Four Truths About Money I Wish I Had Known In My 20’s

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I loved speaking on the need to create financial margin this past Sunday at Restoration City.  If the overall premise of this “margin” series is that mission requires margin, then the premise of this past Sunday’s message was that generosity requires financial margin.  That’s such an important thought for our entire church to latch onto as we pursue God’s mission for us as a church.  And, I believe, it’s an especially important thought for our 20-somethings to latch onto even though you’re young and poor.

The financial decisions you make in your 20’s will create a trajectory that will shape your 30’s, your 40’s and, in some cases, the rest of your life.  Here’s why this is such a big deal for me: I made the worst financial decisions of my life when I was in my 20’s.  And I don’t want you to go down that road.

So, let me give you four truths about money that I wish I had learned at 22:

 I’m Not Going To Have My Parent’s Lifestyle

At least not yet.  Yes, Mom and Dad may eat out regularly, drive nice cars, take great trips and live in a great house.  You know the main difference between them and you?  Roughly 30 years of working, saving and investing!  But when we’re in high school and college, we get to draft of their lifestyle – their house is our house, their vacation is our vacation and their income establishes our lifestyle.  But then we’re out on our own, just with less income.  Guess what?  That’s how it’s supposed to be!  The problem comes when we don’t adjust our lifestyle.  Debt comes when we think we’re entitled to eating out a few times a week, going to Europe once a year and living in a place with granite counter tops.  Your 20’s aren’t a time to keep up with your parents in their 50’s.  They’re a time to do in your 20’s what your parents did in theirs – live simply, eat inexpensively and save!

The More I Save Now, The More Options I’ll Have Later

I don’t know why I couldn’t quite figure out that 35 year old John would end up needing some of the money that 25 year old John was busy spending.  But, as it turns out, all of those things you dream of in life are rather expensive – weddings, honeymoons, houses, kids, they all add up.  No, I’m not suggesting you become a Scrooge-like hoarder.  But the less you spend now, the less you’ll stress later.

If I Need To Spend Money To Impress Them, They Aren’t Really My Friends

Don’t blow a lot of money trying to keep up with people you won’t even be in touch with in 10 years.  It’s okay to say no – to dinner at Chipotle, spring break in Cabo or happy hour.  If they have a problem with that, they don’t really like you; you’re an accessory to their insecurity and lifestyle.  Spend time with people you’ll be able to rely on when life gets hard.

Generosity Is About My Heart, Not My Income

You aren’t going to magically start giving money to your church, a charity or a missionary when you start making $75k a year.  In fact, how generous you are when you make $35k is a pretty good indicator of what’ll happen at $75k.  The issue isn’t your bank account – it’s your heart.  No, you may not be able to give much now but the amount is no where near as important as the intent.  So, find something you care about and start giving regularly to support it, even if it’s only $5 a month.

Don’t spend your 20’s killing financial margin.  Spend your 20’s cultivating it.  You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Hang In There

Hang In ThereIt’s been an incredible gift for Laura and I (and Emma!) to spend the last two days at The Summit Network Pastors Retreat in Raleigh-Durham, NC.  We’ve been able to connect with old friends, meet new church planters in the network and have a great time celebrating all God is doing through this network of churches.  But, more than all of that, it’s been an incredible celebration of God’s faithfulness.

I can’t begin to count the number of times Laura or I has used the phrase, “Can you believe it was only 3/4 years ago that…”  And then we end the sentence with something that now feels like it happened a lifetime ago.  Three years ago, we still lived in Raleigh-Durham and were getting ready to move back to DC to see what God wanted to do through Restoration City.  Jack was only 15 months old.  We knew God had called us to Restoration City but had no idea what that would look like.  Honestly, we were incredibly excited and incredibly scared!

But, in a lot of ways, it’s four years ago that’s been on my mind a lot these last few days.  Four years ago, I knew I was called to plant a church but worked for a pastor that was vehemently opposed to church planting.  I was watching a college ministry I had built from the ground up retreat from the campuses of our city and close its doors.  I wasn’t teaching or preaching at all.  Life was nothing but uncertainty and I had a wife and 3 month old son to care for and lead.  Those were the darkest days of my walk with Jesus.  I was tempted to give up on the church, on ministry and on myself.  I was tired, frustrated and felt terribly alone.

Maybe you’re in a similar spot right now.  Nothing’s working.  Everything’s crumbling. Uncertainty and fear seem to be the only constant.  Hope seems so illusive and it would be so easy to give up on ever finding it again.  If that’s you, I get it.  I’ve been there.

And I wrote this whole post to say one thing to you: Don’t give up because God hasn’t given up on you!

He will be your “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” while He carries you through this storm.  I promise you, His grace really is sufficient.  He hasn’t let go of you, abandoned you or turned His face from you.  Maybe He’s discipling you.  Maybe He’s testing you.  He’s certainly molding you, shaping you, preparing you.  And He promises He’s fighting for you.

While Laura and I were praying, God was working to connect me to The Summit Network through a friend.  I called him in desperation one day which prompted him to have a conversation with the Summit guys about where I felt God was leading me.  And then I got a call from Summit asking me to come to RDU to spend a year with an incredible church, raise up a team and head back to DC to plant Restoration City.  I never say any of it coming and never orchestrated a bit of it.  But God did.

In all of the uncertainty, He was working.  Lining up.  Getting things ready.

