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The Value of Empathy

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Empathy is a rare commodity, but needed more than ever.

Recently, a story has been circulating newsrooms across the country. The family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger, felt disrespected when President Donald Trump said to the grieving widow that the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/trump-widow-johnson-call.html) Whether you take this exchange as valid or believe it is “fake news”, the sentiments reportedly expressed raises questions about how we value empathy in today’s culture and society.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy)

You may not have experienced a specific tragedy or disappointment. You may not have endured another’s pain. Yet, when you value empathy, you can extend compassion and connect deeply to their experience. Too often, the value of empathy is being dismissed and replaced with a callousness and apathy that permeates every sector of society. If you are attempting to start a new business and fail during your first try, rather than being greeted with words of compassion or being coached, you may be on the receiving end of words such as “You should have prepared more” or “Your business plan was weak” or “You needed to do more research before making the leap”. Apathy’s default is always what you could have done better and how you are a victim of your own weakness and lack of preparedness. It never considers circumstances out of your control, unexpected roadblocks or the emotional roller coaster endured to reach a particular goal.

The lack of empathy doesn’t end in the business arena, but extends in relationships, employment, and other areas of life. If you’re relationship or friendship failed, you don’t have what it takes. If you still are unemployed, you didn’t look hard enough. If you’re in need of assistance, you’re lazy. If you are having a hard time loosing the weight, you’re undisciplined. See the pattern? Apathy immediately resorts to what is wrong with you or what’s missing. Empathy relates to your pain, demonstrates compassion and serves to journey with you to healing and wholeness. Your pain may have been a result of wrong decisions. Your condition may have been a consequence of your poor planning. But, when you are bleeding, you need to address the wound with tender love and care. If I’m bleeding, I simply don’t need good thoughts my way or feeling sorry for me (pity or sympathy). I need sympathy with a compassionate response. I need empathy.

Whether you are in a leadership role or serving others, we all can grow in valuing empathy for our fellow man and woman. When I review the Scriptures, I see a man by the name of Jesus who spoke truth but in love. I witnessed a man who showed compassion, coupled with correction. I see a man who took time to tackle the problem and not the person. We can all learn from Jesus’ example. And if you find yourself having difficulty showing empathy to others, I would suggest you ask yourself this question: “How would I like to be treated?” – RF

Holy Week REFlections: Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017

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“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” – Luke 23:44-47

 

Surely, this was a righteous man.

Surely, this is a righteous man.

Surely, He is the Righteous One.

 

The death of Jesus on the cross was no ordinary event. It marked the exact time when the debt of our sins, that could not be paid by man alone, were paid in full. The blood of Jesus satisfied our debt and granted us access to the Father. When we pray, we pray in the name of Jesus because His life granted us the authority to boldly approach the throne of grace.

But for the enemies of Jesus, this was the end. No more need of a rousing prophet and preacher who said He was the Son of God. Yet, his actual death sparked reactions that were surprising and alarming. In Luke 23, we see that the event was so impactful, even doubters and skeptics said the word SURELY. In death, Jesus revealed His divinity for those who wanted to see. While the enemies of Christ and the Father of Lies surely celebrated the final breath of Jesus on this side of eternity, these same enemies forgot who they were dealing with.

As we think of the day of crucifixion and the day of resurrection, it’s the 2nd day in between that may stir up doubt, skepticism, worry and fear. Did Jesus really mean what He said? This question among others may taunt us today. Before a breakthrough, we wonder if it will come. Before the miracle, we question if God will show up right on time. Before the blessing, we may get weary in our belief that Jesus will be what He said He would be. Is He the One who can redeem, restore, and set free?

I can assure you, backed by the authority of Scripture, Jesus is the One.

Sunday is coming…

Surely…

Sunday is coming.

What Floor?

WhatFloor

 

I cannot count the many times I have been on an elevator. My experiences have varied. Sometimes, the ride was so smooth that it felt as though the elevator never moved. Other times, I cannot wait to get off due to the uncertainty of the ride! But, when I get on an elevator while someone else is already there, they will ask me the question, “What floor?” Since I know where I’m going, I can confidently give the floor with hesitation. When I arrive on the floor, I don’t second guess. I get off the elevator ready to place my feet on that level.

