Becoming a trusted spouse.

couple laughing

After talking about 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 on Sunday, I received several questions that all began, ‘How?‘  How do I become a trusted spouse?  If I am not married, how do I find a trusted spouse?  How do I trust my spouse when they have not been trustworthy?

These are such good questions and they reveal such tender places from the one who is asking.  Fear, pain, hurt are regular companions in this life.  Trust is often a choice made ‘in spite of’ and not always ‘because of’.

Learning to trust God so that I can trust my spouse and be trustworthy is a life-long learning process.

So I’d like to offer a few thoughts about trusted spouses as we journey through this week.  Hope you can talk about them with your loved one and with your small group.

Build trust by voluntarily offering yourself.

  1. We would build trust emotionally by volunteering what is going on in our head and heart.  This takes intentionality as you re-enter from the day.  This takes ‘prior work’ to determine what we can volunteer.  You have to consider, ‘what am I feeling and thinking today?’  It is a risk to share a story or anecdote with your spouse.

    For married couples, one of the key friction points each day is moving from a state of being separate (geographically ‘at work’) and transitioning to a state of being together (geographically ‘at home’- for dinner, for the evening, for bed).  That transition requires excellent (your best!) communication.  One way to build trust is to offer as you enter in…  ‘This is what I have been thinking and feeling today.  This person or situation brought me joy or made me angry.  This is when I thought about you or missed you…’  Offering our ’emotional state’ by describing it with words and stories is way to build trust in that transition from separateness to togetherness.

  2. We would build trust spiritually by volunteering what God is teaching us (in prayer, through Bible reading, in our small group and mentoring relationships).  This takes intentionality as you leave for the day…  It can be quick (none of us have a lot of time as we run out the door):  ‘Here is a verse that I read this morning and it encouraged me, disturbed me, convicted me…  Can I pray for your meeting, the pain in your body, the hard conversation you need to have?’

    We all know that it can be chaotic as we ‘leave togetherness’, but taking seconds to communicate that ‘I have talked with God this morning and I am praying for you this day’ builds trust.

    There will be times when you want to talk for a longer period of time about your relationship with God.  Schedule a date!  Put it in the calendar!  Offer to your spouse-  ‘Can I tell you what I have been reading?  Can I share with you what I have been praying?’  I guarantee that they want to hear and I am confident that you sharing it will go a long way to building trust.

  3. We would build trust sexually by voluntarily not pursuing other sexual opportunities  (porn, fantasy, novels, streaming shows).  Decide now and renew your decision regularly to not meet your sexual needs outside of your marriage covenant.

    Instead, talk about those needs with your spouse.  Your  courage to initiate conversation about that topic builds intimacy.  It may not be easy, but it is brave.

    Also, talk about those temptations with your community (thinking of your small group or a few trusted(!) friends).  Being known, understood, and prayed for helps those temptations lose their power.

Build Trust by Fighting Fair

  • Be kind in the midst of conflict. 
  • Resist cursing (Cussing is cursing-  saying things that are intended to do harm.  As opposed to blessing-  saying things that are intended to bring life and goodness). 
  • Resist the urge to insult behaviors or body parts.  You will do damage that endures long after the conflict has ended. 
  • Make ‘I’ statements rather than universal declarations:  ‘I hear you saying…’ rather than ‘you always…’ 
  • Pay attention to body language- i.e. what your body position (and theirs) is communicating.  Your stance, your facial expression, the fold of your arms, and the clench of your fists all communicate…  
  • Listen actively.
  • Be quick to ask for help.  A 3rd person in the room is invaluable to help 2 people hear what the other is saying.  Reach out to your small group leader or to a pastoral staff member.  We have many resources that can help.

Build Trust by Renewing your Covenant

Covenant renewal:  When you get married, you make a solemn covenant with your spouse…  your covenant partner.  As time goes on, there is a need to rekindle the heart and renew the commitment.  There must be an opportunity to recall all that the other person means to you and to give yourself anew.  Sex between a husband and wife is a unique way to do that.  In fact, sex is perhaps the most powerful way to help you give your entire self to another human being.  Sex is God’s appointed way for 2 people to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.”  You must not use sex to say anything less… 

So according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex.  It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy.  But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant.  It is your covenant renewal service.”

Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Build trust by the way you say no to sex.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again,  so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:5

There will be seasons when sex is not an option for a married couple.  As glorious as it is and as effective as it can be in the renewing of our promises and faithfulness to each other, sometimes it is not possible.

This verse gives simple, clear instruction on the conditions that need to be in place for a season of ‘no sex.’

  • by agreement:  Married couples decide together about sexual frequency or a period of sexual abstinence.  It’s a conversation and not an unforeseen consequence.  It is intended to be a help and not a punishment.
    For the next week or the next month, we are not going to have sex because…”
  1. We have hurt each other. (emotional trust is gone)
  2. It’s not possible physically.  (my body is too tired or my body is not present geographically)
  3. We are fasting so that we can pray about a major decision or for a major breakthrough.
  • For a limited time:  The period of abstinence needs to have an end date.  The goodness of that period is that it gives freedom for other intimacies to develop.  (Can I express love this way since sex is not an option?)

