Annual Giving Commitments

In a recent letter to the Restoration City congregation, I asked everyone who calls this their church home to give a one time, year end donation before December 31st and to make an annual giving commitment for 2019.  In the letter, I explained that the year end donation is about our collective vision as a church while the annual giving commitment is about our individual discipleship to Jesus.  Understanding the role of generosity in both our collective vision and our individual discipleship is crucial for us as Christ followers.  So, I’m going to use this week and next week’s blog posts to dig deeper into each, starting with the idea of an annual giving commitment.

There’s a temptation to see something like an annual giving commitment as nothing more than a fundraising or budgeting tool that helps us operate as a church but that’s really not the case.  It’s a discipleship tool that helps each of us as Christ followers be intentional about the spiritual discipline of generosity.  In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul writes that each of us should, “give as he has decided in his heart.”  In other words, our giving is preceded by an internal, heart level decision.  An annual giving commitment gives us a specific opportunity to make that decision.  By making that decision now for the coming year, we become intentional stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us.

Jesus helps us see the significance of intentional stewardship in a short section in the middle of His Sermon on The Mount.  

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Matthew 6:19-21

We need to pay really careful attention to what Jesus is saying in that last sentence: Your heart follows your dollars.  Where we invest our treasure today is where we will find our heart tomorrow.  Every dollar we spend points our hearts somewhere.  The question is whether we are intentional or accidental about that pointing.  If we want to be intentional, we need to ask ourselves three simple but crucial discipleship questions.

  1.  Do you know how your spending is shaping your heart? In my experience, the vast majority of us have only a vague sense of where our money goes every month.  We know what our rent is and our student loan payments but most everything else gets a little fuzzy, oftentimes deliberately so.  Let’s be clear, not knowing where your money is going isn’t just financial irresponsible.  It’s spiritually reckless.  If our hearts follow our dollars, we owe it to ourselves to know where our dollars are going.  So, start tracking your spending.
  2. Are you comfortable with how your spending is shaping your heart?  When I say comfortable, I mean spiritually comfortable, not financially comfortable.  Your budget is as much a spiritual document as it is a financial planning tool.  A good budget doesn’t just make sure you spend less than you make.  A good budget is an intentional plan to shape your soul.  Are you stewarding God’s resources in a way that’s enriching your soul?
  3. What changes is God leading you to make in the coming year?  Maybe it’s time to cut some things out.  Maybe it’s time to save more.  Maybe it’s time to give more.  Maybe it’s time to spend more in certain areas of life.  The key is actually having the conversation with God.  A lot of times, we want to keep God at arm’s length when making financial decisions and that should be a real warning sign to us that something is wrong.  If we’re willing to trust God with our salvation, we should be willing to trust Him with our finances.

That’s what our annual giving commitments are all about – taking control of how our spending is shaping our souls.  So, please, have a conversation with Jesus.  What is He asking you to do?  What changes do you need to make?  What is generosity going to look like for you next year?  Take some time to pray about it and when you’re done, send in your annual giving commitment, either online or with one of the cards we have available on Sunday mornings.  And when you do, know that you’ve taken an important step in your discipleship to Jesus.

A Thanksgiving That Will Really Make You Happy

Thanksgiving 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually that’s our way of saying we hope everything goes well as someone celebrates this holiday.  We hope our family and friends are able to navigate the holiday with minimal unpleasantness: no burnt turkeys, drunk uncles, fights over dinner, or traffic.  It’s our way of saying we hope you have fun, get to relax, and maybe even get a nap at some point over the weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that but it misses the deeper reality of that greeting – being thankful actually makes us happy!

By the way, that’s not sentimentality.  It’s science.  Study after study has confirmed that being thankful makes us happier.  When we take time to reflect on the things that make us grateful and express that gratitude, it actually changes us on a neurobiological level.  Being thankful causes our brains to release both dopamine and serotonin.  Dopamine is the chemical that makes us happy, optimistic, sociable, and goal-oriented.  Serotonin is an anti-depressant that increases will power and motivation.   So, if we do this thanksgiving thing correctly, it should literally make us happier!