I’ve been thinking about my real-life elevator experiences as it pertains to our lives. When we are called to elevate, do we know what level we’re ready for? If someone was to ask us, “what floor?”, do we know what to say? In my counseling and casual conversation, the topic of feeling stuck or not moving inevitably is discussed. In those conversations, it becomes glaringly apparent that most of our frustrations is not the lack of passion to elevate to a new level. It’s the questioning if we are ready to move and take on the responsibility for that level.

This blog post serves as a challenge. You are not meant to be satisfied with mediocrity or the status quo. The call to elevate is wooing each of us. It’s to champion a cause greater than ourselves. It’s to seize opportunities that affect life-change. It’s to make an indelible mark on a generation accustomed to fleeting moments. Even at my church (Christ Church), we have an event called ELEVATE for kids, teens, singles/young adults and married couples. There is a recognition that our lives are meant to have a greater impact than we are currently experiencing. I encourage you to even be a part of that time — go to www.ElevateFamilyConference.org for more information on the event and how to register. Ultimately, we are all called to elevate and move to the next level of maturity, growth and development.

The question remains — what floor? In other words, what level are you ready to occupy? If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s no time to sit in shame or condemnation. Rather, it’s time to pray for insight, seek wise counsel and reflect upon where you are and where you desire to be. 

Years ago, recording artists Stacie Orrico sang a song titled “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life”. The chorus says,

There’s gotta be more to life, then chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me

Cause the more that I’m tripping out thinking there must be more to life

Well it’s life but I’m sure there’s gotta be more than wanting more…

Our lives are not simply reduced with the accumulation of more things but being who we were designed to be. It’s more about being than simply more doing. What will you do to be who God has destined for you be? Deep down, there may be this insatiable desire for more, greater and going higher. I have one question — what floor? – REF

Jack Redmond: Soul Winners Arise!

JackRedmond2016Jack Redmond is a man on a mission. 

A pastor, evangelist, speaker, teacher and author of several books, including his latest, Let Your Voice Be HeardTransforming from Church Goer to Active Soul Winner, Jack sat down with me to discuss his book. As you will discover through this interview, Jack is passionate to share this truth — anyone who follows Christ can help others connect with Jesus. Now, the interview:

RF: Jack – you’ve written many books like People Matter to God, Infusion and Wounded Heart. What compelled you to write your latest book, Let Your Voice Be Heard?

JR: If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity.There’s a big difference between how modern Christians live compared to how the early Christians lived. The early Church was very much face-to-face and relational. They had a personal relationship with Jesus and told others — it was contagious! When I think of the first 300 years of Christianity, there was a 40% growth of Christianity each decade within those 300 years. But when you look at the statistics from 1970 to 2010, Christianity on a global scale is the same — around 33%. With all of our modern technology, conferences, mega-watt pastors, and resources, we are not growing at the rate the early Church grew.

Changing those statistics is bringing us back to relationship and sharing our stories. Let Your Voice Be Heard is a book that equips people to share their faith with people they already know.

If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity. – Jack Redmond

RF: Jack, you mentioned the decline or stagnation of Christianity…

JR: Christianity in the Western World is statistically stagnating, but that could change. D. James Kennedy, in his book Evangelism Explosion, talks about 95% of born-again Evangelicals never led someone to Christ. That book was written about 40 years ago. I haven’t been able to find any statistics to update or confirm that study. But, most church-going Christians do not have soul winning on their mind. I found this when I traveled to churches and even in my own church. When you start to have conversations with people, it’s amazing that many have not led someone to Christ — the Savior that changed and is changing their lives.

RF: Why do you think that there has been a disconnect or Christians don’t feel compelled to share Christ?

JR: I go into great detail about this in my book Infusion when in the 4th century, Constantine (Roman Emperor) made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Some say he was converted, others contend that Christianity was taken over and he simply wanted to “roll with it”. But, what he did was to make Christianity acceptable and gave it many benefits it didn’t have before. Christianity spread as a persecuted religion — one that was relational in nature. The benefit of Christianity for 300 years was that people knew Christ. With Constantine made it the religion of the Roman Empire, it became valuable to the larger society. It became an IN thing to be a Christian. But Constantine would also build cathedrals that had one person speaking up front while others looked on. This changed the dynamics of Christianity being founded on relationships and conversation.