There will be times of abstinence, but they should be chosen by agreement and they should be finite in length.  As soon as possible, it would be good to re-introduce the act of covenant renewal…  for the good of the covenant and the joy of the couple.


Building trust requires our most deliberate and careful work.  May God pour out His grace upon you as you become a trusted spouse.

-David

Why do we sing songs in Spanish?

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Why would we not?

Over the last few months, Restoration has added three or four songs with Spanish lyrics to our canon of music.  Generally, we have chosen one each Sunday and sung it during the offertory.  Some of you have loved doing familiar songs with Spanish lyrics.  Some of you have wondered why this is happening.  Here are three reasons that are informing this practice:

It is Biblical.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7: 9-10

As followers of Jesus who submit to the Scriptures, we have a long-used methodology for determining best practices:  protology and eschatology.  How did things begin (protology)?  How will things end (eschatology)?  As Christians, want to be moving either towards the way things were intended to be or the way things will be.

Revelation 7:9-10 gives a vivid description of the way things will be.  There will be multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship of the Lamb who was slain for all peoples.  Consequently, we seek a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship service in the present because we know that it is ‘the telos’, ‘the end’, ‘the eschaton’, ‘the goal’ to which we are headed.  Singing a familiar song with Spanish lyrics is a SMALL step towards the rich tapestry of linguistic diversity that we will enjoy in the age to come. 

Similarly, Revelation 19:9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”  The ‘marriage supper of the lamb’ is the telos (the end) to which our current Eucharist points.  We eat a bite of bread and take a sip of wine in anticipation of the FEAST we will enjoy in the age to come.  Our eschatology (FEASTING) determines our present practice (TASTING).

It is kind.

Kind means “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.”  There are people in our congregation for whom Spanish IS their heart language, their first language.  When we sing familiar songs with Spanish lyrics, there is an ease and comprehension that opens for them that is not available when we only sing songs in English.  As majority English speakers, we extend ourselves to our brothers and sisters whose first language is not English when we sing songs that our less comfortable for us and more comfortable for them.  It is kind.

It represents who we want to be.

According to Statistical Atlas,

“14.1% of the total population living in Arlington County live in households where Spanish is spoken at home.”

According to Data USA,

“Arlington County, VA is home to a population of 223,945 people… The ethnic composition of the population of Arlington… is composed of:

  • 141,107 White residents (63%)
  • 34,629 Hispanic residents (15.5%)  (This is supported by the U.S. Census bureau which puts the population at 15.4% as of July 2016.)
  • 22,085 Asian residents (9.9%)
  • 18,584 Black residents (8.3%)
  • 5,777 Two+ residents (2.58%).

The most common foreign language in Arlington County is Spanish (29,482 speakers).

Restoration wants to love our neighbors and look like our neighborhoods.  We want to welcome anyone who is curious about Jesus and what it means to follow Him as the One who forgives our sins and leads our life.  To that end, we want our liturgy, our music, our volunteer opportunities, and our teaching to be accessible to all of our neighbors in all of our neighborhoods.

Are we there yet?  Not.  Even.  Close.

Can we do it by ourselves?  Never.

We will need to partner with our brothers and sisters in other churches across our region.  We will need to keep looking for the courageous steps that our particular congregation can take.  We will need to embrace uncomfortable.

So the next time you see Spanish lyrics, try this:

  1.  Say a quick prayer of thanks for all the people and households in our neighborhoods who speak Spanish.  We are so glad they are near us.
  2. Choose a language to sing.  We will always put English and Spanish on the slide.  Choose what feels right to sing so that you can worship.  You are worshiping God and he can sort out multiple languages at the same time.  No sweat.
  3. Consider taking a risk from time to time and singing the lyrics that are less familiar to you.
  4. Pray for the people standing around you that they would be the light of Christ to all the peoples in their neighborhoods.

For Me?  Well, so far I have stumbled through my Spanish during those songs.  Every time.  But as I bump along, embracing uncomfortable, I am so grateful that my voice gets drowned out by the volume of others singing next to me.  So grateful that we are a community.  I am so grateful to be in a community that is being kind and welcoming and hospitable.  I am grateful for really small steps that demonstrate trust in God and partnership in his mission.  And I look forward to that gigantic multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual worship of the Lamb in the age to come.

-David

 

The Corinthian Correspondence

 

Writing a Letter

2018

Happy New Year!  Restoration is starting a new sermon series and working our way through St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  Make sure you read the first 2 sections of this post….

Why would you want to do that?  (Don’t you know that it’s long and says true things that lots of people find offensive. #spoileralert)

Well, there are actually several reasons that this book seems really good for who Restoration is at this point in time:

  1. First, I am very grateful for our hard work in Jeremiah all fall.  We got our heads and heart around a big, mildly unfamiliar story.  As we seek to cover all of the Scriptures, it’s a good time to pivot to the New Testament and young churches that were getting started.
  2. It’s been a while since we worked through an epistle (a letter) and a while since we have worked through an entire book from start to finish.  Let’s take that on this year!
  3. The issues they were dealing with in Corinth are raw and connected to the things we are dealing with at Restoration and in our world today:  the foolishness of faith in the Gospel, discerning what is real wisdom and real prosperity, the consequence of identifying ourselves with our leaders (or not), sexual purity, lawsuits, the role of men and women in the church and in the home, spiritual gifts and how the Holy Spirit manifests in our worship, getting drunk at the Eucharist, marriage, not marriage, temptation and idols and rights and eating meat.  As relevant as this morning’s headlines in the Post.
  4. I appreciate that the church in Corinth was young, freshly planted, and messy.  Their questions are good things for Restoration and Incarnation to consider while we are still together (one being about 10 years older than the other…)

