Recommended Resources for Fall Sermon Series

This past Sunday, we launched our new Fall sermon series, where we are addressing the question, “Does Faith in God make sense for thinking people today?”

As we spend the next several weeks exploring this important topic, we want to recommend several books and other resources that you might find helpful as you explore this question further.

Recommended Reading: 



Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion

by Rebecca McLaughlin 

Channeling state-of-the-art research, personal stories, and careful biblical study, Confronting Christianity explores 12 questions that keep many of us from considering faith in Christ. Look more closely, McLaughlin argues, & the reality of suffering, the complexity of sexuality, the desire for diversity, the success of science, and other seeming roadblocks to faith become signposts. Jesus becomes not a relic from  the ancient world, but our modern world’s best hope (238 pages)


The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

by Tim Keller

Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics, and even ardent believers, have about religion. Using literature, philosophy, real-life conversations, and potent reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. (293 pages)


Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World

by Tim Keller

In this thoughtful book, Keller invites skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. (336 pages). 

Note – This is an advanced level text.


Other Helpful Books: 



The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, and the Hope of Holy War

by Joshua Ryan Butler

There are some questions no Christian wants to be asked. Many today believe hell, judgment and holy war are “skeletons in God’s closet,” tough topics that, if looked at closely, would reveal a cruel, vindictive tyrant rather than a good and loving God. And we aren’t comfortable with the answers we’ve been given. In this book, Butler pulls these bones out into the open to exchange popular caricatures for the beauty and power of the real thing. (356 pages)


Why Believe: Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God 

by C. Stephen Evans

C. Sephen Evans, a philosopher from Baylor University, has written a pointed and personal book directed to those who want to have faith but whose thinking has been obscured by the static of prevailing philosophies, illuminating the attraction and reasonableness of Christianity. (168 pages) 


Is the Bible Intolerant? Sexist? Oppressive? Homophobic? Outdated? Irrelevant?

by Amy Orr-Ewing

Amy Orr-Ewing, who is is a senior vice president with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Joint Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, discusses questions old and new that challenge the Bible’s capacity to speak to us with authority. With a fresh voice and a healthy respect for the Bible’s critics, she presents a compelling case for the Bible’s trustworthiness.(143 pages)


Is Believing in God irrational?

by Amy Orr-Ewing

Amy Orr-Ewing addresses key questions and objections that many people today have about God. She explores whether our understanding of God is delusional or merely a psychological crutch, as many today claim, and whether Christianity’s claim to a unique personal relationship with God is plausible. (142 pages)

Websites & Podcasts: 

  1. The ReGeneration Project 

The ReGeneration Project exists to encourage church leaders and new generations, equipping them with ways to respond to the difficult questions being asked today about theology, the Bible, church and Christianity in general. This website includes helpful articles, video’s, and podcasts.

  1. Ravi Zacharias Ministries

This website includes several helpful resources that provide thoughtful answers to difficult answers from Ravi Zacharias and his associates.

Summer Small Group Thursdays 7:30-9pm at Restoration Starting July 12

Some of us love what we do. Others are deeply dissatisfied. A lot of us get burnt out by our
work, and others find our jobs boring. Some experience both at the same time! And it seems
nearly all of us struggle to figure out how to manage the responsibilities and demands of our
work, our families, and our sanity.

Our assessment of our work performance is often one of the best gauges to assess our
emotions. Our work affects us. It is often our go-to when someone asks us how we are doing.

Friend 1: How are things going?

Friend 2: Good, work is going well. Our firm just brought on a new client. How are things with you?

Friend 1: I’m stressed. Work is insane right now.

You get the idea…

Starting July 8, we’ll begin a summer sermon series on work and why it matters. And though
small groups are taking a break for the summer, we’re offering one special 6-week small group
that will run concurrently with the sermon series.

The group will meet on Thursday evenings from 7:30-9pm at Restoration. Sign up.

We’ll follow the passages used in the prior sermon, and we’ll follow the book “Work Matters” by Tom Nelson. You certainly don’t need to read the book to participate (It’s summer after all!).

So whether you work full-time (as a parent and/or in an office!) or part-time, whether you are
looking for a job, or want to get rid of the one you got, and whether you’re a student, retired,
or something else, I hope you will consider joining us. Our vocations take a variety of forms, and we all have wisdom and experience to share. Plus there’s going to be snacks!

