How the gospel informs our pain.


I recently finished reading Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Glorious Ruin. It was a fantastic read. In this book he talks about how our understanding of the gospel changes how we view suffering.

On page 17 Tullian says this.

For the life of the believer, on thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you.
In other words, our ruin may not ultimately spell our undoing. It may in fact spell the beginning of faith. And in the end, that is enough. Gloriously so.

For me one of the things that lead me to the understanding of the gospel was a series of painful events that, even though I had been saved my entire life I had no answers to. lt reveled to me on the idols that I had been holding on to was my family. In the course of the past 5 years I have come realization of the power that pain plays in the life of a believer. How we view pain, what causes pain and where we turn when we experience pain all are very tell as to what we ultimately put our trust in.

There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God. In other words suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happens to be the warp and woof of Christianity. Who we are and who God is.
Page 110

Tullian does an excellent job. Discussing the problem of pain from the context of his own pain. I loved how Tullian continued to bring everything back to the message of the cross and the power of Christ.

A theology of the cross…..understands the cross be ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven. A theology of the cross accepts the difficult thing rather than immediately trying to change it or instrumentalize it. It looks directly into pain, and “calls a thing what it is” instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as “hidden in the suffering.”

We have a savior that suffered in our place. He understands suffering and it is in our suffering that we can preach a message of the grace of God to a world that so often see Christians react to pain in such unhealthy ways. I love how John Piper puts it. “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” God is after his own glory more than our comfort. So appreciated Tullian’s take on pain, suffering and the gospel. Definitely a beneficial read.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“In the beginning God created man in his own image, and ever since, man has been trying to repay the favor.” Reinhold Niebuhr
Page 38

At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff….I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know what I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Page 48

Shiny, happy Christians are insufferable.
Page 57

(On his perspective of accountability groups) such groups start with the narcissistic presupposition mentioned earlier – that Christianity is all about cleaning up and doing your part. They focus primarily (in my experience almost exclusively) on our sin, and not on our Savior.
Page 61

The tragic irony in all of this is that when we focus so strongly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become even more neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our gilt (instead of God’s grace) makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
Page 62

Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking in 2012 found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.
Page 65

Job’s unraveling isn’t seen as wrong or sinful, in fact, it’s emotionally realistic.
Page 67

“We were promised sufferings, not the absences of suffering. We were promised suffering. They were always a part of God’s program. We were even told blessed are they that mourn.” C. S. lewis
Page 81

Rather than face the underlying reasons for our distress (or look outside of ourselves for some relief), we attempt to leverage our pain for reward. Suffering becomes another way to justify ourselves, another form of works righteousness – a competition just as grueling as the obedience one.
Page 86

Through the fall, self-reliance has become our default mode of operation.
Page 110

Martin Luther on sin “Mankind turned inward”
Page 114

The truth is suffering does not rob us of joy, idolatry does.
Page 127

The Gospel is not a message reserved for those Sundays when you’re encouraged to bring your unbelieving friend. It is the only message.
Page 129

We are all Christians and human beings at the same time. This means that the Old Adam is always on the prowl, scrounging for some new Law by which to justify himself apart form Christ And he dies hard! If the assumption from the pulpit is that conversation is a one-time only event, the messages will revolve around what the Christian needs to do, rather than what Christ has done.
Page 130

People minister out their own suffering not in spite of it.
Page 139

Pain and suffering loosens our grip on this temporal life.
page 141

Character is demonstrated more by our reactions than our actions.
Page 146

Suffering has a way of stripping all resources away from us so that in the end, all that we have is the only thing that matters: the approval of God based on the accomplished work of Jesus.
Page 148

Thomas Merton once said, “The truth that many people don’t understand until it is too late, is that the more  you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller things begin to suffer you in proportion to your fear of being hurt. Suffering exposes what we build our lives on to give us meaning, and what we hope will bring us freedom.
Page 156

When Jesus is with you in suffering, you can have full assurance that you have a friend that has been though it all, just as you have. He may not deliver you form the pain and the loss. He might not get you out of the mess, but he’ll walk with you through it.
Page 159

I don’t know what pain you are facing but the thing I have come to learn and am still learn Tullian points out so well in this book.  When he says “Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway throughout suffering.” I truly enjoyed this book I hope you will as well. Here is the like to get it at

(I was provided a free copy of this book to read in advance and provide my view of the book, I was in no way encouraged to write a review that was influenced by either the author or the publisher.)

How to criticize others well.



As a leader you will have to criticize people from time to time. It’s rarely fun but there is a world of difference between a critical person and someone who has to speak or look at a situation in a critical manor. If you are not willing to be critical you are not ready to lead. Speaking critically is never easy no matter how easy Simon Cowall makes it look.

