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In Jesus the old has gone, the new has come. You are a new creation. It's a new day filled with new promise, hope, possibilities, opportunities; new dreams, goals, perspective and resolve. God’s mercy is new every morning. His grace is fresh every day. His love is being poured out daily. His spirit is available and working in us every day. Great is His faithfulness. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He doesn’t treat us according to our own righteousness, but according to Jesus’. Don’t stay in condemnation because it is familiar, step into forgiveness because it is freeing. You were a mess but God cleaned you up in Jesus. You failed but you’re not a failure, you blew out but thanks be to God you didn’t blow up. Don't give your past a power it no longer has. Walk in freedom.

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In Jesus, there is no condemnation. No meaning none. No condemnation for the time you lied to cover your tracks or made yourself look more impressive; no condemnation for the time you let jealousy get the best of you or you weren’t there for a friend or loved one; no condemnation for when you lost your cool and let your words fly; no condemnation for when you were unfaithful in a relationship; no condemnation for the divorce; no condemnation for when you weren’t there as a mother, father, son or daughter; no condemnation for when you hid the credit card from your spouse; no condemnation for when the prescription pills became an addiction; no condemnation for sexual sins or mistakes; no condemnation for lust; no condemnation for the gossip passed on at another’s expense; no condemnation for fabricating the numbers and believing the end justified the means; no condemnation for judging others too harshly; no condemnation for when you drank too much or woke up and couldn’t remember where you were; no condemnation for the lies you told yourself and others in an addiction and the damage done to everything around you; no condemnation for that time you told God you would never do it again, and then you did it again; no condemnation for the time you promised God you would, but then you didn’t. No condemnation.

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We are to be strong and immovable because we believe Jesus rose from the dead. Because we have surrendered to God. And having surrendered, everything you do for the Lord IS useful. It means if you are parent of young kids, and you don’t even have time to shower, you are living in mountains of laundry, you are shopping and see there is dried spit up on your shirt and you don’t care, because you don’t have time to care… all that stuff you are doing, God sees it, He loves it, he blesses it and he is going to use it to His Glory. It means if you go to a job you do not love, serve people you do not like under the supervision of someone you do not respect… but you do it for the Lord, it will not be useless. This means if you wish were dating someone who really got you or if you wish your marriage was better, you remember that God is your source of strength and comfort and as you face each day, you surrender to him. Surrender empowers your victory. We raise the white flag to God and we are empowered to fight whatever life brings at us in His power.

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We’ve all had moments from our past we’d like to forget. Lots of pictures we’d like to burn. Not just embarrassing stuff, but painful stuff. Hurtful things people have said or done. Ways we’ve hurt others. Words we’d like to take back. Our pasts are filled with things that can work against us in the present. The Bible calls them sin. Sin just means to miss the mark. To fall short. And if we’re all honest, we’ve all had moments when we have fallen short. And the past has this power to take your mistakes and failures and beat you over the head with them. The past can rob us of joy in the present and rob us of hope in the future. That’s why I love what the bible says about what Jesus did for us on the Cross. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NLT): “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus has solved the problem of our sin—our past. Through faith in Jesus, we have the victory. Death is not the end, doubts are not the end, and difficulties are not the end. Through faith in Jesus we receive forgiveness from our past and a new life in Him. 

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In Jesus, you are more than a victim, you are a victor. In Jesus you are more than a casualty, you are a conqueror. In Jesus you are more than your circumstances, you are an overcomer. In Jesus you are more than your failures, you are forgiven and free! In Jesus you are more than your abilities, you are filled with God’s spirit. In Jesus you are more than your pain, you are healed by God’s love. In Jesus you are more than your weakness, you are empowered by God. Your life can begin again today because Jesus has won the victory.

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Give in to God, but don’t give up. Don’t give up because it’s tough. Don’t give up when your family or friends hurt you. Don’t give up when you’re loved ones don’t back you. Don’t give up when your life flips upside down. Don’t give up when your plan goes from clear to crazy. Don’t give up when people kick you while you’re down. Don’t give up when you can’t see a way out. Don’t give up when you can’t see a way up. Don’t give up when you can’t see hope. Don’t give up when you can’t see the dream anymore. Don’t give up when you can’t see God anymore. Don’t give up when you don’t feel strong enough. Don’t give up when you don’t feel talented enough. Don’t give up when you don’t feel qualified. Don’t give up when you don’t feel like you have what it takes. Don’t give up when you don’t think you can. Don’t give up when circumstances are insurmountable. Don’t give up when difficulties seem overwhelming. Don’t give up when you are denied opportunities because of your background, or your mistakes, or your gender, or your race or your faith. Don’t give up when you see others quit. Don’t give up when you see others blame. Don’t give up when you see others reach their dreams. Don’t give up when you see others move ahead of you. Don’t give up when others get promoted over you. Don’t give up when others seem so much happier than you (on social media, don’t worry – they’re not!) Don’t give up when it hurts. Don’t give up when you’re tired. Don’t give up when it’s hard. Don’t give up when you fail. Don’t give up when it’s impossible, when it’s inevitable, when it’s unlikely, when it’s unpopular. Don’t give up because at just the right time you will receive a harvest of blessing. Don’t give up! Don’t give up, but do surrender to God.

