Easter 2016 At Restoration City


Wow!  I’m still celebrating everything God did yesterday at Restoration City Church.  Not only was it our largest Sunday ever but we also had the joy of baptizing 3 people and seeing many make decisions to follow Jesus for the first time.  Our teams served brilliantly and church felt way more like a family than an event.  Honestly, I loved every minute of it!

There are a lot of ways to react to a day like yesterday.  Overwhelming joy flowing from an empty tomb is a good place to start.  Rejoicing over salvation is a strong second.  Joy that we get to be a part of Jesus’ plan to build His church is in the mix.  Love for the people who serve so faithfully week in and week out is high on the list for me.  Maybe you are filled with wonder, filled with excitement or just plain giddy.

Just don’t be surprised.

We serve a God who defeated death.  We’re following a Risen Savior.  The One with the power to break the chains of sin and death.  The One who overcomes all, who is faithful and who moves in great power.  Jesus is alive!  The tomb is empty and our God reigns.

So don’t be surprised when church is exciting.  Don’t be shocked when the gospel bears fruit.  Don’t be stunned when God moves.  The empty tomb proves that absolutely nothing is impossible for God.

I loved yesterday.  But I pray our hearts are never more moved by a full auditorium than an empty tomb.

There’s One name that carried the day yesterday – JESUS.  Which is good because today is firmly in His hands.  And tomorrow.  And the day after that.  He doesn’t just move on Easter.  He holds out power for today.  He offers life today.  He is life.

And He’s the One we’re following into ServeDC and so much more.  So, yes, let’s celebrate what He did yesterday.  But let’s do it with confidence that our best days are still ahead.  Let’s do it with anticipation for all God is yet to do.

Now That Our Fast Is Over


I’m hoping you were able to participate in Restoration City’s fast in some way this week.  If you did, I hope God used it to ignite your hunger for Him and fuel a desire to see Him bear much fruit through us on Easter Sunday.  I’m also praying this fast wasn’t a one time experience but rather a catalyst for renewed pursuit of God’s mission in our daily lives.  Fasting shouldn’t leave us spiritually depleted.  It should clear the ground for fresh life to emerge.

In order for that to happen, we need to remember that fasting isn’t as much about depravation as it is about pursuit of intimacy with God.  If it’s only about seeing how long we can go without food, it’s a meaningless test of our willpower.  In fact, you can be quite committed to fasting and quite displeasing to God.  Consider His words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58:1-5

God found Israel’s fasting wicked because it was an inauthentic attempt to manipulate God.  They wanted to impress Him into blessing them more than they wanted to know Him.  We can’t fall into the same trap – we didn’t do this fast to show God how awesome we are.

We’ve been fasting because we want to know more of how awesome God is.  And if that’s the case, that desire will now be translated into action.  Again, from Isaiah:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Isaiah 58:6-8

In other words, genuine fasting fuels sustained action for the glory of God and the good of others.  God isn’t thrilled that we skipped a meal.  He’s thrilled when we get so close to Him that His heart for the world starts to beat in us.

That’s our challenge in the weeks ahead, Restoration City.  Don’t be impressed that we fasted.  Be determined that others would see the greatness of the God we love.  Maybe that means inviting someone to church on Sunday.  Or connecting with one of our ServeDC ministries.  Or getting to know a neighbor.  Whatever it means for you, that’s the part God finds most thrilling!

Is Anyone Better Off?

City We Love.jpg

Ever since this past Sunday at Restoration City, there’s been one question dominating my thoughts.  It’s born of the simple reality that in the Kingdom of God power is used to serve.  The all-powerful Son of God said it this way, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk.10:45)  Yes, Jesus served us all on the cross.  But He also wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the feet of His disciples.  And fed the hungry.  And healed the sick.  And gave sight to the blind.  And wept with friends.

To follow Jesus is to chose a sacrificial life of service for the good of others motivated by the joy of the gospel.  If we are truly living that out, there should be people in our neighborhoods, apartment communities, gyms, families and workplaces that are ecstatic that we are followers of Christ.  There should be a lot of people who would readily say they are better off because we’re in our lives.

