Happy Thanksgiving


In 1863, when our country was ravaged by civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring a national day of Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November.  He ended his statement with these words:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

I’m praying today will be about more than parades, turkey and football.  May it be about the grace of the God who sustains us all.  May it be about the praise of the Father from whom all blessings flow.  And may it be about healing the wounds of our nation today, in this season of strife.  Humble us, Father, under Your Almighty Hand.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thank You, Restoration City


Thanksgiving is always a little convicting for me.  But in a really good way.  When I slow down and reflect, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for in life.  My wife, my kids, our families.  Health.  Friends.  God’s provision in our lives.  A job that I love in a city that I love.  So, how in the world do I spend so much of the rest of the year grumbling and complaining?  It seems hard to believe.  And then I add in the blessing of knowing Jesus, the freedom of being forgiven, the certainty of heaven and my ingratitude becomes downright wickedness.

Ingratitude is the fruit of pride – I’ve earned what I have.  It’s the fruit of envy – I think I deserve more.  It’s the fruit of a heart that isn’t abiding in Jesus – if God loved me, He would be doing more for me.  It’s the fruit of a soul that isn’t a rest – as Bono would sing, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.  And it’s the fruit of not pausing to say thank you.

It’s the last one that I want to deal with today.

When I think about Restoration City, I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to be grateful for this year.  I genuinely love (and like!) our staff, elder and leadership teams.  God has done things for and through us as a church in the last 12 months that are extraordinary.   And I can go on and on.  But what’s really on my mind today is the extraordinary kindness so many of you have shown Laura and I in the last month since Emma was born.

In the last four weeks, we’ve had friends drop off meals, take our boys to the park, clean our house, fold laundry, take our boys to church, send notes, drop off incredibly thoughtful gifts for Laura and send a constant flow of encouraging text messages.  I can’t tell you the number of times Laura and I have said, “I can’t imagine having a baby outside of the local church.”  I’m honestly not sure how new parents do it without a strong community around them.

Thank you, Restoration City.

You are such a gift to me and my family.  When Laura and I were dreaming about planting a church, we were dreaming about a community that would love and serve one another the way you have loved and served us this past month.  We dreamed of a community that would make Jesus visible by the way we cared for one another.  I know we still have a long way to go but the glimpses we’ve seen this past month have been even more beautiful than we imagined.

I’m praying 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 for us as a church, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more”  It’s a gift to be a part of what God is doing in this little expression of His church.  He’s teaching us to love one another.  Let’s be bold enough to ask Him for the grace to do it “more and more.” Who wouldn’t want to be part of a community that excels at loving one another?

I love you, Restoration City, and am so grateful to have you in my life and for the privilege of being in yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How’s Your Prayer Life?

Pray Beach.jpg

If you want to make the average Christian feel guilty, ask them about their prayer life.  We all have this sense that we should be praying more and that when we do pray, we should be getting more out of it.  All too often, we reduce prayer to reciting a to do list in the presence of God or just firing requests His way like He’s a hyper competent concierge.  Although, if we’re honest, we often have little to no confidence that He’s actually going to come through on anything we’re asking.  Then we read passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing” and we throw our hands up in frustration.  Most of us are just trying to find meaningful time with God on a daily basis.  Many of us are wondering if it “counts” if we get that time on the Metro.  Pray without ceasing seems like a cruelly absurd joke.

All of that adds up to a tragic short selling of the way the gospel impacts our prayer lives. We think the goal of the gospel is to get us to pray.  Prayer becomes evidence of saving faith.  The frequency of prayer becomes a measure for our spiritual health.  And the whole conversation is limited to getting us to pray.  But the gospel does much more than compel us to pray.  It opens the door for prayer and shapes our prayers.

Apart from Christ, prayer isn’t possible.  You can meditate, talk to yourself, or fling requests in the direct of a fictitious higher power.  But you can’t connect with God.  You can’t “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)  That confidence only comes through a relationship with Christ that allows us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)  But in Christ, we’re welcomed into the very presence of God Himself.  Not as beggars but as children.  Not as someone who needs to take a number but as someone who can feel His embrace.

The most significant evidence of the gospel’s work in our hearts isn’t that we pray, it’s what we pray.  This is where I’m frequently convicted – I often pray for the exact same things my non-Christian friends would pray for if they believed in Jesus.  Listen, there’s nothing radical about praying for a raise, a good night’s sleep, a bigger house, a vacation, or a Red Sea like parting of traffic on the beltway.  It’s not even particularly Christian to pray for a date, a child, a spouse or the healing of a sick family member.  Should we pray for those things?  Of course!  Every good and perfect gift comes from God, so ask Him.

