Does Margin Matter?

Margin

Last Sunday we launched a new series at Restoration City called “Margin”.  It’s a series about creating space between our limits and our load.  It’s about having a little something left in the tank at the end of the day financially, emotionally and in our calendars.  It’s about not being maxed out, stressed out and on the road to being burnt out.  

It’s a series we desperately need as a church.  And it’s a series that’s intentionally counter cultural.  Washington, DC isn’t known for cultivating margin; it’s known for devouring it.  And Restoration City seems to attract people who go pretty hard at life – we want to get the most out of every day and we want to make our lives count as much as possible for the glory of God.  So, I’m not surprised that some of us are struggling with whether or not we should even be worried about creating margin.

If you’re not sure why this whole margin thing matters, let me give you five reasons:

  1. Obedience.  I tried to make this case out of Leviticus 19 last Sunday.  Even if you found that less than compelling, we all need to wrestle with why God would have made honoring the Sabbath the 3rd commandment.  I know a lot of Christians who like to answer that we’re no longer under law but under grace (true) and that Sabbath doesn’t apply today (less true).  But, even if that is true, it still begs the question of why God included taking a day off on a short list of things that tell us how humans are designed to function.  At least when it comes to time, we need to consider to what extent margin is purely an obedience issue.
  2. Promised Blessing.  This is where I was going with Deuteronomy 24:19, “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”  God seems to be very clear in His Word that when we trust Him enough to create margin, he does more with our time, money and relationships that we ever could if we tried to max ourselves out.
  3. Health.  Truth be told, I thought margin was for wimps when I was in my 20’s.  It was the kind of silliness that people with nothing to do came up with to justify their laziness.  I was wrong.  And I started to pay for it in my 30’s.  I didn’t make time for the gym, so my energy levels suffered.  I had run so hard for so long, that I was losing my joy.  I hadn’t saved as much as I should have and I was way more tired at 30 than I should have been.  Something had to change – and adding margin to life was that something.
  4. Mission.  When I say mission, I don’t just mean trips, defined serving opportunities or leadership roles in the church.  I mean personally building relationships with non-Christians, sharing the gospel with them and celebrating their baptisms.  When people push back on margin, I often ask them how many people they lead to faith last year.  When that gets awkward, I ease up and ask how many non-Christian friends they have and are investing in.  It’s usually in that 2nd round of awkwardness that people feel the need to create some margin for the sake of the gospel!
  5. Gospel.  Creating and defending margin in our lives is both a response to and a reminder of the gospel on a daily basis.  It’s a reminder that our hope in life is not in our effort, but in God’s grace.  Jesus isn’t calling us to build a life on our sufficiency but on his.  Unscheduled time, uncommitted dollars and meaningful relationships are both the reward of a life that trusts in Jesus and a reminder to trust in Jesus.  Margin is about gospel consciousness.

Margin isn’t about being a lazy slug.  It’s about working really hard on things that really matter in a way that shows that Christ really is our hope.  That’s what I want for you, for our church and for my life.

See you on Sunday….we’ll be talking about time!  You won’t want to miss it!

New Series: margin.

margin_right-page-001We’re going to be taking a break from Boundless for the next couple of weeks as we start a new series of messages at Restoration City Church.  I honestly believe it’s one of the most important series we’ve ever done as a church.  We’re going to deal head on with one of the greatest joy killers in our lives – a total and complete lack of margin.

Dr. Richard Swenson defines margin as “the space between our load and our limits.”  For way to many of us, that space is nonexistent – we operate at our limits every single day.  Our calendars, our checkbooks, and our emotional capacity is maxed out.  We just don’t have anything left in the tank, yet alone in reserve.  If many of us are honest, we’ll admit that we’re carrying a load that actually exceeds our limits.  We’re running at 110% of capacity but justifying it under the guise of “it’s only for a season.”

That’s just not the way God designed us to live.  The Author of Life tells us that we work best when we build margin into all of the areas of our lives.  It’s one of those truths in the Bible that we all agree with but all struggle to live out.  That’s what this series is for – helping us deal with the heart issues that rob our lives of margin.  I’m not going to waste your time with a feel good, gospel free pep rally for a calmer life.  We’re going to explore how the gospel demands and empowers margin in multiple areas of our lives.

As your pastor, I’m asking you to prioritize these next few Sundays.  This is a conversation we need to have as a church.  It’s also a fantastic time to invite non-Christians to join us on Sunday mornings.  I’m praying we’ll all find the next few weeks helpful, challenging and inspiring.

Why I Keep Talking About Refugees

refugees

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken, written and posted a good deal about refugees.  Although this is not a new topic for me or Restoration City (we had a senior leader from World Relief speak on a Sunday morning at our church last May), I’ve given it more emphasis in the last two weeks in light of President Trump’s now famous Executive Order.  I know my comments have alternately surprised, angered and thrilled various members of our congregation.  In light of that, I thought it would be helpful for me to share my three goals in raising this issue:

Goal #1: Clarify The Teaching Of Scripture

The primary way I serve our church is by teaching God’s Word.  In my experience, many Christians are not familiar with passages like Matthew 25, Exodus 22 or many others that make it clear that we as the church have an obligation to care for the refugees in our city.  No, those passages say nothing about the government’s role in establishing laws that keep us safe as a country and how we balance compassion with security.  But they make it explicit that when refugees are admitted to our country, we have an obligation to care for them.  Turning our backs on refugees already in our country is quite literally turning our backs on Jesus.  I feel obligated to make this point as clearly as possible.