Christianity was taken on by Roman Catholicism that relegated much power to the priest. Without going into too much history, the Dark Ages and other historical milestones saw the Bible being taken away from people experiencing it themselves. Now, it was belonging to an organization. Even the Reformation was to clean up Roman Catholicism. Protestant tradition transitioned from a priest to a pastor. There have been many changes historically, but it was widely accepted to have a point person speaking and others listening, rather than being engaged.

Presently, where Christianity is exploding is where people are engaged and connecting. Let Your Voice Be Heard serves to help people share the Gospel wherever they go.

RF: Would you concede that while the advent of technology has spread the Gospel in a global fashion, it has also been a proxy voice for Christians rather than Christ-followers speaking up themselves?

JR: In terms of technology, even before its boom — it was an attraction model. If you have good preaching, singing and a good environment, it is attractive. But, the “modern church” mentality is about filling churches in order for people to give to maintain the church. It’s a maintenance mentality as opposed to a Great Commission mentality.

Around 86% of people come to church because they were personally invited. Technology has its place but doesn’t replace relationships. I use technology. God uses it. But, it should never replace the importance of interacting with others.

RF: I noticed on the cover of your new book — you have a photo of young people. I’m sure that was intentional. Why did you include young people and do you believe this book is for everyone of every age?

JR: The first answer is yes — the book is for all ages. As Christians, we are here to seek and save the lost and connect them with Christ. As far as young people, the stats are that 85% of people that come to Christ come before the reach the age of 18. Young people are the greatest mission field on the planet. Young people, oftentimes, are the greatest minister to their generation. Ministry is what God has done in your life. I’ve seen teens and young adults to share their faith in a real, transparent way. If you are serious about the Gospel, you must be invested in the next generation.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. That’s the focus of the average church. In order for them to keep coming back, we have to keep them happy. Since many pastors have limited time, that’s what they do. It’s another reason why we must train the Body of Christ to do the work of ministry. The church is an equipping place. The five-fold ministry is designed for the church to do ministry outside the church walls. As it pertains to young people — they are passionate and they have time to invest. They are able to make a big difference. I was saved at the age 0f 27. If I was saved a bit younger and shared my faith with who I partied with, I would have won many to Christ. But, no one had ever shared Christ with me until I was 27.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. – Jack Redmond

RF: On page 99 of your new book, you have what’s called THE REDMOND SCALE. I thought it was quite good. How did you come up with this scale and what do you want readers to glean from it?

JR: I have to laugh — I have named scales after me! I wrestled with it and it almost postponed the book because of it.

But, the REDMOND SCALE is a reminder that evangelism is a PROCESS. It’s not a point in time. Theologically, yes — salvation is a moment when you are saved by faith…when you cross from death to life. The reality is that there is a process leading up to that. If someone has had a certain perspective or philosophy of life for 40 years, their perspective may not change overnight. Be prepared to invest in the PROCESS. It takes time!

Some don’t share their faith because they are in church and watching the preacher preach the message and share a call for salvation — thinking if they can’t do the same, they are disqualified or not doing right. But, every time you help someone get closer to God, you are invested and engaged in the PROCESS. If you can get a militant atheist to wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if God is real”, then you are making an impact! That is a huge breakthrough and it may take a couple of years.

I just talked with someone yesterday who is a nanny and cleaning lady for a Jewish lady for 20 years. The Jewish lady recently gave her life to Christ. But, it took a 20 year relationship of interaction to bring this woman to faith in Christ. When we are asking people to come  to Christ, we are asking them to reject what they have known.