Small Groups

As always, we will have 30 small groups starting up with about half of them talking about the passages from 1 Corinthians.  Registration opens on Sunday, January 7 and I hope that everyone who worships with us on Sunday will be actively involved in a Resto small group during the week.  It’s the best place to get to know people, to pray together, and to wrestle through how these truths in the Scripture affect our hustle and bustle life.

Ken Bailey

Feel free to skip this last section, I just want to give a shout out to one of the names you will hear me frequently quote during this series:  Ken Bailey.  He is a preeminent author and scholar in Middle Eastern New Testament Studies.  He teaches in English and Arabic and has written some of the most helpful stuff available for understanding First Century culture.  His book, Paul through Mediterranean Eyes, has been so helpful to my preparation for this series.  The book is almost 600 pages and heavily focused on Hebrew rhetorical style-  so not light reading.  But as appropriate, I will share helpful sections.

I love the way he describes himself:

Every commentator on the Scriptures writes in a context and out of a series of deep commitments.  I am a confessing Christian with a high reverence for the Bible as the inspired Word of God, which I approach with awe and gratitude.  Many of the ideas in this work come out of the non-Western world and have been presented by me in Arabic and in English to numerous audiences around the globe for more than 40 years…  I am writing for native English speakers, but also looking to the new Global South where the majority of the world’s Christians now live.”

His hermeneutical methodology helps us appreciate the logic and coherence of the book.

The view presented in this study is that 1 Corinthians has a carefully designed inner coherence that exhibits amazing precision in composition and admirable grandeur in overall theological concept…  the outline is as precise as any of Paul’s letters and it falls into 5 carefully constructed essays…

  1. The Cross and Christian Unity 1:5-4:16 (Epiphany)
  2. Men and Women in the Human Family 4:17-7:40 (Lent)
  3. Food offered to Idols (Christian and Pagan) 8:1-11:1  (post-Easter)
  4. Men and Women in Worship 11:2-14:40  (Autumn)
  5. The Resurrection 15  (Autumn)

As you look at those 5 essays, we discover that 3 principle ideas were on Paul’s mind as he wrote the letter:

  1. The Cross and Resurrection [1 and 5]
  2. Men and Women in the human family and in worship [2 and 4]
  3. Christians living among pagans:  to identify or not to identify [3]

It is my hope that this letter will increase our love for Jesus and His Church while also filling us with joy and hope as we live in this age and wait for the age to come.

Looking forward to it,

David

Jeremiah

Fences

This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to preach my last sermon in our fall series out of the book of Jeremiah.  Nathan will finish things up on Sunday as we transition into thinking about Advent and the coming of our Rescuer.

At each service, as I approached the end of my message, I got pretty choked up as I realized where Jeremiah ended his years of faithful service.

He was taken by a disobedient remnant of people to Egypt.  Jeremiah didn’t want to go.  God didn’t want them to go.  But, as they had done over and over, they didn’t listen to God’s instruction or God’s words of hope.  The remnant did what they thought would make them feel secure and comfortable.  Entering into the rigor and protection of Egypt seemed so much better than staying in the rubble and chaos of devastated Jerusalem.

Even though God had promised:

If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up…

Jeremiah 42.10

From our human vantage, Jeremiah was the ‘least successful prophet of all time’.  He pleaded with his people, his friends and neighbors, to change their mind and to amend their life.

They didn’t.

The worst happened.

God’s words through Jeremiah didn’t change the trajectory of His people.  It’s hard to see.  It’s harder to read.

Yet, he was able to say…

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Compare that to a prophet like Jonah–  probably ‘the most wildly successful prophet of all time.’  He gets sent to a foreign land, to Nineveh.  He is not happy to go.  He is not happy when he gets there.  He preaches the worst sermon ever.  Over a hundred thousand people change their mind and repent.  He is not happy about that.  And the book ends with him in a funk– grumpy and ticked.  Not happy.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4.1-3

Jeremiah, in his ‘failure’ seems to have gotten something about God that Jonah did not get in his ‘success’.  That realization makes me sober and careful and inspires my prayers for humility.

So why I was so emotional as we came to the end of this series?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. I have loved the hard work that our congregation has done on this book.  Generally, it is an unfamiliar story, really long, and sometimes hard to understand.  Many of you took on the task of reading through the whole book and then studying it faithfully in small groups for 11 weeks.  I am proud of you.  May the Lord increase your love for the Scriptures as you seek Him in new places of the Bible.
  2. I have loved the relevance of this book for the temptations that afflict us all.  We know the problems of idolatry, religious pretense, and superficial experience.  We see the shortcomings and limitations of the society in which we live.  We resist the triumphalism of ‘it will all just get better’ and we resist the despair that might lead us to cocoon ourselves from the wider world.