Goal #2: Challenge Our Thinking

The real conversation over the last two weeks hasn’t been about us caring for refugees when they’re here.  It’s been about whether or not we should suspend (for 120 days or indefinitely) portions of our national refugee resettlement efforts.  I understand that’s a different question than how the church cares for refugees once they’re in our country.  That’s why my goal has been to challenge our thinking, not tell us how to think.

As thoughtful followers of Jesus, we all wrestle with how our biblical and moral convictions shape our approach to public policy and to politics.  That’s the way it should be!  We need to think through how the clear teachings of the Bible influence our participation in the public square on places wherever the Bible is clear – life beginning at conception, marriage being a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, the moral evil of human trafficking, the need for racial reconciliation and a command to care for the least of these (the poor, the oppressed and the refugee).  To be clear, I don’t think it’s my job as a pastor to connect those dots for you.  But it is my job to raise the question, to suggest that societies flourish most when aligned with God’s design and to argue for a consistent framework as we all wrestle through those questions.  In other words, the way you think about abortion and refugees should both be influenced by the Scriptures and should be influenced consistently.

Goal #3: Build Bridges

I do believe the national conversation about refugees gives us an opportunity to reach out productively to many who are not followers of Jesus.  Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of our church who recounted a conversation she had with a friend earlier in the day.  They were talking about refugees and the friend, who is not a Christian, asked with a great deal of challenge in her tone, “So, did your church say anything about this today?”  She was stunned to hear the answer was yes and it made her slightly more open to Jesus.  That’s a win in my book!  All too often, people assume the church and the religious, political right are the same thing.  Not true.  As I’ve said before, if your God fits perfectly into any political party, He’s too small and His name isn’t Jesus.  The broader culture in our city knows theologically conservative churches oppose abortion and defend a biblical view of marriage.  I want to make sure they’re equally clear that we stand with the poor, the vulnerable and the oppressed, including lawfully admitted refugees.

At the end of the day, we aren’t a political advocacy church.  I’m not preaching about the 9th Circuit’s ruling on Sunday.  I’m preaching on Acts 3:1-10 and the foundational rhythms of a life on mission.  We’re about Jesus, Community and Restoration.  But when the culture is talking about something the Bible speaks to, I would rather lean in than pull back.

Boundless Committments

boundless-mountains

We’re only a few weeks into our series in the Book of Acts and God is already doing some incredible things.  I know He’s been stirring a lot up in my heart and I trust He’s doing the same in yours.

This coming weekend, we’ll be celebrating the baptism of two incredible members of our community who are now walking with Jesus.  We’ll also be celebrating the results of the Boundless cards so many of you filled out in the last two weeks.  If you haven’t yet completed a Boundless card, you can still bring one back this weekend.  But, here’s how you’ve responded so far:

  • 84 people or couples have returned a card
  • 68 cards indicated a commitment to stay in town for Easter
  • 71 people committed to at least one RestoreDC shift
  • 40 people indicated interest in one of our three international mission trips
  • Each of our local partners received a list of potential new volunteers ranging from 3-21 people

This is amazing, Restoration City!  I’m so moved by your commitment to the mission of God and I pray for all He will do as we continue to seek Him as a community.

See you on Sunday!

This Christmas: I Could…But Instead

christmas-generosity

One of the phrases that’s come to describe the culture of generosity the Lord is creating at Restoration City is, “I Could…But Instead.”  It’s a simple reminder that generosity is about forgoing one thing in favor of another.  It’s a simple refrain with enormous power to shape how we spend our time and money.

If you carry the thought one step deeper, it’s a embodiment of what generosity is:

Sacrificing

All too often we practice an “I Can…While Still” form of generosity where we figure out how much is left over after we’ve taken care of everything we want or need for ourselves.  That’s not generosity, it’s selfishness in disguise where the primary goal is maintaining our lifestyle, not the good of others or the glory of Christ.  Real generosity requires sacrifice.  It involves us consciously deciding not to do or buy things for ourselves so that we have space to do or buy for others.  The depth of our generosity isn’t measured by how much we give but rather how much we give up.  

Trading Off & Up

A lot of us get in trouble by forgetting that generosity is a zero sum game.  We become convinced that we can have and do it all, especially this time of year.  Christmas becomes the most stressful time of the year – perfect parties, gifts, cookies, family dinners, trees, cards and travel.  And then the church jumps into the mix to ask for your time and money.  And we say sure, flinging those commitments onto an already overtaxed calendar and stretched checkbook.  One of the hidden benefits of generosity is that it gives you motivation to say no to a lot of things.  When it comes to generosity, think trade off not adding more.

And think trade up.  Matthew 6:19-20, “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.”  

Generosity is a letting go of things that won’t matter a month from now in favor of things that will last for all eternity.

Reflecting The Gospel

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 is a stunning depiction of generosity from a 1st century church, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”  Paul didn’t browbeat this church into generosity or even tug on their heart strings with a tear jerking video.  No guilt.  No “if you really love Jesus, you’ll do this.”  Just a congregation begging earnestly for opportunities to give more.  How does that happen?

2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  When our hearts are captured by how much Jesus gave up for us, it becomes a joy to sacrifice for others.  The gospel ensures that the tradeoffs of generosity really feel like a trading up.  

That’s what an “I Could…But Instead” culture looks like.  It’s what I’m committed to personally and what I’m asking God to deepen at Restoration City.  If you’re looking for ways to serve or give this Christmas season, check out a full list of opportunities to trade up at restorationcity.church/christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving

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.