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Pain is a purifier.

Over the last few days I have been dealing with some pretty bad tooth pain. It wasn’t so bad at first, but yesterday it got so bad that I got nauseous and almost threw up! Tooth pain can come and go and I’m hoping today to get it fixed but it got me thinking…

St. Ignatius once said that physical pain was the quickest way to God (my paraphrase) and I’ve always thought that to be a ridiculous statement because I figured he was speaking of penance through mortification which some Ascetics took too far and whipped themselves etc. (I want to be clear that I think this is wrong). Not to say Asceticism itself is wrong, but those who take it to the point of hurting themselves are misguided to say the least. However, going through some overwhelming pain in these last days has reminded me that pain can bring us to our knees and that is exactly where God wants us. Through pain we forget the extraneous parts of life. We don’t care what so and so said about us,  we just want to get rid of the pain!

In this way pain can be good. Whether we are going through physical or emotional pain, remember that all things work together for the good (see Rom. 8:28) and that even though pain wasn’t in God’s original plan for us, it can bring us closer to Him.

Thank you God for pain. Now please make it go away!

It’s all about…

These past few weeks I have been pondering curriculum, events, attendance, and programs, along with high and low attendance, parental priorities, wild rumors, and how to make it all work. So how can I take all these things, manage, create, and run the perfect ministry? How can I get kids to want to show up, give their lives to Jesus, and become fully committed, radical disciples of Christ? I believe that I have a skill set to offer, ideas and plans that are pretty good but they’re never good enough. My very best seems inefficient, unproductive, and incompetent.

It took a dead youth pastor to remind me this morning that all that is irrelevant. As I woke and read a chapter or two out of “Getting Fired for the Glory of God” by Mike Yaconelli (founder of Youth Specialties) it was a painful reminder that my ministry programs, communications techniques, and any skills I may have (or have not) aren’t what it’s all about. So what is it all about? You guessed it…Jesus. Jesus is it. No big programs or ministry planning is going to bring kids to Christ. No parents will be ministered to or even be made happy by what I’m doing. Only Jesus. Only His will. Only His plan.
Every time I get caught up in my incompetency and become overwhelmed by my own sense of inadequacy I hear the words from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Christ asks us to do what leadership seminars, books, and professional efficiency experts tell us to never do: Work out of your weakness. “When I am weak, then I am strong” starts to make sense when we realize that it’s not about us, it’s about Him.
So what does that look like? I don’t know, but I’m starting to realize that as soon as I start envisioning and planning what it looks like to work out of His strength and not mine, I am reminded that it doesn’t have to look like Francis Chan or Craig Groeschel. It may just look like an unknown guy who spent his life loving the left out kids and teaching them to love God first, and everything else second. Somehow that’s encouraging and disturbing but all I know is the rest is up to God.