The Prison Of Passivity

Rearview Mirror

First of all, hi!  I know it’s been a while since I last posted and it would feel really weird to jump right back in without acknowledging that it’s been a couple of months.  I’ll post more about why I took the break and how God’s used it later but, for today, I just want to say I’ve missed this chance to connect with our church and am looking forward to posting more regularly.

If nothing else, this blog provides a convenient format for me to Monday morning quarterback my own sermons, which I feel the need to do today.  All last week, I had been so excited to preach yesterday’s message, “The Prison Of Passivity” but as I was driving home, I found myself concerned that I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.

I definitely wanted to shake all of us, myself included, out of the rut of passivity.  I just hope I did that in a way that built on the unshakeable foundation of God’s grace.  It’s grace that saves us, sustains us, provides for us, guides us, and transforms us.  If you take grace out of the equation, you no longer have Christianity.  Everything in our lives flows from the fountain of grace.

But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  It empowers it.  And I think that’s where we tend to get confused, justify our apathy, and spiritualize our innate laziness or passivity.  As I said yesterday, what we see as grace in the rearview mirror of life always looks like effort through the windshield.  I fear that we’ve lost sight of that reality.

Yes, God parts the Red Sea.  But we still have to walk through it.  Yes, no one can come to the Son unless the Father draws them.  But God makes His appeal through our lives and our words.  Yes, it’s love for Christ that motivates us to spend time with him in the early morning hours of the day.  But it takes an alarm clock to make it happen.  Yes, any professional success we have is attributable to God’s grace.  But it’s also going to take a lot of hard work.

I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Levi Lusko on the treadmill this morning and heard him say, “If you see someone on the top of a mountain, you know he didn’t fall there.”  There was a long, hard climb to get there.  Jesus rarely offers a ski lift to the top.  He’s far more likely to empower us for the hike.

Praise God for grace.  We would be no where without it.  But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  We want to be a people who see holiness and hustle as two sides of the same coin, not competing values.

So, whatever you’re up to today, “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).  Don’t live today locked in the prison of passivity.  Grace has freed you from that!

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.

Rest For The Powerless

sleep

Little kids and sleep is a really tricky combination.  There are times when I fight like crazy to keep them awake so I won’t have to fight like crazy to make them go to bed that night.  There are nights when they just pass out in my arms and there are nights when the whole bedtime routine is an exhausting battle of wits and wills.  From what I can tell, most parents who boast about how great their kids sleep are lying…the bags under your eyes and venti coffee in your hand is what gives it away, in case you’re wondering!

Yet, there’s something about little kids sleeping that is so captivating to our adult minds and souls.  It’s not what keeps them up at night.  It’s what doesn’t keep them up at night…stress and worry.  Our amazement is compounded by how truly powerless they are.  There they lay, no ability to take care of themselves, no clue what tomorrow will bring, no control over even the smallest aspect of their days.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

We, on the other hand, are experts at laying awake.  The more powerless we feel, the more sleep we lose.  And let’s be honest, there are a lot of situations in our lives that make us feel powerless: our health, a wayward child, the status of a relationship.  All to often, we feel powerless at work, powerless over our future, even powerless over the direction our country is taking.  Power feels like it belongs to someone else – teachers, professors, bosses, shareholders, politicians, whoever…just not us.

If you’re tracking with me, I want you to know there’s hope.  It comes from a Persian King named Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.  We’ve been talking a lot about him at Restoration City the last couple of weeks and he’s helping me sleep better.  In the world’s eyes, Ahasuerus was a really big deal.  He ran the Persian Empire, which stretched from Ethiopia to India in those days.  The whole thing was massive – 127 provinces worth of massive.  And Ahasuerus was a fool.  This political giant was comically inept.  He enters the story as a drunken mess and things only get worse from there.  The man can’t make a decision to save his life, even when it comes to his own family.  He gets suckered into exterminating the Jews for a cheap bribe and then changes his mind because of two good meals and the possibility of sex.  Yes, he takes out a guy who seems to be threatening his wife but even that feels more like “don’t play with my toys” than “I’ll fight for her honor.”  The guy is a clown.  Yet, God uses him for his purposes.

There are some obvious parallels to our world (insert Election 2016 commentary on comically inept political giants).  But that isn’t the only link.  It also has to do with our jobs, our relationships and our finances.  It has to do with the powerless places in our lives.  The places that keep us up at night with stress and worry.

The Bible doesn’t try to talk us out of that feeling of powerlessness.  In fact, the Bible helps us see that we’re all more powerless than we imagined.  But it does hold out the promise that all of life is playing out under the watchful eye of the Almighty.  God was working through the King of Persia to accomplish His will.  Guess what?  He’s doing the same thing through your boss/landlord/professor.  Yes, even the clueless one who seems intent on doing you harm.

We lay awake at night because we’re terrified we don’t have what it takes.  Yet, our kids sleep just fine knowing they don’t have what it takes.  Their hope and security is in the power of another.  So is ours.  His name is Jesus and He holds everything together by the power of His will.  Nothing can separate you from His love.  He holds the world in His hands and He’s moving His plans and purposes forward.  Trust Him.  He won’t let you down.  And He just might help you sleep through the night.

Riding The Bus To Preach

IMG_2690I ride the bus to church every Sunday and absolutely love it.  As strange as it may sound, it’s become a small but significant part of my sermon prep.  Those ten minutes on the bus remind me of my goal for the morning: to show people how the eternal truths of God’s Word transform our day to day lives in such a way that we are inspired to worship Jesus.

A sermon is so much more than a Bible study.  It can’t ever be less but it should be so much more.  The call of the preacher isn’t simply to present accurate information about the Bible or God.  It’s not enough to say, “here’s what this passage means.”  Don’t get me wrong (or call me a heretic), that foundation is indispensable.

But as preachers we must build two more layers on that foundation: application and worship.  Show people how the glorious truths of the Bible cause them to live with more joy on a Monday afternoon.  Show people how the gospel gives hope even when hospice has been called.  Show people how Jesus wants to use them in His plan to redeem and restore the world while they work as a cashier in a retail store.  And do it all in a way that makes Jesus, not us, the center and hero of the story.  The goal of a sermon isn’t life management tips.  It’s worship.  It’s people walking out so enthralled by Jesus, the simple beauty of the gospel and the hope we have that everything changes for them.

So, I love my friends on the bus.  They’re often tired, coming off the night shift or heading in to work the weekend.  Sometimes they’re headed to the airport.  Sometimes they’re brimming with hope but oftentimes they’re in need of hope.  They’re living life to the best of their ability.  Probably not doing as well as they would like or as bad as they fear.  And Jesus has something for each of them.

The great privilege of a preacher is connecting God’s Word to our world.

Restoration City Church Sermon Podcast Is LIVE

We’ve officially launched the Restoration City Podcast!  You can search for it in iTunes or just follow this link.  I’m so grateful to the team of people that has worked to make this happen – Ben, Tyler and Dan, you guys are the best!  This is a huge win for us as a church for two reasons:

1.  When people are looking for a church, they want to know what’s being preached.  A sermon gives people a really clear sense of our doctrine and our culture as a church.  So, use this as a tool to tell friends about Restoration City Church.

2.  It enables you to catch up when you miss a Sunday.  That’s a really big deal in general but specifically for our amazing RCCKids volunteers.  We have a group of people who give up being in our gathering on a Sunday morning to serve our kids and this podcast means they can still track along with the sermon.

Right now, we have two old messages posted.  The message from last Sunday will be up over the weekend and then we’ll get in the habit of posting weekly.

Praying this resource serves our church and city well.