Thursday, April 18, 2013

Transformed by Tough Times by Steve Reed

I was scheduled to post this a week ago, but illness and other personal issues prevented me from doing so. Transformed by Tough Times was a great read for this rough month. First, here is an interview with the author Steve Reed. I will post my review at the end.

A book about tough times usually implies that the author has had some personal experiences that connect to that topic. Where did the book start for you? 

In college, I was a kicker and punter at Oklahoma State University under a demanding head coach, Jimmy Johnson. (Football fans might recognize him as the coach for two college national championships in the 80’s and a couple of Super Bowls in the 90’s for the Dallas Cowboys). Just playing for Coach Johnson was tough enough, but my sophomore year, I got my knee bent backwards in a Junior Varsity game in Lincoln, Nebraska. When surgery and rehab efforts didn’t get me back to playing football, I eventually had to hang up the cleats. Looking back now, that experience made me more aware of how other people dealt with adversity and caused me to pay more attention to how I could respond when faced with tough times.

Your book transitions pretty quickly from your football days to life as a church planter and how that actually prompted you to write this book. How did that all happen? 

When football didn’t work out, I found myself drawn to ministry in a great church near the OSU campus. Charlie Baker, the pastor of that church, invited me and other college students to partner with him in creating a weekly worship service for students. In doing that ministry I fell in love with the church and decided to go to seminary and be a pastor myself. After getting married and going through seminary training, we eventually moved to Kansas City to start churches. For nearly 20 years we were involved in the roller coaster rides of starting five different churches in our region. Most days, I absolutely loved it. But in one of those church starts we had a train wreck that knocked me for a loop and out of a church that I loved perhaps more than I loved my wife and family.

So after that you went on an even deeper quest for figuring out what was happening to you?  

Right. With a new intensity I began to systematically search the scriptures to find some help for my pain. And I collected information and stories from others wiser than me and from many who had suffered greatly and come through with amazing faith and character.

You write about a day in Costa Rica that changed your life. What happened?  

After the break up from the church, I wound up going to Costa Rica on a mission trip with my parents. My parents, by the way, were missionaries when I was a kid and 30 years prior we had actually lived in Costa Rica. For me, going back was a fun, blast to the past. But more than that, the people there were cathartic for me. I was an emotional mess much of the time. And one day I must have cried with three or four people who needed to know Christ, but who were in pain. God used my pain and my weeping with others to both minister to them and to me. That day I discovered something about God’s ministry of tears and how sometimes He does more through our weaknesses and frailties than He does with our strengths.

So this is where your international ministry began? 

Yes. While in Costa Rica, a Guatemalan man by the name of Cesar Gonzalez invited me to come to his country and dream about ministries and churches for people in Guatemala who don’t like church. To hear the whole story you’d have to pack a lunch! But let me briefly say that Cesar would have been a mafia hit man if God hadn’t gotten a hold of him! With a little encouragement from some pastor friends in Kansas City, I took him up on his invitation, and for two weeks Cesar and I drove around the country looking at dozens of different situations and groups of people. Little did I know then, that 13 years later we would be working in over 55 locations covering Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I mention this because I have learned a lot from believers from other cultures and have put much of that into the book. Many of us in North America aren’t aware that both Guatemala and El Salvador have been through recent civil wars. Many people there have shared first hand stories of unimaginable grief and heartache. As I have walked alongside them, my faith has been challenged and I have an increasing desire to not just mindlessly go through my tough times, but to actually think deeply and grow through my tough circumstances. As I’ve done a little bit of that, I think it’s time that I pass some of this on to others who can benefit like I have.

Where can people find your book?

For now it’s only available from the trunk of my car! Or, more conveniently, it can be ordered from the website Soon it should become available on Amazon and we hope to have a Kindle version available in the near future as well. By the way, before Christmas we finished taping the audio book and I can’t wait to unveil that in the next couple of months too.

You also have a companion Bible study available as well right? 

Yes! Thank you for mentioning that. I think I am about as excited about the study guide as I am the book. On the website, is a 24-session small groups Bible study guide that can be downloaded for free. It matches up to chapters in the book and then goes deeper with pertinent Bible stories and information related to the topic. Incidentally, when someone wants me to coach them through their own tough times, this is essentially the material I use. In early tests, we are getting positive feedback from groups going through the book and the Bible study together. Do check it out!

Find out about more opportunities for a free copy of TRANSFORMED BY TOUGH TIMES, go to

This blog host was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview and/or book review on this blog. CSS Virtual Book Tours are managed by Christian Speakers Services (


Steve Reed is the Chief Encouragement Officer and Cross Cultural Catalyst for Daybreak International, a missions organization he founded that is dedicated to planting churches for the marginalized and forgotten peoples of the world. Currently, his two major projects focus on cowboys in Central America, and Kekchi Indians in the jungles of Guatemala. Those who know Steve best speak of his relentless encouragement and undying loyalty to people who face tough times. When not traveling in Central America, Steve comes home to Kansas City. He is married to Nola, and they have three young adult sons, a beloved daughter-in-law, and a grand baby on the way!

Margie's Comments: As many of my blog readers know, I have recently turned in my manuscript of Calming the Storm Within: God's Peace for Depression and Anxiety to my editor at OakTara Publishers. Because of the topic of my book and having lived through many tough times in my life, I was drawn to Transformed by Tough Times when I was offered a chance to review it. As I read, I was struck by how the author used Scripture extensively to back up his points. Huge points from my point of view. The Word of God is God's final answer to every circumstance/happening in our lives. I've had editors/publishers reject my books, both fiction and nonfiction, for too much emphasis on Scripture. Huh? I loved reading the examples from the author's life, too, as I also grew up on the mission field, including Costa Rica and Peru—only several years previous to Steve Reed's experiences. :) (My family's time in those countries was 1957–1961.)

Tough times visit us all. And they have a huge impact on who we become as a result of them. We can choose to allow them to make us bitter or better. Steve Reed shows us how to choose the latter route, though it isn't the easier route. But the constant in every trial—and the reason we can rejoice in our suffering—is Jesus' constant presence. Steve speaks of the suffering clause that is part of every believer's life. Jesus never promised we would have easy lives because we trust Him for salvation. No, in fact He promised that all who would follow Him would suffer. But to experience joy in the suffering is entirely our choice. Even when Christ was faced with death on the cross, He asked God to release Him from what was to come. But knowing it was the only way He could bring salvation to all mankind, He bowed to the Father's will, saying, "Not My will, but Thine be done." And we are all faced with the same decision to fight the tough times or to embrace them and allow God to work through the circumstances to transform us into the image of His Son.

One passage from near the middle of the book really hit home with me: "I believe we suffer because we don't know how to suffer. I believe that we suffer most in our country because of our unwillingness to embrace suffering. Many spend their lives in suffering avoidance. Some hope to wish away their troubles. Other harbor anger at God for dealing them such a wretched hand in life. Whether our suffering is considered big or small, the net result is the same. We can live life in a miserable, joyless state, and miss the best God has for us, or we can live in the no-lose state where we can enjoy good times and bad.

"If most of us don't know how to suffer well, then a perceptive question is, 'How do we "learn" to suffer?' I think that answer comes by looking at Paul's options. When Paul didn't get what he wanted, he really only had a couple of basic options. One, he could bemoan the fact that God let him down and get bitter. Or, he could trust God to sort it all out in the end. Obviously, he chose the latter."

I highly recommend Transformed by Tough Times by Steve Reed. It is going on my recommended reading list on my website.

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