Additionally, if you are new to Restoration or just moved here this summer, please come! Small groups are one of the best ways to get connected here.

Work is hard. But it matters. To God. To us. And to each other.

Join us!

– Scott

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.


Justice and the Generosity of God… what next?

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 12.27.56 PM

The combination of justice and generosity captures the breadth of the Gospel. In the Gospel, God is making something right, restoring what was lost, acting justly. But He does it with great generosity. The Holy Spirit is forming us into the image of Christ for the sake of others. We will generously do justice— just like our father in heaven.” ~ David Hanke

Over these last two months we have listened, pondered and discussed God’s heart for the quartet of the oppressed, we have allowed the Holy Spirit to woo and coax us to think about how our individual and corporate response and we have wondered what is next. As you have engaged with this topic….

  • What habits have you made or broken as you considered the call to allowing space for gleaning? For re-engaging more specifically with Sabbath?
  • Where have you found yourself changing, growing, praying?
  • Where has your heart expanded for the quartet of widows, orphans, sojourners and the poor?

Can I encourage you to not lose hold of the things you have marinated on these last weeks. Take some time to journal, reflect, carry on the discussions with friends inside and outside of our community. Invite your neighbors over for a cookout this summer and ask them what they think… and consider the changes you need to make in your life. Perhaps someone from your small group can hold you accountable?

We would love to know what you thought!

As we reflect on our response to ‘Justice and the Generosity of God’ we would love you to use this survey to send in your thoughts, ideas, growth points – either for your personal discipleship or for us as a community. And if you want to know how to engage with others in our community there are also suggestions of how to do so here or you can read more about our partners here.  And – specifically – if you are interested in helping with the Immigration Legal Aid Center idea – we would love to hear from you here!

And meanwhile, here are a few reflections from members of our small groups on this trimester….

  • The entire justice series helped me to think about the way I view others, especially those who are in need.
  • Making margin in my life has become a priority: I want to make space for others to glean
  • So many, but one main takeaway is that while justice is doing for other people, it has to start with accepting the justice God has provided for me first.
  • Remembering that God cares about justice, even in the petty differences and squabbles of my office, gives more dignity and meaning to my day-to-day life.
  • We had an awesome conversation around Sabbath that has led to direct life changes and a transformed view of Sunday.
  • The sermon series on justice has been a tough subject, but one that I am finding myself more aware of and therefore more prayerful about when I am seeing or hearing about injustices.
  • Learning how to “make space for justice” and deal with injustice in my life was helpful. I also liked the idea of justice being both distributive and retributive.
  • After the studies, my confessions were much deeper — informed by the inequities uncovered in my own heart esp. regarding the Jonah and Isaiah 58 passages

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

Have a great summer!

~ Liz Gray

Resources for Hope

He made a way for us to come home.

He made a way for us to come home

I have begun to get a lot of requests for ‘additional reading’ in relation to our sermon series.  Our small groups have been invigorating and the conversations after Sunday worship have been encouraging.  We are attempting to tie up some of the loose ends that got introduced in our series on Creation and Fall in the autumn.  We have seen what becomes of marriage, of temptation, of evil, and God’s desire to be with us in the garden.

Our belief about how the story ends and what’s next controls how we live now.  Our belief about the future controls how we live in the present.  So we need to have a robust understanding of what comes next so that we can be the kind of people we want to be now.

This idea is not original to me and the most insightful things you hear in my sermons are usually crafted by someone else.  If you are looking for some additional reading about ‘what’s next’, here are my favs:

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright  Part 2 in this book is called ‘God’s Future Plan’ and it unpacks all the things we are wondering about with Jesus, new creation, new bodies, purgatory, judgment, hell, and heaven.  Part 1 and 3 are also very good, but if you are looking for a scintillating 100 pages, part 2 is a home run.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  This book is even longer than N.T. Wright’s, but it’s not longer with fluff, it’s longer with meat.  It goes into more detail (what happens to pets?) and more depth on these questions.  I loved his stuff on what happens to the first heaven and earth.  It was really helpful for my ‘No More’ sermon.  Alcorn brings together the theologians who have been most influential in my understanding of amilleniallism (the already and the not yet) and applies there rigorous thinking to these pertinent questions.