But we’ll know the gospel has grabbed hold of our hearts when we start to pray for things that wouldn’t even be on a non-Christian’s radar.  Our prayer lives should be marked by requests that God would kill our pride, give us opportunities to share the gospel, allow us to give more generously to His work, fight for the oppressed, lovingly stand for truth, die to ourselves, take up our cross, consider others more important than ourselves and use us for the sake of His name.  When those prayers flow from our souls, we’ll know that God is doing a deeply transformative work.

Here’s the funny thing – when we start praying that way, we start seeing God move in powerful ways.  We become, at times painfully, aware that God hears and answers prayer.  We realize how utterly dependent we are on His grace and His power.  We run to Him without even realizing we’ve slid into prayer.  Duty becomes delight.  Pray without ceasing starts to make sense.  And we connect with the One who made us for His own glory.

Want to upgrade your prayer life?  Allow the implications of the gospel to work their way into the depths of Your heart.  You’ll pray more.  But you’ll also pray differently.


Get To Work


As a church, we’re in a season of considering how the gospel forges a community that is distinct from the rest of the world.  On Sundays, I’m focusing on the “one another” commands of Scripture – those passages where the Lord instructs us on how we should be treating each other within the church.  But our treatment of one another shouldn’t be the only distinction.

For example, we should work with a vigor and intensity that stands out in a sea of laziness and mediocrity.  Christ followers should be the most diligent students in the classroom, the most productive employees in the factory and the hardest workers in the office.  We won’t always ace the test, make the right decision or come up with the best answer.  But nobody should outwork us.  That’s not because we’re better than anyone else but because we have a totally different, and infinitely superior, motivation.  We do it all for the sake of Jesus’ name.  Our work ethic isn’t motivated by our advancement but by His glory.

In Ezekiel 36, God is once again contending with faithless Israel.  He’s outraged that when Israel “came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’  But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.” (Ez. 36:20-21)  In other words, Israel was acting in such a way that pagan nations were looking down on Yahweh.  Israel’s faithlessness tarnished the name of God.  And God takes the glory of His name very seriously!

Israel profaned the name of God through exile and abandoning the promised land.  I’m convinced that one of the most common ways we do it is through our laziness.   Don’t use Scripture as your screensaver and then spend all day on Facebook.  Don’t tell everyone how much you love Jesus and then be consistently unprepared for meetings. If you’re going to celebrate Jesus taking on your sin, you ought to be willing to take on some extra work every once in a while.  We need to get to work because laziness profanes the name of God.

This is what Paul has in mind as he’s wrapping up the third chapter of his letter to the Colossians.  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.“(Col. 3:17)  And then just a few verses later, “ Whatever you do, 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)  Work in a way that makes God look amazing.  

We talk all the time about the world needing hope now more than ever.  It does. Sometimes that hope shows up in big, bold, dramatic ways.  But, more often, it shows up when ordinary Jesus followers get up, go to work, do their best and earn the right to talk about the God behind it all.  So, Restoration City, be distinct.  Get to work!

Hope In The Aftermath


Well, it’s over.  The 2016 election has come to a shocking end that almost nobody saw coming.  Donald J. Trump is the President Elect of The United States of America.  And a sleep deprived nation is struggling to figure out what it all means.  Honestly, I don’t know what it means for our country; only time will tell.  But, for the church, this has the potential to be a defining moment.

As Christians, we’ve known throughout this election that our hope is in Christ.  Yes, politics matter and government is a good and noble enterprise.  But our ultimate security and confidence is in Jesus.  Today is the day we show the world what that means.  In the aftermath of the most polarizing election in decades, today is the day for the church to make hope visible.  Here’s what that could look like:

Don’t Despair & Don’t Gloat

People will be able to tell where our hope is by how we react today.  If you celebrate Trump more than you’ve ever celebrated Jesus, both online and in person, people will know which is more important to you.  And if you act like all is lost, people will suspect our confidence in Christ is more of a coping mechanism than an anchor for the soul.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) so we can walk into today with steady confidence and unwavering hope.

Reach Out, Especially To The Vulnerable & Afraid

You are an ambassador of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)  Christianity is not defined by a party, a platform or a politician.  It’s defined by an empty tomb, by the Word of God and by the unrivaled Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Our world needs to know who Jesus is and what His church is all about.  We stand with the widow and orphan, the immigrant and refugee, the poor and disenfranchised, the minority and marginalized.  We believe all people are made in the image of God – men, women, white, black, young, old and unborn.  The gospel reveals a Savior who is the culmination of justice and mercy.  The cross of Jesus is a megaphone of hope, truth, life and freedom.

The world will come to see that when we take the lead in reaching out, especially to the vulnerable and afraid.  And there are many walking in fear today – Muslims, minorities, immigrants and refugees.  Perfect love drives out all fear. (1 John 4:18)  By God’s grace, we can be the instruments of that love.

Speak Kindly

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)  Please, speak in a manner worthy of the gospel, both online and in person.  Enough divisive rhetoric, enough polarization, enough fear and bitterness.  Let’s take the lead in restoring civility and leading others to treat one another with respect as fellow image bearers of God.