The Apostle Paul didn’t understand the neurobiology of gratitude but he knew the experiential reality of it.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

That’s my prayer for you this Thanksgiving.  May the peace of God guard your heart as you allow gratitude to mingle with your need in a way that drives away anxiety.  May the joy of Christ be yours as you meditate on the goodness, mercy, and provision of God in your life.  May you be more focused on the blessings you celebrate than the details of your celebration.

So, Happy Thanksgiving.  Or maybe I should say, “Thanksgiving Will Make You Happy.”

Welcome To The Neighborhood, HQ2

Crystal City

I remember being horrified when some of the buildings in our neighborhood started getting covered with this weird, quasi-artistic fabric.  I assumed Crystal City was trying to turn eyesores into art but couldn’t figure out why they were broadcasting just how many buildings in our neighborhood were sitting empty!  And then I learned it was all connected to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters.  Crystal City was putting together what a lot of people saw as a long shot bid to bring HQ2 to our little part of the world.  Turns out it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all and Amazon’s moving into the neighborhood!

This is a really big deal for our city, our neighborhood, and for us at Restoration City Church.  Only time will tell exactly how this will impact our church but as one of a very small number of churches that gather in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area, it’s going to have a big impact on us.  No doubt we’ll face some challenges (I suspect our rent is going up!) but HQ2 also presents us with tremendous opportunities.

At the very least, Jeff Bezos picking Crystal City should impact how we think about our neighborhood and city.  It’s no secret that Crystal City has had a bit of a self esteem problem for a long time – it’s hard not to when your claim to fame is an underground shopping mall!  Not only have we not been the trendiest neighborhood in DC but DC in general doesn’t always have the best reputation as a place to live.  People come here for their careers but it often seems like they’re counting the days until they leave from the moment they arrive.  Sometimes that’s just a function of being stationed at the Pentagon, which always comes with an end date.  Cost of living is a big and understandable part of it.  Kids frequently take the blame for it, “Yeah, this place is great for now but when we have kids we’re out of here.”

In all honesty, it’s been a long time since this felt like a place where people are excited to live.  I know I’ve felt that as a church planter – people are happy to have found a good place to go to church while they’re in DC but, man, they can’t wait to go back home.  So, it’s a massive boost to our collective psyche to have Amazon pick this place!  Truth be told, DC really is a great place to call home and Crystal City is worth getting excited about – our church loves gathering here and  Laura and I love raising our family inside the beltway.  It just feels really good to see other people getting excited about a place I really love.

HQ2 also means there are going to be a tremendous number of people moving into the neighborhood.  We’ve always cared about serving our community and loving our neighbors – this just means there are going to be so many more to serve!  We’ll be talking more about this on Sunday but God has given us the privilege and the responsibility of being Christ’s ambassadors in this neighborhood.  He put us here in Crystal City just over 4 years ago at a time when no one really cared about Crystal City.  In fact, there were plenty of well intentioned people who told me we were making a mistake meeting here.  But God has always had a purpose for us in this neighborhood.  I sure didn’t know HQ2 was part of it, but He did.  There’s not a chance in the world we’re going to watch this pitch go by, Restoration City.  We need to recommit ourselves to loving our community, having an undeniably positive impact on our neighborhood and pointing people to Jesus.  God has us here for a reason!

This is a really big day for our city and it’s a really big day for our church.  Let’s be praying the Lord will give us the grace we need to navigate all of this well in the months and years to come.

Coming Soon: The Restoration City App

PushPay MigrationThis past Sunday, we announced a small but significant shift that will ultimately impact all of us at Restoration City.  Since before we were planted, we’ve used a third party vendor to facilitate all of our online giving.  They handle the back end things required to process your donations, keep your financial information safe, and maintain our giving records.  In exchange, we pay them a small percentage of each transaction, what they call a merchant fee.  Nothing all that exciting, I know.  But it’s really important.

What we announced this past Sunday is that we’re moving to a different vendor for three reasons:

(1)  Our current vendor was about to raise their merchant fees and the new vendor, PushPay, will match what we had previously been paying so we avoid a fee increase.  That’s significant because we want to direct as much of your giving as possible to actual ministry, not vendor fees!

(2)  The new system has more functionality and is easier to use.

(3)  The new system comes with the ability to support a Restoration City app, which we will be launching on Sunday, November 18th!

