One Thing

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

I have come back to this passage over and over again as we press deeper into this period of social distancing. I keep coming back because I keep seeing so much of Martha in myself. Her issue isn’t that she’s working. That’s not what this passage is about at all. Martha’s problem is that she’s distracted, anxious, and troubled. That’s what Jesus points out. That’s what Jesus wants to lead her out of and it’s what He wants to lead us out of as well. I keep coming back because I need the daily reminder that the one thing we truly need is the one thing that can never be taken from us. I keep coming back to hear the voice of God, the voice that melts anxiety, fear, and distraction.

And I’m not the only one who needs to keep coming back to this truth. We all do. I read an article yesterday that told us that 43% of American adults say their emotional health has gotten worse over the past week. For what it’s worth, I also think that means 57% of survey respondent are either (a) way more spiritually mature than I am or (b) lying. You decide! But I don’t know anyone who isn’t feeling a little distracted these days. It’s where our hearts and minds naturally go during times of uncertainty and upheaval. And, now, we have 24/7 internet access to relentlessly fuel it all.

All of which means we need to cultivate rhythms that enable us to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His voice, even in the midst of a pandemic. He’s speaking through the miracle of His Word and the presence of His Spirit. He’s inviting us to believe that He’s real, to believe that He’s still good, and to believe that He’s still for us and not against us. He’s inviting us to make King David’s prayer our prayer during this time:

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul.

Psalm 86:11-13

Those rhythms are going to look a little different for each of us but here are a few that I’ve found helpful:

  • Getting up at the same time I always do to spend time with God in the quiet of the morning.
  • Only allowing myself to check the news and social media twice a day. For what it’s worth, this is the hardest one for me!
  • Pausing 2-3 times during the day to be still, to pray, and to read a short passage of Scripture.
  • Participating in our RCC Prayer Nights every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8PM.
  • Continuing to practice a weekly Sabbath.
  • Intentionally engaging with the sermon and other Sunday morning content we make available rather than having it play in the background while I multi-task.
  • Continuing to meet with my Community Group, just online.
  • Going to bed at the same time I always do so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, teach us to listen. Teach us to hear your voice. Teach us to enjoy Your presence. Help us step away from the chaos and to just be still.

All Together: RCC's Vision For Navigating Coronavirus

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”

Acts 2:1

Even though we can’t be together physically this morning, we can come together as a church around a common vision for these days. In this message, I lay out three anchors for us as a community of faith during these days.

Prayer Prompts

  • Pray that God would give parents an incredible sense of patience as they balance work, homeschooling, closed daycares, and all of the other responsibilities of life. (Colossians 1:9-12)
  • Pray for the most vulnerable in our communities, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Ask the Lord to protect them and empower them to make wise choices during this pandemic. (Psalm 91:1-6)
  • As Christians, we believe that Jesus has authority over the natural world. Luke 8:22-25 is only one example. Therefore, we should pray boldly, asking Him to slow the spread of this virus.

Discussion Questions

  • How have you seen God at work in your life over this past week?
  • What have you learned about the kind of rhythms you’re going need to stay healthy (physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually) during this time? What worked well for you last week? What didn’t
  • How worried are you about your job and financial well-being during this time?
  • Where do you see God opening doors for you to engage with others in sharing the gospel? What do you think your next steps could be?
  • How can I pray for you this week?

Other Important Resources

Coronavirus Traps To Avoid

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It was right around this time last week that news of Coronavirus started to dominate the national conversation. And then, last Thursday, life started to shift for all of us. Maybe it started to shift slowly at first but here we sit, nearly a week later, starting to realize just how much it really has shifted. We’re all feeling the impact of this virus, figuring out new rhythms, and wondering just how long this is all going to last.

For the first week, we talked a lot about not giving in to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

– 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)

We still need that reminder today. But as I pay attention to my own heart and what’s happening in the lives of people I love, I realize fear isn’t the only thing we need to fight in this moment. Here are four Coronavirus traps I’m working to avoid.