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Jesus rose from the dead. Which means He won the ultimate victory so we can have victory in our life. If Jesus beat death, His teaching stands and He can bring us back from whatever is holding us down. Easter isn’t just about Jesus rising 2,000 years ago, but about the power of Jesus in our life today. The path to experience this victory is through surrender. To raise the white flag to God. The white flag in a battle pointed to a ceasefire, it became a universal sign of surrender. We raise the white flag to God in surrender not because we have lost, but because Jesus has won. In most areas of life we think in terms of never surrendering and never giving in, but when it comes to God the path to victory starts when we surrender our lives to Jesus and begin to follow Him in faith. Surrender leads to victory.

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Have you ever had a challenge knock you flat on your back and make you wonder if you would ever get up again? You thought you had the relationship stuff all dialed in. You fell in love, things were moving forward, you felt strong and then came the arguments, the betrayal, the change of heart, and that relationship now feels lifeless. Maybe your job used to be fun. It felt like a blessing and you felt lucky to have it. But then came the added responsibilities, the change of leadership or direction, and now it just feels dead—no more life. Or maybe it’s school. At the beginning you have all those fresh binders, a new backpack, a huge stack of new pencils. Then comes the homework. The projects. The crowds and the drama. The binder and backpack are looking all ragged. The pencils are all broken and the erasers are gone and finals are coming up. No life. There’s all kinds of things in life make us realize we are not as strong as we thought we were. All kinds of areas where we once felt alive, but now feel lifeless. Overwhelmed. Knocked flat. The Good News today is this: Jesus is alive again, so we can experience life again!

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In my life, faith became the thing that helped me face the injustices of life and helped me pull through no matter what was happening. Faith empowered me to face addiction and to celebrate 28 years of sobriety. Being a person of faith doesn’t mean I think I have all of the answers, but it simply means I believe in the One who does and lean into Him even when life is hard. It doesn’t mean I walk around judging people and thinking I’m better. It means I’m empowered to love people, knowing I’m no better than anybody else, and I am forgiven in Jesus from my sin, my failures, and my past. Easter is filled with memories and family and candy and all kinds of things, but the most important for me is faith. Easter is about hope for everyone in Jesus.

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You know what’s incredible? God tracked us down with His love. Wherever you are today, remember the cross. Remember what Jesus did for you. Let it change your perspective. Some of us are struggling with failure, and we feel so disappointed. But the cross reminds us that God loves us unconditionally, and we can recover from that failure. Some may be struggling at work or in relationships, but the cross reminds us of God’s care to help us. Some of you may feel like you are barely hanging on, but you look to Jesus and realize that if He can carry all that He did, we can handle what we’re going through. He went all the way to death for us. They put Him in a tomb. Hope seemed to be lost, but it wasn’t. As we look towards Easter, it’s time to celebrate. It’s time to celebrate that He is alive again.

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The more we align our lives with God’s character and with His truth, the stronger our lives can become. So many of us are adjusting to pain in our lives—the pain of disappointment, the pain of feeling lonely and abandoned, or the pain of failure and setbacks. And while those are real issues, maybe all we really need is an adjustment. To get our priorities back in line with God’s priorities. To shift our hopes onto His shoulders. To live with His strength and with His joy. Sometimes this means we need to get bent up a bit. We need to be pushed and stretched, but in the end, a life aligned with God is the healthiest and strongest life we can live.

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The first thing we need when we are in the dark is light. We need someone to bring us some hope. God wants us to be a light to people who are lost in the dark. If you know the love of God and the hope of God, then you have the light of God within you and around you. You are light that God wants someone to see. You are the light that is going to help someone come home to God and be free. You are the light that God will use to make an eternal difference in someone’s life. So you may have a lot of names: mom or dad. Brother or sister. Son or daughter. Wife, or husband. Employee or employer. Before them all is this: Rescued Rescuer. You have been rescued by God to rescue other people.

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Central is a place where things change, but it’s also a place where some things never change because God’s purpose doesn’t change. Our mission is to introduce people to Jesus and help them follow Him. We want to share the grace of God, because we believe He is the solution to the darkness people face. He is the light. He is the truth. He is who our hearts were made for and His forgiveness knows no bounds. That is the gospel—that doesn’t change!