    No.  Instead, let us lament what is broken and busted.  Let us acknowledge what is not easy to fix and seems slow in coming.  Let us wait in sincere hope for God’s timing and the sure future arrival of the One who will make all things right.  Jeremiah has given us words and images (that linen loincloth!) for what ‘living by faith’ means.

  3. Most personally, we live in a cultural moment that is increasingly dismissive of Jesus and His people–  thinking they have no relevance for the longings and despair that is all around us.  Jeremiah faithfully said what is true–  the very words of God–  yet there was no change.  It is my hope and expectation that myself and our church will be faithful day in and day out to say what is true.  And it is my sincere desire that many people will be transformed, changed, and find the courage to amend their life.

    Maybe.  And maybe not.

    It is a great honor to invite people to stay home and to not run to Egypt.  It might be my highest privilege as a pastor–  to be in the midst of junk and crud and wrong thinking and to get to shine a light and spray a hose and beg people to stay home.  It is a privilege to say over and over, Egypt will disappoint you.  It always has and it will again.  I am grateful for the chance to say it many times in many different ways each week.  I am grateful for all of you who join me in the task of saying the same.  You are good partners in this project of renewal and amendment of life.

But that doesn’t make it easy.  And it definitely carries a truckload of emotion as you watch people make spiritual decisions that affect them and everyone around them.  I am grateful that we are in it together.  This is a beautiful church and we serve a gracious and beautiful God.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-David

Confessions of a Chronic Latecomer

cinnamon-toast-horiz-a-1800

Last week my family was nearly 30 minutes late to church. 30 minutes! We snuck into a pew near the back mid-sermon, and over the next 10 minutes, the empty spaces around us filled up with other latecomers. After the service, over iced coffee and shouting children downstairs, we laughed and poked fun at ourselves and swapped stories of extreme Sunday lateness.

It’s hard to get out the door on a Sunday. My children habitually misplace shoes (and socks, and jeggings, and most importantly, capes). We run out of cereal and thus have to prepare  impossibly complicated and time-consuming breakfasts such as toast. My children suddenly remember they despise toast and collapse in a heap of uncooperative, hangry ennui. We have four people, two of whom are fastidious (read: slow) tooth-brushers, sharing one small bathroom. And without fail, my children realize they urgently need to use said bathroom just as we’re walking out the door. We try to account for the inevitable morning delays, but still, we run late. Often. And honestly? I don’t really even feel bad about it.

Why not? First, because Restoration is a community of genuine grace, a very un-DC-like place were I don’t have to perform or appear perfect or, you know, show up on time. It’s freeing to know I can slide into the pew 15 minutes late and be welcomed wholeheartedly, not shamed or penalized. This atmosphere of grace is why we go to Restoration, and I love it.

Second, I am Sabbath-starved. I am hard-wired for a day of rest, and by the end of the week I’m aching for it. Sunday often feels like the first opportunity to really rest, and I find myself sleeping a little later and moving a little more slowly to revel in the relaxed pace. I could be quicker, more intentional, hustle a bit more to get out the door, but I don’t. On Sundays, I just want to slow down. And I’m okay with that.

But this issue of lateness has been on my mind all week. Because as I was laughing with my fellow latecomers over iced coffee last Sunday, I joked that I wasn’t even sure what happened at the beginning of the service. Let me rephrase that: I’m a church planter and postulant for ordination and I don’t know what happens at the beginning of an Anglican service, because I’ve so rarely made it to church on time. Yeah.

So I looked it up. Guess what happens at the beginning of our service each week? So many beautiful things! Quiet contemplation in the sanctuary before it fills up. A joyful acclamation of blessing. A prayer that our hearts would be open to a God who sees and knows us. A reminder straight from Jesus to love God and our neighbor. A repeated plea for the mercy of God. All of that before we ever sing a note!

***

Every day, I manage to get to school, work, soccer practice, coffee dates, and other events on time. The challenges to doing so are no different from those I face on Sunday. Yet I account for them in my planning so that I can be punctual. I care about performing well, respecting those who depend on me, and avoiding the shame, stress, and inconvenience of running late. As I mentioned above, these motivators don’t work as well for me when it comes to church, where I don’t feel the same pressures.

But what if I were motivated not by pressures and fears, but by a deep hunger for God and for the fullness of corporate worship offered to me on Sunday mornings? What if I entrusted my Sabbath-starved soul to God as the source of true rest, a rest that refreshes far more deeply than shuffling around lazily in my pajamas for a few extra minutes? What if there is a feast that God is lovingly preparing for me in the liturgy every single week, and I’m missing the first course? (Which, I am certain, is better than toast.)

And so, for the next month of Sundays, I’m going to try arriving on time. I may not succeed, and that’s okay; remember that trademark Resto grace I described earlier? But I’m going to try. And in the meantime, I’m going to print this prayer from the beginning of the service and keep it in my car, so that if I’m not physically in church to say it, at least it gets said while en route.

Collect for Purity

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you’re a chronic latecomer like me, maybe you’d like to join me in making this small Sunday shift, just for a month. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I know it’ll better than toast.