Here’s another example: I had a lady come to me who took an evangelism class. She was a foster parent to two teenagers who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was upset because they wouldn’t come to church. I shared with her that if someone is a Jehovah’s Witness (and I may not be exactly correct on their theological position), they believe the only way to God and Heaven is through the Kingdom Hall. If they walk away, they are doomed to soul annihilation. You are not asking these kids to come to church or try something new. You are asking them to risk, according to their theological position, soul annihilation by coming to church. Sometimes we don’t think about that…

RF: …what you’re saying Jack is that sometimes (or too often) we are not considering the consequences and the risks others are taking to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior…

JR: Exactly! And what they have to wrestle with. What would it take for a Christian to go to Mecca and proclaim Allah is superior to Jesus. Think about it. When you share your faith with a Muslim, you are asking them to bear consequences. When I was in India, I didn’t know what the dot (bindi) meant on the foreheads of the females. I asked and was told that the smaller bindi are for single girls of the Hindu faith. If the women are married, they have a larger bindi. If the woman is a widow, she loses her bindi. They are deemed as worthless or useless because they are widow. So now you have a 20 year old Hindu girl who comes to the Lord. She loses her bindi. She is looked upon as worthless and useless – like a widow. Rejected by her family and no Hindu man would marry her. Yet, she may be in a Hindu village or Hindu city. When we are asking people to come to Christ, it’s a big decision. This is why it’s a PROCESS.

The REDMOND SCALE looks at the process of where people are and how to address them in a way that’s inviting and engaging. Some people may have a five minute conversation and conversion happens suddenly. Biblically, it happened with the Ethiopian eunuch. But, for many — that is a rare occurrence. For most, it will be a PROCESS. It’s the PROCESS that causes people to see Jesus as a Savior moving towards their need for the Savior.

Evangelism is a process. – Jack Redmond

RF: How long did it take you to write this book? I’m not referring to the actual writing and editing process. When did you know you were ready to release this type of book?

JR: I think I finished writing it in 2012 and then I was going through the publishing process and offered bad book deals. Then, I started up again in 2015 and re-edited the book. I was chewing on the concept for five years. I think its BASIC CHRISTIANITY. Unfortunately, the Church-at-large may not focus on BASIC CHRISTIANITY as it should – like how do I become a good this or that. When I came to Christ in 1997, this message made sense to me. I lived it before I wrote it. No more spectators but soul winners. I’ve heard people say its insulting to call them church goers only. But, the question is are you winning souls?

RF: Jack, you’re a pastor (fellow pastor with me at Christ Church), you’re a husband, a father, a coach, a mentor with many responsibilities. How do you win souls in your schedule? Do you feel satisfied in your approach to soul winning or success?

JR: I don’t feel satisfied that I have fulfilled what God wants me to do. In terms of personally sharing faith with others, I face the same challenges such as busyness. Being married with children with multiple jobs, writing and traveling — I reconcile it by standing on this truth — I’m not called to do everything. I can do what I can do. If I can help others be soul winners, it’s impact that’s beyond what I can do personally.

I found a new pizza spot and I was so excited. I received my two pizzas and a flyer was stapled on the top of the box saying that a psychic would be visiting the pizza place. I looked at that as an opportunity to build relationship with the owner. He may or may not have spiritual convictions. He may be thinking the psychic coming will help me sell some pizzas. Whatever the case, I view it as an opportunity to learn more about him and gradually ask appropriate questions that will help foster Christ conversations. But, I recognize it will be a PROCESS. Before you go to people about God, go to God about people.

RF: Jack, would you pray for the readers of this interview that they would be soul winners in their generation?

Jack Redmond is an author, speaker Church Mobilization Pastor at Christ Church in Montclair, NJ since July, 2000. He is also Founder and President of Fourth Generation Ministries. For more information, connect with Jack at www.4thgen.org.

 

Thoughts on Division

In our culture today, we are witnessing the splintering of peoples amongst class, race, ethnicity, geography, education and gender. Here are my thoughts on division and the spirit behind it.
Division

“Thoughts & Prayers”: The Action Behind The Words

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ThoughtsandPrayers

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:17-22 (ESV)

The aftermath of recent tragic events in Paris, Colorado Springs, and San Bernardino have solicited the thoughts and prayers of millions of people around the world. When such needless events happen, human reasoning and explanations fall flat in the face of grief and indescribable pain. Thoughts and prayers seem to be the immediate response to senseless tragedy as families heal and communities rebuild. After hearing the breaking news, I’ve offered my thoughts and prayers, taking to social media to join my heart with others that I may never meet but are connected to around a common cause.