Reversed Thunder by Eugene Peterson.  Here is the pastor I most want to be, but most frequently fall short of his vision.  Peterson prays through the entire book of Revelation and lets it shape how he talks to God.  Then he writes it down as a gift to you, me, and the church.  This is a book that I mull over and journal about and allow to lead me into worship.

Hope these resources help.  I love that Restoration is a church of life-long learners who want to go deeper.  May these resources be a gift to you as we finish up this series over the next couple of weeks.





In him we have obtained  an inheritance,  having been predestined  according to the purpose of him who works all things according to  the counsel of his will,  12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be  to the praise of his glory.  13 In him you also, when you heard  the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,  were sealed with the  promised Holy Spirit14 who is  the guarantee  of our  inheritance until  we acquire  possession of it,   to the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:11-14

It is amazing to me that God put a mark on Cain to claim him as his own.  I am astounded by the reality that even though Cain in no way deserved it, God said, ‘you are mine.  I claim you.  I will protect you.’

Grace is amazing.  God is jaw-dropping cool.

He proves over and over that He is worthy of our trust.  I am so thankful for the way He treats me–  not as I deserve.

For those who follow Jesus, we get something better than Cain’s tattoo.  God seals us with the promised Holy Spirit.  He puts himself IN us as a guarantee that He will never leave us and that He will make sure He finishes the work He needs to do so we are ready for the inheritance He has promised us.  Thank you God that I don’t merely get a mark on the outside–  thank you that I get YOU on the inside.  And that your presence changes and transforms me a little more every day.

Happy Birthday

On Sunday we celebrated several things:

  • It was the last day of the Christian calendar.
  • It was Christ the King Sunday–  when we remember that God has promised to restore all things under Him who is our Head.
  • It was our 4th Birthday!!  Four years ago, in the Ballston Hilton, Bishop Minns instituted my ministry as Rector of Restoration and instituted the ministry of our first vestry.  God has been incredibly faithful to us.  We are thankful for numerical growth, for marriages and babies(!), for new friendships, for deeper discipleship, for new outreach partnerships, for a beautiful building-to-be.  I am so glad to be on this journey with you.  Happy Birthday!!


All of us at Restoration are praying for you as you pause this week to give thanks for the ways God has provided for you in the past year.  May you have safe travel and good conversations with friends and loved ones.


I mentioned on Sunday that the vestry of our church is committed to keeping you informed of our financial situation.  So, for the first time in our 4 year history, we had a month with a significant deficit.  Restoration is an extremely generous church.  You give sacrificially to a variety of opportunities.  Our vestry is very careful and strategic with how that money gets allocated.  So this was an unusual event–  a first.  We are not alarmed, but we want you to be aware.  We have a million dollar operating budget and a $4.5 million building project.  Both of these are significant undertakings for a church our size and age.  The vestry invites you to keep these things in mind as you plan your year end giving.

May you rejoice in being people who are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked and claimed by our loving God because of His work in Christ.


Ruling Over Sin

I love this story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. We started it last week and we will finish it on Sunday.  I love that God comes to Cain and gently grabs him by the arm, looks him in the eyes, and says,

Be careful.  The anger you are cradling will destroy you.  Sin is crouching–  just out of sight, but ready to pounce.  If you don’t evade and change course, it will destroy you.

God does not mess around with him.  Sin is never a one and done act.  It changes you.  It gets in you.  It deteriorates you.  We are complete fools if we think we can fondle sin and come out unscathed.  Much stronger and better people than you or I have been destroyed by that conviction.

So God reminds Cain.

You don’t have to do this.  I can see your heart.  I know what you are considering.  You don’t have to do it…

Sin desires to have you.  You must rule over it.  You don’t have to go this direction.

I want to remind you of the way we ‘rule’ over sin:  God has made a way because of the cross, the Spirit, and the Church.  Remember ‘rule’ doesn’t mean sin goes away.  It is there, but we have authority over it.  God is instructing Cain to be in charge of his sin.

