Initiators of Change Ministries

(Win the Lost At All Cost)

Category: Articles

Where Can You Find True Freedom?

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint. It’s an attitude that says, “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say, without anybody telling me what to do.”

With that kind of mindset, everybody else may get burned by you, but you get to do it your own way. That’s the world’s kind of freedom-you get your freedom, but only by being totally selfish.

But the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus:

 “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV).

God sent Jesus to proclaim and deliver freedom from the sin that keeps you trapped in a cycle of anger, envy, greed, sexual immorality, broken relationships, unforgiveness, and selfishness. With true freedom, you’re set free from fear, guilt, worry, bitterness, and death.

You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself. How do you get rid of fear and find real freedom in Jesus? By letting God love you!

The Apostle John teaches this: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV).

When you realize how much God loves you, you’ll begin to live and rest in that love. And when you live in God’s love, you’re free-free to see life from his point of view and live the way he meant you to live. You learn that freedom isn’t something you demand or earn; it’s a gift from God. In fact, living in God’s love is an act of worship.

When you agree that God is loving, caring, and generous and begin to trust in that love, you worship him. As 1 John 4:16 says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love” (NLT).

How to Become like Christ

“We shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.” Ephesians 4:13

Discipleship is the process of becoming like Christ. It’s a journey that will last a lifetime! This is how it works: Every day God wants you to become a little more like him.

As the Bible says, “You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you” (Colossians 3:10).

Today people are obsessed with speed. But God is more interested in strength and stability than swiftness. You might want the quick fix, the shortcut, the on-the-spot solution.

Maybe you’re looking for a sermon, a seminar, or an experience that will instantly resolve all problems, remove all temptation, and release you from all growing pains. But real maturity is never the result of a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. Growth is gradual.

The Bible says, “Our lives gradually [become] brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

People often build their identity around their defects. You might even tell yourself you can’t change, saying, “It’s just the way I am.”

The unconscious worry is that if you let go of your habit, your hurt, or your hang-up, you won’t know who you are anymore. This fear can slow, or even stop, your growth. So how do you let go of those old habits and grow to be more like Christ?

How do you conform your character to his?

By developing Christ-like habits to replace those old habits. Your character is the total of your habits-and habits take time to develop. You can’t claim to be kind unless you are habitually kind, showing kindness without even thinking about it. A husband who is faithful to his wife most of the time is not faithful at all! Your habits define your character.

There’s just one way to develop the habits of Christ-like character: You have to practice them, over and over, until they become part of your identity. And that takes time! But over time, you—and the people around you-will see the difference.

As Paul urged Timothy, “Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15).

You Are Valuable to God

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” Matthew 6:26

You are extremely valuable to God. He even said in Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you”. Why are you so valuable to him?

One, you are valuable because God is your Father, and you are his child. The Bible says, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26 NLT).

Two, you are valuable because Jesus gave his life for you. The Bible says, “You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him” (1 Corinthians 7:23).

The fact that you belong to God adds incredible value to your life. When you go to an auction, things that once belonged to famous people often cost much more. It could be an ordinary jar, instrument, or a pair of shoes. But if it was owned by a famous musician, athlete, or president, the value goes up.

Would a rock star’s guitar be worth more than one of my guitars? Of course! You see, common things can have great value, depending on who the owner is. But value doesn’t depend only on who owns something; it also depends on what somebody’s willing to pay for it.

I remember reading a story about a girl who was kidnapped. She was the daughter of a very wealthy and influential king.  This king put the word out: “Any price will be paid for her return. She’s the king’s daughter.”

You are the King’s daughter or son. You are God’s child. The greatest ransom ever paid was paid for you by Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to Earth and suffered for you. God exchanged his own Son for your salvation-for your freedom. Christ gave his life so that you could have eternal life.

If you want to know how valued you are, just look at the cross. The cross proves your value. If someone has ever told you you’re worthless, they’re dead wrong.

You are not worthless. You are priceless. And you are infinitely valuable to God in Christ.

Three Reasons You Need a Church Family

When it comes to going to church, God doesn’t want you just to attend church – he wants you to belong to a church family. The Bible says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT).

I can always tell the difference between a Saddleback church attender and a church member. An attender will come up to me and say, “Pastor Clifford, I love your church.” They say your church. But a member says, “Pastor Clifford, I love our church.” Have you made that jump? Have you made the switch from consumer to contributor, from attender to member, from longing to belonging?

Here are three reasons why you should belong to a church family:

A church family helps you focus on God. These days it’s easy to get distracted by details, disturbances, dead-ends, delays, and difficulties. But coming together with a church family will help you focus on God. The more you choose to focus on God, the bigger he gets in your mind and the smaller your problems become.

