Amazing Adventure with God!

 

AmazingAdventure

Boring. Status Quo. Dull. Redundant. 

The above words should never be used to describe our relationship with God. Too often, followers of Christ seem to be drowning in their own despair, exhibiting signs of a mundane existence. The hope we confess has been silenced by the challenges of life. The joy that is meant to be our strength has alluded too many. Faith in God was never meant to be a chore — but an amazing adventure!

God is an adventurous God! He invites us on the adventure of life to discover unknown territory and to experience unforgettable moments. For God, there’s nothing hazardous or risky for Him. But, for us, this amazing adventure should represent faith-filled risks and taking daring steps into the unknown. In God’s infinite wisdom, He knows that taking an adventure with Him will change our lives forever.

Doesn’t the Scriptures tell us that…

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain or what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

When you make the decision to take an amazing adventure with God, there will be things you do not see. You will not have complete understanding of the terrain. That’s the plan! We are placing our faith in God who is leading us, not placing our faith on what’s ahead of us. In the Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33, if Peter kept his eyes on Jesus rather than the reckoning winds around him, he would have no doubt walked completely on water to Jesus. But, his fear prevented this from happening and Jesus made it clear — you have little faith.

But, here’s the key: Jesus never said Peter didn’t have any faith at all. This experience for Peter was the precursor of him taking even more risks and becoming a Kingdom builder! If you have rejected the adventure before because of fear, anxiety or doubt, take heart! God offers this adventure everyday you wake up and every moment you use your faith to believe in His unrivaled power.

How do you begin to take an adventure with God?

1. Speak words of life! 

Your words will inform how you live. If you keep declaring your life is boring and dull, guess what? It will become boring and dull. Speak words of life over you — that you will prosper, will succeed, and will accomplish the will of God for your life.

2. Pray for new adventures from God!

Seek God for new adventures and new opportunities to grow in your faith. I must caution you though: It may not come the way you expect. It may arrive at your door by way of challenge, crisis or conflict. It may come in an unexpected way. Stay connected to the Jesus — the vine — and receive His strength to accept the challenge.

3. Discover how to give God glory through the unknown!

It can be downright frightening to be led into new opportunities or challenges that you may feel unprepared for. Yet, without faith-filled risks you cannot take ownership of faith-filled rewards. As you use faith to embark on this adventure, always give God glory for the lessons learned and opportunities given.

Jesus was attractive too many not solely on his mastery of doctrine or theology. His appeal was the endless adventure He pursued and accepted. Our attractiveness to others is not about how many times we say Jesus, but live like Him. Take an adventure with God! Go for new dreams and new goals! Don’t hold back because of fear. God has too much in store for you to live in boredom. Your life in God should be marked by the exciting adventure that awaits you. Go for it! – RF

 

Championing Courage: The Chris Estrada Interview

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. – John Maxwell

REFlectionsChrisEstradaThe mark of a true leader is clearly identified in their character. Titles and positions will only take you so far. Character takes you the distance! In this REFlections interview, I had the privilege of interviewing a brother and leader with proven character. To modify John Maxwell’s quote above, this leader knows THE WAY, follows THE WAY, and shows others THE WAY. On public platforms and behind-the-scenes, this man of God serves selflessly and cares deeply about our generation.

Chris Estrada is the Director of the Youth Major at Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) in Dallas, Texas. In this capacity, he has been afforded the unique opportunity to pour into leaders and pastors from around the world. Chris has also been entrusted to host the National Youth Leader Experience (see link after interview), taking place this weekend (starting April 25, 2014). Chris has extensive experience in pastoral ministry, business and mission work.

In this interview, it is my prayer that you hear the words of encouragement, conviction and wisdom from a friend I truly admire.

REF: What does a day look like in the life of Chris Estrada?

Chris: Everyday looks different and serves as an opportunity to journey with God. Among the traveling my wife and I do yearly, we lead a small group for leaders and pastors in our local church. I don’t want to be one of those traveling ministers that don’t have a footprint in the local church. All roads lead to the local church. I’ve learned that even with planning out my day (I’m a planner), I need to take time to reflect and praise God for what He’s done in an event or gathering before moving on to the next thing.

REF: What advice would you give leaders about valuing family?

Chris: Ryan, man…I actually learned it through a hard lesson. I went through a situation when my senior pastor made poor decisions in light of his wife’s sudden heart attack. The church was attempting to reclaim its footing after the leader made these bad situations. I learned that there were people who would say (speaking of me), “Pastor Chris will always be there for you.” However, I knew I needed to be there first for my family. At that season of our lives, we neglected our family. While others were at family BBQs, we had to be at a church. If were at a birthday party, we could only stay an hour because we had a leader meeting at church.