But, the thoughts and prayers offered have caused media outlets such as the NY Daily Post to make a declarative statement on their front page: “GOD’S NOT FIXING THIS”. I read the responses of Christians as they railed against the media and how dare they make such a statement. The “godless” media strikes again. However, I read the title quite differently. Rather than an indictment on faith, I found it to be an invitation of faith to rise up — with the ones offering thoughts and prayers.

As I wrestled with the headline and the responses from all corners, I had to ask myself some tough questions:

For those offering thoughts and prayers, have they received answers from God to the problems we face?

If they have, why has there been too many silenced after the “smoke” settles? Where are the solutions beyond political posturing? 

Why are people of faith offended when this should be opportunity to share the joy of being in relationship with God?

It’s during times of pain and confusion that many are asking questions about faith, prayer and God’s involvement. The immediate disdain for opposing views and even demonizing others for their position has prevented meaningful conversation and dialogue. I believe God is fixing matters – if only we would not only be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word. The Book of James tells us in the same passage to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. If an opposing view or a challenge to your faith causes you to be incensed, the question is — why so angry? What is causing that response?

I believe the world is calling out those who offer thoughts and prayers. And rightfully so. We are living in a time when cliches and quick memes won’t do. Irregardless of your position on the use of guns in this country (USA), we should be open to having a conversation of how we can prevent guns in the wrong hands. We are all interested in the safety and security of our communities. Before vilifying another person for their views, we could offer an opportunity to discover why they have that opinion. They could possibly be persuaded to see another viewpoint if the atmosphere was not so toxic. We’re choking as a country because the air is poisoned with division. As a result, the voices with vision are being silenced or talked over. This has to change for the sake of this generation and future generations.

I challenge all those who rightfully offer thoughts and prayers after a tragedy. If you are unwilling to listen to someone who doesn’t agree with you, how are you open to hear God in prayer as He offers His wisdom? Let’s be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Let’s produce righteousness in the midst of contentious issues with the sensitivity and discernment only God can provide. I look forward to when we can collectively take our thoughts and prayers and provide ideas and answered prayers. – REF

Joy Comes in the Mourning (Guest Blog Post: Jonathan Frejuste)

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No one can escape the impact of loss.

The loss of someone who passes away, the loss of a friend through betrayal, the loss of health through illness, the loss of a marriage through a divorce, the loss of routines and stability due to a job loss or moving to a new country, the loss of innocence through abuse, the loss of the dream family through miscarriage, or the loss of a dream of a career. However big or small, everyone will go through loss in life.

The question is how do we deal with loss and its accompanying pain. The way to deal with loss is through grieving. Grieving is not limited to tears. The grieving process could be through artistic expression, journaling, or helping someone else in the area of your loss. Grieving is any way of getting the pain that’s inside out to the surface. Jesus said blessed are those who mourn (get the pain of what’s inside out), for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Personally, I know what it’s like to face loss – specifically the loss of innocence through sexual abuse at a young age. Through this loss, my life became consumed by fear – the fear of never being able to trust anyone, the fear of never being able to be mentally or emotionally stable enough to pursue the dreams that God placed on my heart, the fear that I was gay because of what happened to me as a child. Like many people, the pain of loss was so great that I suppressed it for many years and put on a happy Christian veneer to avoid the pain that I felt. After a number of emotional breakdowns, I knew it was time to come clean and stop lying about what I was going through. Fortunately, God placed a great support system around me who helped me find my way to a competent Christian counselor to begin to deal with the pain of the loss of innocence at such a young age. The first few steps were acknowledging the loss and starting the grieving process. Here’s what I learned in the process.

Each time we don’t grieve losses, 2 things happen:

  1. We begin to compartmentalize our lives where we walk around with a false optimism, pretending that everything’s okay. But the reality is that there is unresolved grief and if it’s not grieved fully, we are tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms like hiding/denial, minimizing, rationalizing, distracting, avoiding, addiction, becoming hostile or other unhealthy ways of not facing the pain.