A church family helps you face life’s problems. Right now, you’re in one of three positions. Either you just came out of a problem, you’re in the middle of a problem, or you’re headed into the next problem. Life is a series of problems that God never meant for you to handle on your own. That’s why he built a support group of people around you – the church – who are right there in the fight with you. You’re not alone.

A church family helps you fortify your faith. Fortify means to strengthen, to reinforce, and to develop. When you’re in relationship with other people in God’s family, you get the right support. They encourage you to create the right priorities, helping you decide what’s trivial and what matters most. This clarifies your values and fortifies your faith.

There are a lot of ideas in the world today that just aren’t true and make it easy to lose sight of God’s purpose for your life. Belonging to a church family helps you focus on God, face life’s problems, and fortify your faith. And that will make all the difference in your life.

Two Ways God Grows Your Faith

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

God doesn’t want you to have just any faith. He wants you to have a strong and vigorous faith-not a wimpy faith that collapses when things get tough. The Bible says in Colossians 2:7, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness”

How does God grow a strong faith like that? The first way God grows your faith is through his Word. He wants you to know the Bible-to read the Bible, listen to the Bible, study the Bible, memorize the Bible, and talk about the Bible. Why? Because God’s Word says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV).

If your faith is weak, you’re likely not in the Bible very often. But the more you’re in God’s book, the more it will feed your soul. God’s Word is soul food, and spending time in it is the easiest way to grow your faith.

The second way God grows your faith is the hard way-and that’s through circumstances that test you. While you may read the Bible only a little bit each day, you have things happening all around you 24 hours a day. Your circumstances are what God most often uses to grow your faith and build your character.

Faith is like a muscle. You don’t grow muscle without some sort of resistance. The only way you grow a muscle is by stretching it, testing it, and putting weight on it. The same is true with faith. You don’t grow faith just by sitting around and saying, “Oh, I want more faith.”

Faith needs to be tested. So, God allows circumstances in your life to build your faith muscle. Because God cares so much about your faith, you can know that he will always answer this prayer: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5 NIV).

 Make that your prayer as God grows your faith through his Word and through circumstances that test you

In Trying Times, Keep Trying

“Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble.” Proverbs 24:10

Life is filled with things you can’t control, and many people let that keep them from pursuing the dream God has put in their heart. In the middle of uncontrollable circumstances and problems, learn to live your life for God and do whatever he’s called you to do. In other words, you control the controllable and trust God for the rest. You can control your attitude, your reactions, and how much you trust God. Those are your choices.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have put everything on hold in their life. They act like they’re in limbo, and so they do nothing They’re just waiting. And they’re the ones getting the most frustrated. You may not be able to do everything you’d like to do right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something. It doesn’t mean you should coast passively and waste these days during the pandemic. Limitations are opportunities for creativity. When our church was unable to meet in person for worship, we were more active and effective in the other four purposes of our church: fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission.

The first year of the pandemic could have been our worst year—and it certainly felt like the worst in many ways— yet it ended up being our church’s greatest year for starting small groups, developing disciples, launching ministries in the community, and reaching more nonbelievers than we’ve ever reached before. This happened because so many people understood that the church is far more than just a worship service. It’s family, and it is active every day of the week, not just on Sunday. We couldn’t control how the pandemic kept us from worshipping together. But we could control how we responded and chose to use the resources that were still available to us.

Proverbs 24:10 says, “Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble” Have you stopped trying? Have you given up on something because you lost control of some part of it? During trying times, you’ve got to keep trying. There is a lot of trouble in the world right now, but you’re not helpless. Look up and outside of yourself. Change your attitude. Take stock of your resources and use them to help others. God bless you.

Why Should You Forgive?

 “The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.” Matthew 18:27

God’s Word tells you to let go of your hurt and resentment – and forgive others. You’ve got to release your hurt instead of rehearsing it. Here are three reasons why: Because God forgives you.

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of a king who forgives his servant. Verse 27 says, “The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go” (NIV). Like how the king cancelled the debt of this servant, God sent Jesus Christ to pay for your debt of sin.

Everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life has already been paid for by Jesus. He took the blame. He took the blame. He paid your jail time. Jesus Christ died for all your sins. Because resentment is self-torture. It is a self-inflicted wound.

Whenever you’re resentful, it always hurts you more than the person you’re bitter against. In fact, while you’re still worrying about something that happened years ago, the other person has forgotten about it! Your past is past, and it can’t hurt you anymore – unless you hold on to it. Because you need forgiveness every day.

The Bible teaches very clearly that you can’t receive what you’re unwilling to give. How can you receive the forgiveness God has shown you if you’re not willing to forgive others? If you want to be forgiven, you need to be forgiving.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do one time. You need it every day of your life. You’ve got to ask for forgiveness, accept forgiveness from God and from others, and offer forgiveness. It’s a continual process that will bring you joy. God bless you.