– Amy Rowe

Jeremiah: visibly incorporating the repair

a repaired pot

Kintsugi is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

This fall we will take on the gargantuan task of metabolizing the book of Jeremiah.  It is 52 chapters long and records the prophecies given by God over the reigns of 3 kings:  Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.  It begins in the latter half of the 7th Century BCE and closes with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah in 587 BCE.  It is a massive story.

Throughout the book, the prophet Jeremiah weeps.  And this is why I chose it for this fall.  He weeps because of the impossibility of his calling–  to warn people of the certain consequences of their choices.  He weeps because of the hardness of their hearts.  He weeps because of the cruelty and pain that will be inflicted upon his family and friends.  He weeps because God has been dismissed, compartmentalized, ignored, and used.

Jeremiah’s tears offer us a way to engage the broken and busted world that we see all around us.  Tears–  the evidence of grief and lament–  are ‘the different way’ from the labels of ‘judgmental’ and ‘triumphal’ that so often get attached to those who profess to follow Jesus.

Jeremiah bravely looked at everything that was not the way its supposed to be and he mourned.  (For those who mourn will be comforted.)

The book itself is a 52 chapter description of consequence:  This is what will happen because of what you did.  It is sober, honest, and candid.  Jesus talked about the same things, but He would often come at it, ‘slant’.

He used parables.

The meanings of them are no less stark in their messages of separation, of hope, of rejection, and of grace.  But parables, being story and metaphor, can slip behind our defenses and walls of self-righteousness.  So we will look at one of Jesus’ parables from Matthew each week as well.  I am interested in exploring the contrasts between God’s announcements of consequence through Jeremiah and God’s announcements of consequence through Jesus.

On Sunday, we will have a small gift for you.  Amy Rowe, a church planter at Restoration, has created a beautiful book mark with a reading plan to help all of us work our way through Jeremiah this fall.  I hope you will pick one up and use it each day.  I know that God will use our reading of Jeremiah to deepen our relationship with Him…  and each other.

Jeremiah Bookmark

 

…to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it.

The image of a pot shows up over and over in the prophecy of Jeremiah.  When the pot is broken it is a metaphor of what we have done and what has been done to us.  But when it is repaired…  As followers of Jesus, we never need to hide our brokenness.  For it is in the repair, the healing, the visible restoration, that our Rescuer and Deliverer gets the honor and praise He so completely deserves.

May God give us grace to join Jeremiah and Jesus in looking upon what is broken and weeping.  And may God give us grace to rejoice in what has been healed and repaired.  And may God give us grace to wait for it all to be completed.

-David

Summer 2017

summer

Ready to dive in to Summer 2017?  It’s HERE!

And here is everything you need to know about summer life at Restoration:

Worship Schedule

During the month of July, our schedule of Sunday worship services will stay the same:  9, 11, and 5.  We hope this is a help to you and provides flexibility as you come and go.  There will be no Kids’ Small Groups or Nursery at the 5pm during July.

In addition, we will be offering a midweek eucharist service on Wednesdays until the end of July (not July 5). These services start at 12.15pm,  last around 35-40 minutes, include eucharist and a short homily from one of our postulants and provide a lovely opportunity  to refocus midweek.

During the month of August, we will only have worship services in the morning at 9 and 11.  There will not be a 5pm worship service during the month of August.

Restoration Kids during the summer

During the summer, we get the joy of having kids aged kindergarten and up in our entire worship service.  It’s a learning opportunity and  gives them the opportunity to see what happens ‘upstairs’.  The preachers remember that they are sitting in the pews and try to help them feel included in the sermon and liturgy.  For elementary-aged kids, worship bags – with a Bible and activities — are available downstairs and can be used during the service.  We love having our kids worshiping and learning alongside us.

We will have kids’ small groups for preschoolers all summer long at the 9am and 11am.  Preschool kids (and their parents) check in with their small group leaders downstairs before the service, then head upstairs to the Sanctuary. There will be an announcement when it’s time for preschool kids to be dismissed to their small groups. They’ll be back in time for Communion.

And as always, we have nursery care throughout the service for those who are not yet three by September 30, 2016. The nursery – loaded with trained staff and volunteers who love to play, sing, and read – is located downstairs.

AFAC Farmer’s Market Runs

For the past 7 years, Restoration has served the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) by being in charge of Sunday afternoon pick-ups at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market (corner of Walter Reed and Columbia Pike – by the Rite Aid), and bringing the produce back to AFAC to sort & bag (typically 12:15-3:30pm on Sundays – good to plan for 3.5 hours to be safe).

This is a great way to meet new people and to love your neighbor.  Kids are welcome to help as well.  They need to be accompanied by a parent.

If you would like to serve, please sign up here.  You will love it!

We Believe…

During July and August, the preachers will work through the Apostle’s Creed phrase by phrase.

If you think back to Easter, we have been carefully building a coherent invitation and understanding for what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Between Easter and Pentecost, we tackled some of the hard questions that people ask as they explore God.  We honor those who are sincerely wrestling through what they have heard and seen about Christianity.

In June, we did a short series about the tension of living here but having our citizenship in heaven.  For those who want to follow Jesus, what will be the costs and expectations?

The clergy felt it would be helpful to follow up those 2 sermon series with an extended look at one of our Creeds.  If people get their questions answered and decide to follow Jesus and become citizens of heaven– what are the core foundations of what we believe?