If you want your team to grow, if you want to reproduce other leaders you can not do it without some hard hitting honest feedback. The delicate balance that always has to be maintained is you need to speak truthfully to help those you lead grow but you have to do it in such a way that it doesn’t crush them. So how do you do this?

How do you criticize others well?
1. You have to start from a place of relationship. The deeper your relationship is with someone the broader based your critique of them can be. The more time you have invested relationally the more authority and opportunity you have to speak critically.
2. Criticism always has to be two things founded in truth and spoken in love. – If your goal isn’t to build the team or grow the person you are talking to, then keep your mouth shut.
3. Make your criticism specific. Nothing hurts worse and helps less then a general, non-specific critique.
4. How do people change when critiqued? Love how Henry Cloud describes how people grow – Truth and grace in the context of relationship over the course of time.
5. Start with yourself – Allow others to critique you. Demonstrate your willingness to allow others to speak the truth in love.

If you want to lead well you need to critique well.


Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference: Leading for the long haul.

lifeway kids ministry conference

Leading for the long haul

Lesson #1 Motivation: who benefits from what i do. –  The My kids and the team I am apart of. –

Motivation gets tested early –
Need a kingdom mindset. No job in kids ministry is more important than the other – We are all building the kingdom by using the gifts God has given us
That can feel sort of vague but when you understand who you work for Jesus Christ and who benefits from what you do? Your kids, your pastor and ultimately your church. It helps you with your motivation.
Watch for wrong motivations

God and children share a divine quality – They both have the divine ability to destroy ego.

We all have a very active sin nature and can sometimes think more of ourselves than we should but if you and I want to last for the long haul we need to ask ourselves do I have the same attitude as Christ Jesus? What helps me make it for the long haul reading Philippians 2 and asking God to do this in me.

Philippians 2:1-11
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Lesson #2 Maturity:

If you want to grow as a christian and as a leader you need to learn how to be a self-feeder.

How do you become a self feeder –
1. Read your bible. – Is more than a textbook it’s a guidebook
2. Practice Transparent Faith – TF only takes place in the context of relationship – Find a small group and live transparently.
Do I think we as leaders should talk openly about everything we are dealing with? No. I do think that creating a healthy church environment starts by doing what James tells us to do: confess our sins to each other that we may be healed.

I believe that people who are far from God can identify more with our transparency
than they can with our super-spirituality
3. Leverage Collaborative Connections – This is something that was missing from my life up until 5 years ago. I wanted it just didn’t know how to make it happen. – It makes all the difference.

Your Pastor
Other kids pastors

You may say I’m just a kids pastor why would I bother using twitter to talk to other kids people. You may not but you can talk to other small group leaders in your church and learn from each other. Ask your leaders questions the more you know the more you grow the better it is for you kids, for your leaders and ultimately the church.
[It’s important that you network and ask others for input children’s ministry can be very isolating you need to make sure you don’t get isolated or overwhelmed because that will lead to discouragement.]

Lesson #3 Dealing with discouragement:

A big reason many leaders quit kids ministry is due to prolonged periods of discouragement.
Early warning signs I look for in myself:
1. Irritability
2. Lack of Focus
3. Pessimistic outlook on life
4. Tired
5. Apathetic
6. Frustrated by small things

I look for any of these things starting to creep up in my life if and when I notice them I realize that the clock is ticking and I need to take steps to counter them or it will only get worse.  Here are some of the things I do when I start to see signs of discouragement in my life.

1. Ask God for help
2. Talk to accountability partners and close friends about what I am feeling.
3. Make sure I am reading my bible.
4. I am a big music person – Listening to worship music does wonders for me personally
5. Practice Thankfulness  – Jim Wideman taught me this one (to be honest if this is all I learned from Brother Jim it would be enough. This his helped me more than anything. When I feel discouraged thanking God helps me with my perspective.)
6. Spend time with friends and family – nothing helps discouragement more than surrounding yourself with people who know your good, bad and ugly and  love you any way.

If you want to last for the long haul and leave a legacy

1. Always support your Pastor. If you find yourself in a place when you no longer do, it’s time that you need to find another Pastor who you can support.
2.  Make sure you measure success by the right standards. Tools we use do not measure our effectiveness but by life change that results from the tools we may or may not have.
3.  Life change is not measured in weeks and months but rather in years and decades.
4. Your family is the best indication of your success in life and ministry.”
You will have short term successes but true success is not measured in weeks or years but in decades. To see fruit that remains in your life and ministry you need to lead for the long haul.

People don’t notice. – Our church is huge on kids ministry and still some people said to me when I transitioned to campus pastor people said how does it feel to finally be a pastor.