Which brings me back to my question.  Here it is: “Who is better off because of me today?”  If you want to be more specific, try these variations: How is my spouse better off because of me today?  How about my kids?  How about my neighbors?  How about my co-workers?  How about my city?

Now, I know there won’t be a spectacular answer in every category for every one of us on every single day.  But shouldn’t there be some answer every day?  Shouldn’t we lay our heads down at night knowing that somehow someone is better off because of the way we used today?

That’s the kind of church we want to be.  That’s why we do ServeDC.  We love this city and we want it to be better off because we’re here.  We want to be a contributor to culture more than a critic.  We want to bless and serve this city.  So, if you haven’t gotten signed up for ServeDC yet, do it now.  While we’re preparing to serve our city, take a look at the lives right around you.  How can you serve them today?

Who is better off today because of us, Restoration City?

Restoration City Prayer & Fasting Guide

Fasting is a discipline that uses hunger for food as a tool to fuel our hunger for God.

 As we approach Easter, we want to draw close to God and ask for a greater understanding and experience of His presence and power in our lives and in our city. As God’s people, we hunger for Him to display His goodness and love in our day-to-day lives, and to bring the transformation that only He can into our city, our culture, and the lives of the people around us who haven’t heard and believed the gospel.

This week, Restoration City will fast during a meal, replacing the time that would normally be spent eating with time in prayer with God. We’ve written this guide to help shape that time of fasting and prayer. Feel free to follow it as closely as you would like or use your prayer time differently – however God leads you! What follows are a few areas to focus on in your prayer, along with some sample prayers and passages of Scripture to help you pray.

How to Use This Guide

 This may be the first time you’ve done something like this. If you’re unsure of how exactly to go about this, here is how we suggest using this guide.

Don’t just work through lunch! Don’t merely distract yourself from your hunger by focusing on your job. Replace lunch with fasting.

Set aside the time you would normally take for lunch to find an isolated place to meet with God in prayer. Print this sheet out and leave your phone behind or on airplane mode in order to limit distractions. Go somewhere quiet to pray, where you won’t be interrupted (an empty room, a park, your car, etc.).

Note the theme of each section and read the sample prayer. Allow that prayer to anchor your time with God. Read through the selected passages of Scripture one at a time, taking a moment to reflect on them, and then using them to guide your prayers. Pray at a pace that allows you to complete each section before retuning to work.

Remember that this is not about your performance, your eloquence, or anything that you bring to this time other than a longing for God! This is time with your good Father – come to Him as His child!


“Father, as much as I hunger for food right now, I hunger for you more. Only you can satisfy me. You alone are the source of life.”

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8


O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Psalm 63:1-5


“Forgive me for not wanting you enough and for forgetting how much more important you are than even food! Forgive me for wanting other things more than I want you. Show me my idols and lead me in repentance and growth.”

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment…

 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:1-4, 10-12

Humility and Dependence

“This hunger shows me my weakness. Help me to be humble and fully dependent on your strength, not my own.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5


“I am reminded now of how desperately we need you. There is no life apart from you! Reveal this truth to my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, and my family members who do not know you, Jesus!”

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.

Isaiah 59:1

 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:36-38

Restoration and Return

 “I can see so clearly how broken this world is, Jesus. I long for restoration through your Church and your gospel, and for the final restoration you will bring when you return. Come soon, Jesus!”

 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And 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.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

Revelation 21:4-6

 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:20

Each of our Community Groups will be breaking the fast together the night they meet during the week. If you are fasting individually, we would invite you to do the same around 7PM on the day you fast.

Why Is Restoration City Fasting Next Week?


I love it when we set aside time to fast as a church and I really believe God is going to use our fast next week in some incredibly powerful ways in our lives, in the life of our church and in our city.

At the same time, I know so many of us are new to the idea of fasting. It’s not a spiritual discipline we practice regularly, it can seem contrary to the freedom of the gospel and just plain strange. Those feelings probably get amplified when we’re not the ones initiating the fast but it’s coming at the request of the church’s pastors.