While everyone thought all was well with Jon because I was accomplished – graduating with honors, getting my CPA license, working for a reputable company, etc., I dealt with secret addictions and emotional and mental battles that most people couldn’t believe. At different points, I also had bouts of anger that lead to disrespectful confrontations and misunderstandings and when I suppressed the anger, it led to depression. These issues kept me from having healthy relationships, walking in God’s perfect will, and were robbing me of the fullness of the destiny that God has for me. Once I understood what was occurring, I concluded that unresolved pain is like a beach ball pushed underwater – it will always find its way to the surface. In what ways are your unresolved issues showing up in your life?

  1. The 2nd thing that happens is that our hearts become hardened to avoid getting hurt again. Proverbs 13:12 says that a dream deferred makes the heart sick and when we experience loss, to keep the heart from getting sick again, we stop pursuing our dreams or even worse, stop dreaming. Grieving gives us the freedom and permission to risk again and set big goals for God. For close to a decade, I’ve worked in the corporate world, but I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. In the last few years, the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to work with young men from the inner city. Through a series of circumstances, I started working as a resident advisor in a transitional living facility aka group home teaching life skills to young men who have been temporarily displaced from their homes due to issues of abuse, a parent’s drug addiction, or a parent’s incarceration. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the pain that these young men faced would be similar to what I’ve known. Had I not grieved the pain of my past, I would not have emotional capacity to deal with the serious issues that came with the position, let alone possess the heart and empathy to walk them through their own pain in a healthy way. As bible teacher Geri Scazzero says in her book, I Quit, I could enter the pain of others because I’ve entered my own.

In life, there will always be grief because there will always be loss. We cannot choose our emotions selectively – to be happy and never to be sad. Let’s not neglect the benefit of grieving and embracing sorrow. As Ecclesiastes 7:3 says, a sad face is good for the heart. In a weird way, grieving pain leads to greater empathy and compassion for others, a better perspective of what really matters in life, and a restoration of the peace and joy of knowing that what God is doing is best. I’ve learned and continue to be reminded that joy truly comes in the mourning. What losses and pain have you yet to fully grieve and let God’s divine healing meet?

JonathanFrejuste

Jonathan Frejuste

 

Jonathan Frejuste was born and raised in Newark, NJ. He went to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia where he was saved at the age of 19. Though he has been saved for 10 years, God has taken him through a painful sanctification process which is what lead him to learn more about emotional health and how vital it is to one’s walk with God. He is currently serving as a life group leader at New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NY and is committed to giving people who have been broken by sin a safe place to heal and provide them with the encouragement and resources to pursue their destiny in God.

Connect with Jon via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-frejuste/42/202/b0a

 

Watch Jon’s Story here “The Story of New Life”: 

 

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!

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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

Faith Without Action Is Dead (Guest Blogger: Wodline Hippolyte)

The other day my son decided to lock the door to my work room. I was angry and frustrated because it was the week of two upcoming events and I needed my supplies. What made things worse was I didn’t know where the key to that room was…long story.

I felt defeated which caused me to wait two days before I made an actual effort to do something. The night before I needed to get access to my supplies I decided to ask my dad for help. He brushed me off and told me to call a locksmith.

That night I was determined to pick the lock, but I was unsuccessful. My only options were to call a locksmith or face my fear of heights by getting a ladder to climb through the room window. That following morning I was determined to face my fear to get inside that room. As I walked outside the front door I was greeted by my dad who asked me where I was headed. I told him what I was planning to do and with the help of my youngest brother he ended up climbing the ladder for me to get into the room.

Won’t He Do It!

That week I learned it is with that same determination we are to pursue our God-given dreams. My dad came through for me because he saw the effort I made to “get my stuff” and many times God does the same with us. God has always come through for me when I allow my faith to be greater than my fears.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:17

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View More: http://marjoriedatuin.pass.us/wodlineWodline is a mompreneur, wedding planner and savvy startup specialist who loves the Lord and is passionate about empowering young people to follow their dreams.

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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! 

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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.

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