And I believe He’ll do the same in your life.  Don’t you dare give up.  God didn’t give you your dream just to taunt you with it. He’s placed hopes, desires and passions inside your soul because He wants to bring them to life.  None of it may make sense to you right now but that doesn’t mean He isn’t working.

Hang in there.  Trust.  Believe.  Pray.

RCC Membership Renewal

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I love the season we’re in as a church.  As I shared in the sermon this past Sunday, we’re asking all of our members to enter into a really simple but really significant membership renewal process over the next few weeks.

When I say simple, I mean all we’re asking you to do is let us know you want to continue as a member, update your contact information, reaffirm the commitments you made when you became a member and let us know if you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss with our staff or elders.  That’s it.  The whole thing will take you less than five minutes to do online; just click here.

Let me also tell you why I think it’s significant:

  1. Ensures Our Membership Rolls Are Accurate.  As our church continues to grow and we add more members, communicating well within the church requires more and more intentionality.  It’s honestly one of the bigger challenges we have, so it’s not a small thing for us to make sure we have an accurate phone number, email address and mailing address for you.  We also want to make sure we’re updating our membership records to reflect people who have moved out of the area or started attending another church.  We don’t want to be the church that proudly reports 2,000 members but has less than 100 people showing up on a Sunday morning!  Membership renewal helps us avoid that trap.  We want to have an accurate sense of who’s really with us as a church.
  2. Reminds Us That Membership Matters.  I meet a lot of Christians today who dismiss church membership as an unhelpful relic of the past.  Maybe that’s true if you look at membership as a formal promise that you won’t even think about attending another church, even if ours is really bad and a really awesome one moves in right down the road.  Church membership isn’t about trapping you.  It’s about discipling you within a local church.
  3. Prompts Reflection On The Commitments We’ve Made To Each Other.  This is what church membership is really about – the commitments we’ve made to one another.  For us at Restoration City, our members make 9 commitments to one another; they’re the commitments that create our culture, define expectations and keep us healthy as a spiritual family.  More than anything, my prayer for this membership renewal process is that it will be a catalyst for self reflection.  It’s a chance to step back and ask ourselves how much those commitments are shaping our lives, make any needed course corrections and move forward as a unified body.  It’s about resyncing us with what we’ve already committed.
  4. Creates An Additional Touchpoint For Pastoral Care.  No, I don’t think a web form is pastoral care.  But I do think it can become a prompt for it.  Please, use the comments and prayer requests sections of the form.  Our staff and elders would be honored to pray for you and we want to hear from you.  If you have questions, concerns or suggestions about the church, let us know.  We want your input and would be happy to talk more in person or over the phone.

So, if you haven’t done so already, please complete your renewal process today.

If you’re not yet a member of Restoration City but would like to become one, please plan to join us for our next New Members Class on Sunday, June 4th right after church.  You can get more information and sign up here.

I’m really grateful for all God is doing in this season to strengthen and unify us as a church.

RestoreDC Recap

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Our family had the best time this past Saturday as we joined with this incredible group of people to work a yard sale at Community Lodgings, one of nine RestoreDC partners throughout the city.  We were able to raise some money for the great work Community Lodgings does in transitioning families from homelessness to self-sufficiency and we were able help resident in the Chirilagua neighborhood get some much needed household items at great prices.  I loved knowing similar things were happening at 8 other partners around the city.  All together over a hundred people from Restoration City covered over 165 shifts from Thursday evening – Sunday afternoon.

Whenever we go into one of our RestoreDC weekends, I’m reminded of two passages in Isaiah that capture so much of what we’re asking God to do.  Isaiah 58:12 says, “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”  And Isaiah 61:4 goes on to say, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”  Oh, how I long for us to be the restorers of this city.  How I long for us to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness.  How I long for our church to have an undeniably positive impact on the community around us….to be a beacon of hope and an unpost of freedom for those who need it.   And I pray we do it all in a way that glorifies God, not ourselves.  Matthew 5:16 makes it really clear that we should serve in such a way that God gets all the credit, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

When our hearts beat for the restoration of this city and for the glory of God, we won’t be content with just doing RestoreDC two weekends a year.  That’s our deepest desire for RestoreDC – that it will be a catalyst to ongoing service throughout the year.  So, if you’re wondering what to do now that RestoreDC is over, the answer is simple.  Go to our website and get information about our external partners, see what their needs are and get involved!

I love the desire for restoration that underlies everything we do at Restoration City.  I’m praying we will all embody this more and more by the grace of God.

Margin: Recommended Resources

Margin Resources

I love the amount of discussion our current series on margin is stirring up within Restoration City.  If you’re looking for additional resources on creating margin in your schedule, here are some of the titles that have influenced me over the years, with a link to Amazon if that’s where you buy books:

The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst.  The title of this book has become a phrase around our house.  Hardly a day goes by without Laura or I saying, “What’ the best yes for our family?”

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung.  Really short, really practical and really grounded in the gospel.

Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown.  Not written from a Christian perspective but filled with so much wisdom.  It’s one of the most formative books I’ve read in the last 4 years.

Margin, Richard Swenson.  A little technical and slow at points but still stands out as one of the Christian classics on the topic of margin.

What’s Best Next, Matt Perman.  By far the most theologically dense and helpful book on productivity I’ve ever read.  If you think all of this margin stuff doesn’t connect to the gospel, this book will convince you otherwise.

I’ll post similar resource recommendations for the upcoming weeks when we talk about margin in our finances and relationships.

 

 

 

Does Margin Matter?

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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.