Trap #1: Obsession

My screen time report for this past week is going to be ugly!

I’ve spent way more time on news websites, blogs, and social media than I have in a really long time. Part of that is the desire to stay informed and part of that is the desire to connect with family, friends, and our church. And a lot of it is a way of wasting time and trying to cope with all of the uncertainty.

I’ll be honest. The roles that God has given me in life don’t require an hourly update on the latest Coronavirus statistics. Some of you have roles that do; thank you for serving us all. But most of us don’t. Staying informed is good. Obsessing isn’t.

Trap #2: Indifference

This Coronavirus thing is real and the more we sacrifice now, the faster things should get back to normal. “Stop being silly, wash your hands, and get on with life” just isn’t a good look right now. And, frankly, it’s an unacceptable look for followers of Jesus. We should be taking the lead in sacrificing for the most vulnerable, going out of our way to promote the common good, and following our leaders on the federal, state, and local levels.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB), emphasis added.

In this moment, love looks like social distancing.

Trap #3: Pride

For many of us, Coronavirus is impacting more than our schedules and travel plans. It’s impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health. And it’s impacting our jobs and our finances.

The simple reality is that a lot of us are going to need some help to make it through this. Not because we’ve been unwise or done anything wrong but because this is all so unprecedented.

So, if you need help, ask. Don’t let pride or shame stand in your way. You don’t need to do that to yourself or to your family.

At Restoration City, we’ll be sending out information on how to request assistance from our benevolence fund in our weekly email. But for now, just know you are not in this alone.

Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility.

Trap #4: Despair

Laura and I went for a walk with the kids this morning and we were talking about the need to both take this threat seriously and to remain confident that we’re going to get through this. Right now, we don’t know how long that’s going to take. But we are going to come out on the other side.

It feels like our country is coming together. Leaders are working together to solve problems. And we have a lot going for us. Many of us have the ability to have groceries and almost anything else we want delivered right to our doors. That was unheard of ten years ago. Or think about the regularly scheduled doctors appointment that I have tomorrow. We’re going to do it virtually. In fact, we’re finding out there’s a lot we can do online, including our Prayer Nights.

So, don’t give in to despair. Remember the words of the last song we sang together as a church before this all started:

Don’t let your heart be troubled

Hold your head up high

Don’t fear no evil

Fix your eyes on this one truth

God is madly in love with you

Take courage

Hold on

Be strong

Remember where our help comes from

– “Good Grace”, Hillsong United

We’re going to get through this. Who knows, we might even come out stronger on the other end.

A Call To Prayer

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

John Piper

If God is doing 10,000 things in our lives, imagine what He’s doing around the world. Even in these days of Coronavirus; especially in these days of Coronavirus. Clearly, we won’t know the full extent of what He’s doing until eternity. But one thing seems clear. He is stirring His people to pray.

As I have thought and prayed through where God is leading us as a church during these days, I have felt a clear leading to call us to consistent, specific, and corporate prayer. We need regular touch points with each other and we need regular rhythms of spending time with Jesus. As the people of God, we have a responsibility to be seeking Him on behalf of our city, our country, and our world. As Christ’s ambassadors in this world, we have an obligation to be opening our doors to our community, even when we can’t do so in person.

So, last night a group of us got together to pray online. A few of our leaders led the call but we were all able to participate or just sit back and be reminded that God is still in control. It ended up being a really powerful time. So, we’re going to do it again tonight at 8pm. Not only would I love to have you join us but I would also encourage you to invite others, whether they go to church or not and whether they believe in Jesus or not. We may not be able to gather physically but we can still come together spiritually.

You will find everything you need to join us at rcc.church/prayernight.

See you tonight!

RCC…In The Library

Restoration City Church | 06.30.19

Life as a portable church can get really interesting at times. Like when you get a call at the end of the day on Wednesday letting you know that all the AC in the middle school you meet in has been turned off for a system upgrade and no one knows how long all of this is going to take. That’s where we were this time last week. And then we found out on Thursday that the library had AC and decided to meet there as a stopgap while we got a better sense of what our overall plan was going to look like for the summer.

