How to Experience Real Freedom

How to Experience Real Freedom, Forever

By Pastor Rick Warren

Freedom

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!

5 Steps for Handling Life’s Frustrations

5 Steps for Handling Life’s Frustrations

By Pastor Rick Warren

Frustration

Many of our biggest mistakes in life can be traced to handling disappointment in unwise ways. In times when we’re emotionally low, it’s easy to slip back into the habits that wreaked havoc on our lives in the past. Sometimes, we just need better coping mechanisms!

Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life, based on the Bible.

1.  Ask yourself, “Did I cause it?”

The Bible says, “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV). Many things in life frustrate us because we brought them on ourselves. We don’t have anybody else to blame.

It’s frustrating to run out of gas on a trip. But if you didn’t stop to get gas before you left, or decided to push your luck, who’s to blame?

2.  Ask yourself, “What can I learn from it?”

Use the irritation as an opportunity to grow in character and become more like Christ.

How does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life? He places you in the opposite situation. If God wants to teach you love, he will put you around unlovely people. If God wants to teach you peace, he will put you in a situation of total chaos so you can have inner peace.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . ” (NIV). There are many bad things in the world, but all things work together and even the negative God can turn into a positive if we will let him.

3.  Thank God in the situation.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks” (NKJV). You don’t have to be thankful for a bad situation. But you can be thankful in a bad situation. That frustration, that irritation, that inconvenience, that interruption, may be a blessing or an opportunity in disguise.

The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach, but God took him to Rome to be in prison and write the letters that formed the New Testament. Paul was frustrated, but God saw it as an opportunity to make him sit still long enough to write the Bible.

4.  Turn the frustration into a funny, humorous event.

The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”  (Proverbs 17:22 NIV). A sense of humor is God’s antidote for anger and frustration.

5.  Ask God to fill you with his love.

Why? Because 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, [Love] is not easily angered” (NIV).  Love is self-giving, not self-serving. We get irritated because we think everyone and everything has to revolve around us. Love concentrates on the other person.

Jesus faced constant frustrations in his life, but he always made time for people. We get so preoccupied with our own things; we forget that people are the priority in life.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).

Kyle’s CR Story

Saved from the Depths of Addiction: Kyle’s Celebrate Recovery Story

By Celebrate Recovery

Soldiers

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. In the past, I struggled with drugs and alcohol, and today, I struggle with control. My name is Kyle.

I can trace my descent into the depths of addiction and my rebirth from it to two separate days, two moments in time.

It was Memorial Day 2007 when everything began to unravel. I was serving with the US Army in southern Baghdad on the tail end of a 16-hour mission. Some kids were playing ball by our vehicle, so I got out and kicked their ball over a few streets to move them along. Back in the Humvee, I’m speaking to the guy next to me when I hear a thud. Before that moment, smoking weed, drinking heavily, experimenting with drugs, essentially distancing myself from God – I planted seeds that now came to bear.

After several surgeries, which saved my life, I flew back to the States. While I was unable to move, and stuck in a hospital, my wife of one month was completely taking care of me. Already feeling like I was failing my guys, I received the news that set me over the edge: My entire squad was killed in a Humvee accident. The survivor’s guilt was crippling.

The army had prescribed me pain medication, and the only way I could get any peace of mind was to wash it down with whiskey. When I returned to West Monroe after the army med-boarded me, I was jaded, cynical, and completely dependent on drugs. I was miserable to be around, and the three 80mg OxyContin a day prescribed to me no longer worked. This forced me to take matters further. After giving me many warnings about my behavior, my wife finally moved out. This left me with nothing – no money, no home, no family – just an IV drug addiction.

In despair, I went to treatment. I had been multiple times in the past, but I never completed it. This was just a tool to get people off my back, and this time would be no different. I left after 11 days. I found myself needing a place to stay while I waited on my check, which I was planning to use to buy drugs. I showed up at my parents’ house with a sob story. My dad told me I was at a turning point and I needed to turn to Jesus for help. He prayed with me. Overwhelmed with a loving conviction, I cried out to God for help.