For those reasons, I want to make sure we all understand why we’re fasting next week.  A good answer to that question will come on two levels.  One, why fasting in general and, two, why next week in particular?

The Biblical Basis For Fasting

Admittedly, I’m going to be very brief in answering this one since all of our Community Groups covered this at some length during their meeting this week. But in the Community Group Study, we presented four reasons for fasting through a list originally compiled by Pastor John Piper:

  • We fast because we’re hungry for God’s Word and God’s Spirit in our lives.
  • We fast because we long for God’s glory to resound in the church and God’s praise to resound among the nations.
  • We fast because we yearn for God’s Son to return and God’s kingdom to come.
  • Ultimately, we fast because we want God more than we want anything this world has to offer.

My hope for next week is that we will all rally around the second reason and one other that makes sense to us personally. The heart of what we’re asking God to do next week is best expressed in a desire for His “glory to resound in the church.”  But, I would also encourage you to think through some of the other reasons. Which one connects most with your life? Are you learning to hunger for God’s Word, yearning for His Kingdom or ensuring that Christ has first place in your heart? Pick one of those and lean into it as you fast.

Fasting Next Week

In some ways, I already hinted at the answer to this one – it really is about asking God to make His glory visible through Restoration City on Easter Sunday. The single most tangible way for His glory to be seen is not through a large crowd but through salvation, through people passing from death to life and being eternally changed by the grace of Jesus. That’s what we’re asking for and fasting is a way of sharpening our desire for God to make Himself seen in powerful ways.

By God’s grace, we’ve enjoyed an amazing 17 months as a church. But God is no where near done with us. There’s so much He wants to do through us as we focus on loving, blessing and reaching our city with the gospel. I’m praying this Easter launches us into a whole new season of community impact. So, it seemed like we should take the step of fasting together as a church as part of our pursuit of that vision.

Hopefully, you’ll join me in fasting one day next week.  We’ll be posting a prayer guide to this blog on Sunday and distributing it through your Community Group leaders as well.

Journey To Easter


These next 10 days are an amazing opportunity for us as a church to bring spiritual restoration to our city.  I honestly believe these can be the most exciting days for Restoration City since our launch.  Even better is the number of conversations I’ve had with others who are feeling the same way!  So, between now and Easter, I’m asking every person connected with Restoration City to join me in doing three things:

 1.  Pray.

We’re asking God to move in a supernatural way, to connect people with the life of our church and to save souls.  None of us can do that work in our own strength!  We’re just not that persuasive, that cool or that influential.  We need the power of God to saturate our lives and to move through us.  I keep coming back to John 15:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4,7-8)

God is glorified when we bear fruit – we don’t need to win Him over to the idea of reaching souls.  He’s already there.  We just need to position ourselves to be used by Him.

2.  Fast.

All of our Community Groups are going to skip lunch (or do something else God leads them to) on the day of their meeting next week and then come together to break the fast in the evening.  If you’re not in a Community Group, I want to invite you to join us – just pick a day next week that works for you.

I’ll post a blog this Friday that explains more about why we’re fasting as a church and then we’ll post a prayer guide on Sunday for you to follow along with as you fast.

However you choose to participate, I would love to have you in on this with us.

3.  Invite.

This doesn’t have to be some terrifying spiritual moment or a make or break moment in your friendship.  It can be as simple as, “Hey, what are you up to this weekend?  Feel like coming to church with me for Easter?”  If they say no, ok.  But if they express some interest, you have an open door to follow-up.

Restoration City, this is why we exist as a church – to hold out the hope of the gospel to people in desperate need of life with Jesus.  Don’t rely on a Facebook ad to do the work God has entrusted to you.  Be bold.  Take a risk.  You might be surprised how God ends up using you!

2016 is off to an incredible start at Restoration City.  I’m praying that Easter is a really catalytic moment for us as a church and God uses us to bear much fruit!