Relax! God Is Working for Your Good

 “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Everything God does is for your good and because he loves you. The Bible says, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful” (Psalm 25:10 NIV), and “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28 NIV). This is something you must remind yourself of again and again, because any time God says “no” to your prayers, Satan will shoot darts of doubt at you. He’s going to whisper lies to you: “God doesn’t love you. He doesn’t care about you; otherwise, he’d give you everything you want!” But Satan is a liar.

You don’t have to understand God’s answer to your prayer to know it’s motivated by love. God loves you too much to give you everything you ask for. So, when God says “no,” you’ve got three options: You can resist it, resent it, or relax in it.

You can resist God. You can fight him, get mad at him, turn your back on him, and say, “Okay, God, if you don’t play the game my way, I’m going to take matters into my own hands.” I’ve met a lot of people who walked away from God because God said “no” to their prayer. They didn’t trust that he had a bigger perspective, a better plan, and a greater purpose. Those people walked away from God in resentment and rebellion. That’s the second thing you can do—you can resent it.

When you doubt God’s love like that, it makes you bitter and miserable. So many people have lived their entire lives in misery because they’ve never accepted the fact that God only does what’s good in their lives. There is a third way to respond to God’s goodness: You can relax in it. When you believe that God always has your best interest at heart, you can look with new eyes at the things he does that don’t make sense. You may not understand it. It may even be painful. But God is still good. He is loving, and he will never stop loving you. You can say, “Even in this, God’s love still remains.” That’s the only kind of response that will bring you peace!

 Don’t resist or resent God’s work in your life. You can relax in the truth that it is always for your good.

Maybe It’s Time to Give Up

“The battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NLT)

Imagine you’re sitting on a plane that’s about to take off. As the plane goes down the runway, you start flapping your arms. As the speed picks up and the nose lifts in the air, you flap your arms faster and faster. Once in the air, the flight attendant approaches you and says, “What are you doing?” And you say, “Oh, I’m helping us get off the ground.” That’s ridiculous, right? But that’s basically what you do when you try to do things only God is equipped to do. Just like you don’t need to hold up a plane, you don’t need to hold up God.

Do you want to know why you’re tired all the time? Why you’re frustrated? Why you’re worn out by life? The reason you’re so tired is you’re trying to fight battles that belong to God, and you are not God. “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NLT).

People tend toward independence, and so when you see a problem, you think, “I’ve got to figure this out. It’s up to me!” You assume God’s role, and it wears you out, because you were never meant to carry it in the first place. You’ve been running in circles trying to solve problems in your marriage, your body, the economy, your school, the world. You’re trying to solve them on your own power. You’re trying to fight the battle on your own, and you’re getting tired. When you finally just give up and come back to God and tell him you’ve made a mess of it, you may think you’ve let him down. But you haven’t let God down, because you were never holding him up. You don’t have God in your hands; he’s got you in his hands.

If you’ve got God in your hands, it’s not God. It’s an idol. If you’re trusting in something that you think you can control, then that thing is not God. God is not disappointed in you, because he’s not expecting you to do what only he can do. You don’t hold God up. He holds you up.

Let go and surrender to God. Because then he says, “Great! Now we can get something done.”

Pray Instead of Worry

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray.” Philippians 4:4, 6 (NLT)

Contrary to popular opinion, God wants you to be happy.

Many people don’t believe that to be true; they think the duller you are, the more spiritual you are. But the Bible says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).

Not only does God want you to be happy, but he tells you how to be happy! In fact, God has a four – part formula for happiness. It’s found in the book of Philippians, and we’ll look at it together over the next few days. The first part of the happiness formula is this: Worry about nothing.

The Bible says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray” (Philippians 4:4, 6 NLT).

Worry basically means one thing: You’re not trusting God in a particular area. It’s the opposite of faith. It’s like saying, “God, I really don’t believe you’ve got everything under control.” Have you noticed how worry never solves your problems? It only takes up a lot of energy. It can’t change the past, and it can’t change the future – but it can certainly ruin the present.

Somebody once said that worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but you don’t get anywhere with it. Jesus said it like this: “Don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

What if you converted the energy you use to worry about something to pray about it instead? Rather than pushing the panic button, what if you pushed the prayer button? Prayer is your communication with God and the first thing you should do when you start to worry – not a last resort.

Some people say, “We’ve tried everything else. We might as well pray!” Instead, take your concerns to the Lord first so that you won’t waste energy worrying. You can’t worry and be happy at the same time. That’s why the first step to happiness is to stop worrying – and start praying! It’s not always easy to do – people are natural worriers. Give it a try today. As you stop worrying and start praying, you’ll find new power in your life as you live for God’s purposes every day.