The Future-Me Decisions (Guest Blogger: Segun Aiyegbusi)

15 years ago in college, I made a decision that I was fairly certain future-me would look back on and say, “Thanks so much Bro! Way to look out for us!”

 

I chose to take a few classes that had nothing to do directly with my major at the time. My impetus was the question, “What might I do today that my future-self would thank me for?” At the time, I wasn’t certain about my post graduation plans/career, but I had a strong inkling that wherever I was headed, digital imagery would play a huge role in how I engaged people with my message.

 

Looking back, I’m so grateful for that decision younger-me made. My background in graphic design (a skill I’ve continually honed over the years) has opened up incredible doors of opportunity for me, and is in fact one of the primary skills that I use in my present line of work/calling.

 

So, what about you? What is one thing you might begin doing today (or are already doing) that your future-self would thank you for?

 

Be careful not to answer this question simply by generating a busy to-do list of activities that you’d probably end up doing anyway sometime in the near future. Instead, think 5, 10, 15 years down the line. Where do you want to be? Where would you like to be? Then work backwards. What is one thing you can do today that will inch you closer to your end goal? What is one thing you can start doing today that 10-years-later-you will say, “Thanks Soooo much! Way to look out for us!”

 

Whatever it is you decide, write it down, then impose on yourself a deadline for when you need to start implementing your ONE thing. (Trust me, deadlines are your friend).

 

Your hard work and effort might not bear any immediate fruit, but that’s okay, it’s not intended to. You’re looking out for future-you!

 

So, get going and do something today!

__________________________________

Segun3Segun Aiyegbusi is a teaching pastor at Grace Church on the Mount in Netcong, New Jersey. He has a Masters of Divinity in Theology from Nyack Alliance Theological Seminary in New York. Segun is a passionate Bible teacher and is married to Modupe. They have 2 little boys, Nathaniel & Ethan. Segun blogs weekly on www.shegznstuff.com.

 

Website: http://www.shegznstuff.com

Instagram: @segunaiyegbusi

Twitter: @SegunAiyegbusi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/segun.aiyegbusi

For Your Good (Guest Blogger: Elvis Gyan)

“You’re from the hood, you’ll never amount to anything” was one of the many phrases I’ve heard when I was younger. Yes, I am from Newark, New Jersey, an area known to be filled with much violence. Yes, I was considered a statistic. Yes, I was looked down upon and was thought to die by the age of 18. Yes, my environment had many negative influences on me. But, you know what? God had bigger and better plans for me. He kept me safe. He protected me. He guarded me. He allowed me to encounter a variety of people with authentic spirits who have walked with me during this journey. It amazes me how God has transformed my life to what it is now. I give Him all the praise and glory.

I am here to illustrate to you today that no matter what your past or present may look like, God has better plans for your future! What the enemy has meant for harm, God has intended for your good. Never let anyone tell you you’ve fallen so far from God’s grace. Never let anyone tell you, you cannot change for the better. Most importantly, never allow anyone to keep you stagnant. All you need to do is be bold enough to make the most important decision in your life. What decision you ask? The decision to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. Speaking from experience, I guarantee He will open your heart, mind, and sprit and elevate you to another level! It’s not about what man says to you or perceives you to be, its about what God says about you. Be well. Be thankful. Be positive. Be blessed. Most importantly, be ENCOURAGED! 

——————

ElvisGyanElvis Gyan currently serves as one of the Young Adult Leaders at Christ Church. In addition, Elvis works at Montclair State University as the Coordinator of Transfer Experience/Adjunct Professor. He has received is received a Bachelors in Biology, Master in Org Leadership and Higher Education, and is set to pursue his Masters of Divinity Fall 2015 at Alliance Theological Seminary.

