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.

 

 

 

Intentional In The Ordinary

Clock

We all want to live an extraordinary life.  I know I do and I know there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I’m certain that longing deep inside each of our souls is part of God’s fingerprints on our lives.  He’s the One who put that yearning deep inside each one of us – to make life count, to do significant things, to rise above pointless mediocrity.

But a lot of times we go about it all wrong.  We dream about the heroic moments.  The major decision.  The captivating sermon.  The bold new initiative.  The defining conversation.  While there’s nothing wrong with those things and I do believe we’ll each face a few of those moments in our lives, it’s the wrong focus.

Most of our lives are very ordinary.  Get up, spend time with God, workout, go to work, come home, put the kids to bed, pass out in exhaustion.  And repeat the next day.  Meetings, travel, commutes, groceries, phone calls, emails, trips to the dentist, and reports.  It all stacks up and it all feels so dull.  So boring.  So ordinary.

But I’m convinced that the secret to an extraordinary life is being intentional in the ordinary.  It’s the decision not to coast through Tuesday.  It’s the decision to be fully present, to work as unto the Lord, to love with our whole heart and to give it all we’ve got.  No one’s going to ask you to make the heroic decision if you duck the ordinary ones.  You’ll never be asked to lead until you figure out how to follow.  Nobody’s ever said, “Hey, that guy never takes on any added responsibility, let’s put him in charge of the new initiative.”  Extraordinary moments seem to find those who are intentional in the ordinary.

Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be intentional.  Not tomorrow.  But today.  In the sea of meetings, tasks and texts.  Be intentional.  Move the ball forward.  Do your best.  Lean into the power God offers.

Don’t stop reaching but do stop neglecting what’s right in front of you.

Family Meeting

Family Meeting

Every once in a while, Laura and I stumble into something that ends up being a tremendous blessing to our marriage.  As boring as it sounds, a weekly “family meeting” is one of those things.  For the record, the boys don’t participate!  But we both do and we’ve come to see it as a hugely valuable part of our week.

To be honest, we see the value so clearly because of the years of marriage we had without this kind of regular touch point.  We were chronically over scheduled, setting up conflicting meetings or not having enough time for ourselves.  There were times when Laura felt like she really didn’t know where we were financially because I do the majority of that work around the house.  It never felt like we had space to discuss major decisions – and, no, trying to work everything out in a series of texts throughout the day doesn’t count as “discussing.”  It was a recipe for frustration.  Even worse, those conversations would often spill into “date night.”  So, what should have been a fun, romantic chance to connect turned into a planning meeting!  Not cool.

In an attempt to regain control of our lives, work more as a team and help each other make better decisions, we started setting aside one hour a week to sit down in the evening after the boys are asleep (well, at least in bed!) and plan out our lives.  We pray together and then we hit on three major points:

  • Our finances.  This is usually just a quick update.  But it’s also a place to discuss unexpected expenses, larger purchases or adjusting our budget.
  • Our schedules.  This is the main event.  We’re constantly working to protect white space, to ask ourselves if we’re living out our priorities and setting realistic expectations for our week.  We both have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew – this is a little forced accountability.
  • Other decisions.  This could be anything from finding a pre-school for Jack, to thinking about a vacation, to checking in on how the other is doing spiritually.

I know many of us have an instinctively negative reaction to meetings.  You do your best to avoid them at work and now I’m trying to get you to add one into your home!  I get it.  That’s how I felt for a really long time.  But, the cost of not having this kind of regular check-in is so high in terms of wasted time, energy and emotion.  If nothing else, try this for a month and see how it goes.  My guess is it’ll become a regular part of your week and marriage.

Breathe – Starting This Sunday At Restoration City

Breathe 1

I absolutely can’t wait to start our new series, Breathe, at Restoration City this Sunday.  We’re talking about the three things that seem to create the most anxiety in our lives – time, money and the future.  I’m trusting God to use these three weeks in massive ways in the life of our church.  We’re doing this series for two reasons:

1.  We Need It As A Church.

I feel like there are a lot of us burning the candle at both ends, running on empty and not experiencing the fullness of joy Christ promises because we’re spending so much time worrying and filling up our lives with things that don’t really matter.  My biggest prayer for this series is that we would all have room in our lives to say “yes” to the things God is putting in front of us in 2015.  This series is a chance for all of us to make sure we don’t miss out on everything God wants to do in our lives this year.

2.  Your Friends Need It.

This series is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to invite people to church.  Yes, we want every Sunday to be welcoming and accessible for people who are new to church and Jesus.  But there are a couple of times every year when we want to be especially intentional about that – new years is one of them!  So, don’t just plan to be at church this Sunday.  Pray about who should be there with you…and then invite them!  Would love for this to be a month of us welcoming new friends into the Restoration City family.

If we all rally around this series, it could be a game changer for our church.  Don’t miss out on Breathe!