I always wanted something different for my life, but I woke up the next morning finally willing to act. I told the truth about what happened, and I headed out looking for an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. Despite my efforts and I like to believe by providence, I couldn’t find one. I headed home, discouraged, when I remembered some sort of house by White’s Ferry Road Church where recovering addicts lived. I pulled into the parking lot, but it was no longer there. I gathered my courage and walked into the church, which is where I was introduced to Mike C. I broke down and confessed everything to him. After baring my soul, he simply looked at me and said, “Me, too.”

After speaking with my family, I gave Mike my car keys and had him give my money to my wife. He admitted me into the Awaken514 recovery homes, and I asked to stay in the strictest one. He obliged.

I only planned on staying a month, but as time progressed, I discovered more and more heart issues I needed to work on. Instead of my trying to control the world around me, God transformed me from the inside out. I discovered that humility was an action word. I stopped relying on the things I thought I knew. I learned I couldn’t keep it unless I gave it away. I realized my purpose was to give Christ the glory. In return, Christ gave me more than I deserved. I was steadily gaining back the trust of my family and, after nine months, given the chance to move in with my wife and kids.

After leaving the recovery house, I wanted to continue watching God transform lives in those houses. Where Christ is present, there is freedom. So I went back to the house every chance I had. I basically did everything but sleep there. One day, Mike came to me and said that Josh and he wanted to take me to lunch. I was afraid they were going to ask me to stop coming to the house, but to my surprise they offered me a job. I asked if I could help out until they were ready to hire me, and I shadowed Mike around the office for about a month without pay. One day, Mike’s wife asked me if I had any money. When I said no, she asked Josh to pay me. That’s how I was hired by Awaken514.

I always wondered why I went through what I did, but now I see my trials through the eyes of a loving God. All the pain and heartache comprise cultivation for a greater purpose. I accept hardship as a pathway to peace. I take the world as God wills it. Only through surrender will I be happy in this life and the next. I strive to remain humble, being grateful for Christ’s unconditional love. I’m not saying I have this figured out, but God is calling me forward. By reaching out to meet Christ’s guiding hand, I am well on my way.

How to Love Your Kids Unconditionally

Parent and Child

One of the most important things we can do for our children is to teach them that God loves them unconditionally.

It’s extremely important that we teach our kids that they are loved, not because they earned our love or are good enough to be loved, but that they’re loved because God put them into our families to be loved.

This is hard for many of us because we have had a hard time receiving God’s unconditional love ourselves. God wants us to spend some time with him, letting him love us, and in turn giving that unconditional love to our kids.

How can we show God’s unconditional love to our families? Here are two practical ways:

1. Forgive your kids as God forgives you.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ” (NCV).

I love that God forgives me, but I’m not always ready to give that same kind of forgiveness to other people. Parenting requires massive doses of forgiveness. You’re in a position all the time to forgive your kids for things that they do.

2. Never give up on your kids.

We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:7a, “If you love someone . . . you will always believe in him, and always expect the best of him” (TLB).

From the Phillips translation, that same verse says, “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.”

We can face just about anything if we know somebody believes in us. Families are supposed to do that. We’re to give that kind of love to our kids.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s unconditional. It’s a forever bond. No stupid mistake on our part, no dumb decision, no period of rebellion, no overwhelming doubt — nothing can separate us from that forever bond with God, our Father.

As parents we are to develop that same kind of love for our kids. No matter what stupid thing our kids do, no matter how many times they walk away, we believe in them.

God wants you to treat your kids the way he treats you.

Parenting is an emotional roller coaster. One minute you’re so proud of them, you can hardly wait to squeeze them. The next minute you’re frustrated with them and fed up with their behavior.

You may be worried about your kids. You may be frustrated with your kids. You may be fearful about the direction one of them is going. You may be discouraged. If the truth were known, you may be disappointed in one or more of your kids.