Facebook: Elvis Gyan

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/Mrgyan1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/1_more_phase

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

In Your Face: The Dangers of Boasting

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 11:30

IYFIn our celebrity-driven culture, the insatiable need for attention and self-aggrandizement grows at a quickening pace. With all the modes of communication today, it’s hard to keep up! With the opportunity to share life with one another in several ways, we can find ourselves running into the traps of being self-consummed with our world, our goals and our successes. The worst form of this is when we deny we are promoting ourselves, wrapping our comments and stories in false humility.

Allow me to explain…and let’s see if you have run into this from time to time:

EXAMPLE #1: “Boasting In Success and Then Giving Glory To God!”

Have you ever heard someone remark on their successes, what they accomplished and how they were so overwhelmed by their many talents…then bookend their comments with “I give all glory to God!”? Tagging God at the end of your verbal resume as if you are tagging a photo reeks of a pride cover-up! When someone shares a testimony or God’s blessings in their life, we should collectively celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God. But, there is a vast difference between a bragging about the wonders of the Lord in your life and bragging about what a wonder you are! 

EXAMPLE #2: “Boasting In Success — Already Knowing The Person You Share It With Would Like The Same Thing”

I don’t hear this talked about often, but here it goes. If you know you have received a measure of success in an area, it should beckon a humility and a call to inspire others to reach (if not exceed) what you have been enabled to do. Throughout my life, I have had family members, mentors and friends inspire me through their hard work, tenacity, and healthy ambition to achieve excellence. I’ve learned the art of dismissing excuses and tackling the challenges that lie ahead. For that, I am eternally grateful.

However, if you already know someone is praying, working hard and striving for something you have received, why would you boast in their face? Why mention it every time you are in conversation with them (directly, indirectly or in a subtle manner not to raise ‘red flags of pride’)? Why deliberately provoke jealousy, envy and unhealthy competition? For what? Isn’t your success satisfying enough? The danger of this type of boasting is that your success and blessings are not enough. Unfortunately, too many find pleasure in another’s sufferings. If you cannot find satisfaction in your achievements without trashing someone else, you will never be truly successful. 

EXAMPLE #3: “Boasting Incessantly About You and Then Wonder Why You Have “HATERS”!” 

My generation has coined the term haters. My parent’s generation used the word backstabbers. The lyrics to a classic song by The O’Jays rings true for many: “They smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers!” In this life, you will have life-long backers and supporters. You will also face those that may not be fond of you — for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are out of your control. But, for that which is in your wheelhouse, why provoke people to not like you? It’s as if our success is measured solely on how many haters we claim we have. Our successes and blessings should be measured on how we love, not how much hate surrounds us.

BOAST IN YOUR WEAKNESS

There are many other examples of boasting that is veiled in false humility, cloaked in false platitudes, and surrounded by wrong motives. But, I don’t hear much about boasting in what Scripture speaks of — your weakness. Boasting in your weakness is not popular. Who wants to willingly reveal their struggles and failings? It takes a level of maturity to share the whole self: the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. In 2 Corinthians 11:30, the Apostle Paul makes it plain – boast in your weakness. Paul was embarrassed by a late night escape from Damascus in a basket, but he shared it. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, he speaks of the the “thorn in his flesh” but how God’s grace is sufficient; in his weakness, God is strong.

Imagine if we (you and I) would be so bold to boast in our weakness. Our sharing would not strive to “bleed on” others for the sake of sympathy, but sharing for the purpose of glorifying God and His strength. The Apostle Paul’s example of boasting in his weakness showed his strength. Rather than taking credit for his great exploits, He gave all glory to God. The record is clear — Paul is a major hero in the New Testament Scriptures. But, his heroism was not marked solely by his missionary resume; it was and is demonstrated in his humanity.

Let’s boast in our God, what He has and is doing in our lives. Let our lives shine brightly — for Him. Share your testimony but for the sake of the Gospel. Inspire others to achieve greatness rather than lording your success over them. As we are in this learning journey together, I pray we avoid the dangers of boasting for the wrong reasons and embrace the joy of boasting in our God! – RF