It’s important for us to be good stewards of the resources you entrust to us and we want people’s online experience to be as easy as possible.  But it’s the app that you’re really going to love.  It’s going to make a lot of things a lot easier for us as a church!

The only catch with all of this is that we need every single person who has set-up a recurring donation in the old system to move that to the new system!  We can’t do it for you but it will only take about 2 minutes of your time to respond to the email you got from PushPay on Sunday afternoon.  If you didn’t get that email, please let Dan Iten know.

As of right now, 42% of our recurring donors have already moved their donations over to the new system in the last 48 hours!  Thank you!!!  If you haven’t had the chance to do it yet, no worries, but we would love to have you do it before Sunday!  Let’s see if we can get that 42% up to 80% by Sunday.

I know online giving platforms aren’t the kind of thing any of us get all that excited about (with a few possible exceptions!).  But it’s doing little things like this well that set the stage for everything else we’re able to do as a church.

Relational Perfectionists

pool party

Being a perfectionist is exhausting.

Trust me, I know.  I’m a recovering one.  I’ve spent more of my life trying to get perfect grades, create the perfect resume, be a perfect leader, and preach perfect sermons than I care to admit.  Even now, there’s a part of me that wants to write the perfect blog post about how it’s okay not to be perfect…and, no, I’m not kidding when I write that!

For me, the journey out of perfectionism hasn’t been about lowering my standards and embracing mediocrity.  It’s been about developing realistic expectations and, even more importantly, learning to show myself grace when I don’t meet those expectations.  I’m reminding myself of truths I already know:  I will always have room to grow, my value isn’t found in my achievements, and those closest to me don’t love me because of what I accomplish.  So, I’m still aiming high.  I’m just learning how to cope when I fall a little short every now and again.  Pretty simple stuff.

It just seems to be particularly hard for me to apply in the area of relationships.  No where have I found perfectionism more damaging and harder to overcome than in relationships.  I was reminded of that all over again in preparing for this past Sunday’s sermon at Restoration City.  In that sermon, I shared a well-known quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book about community, Life Together, The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” In other words, relational perfectionists kill community.  It’s true in marriage.  In dating.  In friendship.  In families.  Really, in any relational system.

I’ve had to embrace the hard truth that one of the greatest obstacles to improving my relationships is my frustration with the fact that my relationships need improvement.  I know how crazy that sounds but that’s how relational perfectionism works.  I develop and fall in love with an idyllic picture of marriage, friendship, church, or work.  It’s a gorgeous vision of relational perfection – everyone is getting along perfectly, everything is in its place, there’s good food, and everyone is saying and doing all the right things.  It’s incredible.  No filter required – it’s perfect all by itself.  But, the real world never lives up to that vision.  Laura and I have a good marriage but it isn’t perfect.  I have three really great kids who often don’t act so great.  I don’t get to see my friends as often as I would like and people move out of DC way more than I want.  In other words, relationships aren’t perfect.

A lot of our relational fulfillment depends on how we handle those imperfections.  Relational perfectionists are tempted to withdraw into a cave of frustration, despair, anger, and discouragement.  We tend to blame ourselves and wonder why we can’t even get relationships right.  We love to use comparison to beat ourselves up even more – look at everyone else, their relationships look so perfect on Instagram.

Here’s the problem and it should be obvious: it’s hard to build good relationships in the cave of frustration.  Despair, anger, and withdrawal never improves our marriages, friendships, or parenting.  It only makes things worse.

If we’re going to live in community, it’s crucial to develop realistic expectations for relationships and show everyone grace when life doesn’t live up to those expectations.  I still have a long way to go but I’m trying to live in the second half of Bonhoeffer’s quote – just love the people around you.  Stop being disappointed that our marriage isn’t perfect and just love Laura in the midst of the imperfect.  Stop being sad that our family dinners aren’t exactly the thing of HGTV splendor and love my kids in the midst of the chaos.

Don’t let your vision of community suffocate the people around you.  Stop being a relational perfectionist and dive into the mess of community.  It’s isn’t perfect but it’s where life happens and where we meet God.

 

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Hard Things: Discipline or Obligation?