Maybe the deepest hurt in your life is when you think of your child or your children. You feel like giving up sometimes, but you can’t resign as a parent. You signed on for life.

If you try to parent in your own power, you’re going to fail. It takes God’s love. Human love runs out. There is a limit to how much you can handle. There’s a limit to how much you can take.

There are days and there are nights when you don’t have any more to give, and you know it. You want to say, “Take care of yourself!” Because human love does run out.

What you need to do is get plugged into God. God is love. He’s the source of all love. When you’re plugged into him, he’ll give you power and energy and love that you didn’t know you had.

God will also give you the wisdom you need. So no matter how you feel emotionally about your kids today, Jesus is ready to help.

The key to becoming a great parent is to become a godly person. How?

First, you invite Jesus Christ into your life. “Lord, become the manager of my heart.”

Second, you pray and say, “God, I need your help daily. I need the wisdom and the love and the patience to be a wise parent.”

Third, you ask your kids to pray for you. I pray for my kids so I ask them to pray for me. Say, “I want you to pray that I’ll be a good parent.”

It may have to start with an apology. There may have to be a little reconciliation first. You may have to contact them, call them on the phone and say, “I wasn’t always the parent I should have been. I feel bad about that. But I want things to change. I want to be the kind of parent God wants me to be and that you need, so I’m going to ask you to forgive me. I apologize.”

It’s never too late to start showing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness to your kids. God never gives up on us. So never given up on your kids!

Celebrate Recovery for Danny

Danny Duchene was an addict serving 2 life sentences for his role in a robbery that killed two people. He was depressed, crushed by the weight of his guilt, and without hope.

But then Danny gave his life to Christ …
“The message of God’s mercy eventually got through to me. I learned that Jesus could give me a fresh start – changing me from the inside out!”

With the help of some ministers from Saddleback Church, Danny and a few other inmates started a church behind bars and began leading Celebrate Recovery small groups …
“I cannot overstate the power of godly small groups in changing people’s lives. For many guys, being part of a small group was the first time they’d ever received support to do the right thing.”
As hundreds of inmates experienced complete forgiveness and restoration in Christ, the entire prison was infused with a sense of peace and hope – and the same can happen in your church!

A Place for Comfort

Comforting Them with Love
By Rodney Holmstrom

“Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”  Jeremiah 33:3

There was a man walking along on a cold winter day.  Suddenly hitting a patch of black ice, he fell and then bam! He wasn’t expecting this but found himself on the ground, cold, wet, humiliated and seemingly alone. He cut his elbow and was bleeding quite a bit. He wanted to go crawl into a hole and hide. His first thought was complete embarrassment for what had happened and wondered if anyone had seen him fall so abruptly. Before he realized it, a stranger was kneeling by him to grab his arm, helping him back to his feet. He felt embarrassed by the situation.  However, the stranger wasn’t focused on that at all. Instead he focused on showing love and compassion while making sure he was okay. He knew he was hurting and came alongside him, helping him mend his wounds.

This story has me thinking about my brothers and sisters struggling with mental health issues. Some may struggle with depression, anger, anxiety or other issues that make it difficult to function, let alone live among society. I have heard from some that they feel so alone, and feel they are a burden to those living around them. Sometimes they may become completely overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness in their pain – wanting to crawl in a hole and hide from the world.

In Celebrate Recovery we are growing to understand that our friends dealing with mental health struggles are hurting in ways that may not be visible.  These struggles are very real and present. They are desperate for someone to love them in their struggle. Celebrate Recovery provides the platform to experience that love. We get the wonderful privilege as brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside our struggling family and show them the love of God. I love that!  We get to take part in showing them the great and mighty things our Lord and Comforter can provide.  We get the honor of showing hurting and struggling souls that they are more than the diagnosis they carry. They are the beloved son or daughter of the perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ.

We cannot fix the struggle, but we can kneel down in love, grab an arm, with support and love, and be with our friend in the struggle. I thank God for a place where we can come as we are, no shame, no embarrassment, no judgment, just a place to be loved: Celebrate Recovery.