In the aftermath of this election, I’m praying for Donald Trump, for the United States of America and the for the church of Jesus Christ.

Three Commitments For Election Day


Finally!  America heads to the polls today.  One way or another, this will be all be over by tomorrow morning.  And maybe, just maybe, the wounds of division and fear in our nation will start to heal.  I certainly hope so.

It’s in that spirit that I want to ask you to join me in making three commitments for election day:


Apathy isn’t cool.  You may not like the candidates, the parties or the platforms but nothing is going to get better because you stayed at home.  It’s a beautiful thing to live in a country where we get to pick our leaders.  Please, don’t take for granted what others can only imagine.


If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you already know what you need to do tomorrow morning.  “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.“(1 Tim. 2:1-2)  And not some snarky, “God, have mercy on us and our idiot President” kind of prayer.  A genuine prayer for the leader of the free world, for our well being as a nation and for the flourishing of the church.  If you won’t pray that way tomorrow, it’s not because of disappointment.  It’s because of disobedience.

So, why not post on social media today like you’re going to be praying tomorrow?  We don’t need any more divisive rhetoric.  It’s time to move on, to repair what’s been broken and recover civility both online and in person.


Whatever’s going to happen today has been planned long ago by One who is wiser and greater than all of us.  “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.“(Romans 13:1)  He already knows who will win and He knows exactly how it all fits together in a plan more glorious and marvelous than anything we could comprehend.  He’s our hope.  He’s our confidence.  Don’t make Him look small by putting more hope in a candidate than in your Creator.

This election matters.  But what really matters is knowing that Jesus is in control no matter what happens.  He’s “upholding the universe by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3)  I’m going to sleep just fine tonight.  And then I’m going to wake up and pray tomorrow morning.

Joining A Church Plant Launch Team


This weekend, we’re taking an exciting step in the growth as our church – I’m going to try to get a bunch of you to leave!  Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it with bad jokes or offensive comments in the sermon (at least, that’s not the plan).  Instead, I’m going to ask some of  you to buy into the vision of helping plant a new Christ centered church in Herndon, VA.  You’ll have an opportunity to take a concrete step towards that by attending Allan McCullough’s interest meeting for Grace Hill Church right after our gathering this Sunday.

It’s a really big deal for us as a church to be a part of gospel multiplication here in the DC area – that’s why we plant churches.  And it’s a massive deal for you to take the step of joining a church plant launch team.  After all, I’m asking you to leave a church you like (right?) to step into something that is less familiar and riskier.  Grace Hill will share a lot of DNA with Restoration City but it will also be different, it’ll be a new community, and a new expression of the church.

So, how do you know if God is calling you to be a part of planting Grace Hill?

  1.  It will make you more effective in reaching people for Jesus.  In some ways, this is the only answer to the question.  We don’t plant churches to give Christians new Sunday morning options.  We plant churches to reach people who don’t follow Jesus.  That means deciding to join a church plant team really isn’t about you.  It’s about the people in your life who don’t know Jesus.  It’s about making it easier to invite them to church or a community group.  Yes, that often means geography.  But not simply from a “it’s a shorter drive for me” perspective.  It’s from a “my family and friends would be better served by this” perspective.
  2. Willingness to sacrifice for gospel multiplication.  This is a logical extension of the first point – joining a church plant team isn’t about you!  It’s not about your comfort, your convenience or your consumption.  Don’t join a launch team to be served, join one to serve!  The first days of any church are a struggle.  There’s never enough resources, never enough volunteers and so much to do.  If you aren’t willing to offer your hands, your heart and your resources to the plant, don’t go.  But if you’re willing to lean in, put on a serving towel, give generously and champion the gospel, you’ll do just fine!
  3. Commitment to Grace Hill’s leadership, vision, mission and culture.  Church planting isn’t about you.  On the other hand, it is about creating a community that you’ll likely be a part of for a long time.  So, you need to buy into the leadership, vision, mission, and culture of the new plant.  Don’t go to be the dissenter who’s constantly trying to force change.  If you can’t enthusiastically embrace the leadership, vision, mission and culture of the plant, it’s going to be a bad experience for you and the rest of the team.
  4. Confirmation from Community Group Leaders or pastors.  Don’t make this decision on your own.  Talk to your Community Group Leaders, your close friends or one of our pastors.  We would be honored to pray with you, to process with you and speak into the decision any way we can.  Please, don’t walk this road alone. Lean into the blessing of community at Restoration City even as you’re praying about being sent to form a new community of faith.

Planting a church isn’t about your convenience.  It’s about God’s mission.  It’s one of the most thrilling things you’ll ever be a part of in this life.  I’m praying God will fill you with the courage to join in planting Grace Hill if that’s where He’s leading.  But I want you to go for the right reasons, with the right expectations.

To learn more about Grace Hill, click here.