I think this series will be enormously helpful for all of us–  from kids to adults.  I hope you will join us as often as you can–  and on the podcast when you can’t!

Summer is the best.  See you around.

-David

with the comfort which we are comforted by God

Comfort

Comfort comes with responsibility.

…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, SO THAT we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:4

Comfort is the experience of future hope in the present.  At Restoration, one of our core convictions is that the gospel calls us to lives of responsibility and coherence.  As followers of Jesus we become obligated:  To care.  To see the world the way Jesus sees it.

We embrace Jesus’ instruction that,

…everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…

Luke 12:48

 

For most of us who show up on Quincy Street, this church has been a means of God for our comfort.  It is not necessary an alleviation of pain, but it is a clear reminder that God walks with us into it.

When we get here, we look around and we see friends  friendships that have most often been forged in smaller settings:  one on one coffees, play dates between your kids, golf outings;  serving on a team at AFAC, volunteering with RiLA, going with a group to one of our global partners;  pouring over a small group Bible Study, being prayed for after a service, being a volunteer who helps make our liturgy happen. 

You have experienced the comfort of being known, the comfort of friendship, the comfort of being a part of something that is bigger than your single life. 

So, if Jesus and Paul are right…  and we are comforted so that we may be able to comfort others… then one of the most practical ways we can do that is by giving our resources to the establishment of the thing that comforted us.  In our Restoration context, we are responsible to give our time, treasure, and talents to church planting, which is the creation of communities of hope.

To start, over the last couple of years, we have increased our investment in 2 long term projects in Cambodia and West Asia.

Now we are beginning to aim our resources at the possibility of 2 or 3 local church plants in the next few years.  To that end, we have created a Church Plant Steering Team.  This team is seeking to hire a church plant resident in 2017 who would be looking at a church plant location inside the beltway in Maryland or Virginia in a couple years.  All of this has been imagined in our strategic plan called, Restoration 2019.

Every single one of us will be involved in ‘being a comfort’ by praying and giving towards this effort.  Most of us will remain a part of the work God is doing through Restoration on Quincy Street.  But, some of you will go and experience the tangible joy being a comfort by inviting others into an experience of hope.

This is where it gets fun.  

-David

Gifts for the Common Good

Spiritual Gifts

On Sunday, in the midst of #snowzilla, I preached a sermon on spiritual gifts.  Here are the notes for the sermon, which will be helpful for Resto members who are in small groups this week.

A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Gifts

What are spiritual gifts?  ‘A capacity for service which is given to every true Christian without exception and which was something each did not possess before he became a Christian.’ (Ray Stedman)  In the NT the word for that kind of gift is charisma, charismata (p).  The most important thing about the word charisma is that it is based on the Greek noun charis, meaning grace.  Grace is unmerited favor, the emphasis is that spiritual gifts are dispensed by God according to his good pleasure.  One Christian will receive one gift, one will receive another.  Some may receive more than one. (J. M. Boice)

Where do they come from and when did they become accessible to everyone?  On the day of Pentecost, God pours out his Holy Spirit on men and women.  Luke writes:   “And they were all  filled with the Holy Spirit and began  to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  (Acts 2:4)  Peter follows up in his speech that according to Joel, this was the plan all along: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit  on all flesh, and your sons and  your daughters shall prophesy…’”  (Acts 2:17)   All of the gifts are available to all people.  God did not give some gifts to a particular sex for a particular situation.  No.  Pentecost was a huge, generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the building of the body of Christ and the redemption of the world.  All the gifts are available to both men and women.

Before we discuss the diversity that comes from gifts of the Spirit, we must remember that we have tremendous unity in the body of Christ. No matter your religious background, your skin tone, your ethnic heritage, your socio-economic class, your marital status, your educational pedigree—  We are one body in Christ.  We have one way of entering in: baptism.  We have one way of being made right of being justified: the cross of Christ.  We have one future hope: the restoration of all things in a new heavens and earth.  Paul declares, “For just as  the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,  so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12) 

God is tremendously creative in the gifts He gives.  There are varieties of gifts…  one God.   

  1. Rom 12: 4-5  For as in one body we have many members,  and the members do not all have the same function, so we,  though many,  are one body in Christ, and individually  members one of another. 
  2. 1Cor. 12:4-6   Now  there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and  there are varieties of service, but  the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.   
  3. “All the lists emphasize the variety of the gifts, each seeming to be a random selection of them.”  (John Stott)  These categories are not rigid or even static.  They are eclectic, illustrative lists.  “19 gifts mentioned, but that is not an absolute figure:  different words can conceivably be used to describe the same or nearly identical gifts, and there may be gifts not mentioned.” (James M. Boice)]

We each get one.  Every follower of Jesus gets at least one spiritual gift.  The gift is not about you (It’s grace-  a gift).  The gift is not a sign that you are superior because you got it. 

    1. But  grace was given  to each one of us  according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  (Eph 4.7)
    2. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,  as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  (1 Peter 4.10)
    3. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7) 
    4. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: (Rom 12:6)

The gift is not about the gift.  It’s about the community in which the gift receiver resides.  God gives spiritual gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”  (Eph 4.12)  You received a gift for the sake of the community to which you are called.  To not use your gift is to make the community weaker.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul addresses 2 Objections that frequently materialize in a discussion about spiritual gifts.  You have probably felt one (or both, although we usually lean one way or the other) of these.

