. He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free” (John 8:32, 36 NLT).

You’ll be really free. What was he talking about? What does he set me free from?

The Bible says that Jesus wants to set you free in three dimensions.

1. Jesus wants to set you free from the pain of your past.

That’s a good thing. I’ve discovered the number one cause of unhappiness is people who are stuck in the past. They’re holding on to hurts. They can’t relate to the present because they’re still reacting to the past.

I’ve discovered that there are two kinds of things that people have a hard time getting over – resentment and regret. Jesus wants to set you free from both of them.

First, he wants to set you free from the pain of resentment. Everybody has been hurt by other people. You’ve been hurt many, many times. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.

What you do with that hurt will determine whether you live freely or whether you live in a prison of pain.

He also wants to help you get over the pain of regret. Not only have people hurt you in life, you’ve blown it. You’ve hurt other people.

And as a result of that, because nobody’s perfect and we’ve all made mistakes, we all carry regret.

And guilt is a terrible thing to carry around. It leaves you miserable. It saps your energy. You end up punishing yourself. And you end up playing the if-only game.

“If only I knew then what I know now . . . If only I could just erase the past . . . If only I could turn back the clock . . . If only I could pull that bad mistake back, that stupid decision, I would do it so differently today.”  We live in the prison of regret and guilt.  “I wish I’d listened sooner.”

When we fill our lives with regret, we can’t live with that, so we try to blame other people, we try to pass the buck. But most of the time we just try to bury our guilt, bury our shame, bury our regrets.  We can do it by booze, with pills, or a half dozen other things. Most of the time, people will try to bury it by staying busy. One of the reasons some of us are such workaholics is that we don’t like the way we feel when we’re quiet.

God specializes in new beginnings. God does not want you walking around with a load of guilt. God doesn’t want you to carry around guilt.

That’s why he came up with a plan to relieve it. He sent Jesus Christ to earth to die for all of your sins, all of the selfishness, the the lack of thoughtfulness, the unkindness.

2. Jesus wants to set you free from the pressures of today.

That’s the second dimension of freedom. Do you ever feel like your life is out of control? Do you ever feel like it’s out of balance? Do you ever get tired of just thinking about all the things you’ve got to do? Do you ever wish you could just resign from the human race for just one week so you could do whatever you really wanted to do?

Life is getting more complex and life is speeding up. It is definitely getting faster and it’s certainly isn’t as simple as it used to be. We’ve even come up with a whole new vocabulary of terms to describe our stress and pressures of today’s living.

Sometimes the stress gets so heavy you feel like you’re at a breaking point. You feel like you’re going to go under for the last time.

When you’re under pressure you need two things. You need strength and you need stability. God offers them both to you.

Jesus Christ has all the power you need. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead can raise you up from your problems.

If Jesus Christ can raise a dead person, he can raise a dead marriage. He can raise a dead career. He can raise a dead relationship. He can do anything. He’s got all the power you need.

You don’t have enough power to make it. That’s why you’re tired all the time. You need a source stronger than you to make it in life.

3. Jesus wants to set you free from pessimism about tomorrow.

What is it that causes people to lose hope? Why is it that we lose hope so quickly? When you boil it all down there are two reasons why people lose hope.

First, we lose hope when we’re facing a situation that needs to be changed and we can’t change it.

And second, we lose hope and become pessimistic when we don’t know the purpose that God made us for.

The Bible is very clear that everybody on this earth was created for a purpose. The sad thing is, most people go through life never discovering either: (a) a relationship with God, or (b) the purpose he put them on earth for.

Hope is essential for life. You can live 40 days without food, three days without water, and eight minutes without air. But you can’t live one second without hope. The moment you lose hope you’re no longer living, you’re just existing.

When inevitable tough times come into your life, to whom will you turn? Where is your source of hope? Where is your rock?

We are living in a time when change is happening at a greater and greater rate, so fast that nobody in this room could possibly keep up with all the changes going on in the world. In a time when the world is changing rapidly and everything’s up in the air, you need what Alvin Toffler in his book calls “islands of stability.” These islands are the things that never change in your life, some emotional and spiritual anchors that hold you down when everything is flying apart.

God has a gift for you through Jesus Christ. It is freedom, freedom from the pain of your past and the pressures of today – including pessimism, worry, doubt, and fear about tomorrow.

But a gift is worthless if you never receive it. You’ve got to take it. Would you like a fresh start with God? You can have it today!