Now, being on staff at CFNI, I am free to say to others that I can stay for only an hour at an event or gathering because I have to go be with my family. My family is incredibly important. Nothing trumps my wife and children. I will tell my wife, “If you are not enjoying your life because of something I’m doing or involved in, I will shut it down.” I have no problem stopping what I am doing. My ego is not attached to what I do. I can go back into corporate America or the business world and win my co-workers to Christ. I don’t need a stage and mic to do that.

I am not an absent dad. You will not see me opening my laptop at home with family and rarely will I text or talk on the phone after 5 PM (unless you are Ryan – LOL)! 

REF: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?

Chris: I would probably use the word courage. I’ve always been the least qualified or lacking any qualifications to do what I do. I don’t know how I got the wife that I got (it took courage)! Sometimes, I don’t even know how I got in the rooms I got in or developed the relationships I have today. It took courage and not feeling insecure in the shadow of their great ministries or influence. My lifelong battle has been to stay encouraged. Even when facing hard times as a man, husband, father and servant of God. It takes courage to move forward.

Our ministry’s motto is: Releasing courage and power to risk takers & dreamers who want divine turnarounds. That’s who we are and that is our message. We are constantly taking risks and if it doesn’t require courage, we don’t do it. I rather fail and still have courage than have need of it.

…if it doesn’t require courage, we don’t do it. – Chris Estrada

REF: Chris…Pastor Andy Stanley was quoted saying, “A single act of courage is the tipping point to extraordinary change.” So, what act of courage have you implemented that encouraged you to live this life of courage?

Chris: The one that sticks out to me is when I first got saved. I grew up with a Catholic background. My family was from the hood but we had that “street smart”. We were very intellectual at the level. With that said, I wasn’t convinced that Jesus was powerful. I knew He loved me. But, I didn’t think He was powerful until I gave a friend a ride to the impound. God spoke to me when I met up with a man there. God said (a deep impression of the heart), “I want you to wash this man’s feet.” Now, I’m not for weird or spooky. But, when God spoke to my heart, my immediate reaction was, “You wash his feet!” (laughs) In my NO, the sense became stronger and stronger, “Son, I need you to wash this man’s feet.”

I wrestled with the Lord. I saw the man and got a coffee mug with cold water. I thought it would be game over when I offered to wash this man’s feet. It wasn’t. But, when I tell you this man’s feet was the most obscene looking feet I’ve ever seen! It looked like a forest on the man’s feet. You had to peel off his socks. I’m not exaggerating! I said to God, “I know you love me, but in this moment, you must hate me because you would only ask someone you hate to do such a thing!

Finally, I worked up enough courage to wash his feet and then to have to wash hooves! MAN! As I started to wash his feet, he complained that the water was ice cold. I apologized for the temperature and began to rub his feet. I watched firsthand clear water turn black-gray from the grime on his feet. I will never forget this — God led me to pray for this man as I was washing his feet. I was led to pray for his marriage that was heading for divorce. I sensed he was deeply concerned about how his sons will respond to it and prayed that he would never lose his fatherly voice in their lives. I prayed that what God put together no man would be able to separate. I prayed that he would find the courage to make changes and draw close to God. I remember as I prayed, this huge man who was big and imposing began to weep right over me. It was in that moment I realized that people need courage.

Ever since, I’ve been known to take courageous steps. My family lives by courage. My kids live with courage. My daughter courageously prophesied over a woman who was clinically depressed (and she didn’t have previous knowledge of her condition). I watched my son minister to a man who had a great gift of singing but thought he was going to die prematurely. My son knew this man (a waiter) was tormented by the early death of others in his family and was in the music industry (my son would have never known that). Courage is needed in whatever you do. You can never overdose in courage! 

You can never overdose in courage! – Chris Estrada

REF: How do you believe God is using you to infuse the value of courage in the next generation of leaders, especially in your role at CFNI?

Chris: People believe there are not good leaders due to a lack of trust. Poor views of leadership in government and society bleed into the Church. You have many who will question their spiritual leaders’ motives and agendas. But, I believe the lack of trust in leadership is due to not liking the environments they are in. They may be looking for a perfect environment. Ryan, I’ve been in hundreds of churches and know a great number of pastors and leaders. You are not going to find a perfect environment. You are not going to find perfect people. It is essential to beseech people and leaders to be as unoffendable as possible. Our feathers are too easily ruffled. Our feelings are too easily hurt. By no means is this a license to be insensitive. But, we must learn to bear with one another and a heart to bring the best out in others.

My chief job in life to bring out the best in my wife. It is the same with kids, my staff and my students. I am a gold-digger. I am searching for the gold. I understand that in order to find the treasure, I must dig through the dirt. But, my focus is never the dirt, but the gold. When you have this mentality, you are ready to go through some misunderstandings and miscommunication. As leaders, you live in a glass house. It is important that we understand our humanity while demanding integrity.