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The important thing to see about emotions, even the ones we consider undesirable, is that they all have a purpose. Anger is what helps us deal with threats. Sadness is how we process loss. Fear keeps us out of danger. Disgust keeps unhealthy things out of our lives. Shame lets us know when we are violating important values. Joy, love, and surprise are great feelings that make it wonderful to be a human. We all want more of that, and I believe the place we ultimately find those feelings fulfilled is in a relationship with Jesus. So they all have a purpose. These emotions are important. We can’t ignore them, but we also can’t surrender to them. We can’t let them run our lives because they will run it into the ground. So acknowledging and even trying to name the feelings you are having is a vital step in becoming emotionally mature. Master your emotions or they will master you.

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No matter your circumstances, and how far off or impossible your deliverance may seem, God is not limited by your limitations. He is not imprisoned by your circumstances. He can find a way to work in whatever you’re facing. You just need to trust Him and lean into what He is saying and doing. It’s like those words from Jeremiah, “Is anything too hard for God?” Usually, only our hearts are too hard. Too stubborn. Too fearful. Have a soft heart towards Him, even in hard circumstances. Don’t let your circumstances define you. Let God’s love define you.

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If you struggle with your past, I want to challenge you with this: Be more concerned with what God has done in the past than what you have done in the past. If you are going to look to the past, you might as well look past your own past and into the life that Jesus lived on earth. Here is God in the flesh, and what do you see Him doing? He heals the sick. He gives sight to the blind. He has compassion for people at the end of their rope. He hangs out with prostitutes and tax collectors and other notorious sinners. He becomes good friends with them. Enlists them in a new future. Listen, when Jesus was nailed to the cross by your sins and my sins, you know what he said? “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Jesus died to save you from your past, not to condemn you for your past. He died to forgive you and make your past history. He died to give you a new story. He died to give you a new hope and full life. Never forget that. Your past does not determine your potential. God’s grace determines your potential. Put your faith in Him.

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When you don’t hold tightly to people who share your hope, you eventually lose some of your grip on that hope. Think about the times you fell away from your faith or found yourself far from God. It most likely wasn’t a conscious decision. You didn’t say, “I think I’m going to lose myself in an unhealthy relationship.’ Or “I think I’m going to ignore God’s role in my life.’ Or even, “I’m not sure I agree with what the Bible says about what’s most important.” Chances are the reason you drifted away from faith is that you lost touch with others who share your faith. You started spending most or all of your time with people who don’t share your same hope in Jesus. They may be important friends, in fact the Bible says that Jesus died for everyone, but if you are going to hold on to the Hope of Jesus you need to spend time with His people, both in church together and in a smaller group format where you can know others and be known by them. How will you choose to connect with other people this week?

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Every day we need to wake up, look in the mirror and say, “I am the well-loved child of an all-powerful God who has my best interests at heart. No problem is too big for Him, no situation too hopeless for Him, and not even my mistakes (of which there are many) can stop His amazing grace from flooding my life. He is already giving me good things to enjoy, and I am going to find them and give thanks.” Friends, that’s not just a good attitude, that’s a Godly attitude. It’s an attitude that gets God right.

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Psalm 46: 6-8 (NLT) says: “Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you…. Each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” One of things we love about the Psalms is that people not only keep it real, but they keep it raw. Here you have a person who is deeply disappointed, talking to his soul and to God about how bad he feels. And he’s kind of stuck in a rut, coming back to this bad attitude again and again. He’s trying to break free but he’s not done dealing with his feelings. He is far from where he wants to be—feeling exiled and cut off. He is dealing with these people crushing his spirit and tormenting him. That image of the raging sea and crashing waves is used to convey the troubles of life. This individual is facing a sea of challenges and feels about ready to drown. Can anyone relate? It all kicks off with this phrase, I am deeply discouraged. The root word for discouraged means to “melt away,” or to “stoop.” It’s this idea of feeling bent and weighed down. Like you don’t have what it takes to face the day. You can’t get out of bed. You’re a mess—a melted mess on the floor. That’s where he’s at—and get this—God wanted these words in the Bible. He wants us to know that even people who love Him deal with doubt. People of faith can have deep feelings of discouragement. They feel let down by God. They feel forgotten. It’s all right here in the Bible, God’s word. 

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Here are few good verses for a bad day. When you feel like God does not care, tell yourself Psalm 34:18 (NLT): “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” When you feel like God is distant, tell yourself Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT): “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” When you feel like all your troubles are going to wreck your life and ruin your future, tell yourself Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” When you feel like no one cares, tell yourself 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT): “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” When you feel like everyone is failing you and leaving you stuck with the bag tell yourself Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT): “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

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