freedom

You Are a Treasure

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.“ – Matthew 2:11 Christmas is a great time to reflect on the treasures in our lives. Upon seeing the baby Jesus, the wise men opened their hearts and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In fact, it was expected — especially in the East — that one would never appear before royalty or a person of importance without bringing gifts. And knowing who they were visiting, they gave lavishly. However, their gifts were not the real treasure — Jesus was the treasure.  Speaking of treasure, one Christmas, I received a BMX GTE Elite bike that I had been wanting for a long time, and boy, was I excited! I was thrilled with

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When You Conquer Fear

“…in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 56:11 We have a great destiny in God, but fear is one element that will try to come between you and your destiny. When I was ten years old, the kids in my neighborhood were all into BMX bikes. We called them dirt bikes, and we would ride them to school. There was a shortcut home, but it had a hill that was extremely steep and challenging, especially for a 10-year-old. After many rides home, one of the three boys in our group finally rode down the hill. Then the second one did, but I didn’t do it. I felt like such a coward. I would take the long way, but I felt horrible, especially when my friends had already been successful. So the big day came; I decided to take the hill! Yes,

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Renewal and Restoration Bring Joy

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ ” – Nehemiah 8:10 Today I want to share the story of joy experienced in a season of restoration. The Book of Nehemiah, Chapter 8, tells the story of the Jewish people chosen by God to be a force of renewal, restoration, covenant life, joy, and love in a world swallowed up by evil. Unfortunately, during this time, society was experiencing child sacrifice, human violations, and slavery. God’s people were meant to bring freedom and exemplify God’s character. But because the influence of the world seduced them, they were punished by God and exiled to Babylon.  After being exiled for 50-plus years, they returned to the Promised Land. Once the temple was

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Rights Are Useless Without Responsibility

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:8 Dallas Willard was a professor at USC and also a great theologian. Dallas wrote a lot about our slogan-driven society, saying that we are “smothered in slogans.” As a philosopher who thought deeply about the mysteries of life and spirituality, he especially loved to pick on bumper stickers. Though there were many phrases that bugged him, nothing got his goat as much as the exhortation to, “Get up and stand up for your rights!” Instead, he wanted a bumper sticker that said, “Get up and stand for your responsibilities!” Why? Because rights mean nothing in a society where people are not responsible. How are you going to uphold your rights if you live in a world where individuals believe only in themselves and not in the dignity

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You Are My Credentials

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” – 2 Corinthians 3:2 The Apostle Paul was once asked, “What are your credentials?” Paul was appointed by God to found the hugely successful Church of Corinth. Corinth was a port city that incorporated beauty, wealth, and was multicultural. Within the culture of Corinth, many were formerly enslaved due to debt or war and rebuilt their lives; one was considered successful based on an individual’s ability or achievement, and this personal reconstruction allowed the society to thrive. Envision dog-eat-dog on one hand, but incredible wealth and success on the flip side by people who are determined, industrious, and entrepreneurial. In this climate, Paul learned quickly due to his humility he was not fully accepted. The church was embarrassed by his working trade and his inability to speak well by Roman standards. Yet Paul was very accomplished

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People Respond Well to Humility and Vulnerability

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ ” – James 4:6 Great leaders tend to be individuals who are strong and confident, yet vulnerable and humble as well. This is something I had to learn as a leader. When you’re insecure or green in this arena, it’s tempting to give off an aura of strength or overtly-strong confidence. But very often what you think is assurance and tenacity, is often interpreted as arrogance or creates a fearful environment. There’s a difference between the two. In general, if you come off as pompous and self-important, your actions will turn people off. People do not respond well to prideful, arrogant, self-glorifying, or controlling ways in which we try to hold onto things that we really shouldn’t. Leaders, whether they’re pastors of large churches, empty nesters, or founding CEOs,

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Receive the Spirit of God

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17 Today, I want to talk about the real freedom that comes from experiencing the Spirit of God. This is not an abstract idea because there is a real bondage that we can feel without His Spirit. This bondage can take many forms: You grapple with your reputation, prestige, or the opinions of people. Perhaps your pride is in your looks, your money, or maybe it’s your position in an academic arena. What if you carry arrogance even in your position within a ministry? When those things become who you are rather than being a child of God, you become a “slave” to it.  Significant research has recently revealed some negative effects social media can have on people. Yes, it does have some redeeming qualities and can be viewed as

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The Hard Road to Jesus’ Easy Yoke

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24 We’ve been talking about walking in the easy yoke of Jesus. We’ve discussed how doing life attached to Him sets us free from the need to pretend that we’re perfect as we keep trying harder to win the approval of others. I’m sure by now, you’re fully convinced that’s the best way to live your life. However, you may wonder why certain Scriptures seem to contradict this idea. There is no denying that Jesus, in addition to teaching rest, also instructs us to do things like take up our cross and follow Him or be crucified with Him. How, then, do we explain what seems to be a contradiction? Is Jesus’ yoke easy or is it hard? Does

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Yoked to Jesus

“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.” – Matthew 11:28-30 If you grew up in church or have been listening to my sermons for any length of time, you have probably heard me talk about Jesus’ easy yoke. But do you know what a yoke is?  In Jewish culture, a yoke was a device used to join two oxen together so they could work side-by-side in the field. For maximum productivity, the technique was to take a young ox who had a lot of energy but didn’t know what to do, and yoke him to an older, calmer ox who knew how to plow the field.

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Soften Your Heart

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26 In my own life experiences, I have struggled with addressing various issues with a hardened heart. In our world today, we know how to power up, and to tell it like it is, feeling like we have to always be tough on the outside. Today, I want to challenge you to soften your heart! First soften your heart to God, then to your friends and co-workers. If you are married, soften your heart to your spouse, your kids if you have any, or your parents. God has good things in store for you, but our hearts must be softened to fully receive them. Suffering through bad experiences can indeed make us feel despondent and discouraged. Maybe in

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