Ryan…this generation of leaders have much charisma, but character is too often lacking. I say this because I am young. I’ve never had a problem with others not trusting me because I follow through with what I’m going to do. If I can’t do something, I say something. It is a character issue. When I started at CFNI, I was 27 and I’m overseeing a bible college with over 1200 students from all over the world. Why would they trust a 27 year old to run that? It is an integrity issue.

I don’t want to see people in their dysfunction but their destiny. This is why Jesus can see the prophet in the pervert and the apostle in the addict! I’ve heard some preachers say how they have a problem with some titles given to Bible narratives such as “the woman with the issue of blood.” This was her dysfunction, not her destiny. We must see people in their destiny — it’s easier said than done. It is easy to limit others to their dysfunction. But, we must build our spiritual muscle to forgive easier, to overlook and keep going.

I don’t want to see people in their dysfunction but their destiny. – Chris Estrada

REF: How does this philosophy of ministry help you in leading and serving at CFNI?

Chris: Dude, I get many who say that the students we receive at our school are the church’s best of the best. But, you will be surprised to know the struggles they contend with such as homosexuality, addictions and other potentially disabling issues. We are here to train generals and “polished arrows”. But, the Lord sends us the broken to serve the broken. Give us the Gideons, give us the Davids — seeing a king in a shepherd boy. Even with the struggles, we call out destiny and ensure the goal is clear. Too often, we are destination conscious. Destiny is not where you end up but who you end up becoming. 

Destiny is not where you end up but who you end up becoming. – Chris Estrada

REF: One last question Chris and its personal…What do you enjoy doing? 

Chris: I’m Hispanic so I love to eat! My trainer doesn’t like it, but I love good food. I love good laughs. I love basketball. I play ball every Monday (I might play tonight)! I like being alone too. Don’t get me wrong — I love people, but I yearn for the quiet moments. With 3 kids screaming in the back, I like the peace and quiet. I love plane rides and love to read books. I’m a 6, 7, 8 books-a-year guy. But, Ryan — I do read my Bible and that takes much of my time!! I love seeing people “get it” especially when it comes to identity. When people know who they are, they understand what they are called to.

NOTE: In this moment, Chris spoke personally into my life from the Scriptures by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Chris is a leader God is using to speak life and destiny into the lives of people — including this interviewer! Thank you Chris for your heart, ministry and brotherhood! 

[av_video src=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3oDGD9KcIg’ format=’16-9′ width=’16’ height=’9′ av_uid=’av-2fb9u4′]

Click Here: Chris Estrada Ministries Website

Click Here: National Youth Leaders Experience

Rehearsed Lines

 

“A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” Augustine

 

ReflectionsRL1In my junior year of high school, I entered into the world of high school musical theatre. The headlining musical for the year was Sweet Charity and my debut role was the character Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck. This dark, mysterious and self-described oracular character demanded a performance equal to the captivating script.

Rehearsing lines with my fellow cast mates proved to be an experience I will never forget. I watched in awe how the character came to life in each scene through the music, dance and dialogue with flawless execution. It was quite fascinating how in the course of a play, you can become a whole new character and no one would know who you really are.

Once the play was over, I realized how easy it is to pretend you are someone else. Rehearse the lines, mimic the mannerisms, copy the tone and tenor of the voice and there you have it: a new character, a new identity. But, the new character is not the real you. The inner struggles are covered, the dark secrets remain hidden and the personality you want to show becomes visible upon demand.

We can say we are adapting or adjusting, but let’s be honest – we are lying! We are lying about who we are. We hide the best of ourselves to avoid risking showing the vulnerable sides of our being. As a result, very few if anyone knows who we are and quite often, that’s how we like it. Who really wants to see who we really are? I’ve got too much baggage and junk. What would be their reaction? Will they still love us?

The truth: When you deceive others, you deceive yourself and the unique purpose God created you for. The temptation to present a false self will only lead to moving further and further away from your identity. Rehearsing the lines of someone else’s script for your life requires you to play a fake character. Living out God’s plan for your life requires you to show real character.

Today, let’s make the choice to put the scripts away that put us in a box. This choice will take courage. It will take discipline. It will take sacrifice. But, the sacrifice is much greater than forfeiting your God-given identity – any day. Don’t surrender who you were created to be to become what you think others want you to be.

What lines have you been rehearsing to hide the real you? Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the deception can imprison you to be someone you are not. In this year, let’s collectively make the bold choice to be who we are without false pretenses. Let’s open ourselves up to learn, grow and mature. But, for the sake of yourself, those you love and the God who created you – don’t forfeit your identity.