    1. My gift is not important to you.   (Verses 14-20).  Paul attacks the notion that because we don’t have the gift that someone else has, we are not important to the body of Christ.  For example, ‘because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.’  No.  We all have something that the body needs.  If we don’t give it, the body is missing something. 
    2. Your gift is not important to me.  We all desire to be autonomous.  We have a natural, sinful proclivity to make categories of people who we can dismiss because we don’t need them.  Instead Paul takes this head on:  “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  (v.22)   You want to be self-sufficient.  Maturity is learning that you are not.  Maturity is not needing people less.  Maturity is discovering the richness and fullness of the presence of others in your life.

What is the difference between a ‘spiritual gift’ and a ‘natural talent’?  This is taken from J. M. Boice (p. 608-609):  “Natural talents are also gifts of God…  it is also true that a Christian may exercise a spiritual gift through a natural talent.  Examples would be one who fulfills the gift of ‘helping’ through a talent for carpentry, baking, financial management, or similar things, or one who fulfills that gift of ‘exhortation’ through a natural ability to get close to people.  Still, spiritual gifts are not talents for the simple reason that they are given for spiritual ends only, and only to Christians.  They are ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:12)  An example from the Old Testament is Bezalel in Exodus 31: 3-5 “Bezalel had been given the natural talent of craftsmanship, but he had also been given the spiritual gift of knowledge or intelligence which directed him in the way his natural talents were to be used.  Because of the spiritual gift he was able to produce objects for Israel’s worship.”

What are categories of gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament?  See the attached table for where all 19 gifts appear.  Remember that this is an illustrative, not an exhaustive group.  As you group the individual gifts, you can see categories of gifting that may invite other specific gifts that are not directly mentioned. 

  1. Leadership Gifts:  Apostles, Shepherding, Administrating, Leading/ Giving Aid.   There were only 13 apostles (the 12+Paul) who were directly called to the office by Jesus himself.  But the gift of apostleship (as opposed to the office) is often found in pioneering entrepreneurs who start new things and tap new resources.  The other ‘leadership gifts’ are critical for helping people in all contexts and situations move from ‘here’ to ‘there’.
  2. Word Gifts:  Prophecy, teaching, exhortation, tongues, interpretation.  As followers of Jesus under the authority of Scripture, we live in tension between the revelation of God in His Scripture and the on-going revelation of God through His Spirit.  Words that are revealed in the Spirit through prophecy, teaching, and tongues can be enormously encouraging and convicting.  All of these words must be tested in community for authenticity and reliability.
  3. Insight Gifts:  Faith, knowledge, wisdom, ability to distinguish spirits.  God does not want His people to be uninformed.  Over and over He gives insight into situations, people, and problems so that physical, emotional, and spiritual breakthroughs can happen.  New understanding in science.  New art.  Clarity about demonic activity.  Clarity about justice, redemption, and punishment.  Supernatural strength to persevere in hope and trust.  The body of Christ needs these people for the endurance of the church. 
  4. Evangelism Gifts:  all of us are called to give a verbal witness  about Jesus.  Some of us are given a special gift from God such that this is easier and more fruitful.  We know how to creatively apply the Gospel to the lives of our friends and family.  We are bold.  We are courageous to close the deal.  The body of Christ needs these people for the growth of the church and the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
  5. Gifts that demonstrate the new heavens and earth:  healing, working miracles.  Some day every knee will bow.  There will be no more tears or pain or suffering.  We will have bodies that function as they were created.  That ‘day’ has begun but is not yet here.  In order to encourage His people to endure for that day, God sometimes heals and does miracles—  signs of the age to come.  The body of Christ needs these gifts for its witness to the world.
  6. Generosity gifts:  service, mercy, contributing.  All of us are called to serve, to give, and to be merciful.  Some people have unique gifts that make them particularly generous in these ways.  The body of Christ needs these gifts for the sake of being salt and light to a world that is inherently greedy and self-centered.

What is the purpose of my spiritual gift?  Here is Tim Keller’s paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 12: 7: ‘Every Christian (“to each one”) receives spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is an ability (“working” or power) that comes to you freely (“gift”) for the purpose of ministering to needs (“service”) so as to build up Christian community in size and depth (“the common good”).’

Keller goes on to say,

 

Every believer has an almost unique “gift matrix.” We have different gifts in different constellations.  We have different gifts for different ministry venues and objects. We have different levels of ability. On top of this, there are different seasons in our lives, when the contexts we live in call the gifts out in us in different ways. Put these variables together and each person’s ministry may be as unique as a thumbprint. By implication, there are some deeds in life that only you can do! There are some people to reach whom only you can reach!  Spiritual gifts fit you for your mission in life (see Eph 2:8–10).

11.  How do I discover and use my spiritual gift(s)?

Serve in the body of Christ.  Serving is putting the needs of others ahead of our own, or putting the needs of the community ahead of our individual needs.  There are many benefits for doing this, but one of the best is self-knowledge.  You don’t know your real gifts and capacities until you do a lot of humble serving in many different capacities around your community. Only as you do that will you come to understand your own aptitudes.