Discipline

I do a lot of things every day that I don’t really want to do.  In fact, many of them are things that I really don’t want to do: get out of bed, go to the gym, reply to emails, and many of the other things that keep me healthy and productive.  Unless you’re independently wealthy, laying in bed, and eating ice cream right now, you would say the same thing about your life.  We all know that the easy road never leads anywhere worth going.  Our willingness to do hard things is directly related to the significance of our lives.

We call all of this self-discipline – the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it, according to the nice people at dictionary.com.  It’s a good and biblical thing.  Paul urges Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  Even in the spiritual life, Paul commends self-discipline, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  In other words, the spiritual secret to spending time with God in the morning is called an alarm clock!

But I’m learning that there’s a huge difference between discipline and obligation.  Both require us to do things we really don’t want to do.  But they have very different outcomes.  Discipline leaves us better off, more fully alive, growing, and with a satisfied soul.  Obligation leaves us exhausted, frustrated with ourselves for giving in once again, and with a depleted soul.  Discipline takes us where we want to go, even if the road is hard, while obligation takes us away from where we want to go.  

A lot of our success and happiness in life depends on our ability to decide if each new request for our time, each new opportunity, and each new activity is an obligation to be avoided or something we should discipline ourselves to pursue.  If it takes discipline, it’s worth doing but if it’s an obligation, it’s worth avoiding.  I’ve started using three filters to help me tell the difference:

Filter #1: Desire

I know this is a strange starting point when we’re talking about things we don’t want to do but it’s essential to probe that lack of desire a little bit more.  If it’s an obligation, the more you press, the more that lack of desire is confirmed, “I really don’t want to do this.”  But if it’s an opportunity that calls for discipline that lack of desire starts to morph into, “I don’t want to do this but I want to have done this.”  For example, going to the gym.  I would rather sleep in but an hour from now, I’ll be glad I got out of bed and worked out.  If you’ll be glad you did it later today, it’s worth doing.  But if the opposite is true, it’s worth skipping!

Filter #2:  Benefit

There’s really two questions when it comes to benefit.

One, is anybody going to get any benefit from me doing this?  Notice, you might not get any benefit but someone else might benefit greatly.  Or you could be the sole beneficiary or some combination.  But the point is someone, somewhere is benefiting.  If that’s the case, it might be a time to dig deep and summon a little self-discipline.  On the other hand, if nobody gets anything out of you doing something, why in the world would you feel obligated?

The second question is a little trickier because it requires a cost/benefit analysis.  Yes, your friend might be touched that you flew across the country for her bachelorette party but is that worth $1,7000, an exhausting weekend, and missing church?  If she’s a really good friend, the answer could be yes!  But it’s also possible the answer is no – and that’s okay!  Not every benefit is worth the cost.  Discipline gives us the freedom to say no whereas obligation condemns us to a lifetime of resentful yeses.

Filter #3:  Prompting

This is where we drag the Holy Spirit into the conversation.  What’s He saying?  Is He leading you to do something that may not make much sense to anyone but will honor God and be a mark of obedience?  Then listen!  Be disciplined and go for it.  If, on the other hand, He’s leading you to say no, then go with Him in that as well.  We don’t just grow our faith by saying the difficult yes, often times we grow it by saying a difficult no.  In some ways, this last filter is the only one that matters.  Just be aware that the voice of God probably sounds very different from the voice of the person asking you for something.

I want to say yes to everything that God brings into my life, even if it’s hard.  I want to pursue life with a vigor that can only come from God.  But I’m realizing that requires me to say no to things I would be doing purely out of obligation.  So, I’m trying to filter all of life through a framework that says. “Disipline, yes.  Obligation, no.”

But First…Our Souls

But First Our Souls

At it’s core, the story of Gideon is a story of restoration.

We have such an individualistic conception of faith that we tend to see this story exclusively through the lens of Gideon’s transformation from farmer to warrior.  In his weakness, Gideon finds a strength from God that enables Him to do the impossible.  That’s completely right, true, and biblical.  But it’s not the only thing God is doing in the story.  It’s also a time of military, economic, and cultural restoration for Israel.  What God does through Gideon changes everything.  Families no longer go to sleep fearing for their safety and workers no longer toil fearing they’ll never see the fruit of their labor.  Through Gideon, God restores His people to a time of peace, economic stability, and freedom from oppression.