In all honesty, my prayer going into last Sunday was something along the lines of, “Dear God, please help this not be a total disaster!”

Which turns out to have been way too small of a prayer. Not only was Sunday not a disaster, it was a really good day in the life of Restoration City. Over the course of the morning, we started to realize we not only had a workable solution for as long as we are out of the theater (BTW, we will be adding more chairs this Sunday!) but also that God is using this season to do some pretty significant things in our church.

Here’s some of what I see Him doing and how I’m praying for this season:

Church is NOT an event we attend. It is a community we join.

We say that all the time but there’s something about breaking out of our normal routines that drives the point home. If nothing else, everyone walked into the library on Sunday without “their normal seat.” As a result, many of us, even those who have been attending RCC for a long time, met new people.

I’m praying that our temporary location makes us even more welcoming for new people and even more connected to each other as a community.

Worship is NOT something we listen to. It is something we participate in.

Standing really close to one another in a room filled with natural light really seemed to drive this home. There were so many moments on Sunday when I couldn’t tell who was louder – the band in front of me or the congregation behind me. As simple as it sounds, hearing one another sing is a massive spiritual encouragement.

I’m praying that our temporary location intensifies our expectation for and participation in corporate worship.

Adversity is NOT something we should fear. It is something God uses.

We aren’t shrinking back into survival mode for the summer. We’re trusting that God is going to do something incredible. He’s already doing that through the registration for our Summer Sessions and we’re trusting Him to add a significant number of new volunteers to our team through the Help Wanted initiative we’re going to be introducing this Sunday.

I’m praying that we add at least 25 new volunteers who are willing to serve regularly in one of our six internal team while we are meeting in a temporary location.

Ultimately, I’m praying we carry all of these things back to the theater with us when the AC upgrade in complete, whether that’s in 2 weeks or 2 months. God is doing some great things in our church right now and I’m so excited to see what He has in store for us this summer!

Once A Month Isn’t Enough

Last night I realized that Restoration City has only gathered 1 out of the last 4 Sundays. Between the changes to our schedule because of Christmas and then the snow, it’s been a pretty rough stretch for us. The irony of that is that I’ve been praying specifically that we would all renew our commitment to gathering on a Sunday morning in the New Year! Specifically, my prayers for us have been shaped by Psalm 92.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.

Psalm 92:12-13

When I read Psalm 92 over the Christmas break, it triggered something powerful in me. The psalmist paints such a beautiful picture of what we all want for our lives – to flourish and grow. Some of us are more familiar with the beauty of a palm tree swaying in an ocean breeze and some of us know just how massive a cedar tree is when it’s full grown. Either way, we want that kind of flourishing and growth in our lives.

And one of the ways that happens is by prioritizing time with the people of God in the house of God. As the psalmist says, we flourish when we are planted in the house of God. We were designed to live with a sense of rhythm and our souls need to gather corporately once a week to worship, to take communion, to soak in the Word of God, to be renewed in our faith, and to be strengthened for the challenges in the week to come.

I know there are plenty of good reasons why we can’t always gather with the church – illness and travel are the big two. But, apart from those, where does gathering with the people of God fall on your list of priorities? I can tell you based on the last month that gathering with the church 1/4 of the time is no where near enough for our souls. I’ve missed it and can’t wait to be back together this Sunday, Lord willing.

I’m not trying to guilt any one here. But I am willing to fight for our common flourishing. Don’t sporadically attend three different churches. Don’t go to church when you have nothing else to do. Don’t think a podcast is a good substitute. Don’t believe the lie that “you just need a week of.”

The Sundays when you’re most tempted to skip church are probably the ones you most need to be there and the ones that will nourish your soul the most. So, fight through it. Be planted in the house of the Lord!

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.

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.

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.