The Heart Of Margin

Heart of margin

We’ve spent the last few weeks as a church talking about creating margin in our lives.  We did it because God didn’t create us to be stressed out, maxed out and on the road to being burnt out.  We also did it because mission requires margin.  Generosity requires financial margin.  Serving and investing in others requires margin in our schedules.  Staying healthy as we pour ourselves out for the good of others requires emotional and relational margin.  Where there’s no margin, there will be no mission.

Along the way, we’ve seen that margin is a heart issue well before it becomes a calendar, financial or relational issue. So, as we wrap up our focus on margin, I want to highlight the three heart issues we need to deal with in order to create margin in our lives.

Identity

We’ll never be able to create and defend margin if we allow the approval, opinions and expectations of others to form our identity.  If we’ve given people control over our identity and value, it’s no wonder we give them control over our schedules and spending.

As followers of Jesus, our identity doesn’t come from others or even from ourselves.  It comes from the One who loved us enough to die for us.  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.“(Gal. 2:20)  Those word were written by Paul but they’re every bit as applicable to us as Jesus followers today.  You are so loved that Jesus willingly died in your place on that cross.  He gave Himself up for us so that He never has to give up on us.  When we believe that, we become a new creation.  Christ Himself lives in us.  He’s our hope of glory, our source of strength and the One who calls us to a bold, beautiful life of freedom and faith.

You aren’t defined by other people’s hopes, dreams and expectations for you.  You’re defined by God’s work for you.

Intimacy

One of the biggest margin killers in our hearts in FOMO (fear of missing out).  We’re terrified we won’t get a date if we don’t go to the party; won’t get the promotion if we don’t go to the conference; won’t get the contract if we don’t take the call; won’t have any friends if we don’t go on the trip.  We say yes to everything because we’re terrified of the consequences of saying no.

But when you bring Jesus into the mix, FOMO loses its grip on our hearts.  “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.“(Ps. 84:11)  God withholds no good thing from His children when they allow Him to determine their path.

The question is whether or not we’re asking Jesus to determine our path for us.  This is where intimacy come in.  We know God has told us that apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5).  We usually take that to mean we can’t do the thing we’ve already decided to do without God’s help.  I’m learning more and more in my own life that it also means we shouldn’t do the deciding without God either.

Paul Tripp often talks about how the gospel shapes our lives “at street level” – meaning the seemingly small, mundane details of our lives.  I’m convinced this is one of the greatest secrets in creating and defending margin in our lives.  Prayerfully engaging Jesus in deciding how and where we spend our time gives us confidence that we’re not missing out.  When He tells us to say no, it’s for our good.  And when He tells us to say yes, it’s for our good.  No more FOMO.

Intentionality

Creating and defending margin isn’t easy.  It involves countless collisions between God’s plan for us and other people’s expectations of us.  In Mark 1, we see Jesus actively resisting the demands of His disciples and the residents of an entire city.  Margin doesn’t come easy.

And it doesn’t come without planning, without difficult conversations and without confronting our fears of missing out or disappointing others.  This is where intentionality comes in for us.

My goal in leading us through this series wasn’t just to get us all feeling bad about our lack of margin, or to get us talking more about margin or even to get us wanting more margin.  My prayer is that we will actually create more margin!  So, what decisions do you need to make?  Conversations do you need to have?  Emails do you need to send?

I so want us as a church to be healthy and to be deeply engaged in the mission of God.  Both require margin.  For your sake and for the sake of a city desperate for the hope of Jesus, do the heart work necessary to create the margin that mission requires.

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?

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.

Church: Margin Maker or Margin Killer?

My last post was on the necessity of margin for mission. Not surprisingly, it got a lot of traction. I don’t think that’s because it was particularly insightful, well written or clever. It’s because we’re all a bunch of stressed out, overscheduled, busy people! And we’re all looking for something to make it better.

As a Christian, I believe that answer is ultimately found in Jesus and His gospel. I also believe following Jesus and being committed to a local church are inseparable. If you add all of that up, it should mean that a dynamic relationship with Jesus and participation in a local church increases the margin in our lives.

The problem is that most churches are margin killers, not margin makers.

Sometimes it feels like church leaders are determined to come up with so many programs, classes, conferences, meetings, trainings, discussions, forums, retreats, seminars, workshops and breakfasts that any possible white space on our calendars is obliterated. Of course, we still haven’t accounted for the sports leagues with other churches or the special Christian aerobics classes. Don’t forget about small groups, those are essential. By the way, only people who hate Jesus refuse to serve in the kids ministry. You also need to go on a missions trip. And, above all else, come on Sunday…and bring a friend!

The problem is we don’t have any friends to bring because we’re so busy doing church things that we haven’t developed an outside friendship in years. Margin killing churches are ultimately mission killing churches.

At Restoration City, we’re trying to be a margin making church. Here’s what that means:

• A simple process for discipleship. We don’t ask people to do much but the stuff we do ask is really important. To grow in a relationship with Jesus, we need to come to church on Sunday, join a community group and serve somewhere.

• A willingness to say no. Our commitment to our discipleship process forces us to say no to a lot of other good things. Margin gets killed one good thing at a time.

• A commitment to champion margin. Christians tend to feel guilty when they aren’t busy. American Christians are the worst. The gospel frees us from all of that and calls us to a life with margin.

I’m not saying we do this perfectly as a church. But I want to put the target on the wall as clearly as I can. We want to be a margin making church, not a margin killing church.

Mission Requires Margin

Over the weekend, I did a little gardening at our new house in DC. By the way, when I say gardening, you should be thinking more “hacking my way through a rainforest” and less “planting nice little flowers.” I’m not 100% sure anyone has done anything remotely resembling yard work at this house for a decade or more. I was ripping out weeds, slashing back over grown bushes and doing anything else that would make my allergies go crazy.

Then this morning, I realized I need to do the same thing with my calendar. It’s gotten a little overgrown and could use some pruning. Too many meetings, too many commitments, too much wasted time and too many obligations that aren’t serving our church or my family well. For the record, I do realize I just compared people to weeds and that’s where my little analogy gets me in trouble. I know everyone on my calendar is immensely valuable in God’s eyes and I’m called to love them. But I also know I’m not loving anyone well by letting myself get overwhelmed or depleted.

Personal sanity and health would be enough of a reason to get control of our calendars. But for those of us who follow Jesus, there’s something even more significant at stake. We’re called to a life of mission – a life of loving service to others and a life of sharing the gospel that transformed us. But that kind of mission requires margin. For many of us, the greatest obstacle to getting to know our neighbors, to interacting with co-workers outside of the office and to meeting people at the local coffee shop is time. If we’re honest, we don’t have time to be used by God. And that’s a really big problem.

At Restoration City, we’re passionate about being a community on mission. We exist for the good of our city and the benefit of people who don’t go to our church. We live to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”(1 Peter 2:9) So, when we don’t have time to do the thing God saved us to do, something needs to change. How overgrown is your calendar right now? My guess is there are meetings you don’t really need to attend. My guess is there are chunks of time that are being totally wasted – watching reality tv while sort of answering emails on your phone. There are requests we need to say no to so we can say yes to the things God is asking us to do.

My simple encouragement to all of us today is to take a hard look at our calendars and make the changes we need to create margin. You’ll be happier and more fruitful if you do.