We need to see that larger story because so much of our culture and so much of our lives are in desperate need of restoration.  21st century America needs to rediscover truth, civility, and a sense of value and dignity for all as image bearers of God.  We need to fight back against the injustice of racism, abortion, human trafficking, and so many other forms of violence against humanity.  At times, our personal concerns seem small in comparison but we all know they are no less painful.  We want our marriages to flourish and our families to thrive.  We want to get some sleep, get in shape, and have energy again.  We want to love others unconditionally and stop getting so disappointed when they don’t meet our expectations.  We want to figure out how to make ends meet financially.

When we think about personal and cultural restoration, we need to do so through the lens of Gideon:

That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”

– Judges 6:25-26

Personal and cultural restoration starts with spiritual restoration and spiritual restoration always leads to personal and cultural restoration.  

It’s no accident that God calls Gideon to fight a spiritual battle before a military one.  Before he deals with the Midianites, Gideon needs to deal with the idols in his own house.  He needs to get back into right relationship with God and rediscover the joy of walking with Yahweh before he’s going to affect great change in the world.  The same is true for us.  We make a tremendous mistake when we attempt to divorce our spirituality from the rest of our lives.  The health of your soul has a direct impact on the health of your finances, your family, your body, and your relationships.  We so often want to avoid the pain and introspection of dealing with our souls and just figure out a practical solution to whatever is bothering us today.  But that shortcut rarely leads anywhere good or lasting.  Real restoration starts in our souls and radiates out to the rest of our lives.

But when real restoration has come to our souls, it will radiate out.  Your relationship with Jesus is designed to change every area of your life, the life of your church, and the life of your community.  Judges 6:25 starts with the phrase, “that night.”  The author is referring to the same night that Gideon met the angel of the Lord.  Gideon’s encounter with God immediately turned into spiritual restoration and a sense of mission.  There’s no gap.  Spiritual restoration, personal restoration, and cultural restoration are inexorably linked, not some multi-step, multi-year process.

The greatest gift we can ever offer others is a soul in vital union with Jesus.  When His life is flowing in and through us, the possibilities for restoration are endless.  So, start there.  When our souls are satisfied in Christ, it changes everything for us and for the people around us.

Vamos a Mexico

Mexican Flag

I’ve been excited about Restoration City’s upcoming mission trip to Western Mexico for a long time but that excitement has hit a new level now that I get to co-lead the team and see first hand all that God is doing through our friends in Western Mexico.  I can’t wait for those days in early October!

Every mission trip is significant for both the members of the team and the community that’s impacted through their efforts.  But this trip is particularly special for me and my expectations are really high for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s Personal.  We are going to serve alongside two members of our church who are serving in Mexico for two years to plant churches in remote and hard to reach areas of southern and western Mexico.  We aren’t coming alongside like-minded strangers, we’re going to serve with our friends!  Being able to send a short term trip to serve alongside missionaries who are members of our church is more than a dream come true…it’s an answer to prayer!
  • It’s Strategic.  We’re going to be spending a week in and around a large migrant worker camp in western Mexico.  Workers from much more remote areas of Mexico come to this camp to work the harvest and we’ll be heading to Mexico right at the start of their harvest season when this little temporary city will be coming to life and filled with people.  Our hope is to love and serve these people and share Christ with them with the prayer that some will place their faith in Christ and carry the gospel back to their home village and community.  It’s an incredible way to reach some un or under reached people groups in remote areas of Mexico.
  • It’s Filled With Potential.  I’m thinking mainly of the members of our team when I write that.  Literally every single person going on this trip could be leading the trip (that’s not an exaggeration!) and I’m so looking forward to getting time with each of them.  I honestly believe so many of the leaders of future trips are going to come from this team.

I honestly believe the Lord is going to use all of this in some pretty incredible ways and I would love to have you be a part of it with us.  I totally get that it’s unlikely you’re going to jump onto the team at this late date (but if you’re interested, let me know!!).  But maybe you would consider being involved from home by praying or giving.  I’ll be posting prayer requests over the next month and I would love to have you praying with us for all the Lord is going to do.  And I would be so grateful if you would consider making a one-time donation to our Mexico 2018 fund.  We’re trying to raise $13,000 to support this team and the work we’re doing in western Mexico.  We would love to have your help in reaching that goal.