If you are a follower of Jesus, this is how we do it:

Jesus has delivered you from the penalty and power of sin.  Romans 6.6-7  We know that  our old self   was crucified with him in order that  the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For  one who has died  has been set free  from sin.  Jesus has made it possible for us to be freed from sin.  It is possible for us to rule over sin.  It is possible for us to NOT sin because of what Jesus did.

The Holy Spirit now lives in you to talk to you.  Romans 8.10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  Not only are you forgiven, God is living inside of you.  Killing sin creates the opportunity to have the Holy Spirit inside you.  God is in you.  He is talking to you.  You can talk about your temptation.  He will show you what sins are hidden and desiring you.  The Lord talked to Cain and told him that he was in danger.  The Holy Spirit will do that for you.  

The Church is around you.  Hebrews 3.13 But  exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by  the deceitfulness of sin.  We rule over sin alongside the people God gives us to walk with us.  You have a small group because you cannot rule over sin on your own.  You need a church because you need good teaching about the crouching sins and you need good strategies for how to rule over them.

Many of us do not take our sin seriously enough.

Most of us don’t embrace what God has done with enough hope.  Sin is dead.  The Holy Spirit is in you.  The church is around you.  His divine power has granted you everything you need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)



Breaking Creation

Breaking Creation

 God the Father has reconciled His created but fallen world through the death of His Son, and renews it into a Kingdom of God by His Spirit.

Herman Bavinck

Creation.  Fall.  Redemption.  Restoration.

We each have our own story.  Our story is what makes us, ‘us’.  But ‘us’ is not the end of the story.  We are all caught up in a story that is much bigger than just us.  There is a God who made us.  There is a good creation that was ruined.  There is redemption.  There will be a renewing of all things.  Restoration.

As a church we are in a true season of transition.  Our old building no longer exists.  The materials for our new building still sit in lumber and brick yards.  Many of you are new to Arlington and new to the church.  Many folks are still trying to figure out how to make a 5pm service feasible.  We are waiting.

But it won’t be long.

So this fall, we are creating extra opportunities to help people find their place at Restoration–  to find where they can serve and learn and make friends.  Ultimately we want people to find their place in God’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.  We want people to see their story in God’s story and in our context, that could mean finding their place in Restoration’s story.

I hope you have signed up for a small group.  They all start this Sunday.  And I hope you are coming to our fall retreat in October.  And I hope you are praying with us on Sundays at 4pm before the service as we listen to God together for the plans He has in store for us.

And I hope you immerse yourself in our sermon series this fall.  We will talk about what God made and how it was ruined:  creation and fall.  These chapters of our story help us understand why ‘things are the way they are’ today.  As we wait and sit in transition, I want us to know this story that makes all of our other stories make sense.  You won’t want to miss a single week.

Here’s some headlines from what you can expect as we walk through Genesis 1-4 between now and the end of November.

  •  Before the Beginning–  Everything starts somewhere.
  • The Poetry of Creation
  • ‘…after our likeness’–  what it means to be created in the image of God
  • ‘Take this job and…’  Vocation and the purpose of our work in the garden of God
  • Naked and NOT ashamed–  marriage in the garden of God
  • I wish I was God–  temptation, doubt, questions, discontentment
  • Naked and Ashamed–  losing our innocence, knowing too much
  • Everything is broken–  true.
  • What blood would say from the ground–  brokenness in families and the exquisite capacity we have to hurt each other
  • Far as the curse is found–  multiplying our bad choices to the ends of the earth.  And hoping that something might make it right.

We will talk about the incredible dignity of being created until the fall retreat.  In November we’ll talk about how that good, good creation got ruined.

We all have a story.  Come hear the one that makes you, you.


Sermon Series: The Gospel of Luke

Since January 2013, we’ve been walking through Luke’s gospel, learning from Jesus what it means to follow him. In Epiphany, we studied chapters three through five as we considered the job description of a disciple that Jesus gives. During Lent, we looked at the examples of faith and faithfulness found in chapters six through nine. Holy Week saw us immersing ourselves in Luke’s account of the Passion. And since Easter, we’ve been focusing on the middle section of the gospel, chapters 10 through 19, where Jesus “sets his face toward Jerusalem” and shows his disciples the choices, the costs, and the rewards that come with following him. It’s been a rich and varied series, and we’ve been blessed by this opportunity to walk intentionally with Jesus over these months.

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