We can discover our particular gifts when three factors begin to come together: Affinity (my passions and interests); Ability (the things I am good at); and Opportunity (the needs that are around me and my capacity to address them).  When all three factors come together, you can begin to see how God has equipped and called you to do something or to move in a certain direction. (Affinity, ability, and opportunity are categories derived from the works of John Newton).  The only way you will ever really come to know your gift(s) is if you do a lot of different things and observe how your ability, affinity, and opportunity converge.

A Table of Spiritual Gifts

Ephesians 4: 1-11

1 Corinthians 12: 8-10

1 Corinthians 12: 28-30

Romans 12: 6-8

1 Peter 4:11

1

Apostles Apostles

2

Prophets Prophecy (v. 10) Prophets Prophecy

3

Service Serves

4

Evangelists

5

Wisdom

6

Knowledge

7

Pastors/ Shepherds

8

Teachers Teachers Teaching

9

Exhortation Speaks oracles of God

10

Faith

11

Healing Healing*

12

Working Miracles Working Miracles*  (these are switched in order in 28-30)

13

Ability to distinguish between spirits

14

Contributing

15

Helping Leading (can also be translated, ‘giving aid’)

16

Mercy

17

Administrating

18

Tongues Tongues

19

Interpretation of Tongues Interpretation of Tongues

This table lists out 19 spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament.  In the 5 places they are introduced, it always says ‘there are varieties of gifts’ but the same Spirit (or God).  Each passage also says, that we each get one.  For example, ‘grace was given to each one of us  according to the measure of Christ’s gift.’ (Ephesians 4:10). 

These 2 observations tell us 2 things about spiritual gifts

  1. The ‘variety’ means that this list is not static.  It is illustrative.  You could have a gift that is not listed here.  Instead of cramming yourself into a particular gift, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal yours to you.
  2. The ‘grace was given’ means that you DEFINITELY have a spiritual gift that is intended to be used.  It is a ‘grace’ meaning you don’t get to choose it and you can’t be envious of someone else’s.  You got a gift.  Ask God what it is and use it.

the measure of your faith

different measures

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Romans 12: 3

On Sunday, we considered what it means to not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.  If we have chosen to follow Jesus, we have chosen a life that that requires a reorientation of what lies at our center.  In order to mature and to grow up as a Christian, we must change the way we think about ourselves–  we must embrace a diminishing self-awareness, a diminishing self-consciousness, a diminishing self-referential orientation.

In order to do that, Paul instructs us to think with sober judgment according to the measure of faith that we have been given.  This phrase ‘measure of faith’ has perplexed scholars for a long time.  C. E. B.  Cranfield, writing over 50 years ago, states in his commentary that

‘measure’ has 7 possible meanings, ‘faith’ has 5, and ‘of’ has 2, making 70 possible combinations altogether!”

But from that diversity, scholars usually distill 1 or 2 meanings as they look at this passage.  They are both important for us as we seek to offer all of who we are to God (Rom 12:1).

Option 1:  ‘measure’ as the standard of something.

That is ‘measure’ refers to an instrument for measuring something.  Both Cranfield and the late Rev. John Stott support this option.  Stott sums it up best:

A standard by which to measure ourselves; that this for all Christians is the same, namely saving faith in Christ crucified; and that only this gospel of the cross, indeed only ‘Christ himself in whom God’s judgment and mercy are revealed’, can enable us to measure ourselves soberly.

According to this view, to think of ourselves rightly, followers of Jesus are called on to estimate themselves in accord with the standard of their faith, Jesus himself.  We measure our actions and our choices against the idea of how Jesus would do it.  We think with sober judgment using Jesus as our ruler and our aspiration.

Option 2:  Measure as the quantity of something

In this option, measure relates to the apportioning of our faith- meaning that God gives a varying amount of faith to different Christians.

Paul is speaking of the quantity of faith or trust that each believer possesses.  Paul acknowledges elsewhere that believers have different levels of faith (Romans 14.1)…

Some of us are weak at some points and strong at others.  For example, one person may have a lot of faith about financial matters–  they do not experience anxiety or worry about whether they have enough or how they will pay for something.  But that same person may lack faith about relationships–  consequently they experience great anxiety about things they said, conflicts they have experienced, and situations that feel unresolved.  In God’s unique creativity, He has given a large measure of faith to a specific person about a specific situation and not as much faith about a different category.

So thinking soberly about ourselves in this second option requires that we recognize that in some situations we will be weak and in others we will be strong.  Thus we need people around us who are strong in our weakness to help us think rightly about ourselves and the context in which we find ourselves.

Called to go deep in the body of Christ

Both of these options require that we would be deeply known within our local expression of the body of Christ–  so that we have people who are pushing us towards the standard of Jesus himself AND so that we have people who fill up our measure of faith where it is low.

At Restoration, we provide a place for you to do that in our small groups.  They all start next week.  So you have time to sign up and jump in right at the beginning.  The trimester is short–  only 8 weeks.  You don’t want to miss any of it.  So sign up today.

May we be people who think rightly about ourselves–  according to the measure of faith that God has given us.  Thanks be to God for the people He has put in our life to help us do just that.

-David

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