It’s amazing to know that we’re just one small part of the church that Jesus is building all over the world.  In DC.  In Mexico.  And all over the globe.

We Need Your Help!!

kids

While God is doing so many incredible things in so many different areas of Restoration City right now, that work is probably most evident in RCC Kids.  Both our Parent’s Morning Out and Parent’s Night Out events are near capacity every time we offer them and our twice a month morning playgroup is thriving.  On top of that, our Kids team continues to partner with Community Group Leaders in making childcare available for CG’s that need it.  And then there’s Sunday morning!  We now have 5 classrooms per week that serve a minimum of 30 kids per Sunday, with that number increasing rapidly.  It’s honestly amazing to see what God has done through Alex Dibble and our children’s ministry team!

If you’re a member of that RCC Kids team, I want to publicly thank you for all you are doing to serve the parents and kids of our church.  You’re making a huge impact on families and the lives of these young kids and you’re sacrificing a lot to do it.  We all know you pour a lot of energy, love, and sweat into a Sunday morning!  And we all know you’re giving up the chance to be in the main gathering to do it.  Your willingness to serve says so much about your heart for Christ, His church, and the next generation.  On behalf of every family at Restoration City, I want you to know how grateful we are.  It’s no small thing to be raising our kids in a church where they’re excited to go to church and it’s your sacrifice that makes that possible.  So, thank you!  You’re incredible.

And we need more of you!

The only way to keep serving an increasing number of families and kids is by increasing the number of volunteers.  We need 12-15 volunteers per Sunday, plus the volunteers at  our additional events.  We only ask RCC Kids volunteers to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month so you still are able to be in the main gathering 2-3 times per month.  But that means we need a regular volunteer pool of 40-50 in RCC Kids.  Right now, that number is closer to 30 regular volunteers.  So, you can see the need for more help in response to how abundantly the Lord has and is growing this area of our church!

If you’re willing to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month, we want to get you trained and serving with us.  Our need is especially great in the summer since so many of our regular volunteers are traveling.  If you can help us love and serve these kids, please shoot Alex an email today.  She would love to talk with you!!

The Prison Of Passivity

Rearview Mirror

First of all, hi!  I know it’s been a while since I last posted and it would feel really weird to jump right back in without acknowledging that it’s been a couple of months.  I’ll post more about why I took the break and how God’s used it later but, for today, I just want to say I’ve missed this chance to connect with our church and am looking forward to posting more regularly.

If nothing else, this blog provides a convenient format for me to Monday morning quarterback my own sermons, which I feel the need to do today.  All last week, I had been so excited to preach yesterday’s message, “The Prison Of Passivity” but as I was driving home, I found myself concerned that I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.

I definitely wanted to shake all of us, myself included, out of the rut of passivity.  I just hope I did that in a way that built on the unshakeable foundation of God’s grace.  It’s grace that saves us, sustains us, provides for us, guides us, and transforms us.  If you take grace out of the equation, you no longer have Christianity.  Everything in our lives flows from the fountain of grace.

But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  It empowers it.  And I think that’s where we tend to get confused, justify our apathy, and spiritualize our innate laziness or passivity.  As I said yesterday, what we see as grace in the rearview mirror of life always looks like effort through the windshield.  I fear that we’ve lost sight of that reality.

Yes, God parts the Red Sea.  But we still have to walk through it.  Yes, no one can come to the Son unless the Father draws them.  But God makes His appeal through our lives and our words.  Yes, it’s love for Christ that motivates us to spend time with him in the early morning hours of the day.  But it takes an alarm clock to make it happen.  Yes, any professional success we have is attributable to God’s grace.  But it’s also going to take a lot of hard work.

I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Levi Lusko on the treadmill this morning and heard him say, “If you see someone on the top of a mountain, you know he didn’t fall there.”  There was a long, hard climb to get there.  Jesus rarely offers a ski lift to the top.  He’s far more likely to empower us for the hike.

Praise God for grace.  We would be no where without it.  But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  We want to be a people who see holiness and hustle as two sides of the same coin, not competing values.

So, whatever you’re up to today, “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24).  Don’t live today locked in the prison of passivity.  Grace has freed you from that!