My mom said about the applause of man vs. applause of God.

One of the coolest things I’ve experienced In kids ministry happened to me just this week. In teaching kids you get cards and notes from kids some recognizable some not so much. But for pastor appreciation month one of my volunteer staff made a scrap book of notes kids and volunteers wrote tell of the impact I’ve had on them. What was crazy for me was some of those kids who 13 years ago had made squiggly pictures

My Prezi for this talk.


Lifeway Kid Ministry Conference: 5 things every leader has to get right

lifeway kids ministry conference

Here are the notes for my breakout at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference.

5 Things every leader has to get right

1. Delegation – We don’t delegate because we don’t trust God with the results. We don’t delegate because our default mode is to do. If I do this my pastor will be pleased with me. If I do that God will be pleased with me.

We don’t delegate because we don’t have a half-hearted view of what eternal rewards are. What ultimate beauty is. Lewis address our self focused small minded in his book weight of glory.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
“We are far too easily pleased.”  C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

We often don’t delegate because we are building our own kingdom – we are far to concerned with who gets the credit rather than who gets the glory.

What I think is interesting about Gen. 2 when God creates Adam is
1. He gives him meaningful work
2. He gives him clear parameters for that work to take place
3. He gives him something that forces him to reflect his creator.

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

2. Leading under authority – 

We lead under authority when we understand ultimate authority – When you come on staff at a church you have to submit yourself to the pastor you serve. This can only be done to the degree that you have submitted your life completely to Christ.

What does submission to authority look like?
– It’s walking and leading in humility
– It’s trusting Jesus more than your circumstance
– It’s not checking your dreams at the door of the church
– It’s not blindly following your pastor off a cliff
– Submission to authority starts with you submitting your life to Christ ultimately and as a result of that you walk in humility. You speak when you need to and be quite when you need to. Paul talks about our submission to Christ and uses marriage as an example for us.

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

The power to submit to the authorities God has placed in our life comes from our ability to fully Trust Christ above all else. – Submission to authority is not blind obedience to your pastor it manifests itself in a humility and love for the things

“But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away
”blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis

3. Connecting with families – We have to move from atmosphere of co-dependance to an environment of interdependence. –

There has been a huge push for family ministry the past decade and rightly so. Leading into the future we have to value families not as a stated value but as an actual value. The church and families alike need to admit that this co-dependent relationship is broken and doesn’t honor God. We need to move to a model that creates interdependence where families and church are dependent on each other and where they are both fully dependent on Christ alone.

When talking about connecting parents sometimes our creative ideas and the connecting themselves become an end in themselves.

We start with the wrong question. We ask how can we connect parent. We need to ask that but we first need to ask what are we connecting them to? Do the parents we are partnering with value the same things?

4. Measurement – We measure the wrong things. Measurement is a good thing what measure reveals a lot about us.

The thing that is so dangerous about measurement is it can very quickly become the thing in our life that informs every decision we make.

We can find our identity in something other than Christ. – Our tendency is to move off of the things we can’t see and start to measure our self by things we can see. We often find our worth in kids ministry by how many kids come, by what curriculum we use, by what check-in we have or by how well our spaces are themed.

A lot of the dissatisfaction we have in ministry comes from us measuring the wrong things.

We spend our time and energy on the things we measure. What you measure you get more of. What scares me is getting more of something that isn’t Jesus.

What is crazy is that we can so easily use Jesus to get what we want.

5. Priorities – Our priorities are informed by our loves. We make time for the things we love. Where we spend our times shows what is most valuable to us.

Our priorities are determined by our loves. We spend our time, our money and our energy on the things that matter most.

As a leader you will be pulled on by everyone around you if you don’t put guardrails in your life you will dive off a cliff. – What drives us? Our desire to please everyone. We want to make everyone happy. This is a pipe dream and comes from our desire to have others think well of us rather than God.

Luke 6:26
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Tim Keller on family –

If you manage your time and priorities right, people will be mad at you.
Get used to it.

Conclusion –

One of the scariest things about ministry is that we can so easily make the things of ministry the ultimate desire of our lives. We use Jesus to get the things we really want.

-Revelation 21:5,6
 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

our life has purpose because of him.

Leading Volunteers 101

lifeway kids ministry conference

The Lifeway Kids Ministry Conference is officially underway. Really enjoying meeting lots of new people. This is my first time to come to this conference. Love how each conference has it’s own personality. The opening session was both funny and engaging. Really enjoyed it.

I had the opportunity to do a pre-con breakout with my good friend and fellow blogger Gina Mcclain. We talked about The WHY of ministry, Creating a culture, Structure, and leading your volunteer spiritually.

Here is the prezi of our breakout.