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

Advent Processionals

Processional

 

Thanksgiving conjures up memories of getting up far too early in the morning to help my dad stuff the turkey. Before anything else, we would set up the television in the kitchen to watch the parade festivities and football pre-game shows as the rest of the day progressed in an alternation between preparing food and watching television. Celebrity interviews, musical guests, and commentator speculations bolstered anticipation for the much anticipated floating colorful giants in the sky.

The enthusiasm and joy surrounding such a parade provides a helpful point of reference to appreciate the use of the processional in the church. People go to great lengths to attend a parade: purchasing expensive tickets, arising early, traveling a long distance, breaking through hoards of people, or enduring bitter cold. To what end is this done?

What the church calls its procession derives from the ancients who had their own parades of victory filled with sights, sounds, and even smells. The hope of the Psalm 68:24 is that God will reign victorious as a king, entering the sanctuary in joyous procession for all to see. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

During this Advent season, the cross and light will enter the sanctuary followed with a train of liturgical ministers.  Each Sunday we come to bring our praise as an offering to the Triune God, yet each week our sordid past rears its ugly head, telling us the lie that we cannot live in the victory of our victorious king.  The light and cross will enter the sanctuary and we are reminded of Christ’s victory; light has come and Christ has won.  Each Sunday of Advent we are reminded of the victory won, but we likewise experience a longing for the victory to come. After joining in the celebration within the sanctuary we are invited to process out with the recessional. As Christ’s body we now take the light and cross into a dark world filled with all manner of stumbling blocks.

In the words of my favorite Syrian Bishop,

Deliver me from the enemy who fights with me, for I cannot                     conquer him without Your aid.

Do not look to me to conquer in that great occasion bloodshed.

Take for Yourself the battle and the victory befitting You.

Deliver me from it and let the crown and fame be Yours, and                   neither attribute to me triumph, nor victory.

Deliver me from it and let the entire glory of the athlete be                      reserved for You, for You have conquered the enemy.

Homily on the Prayer of our Lord, p. 711-718

Mar Jacob of Sarugh ( ca. 521 CE)

 

-Morgan Reed

Gentleness and the Call to Civility

Public Square

 

We are coming to the conclusion of our summer sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  These are 9 characteristics that St. Paul listed out in Galatians 5:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Outside of a relationship with God, they are character traits that we admire in people and most of the world aspires to have more of these.  But for those who have a relationship with God, these 9 traits are not a wish list of what would make someone a better person.  These are the promised manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of one who follows Jesus.  As we let Jesus lead more of our life, this fruit is what happens in us and what people notice about us.  Christians aren’t ‘trying to be more joyful or patient’.  No, they are trying to know God, trust Jesus, and be filled with the Holy Spirit–  as those things happen, the fruit of joy, patience, and others comes out.

In talking about gentleness, I mentioned 2 universal relational realities that will always require gentleness but will always tempt us to choose a posture that is harsh and protective:  relating to those with whom we disagree and relating to those who are far from their Father in heaven.  In spite of our natural inclination, choosing to be gentle results in the possibility of real life change for those with whom we disagree and real ‘rest for your souls’.

There are 3 contexts where we could work on the fruit of gentleness, what the secular world calls ‘civility’.  Civility in our households, in our interaction with those who choose to not belong to a church community, and in the public square.  As I talked through those contexts, I quoted a variety of people who have thought deeply about the role of civility and gentleness in our day to day discourse.

In 2011, Tim Keller wrote about backlash and civility for his church newsletter.  Keller gives some ‘rules for civility’ and helps us understand the historical scope of this conversation by interacting with Robert Putnam and David Campbell’s book American Grace:  how religion divides us and unites us.  That book has been very helpful to me as I imagine the kind of church that Restoration could be in the midst of hard and contentious cultural conversations.

In 2008, Os Guiness wrote The Case for Civility:  and why our future depends on it.  Os is so good at providing historical and societal context that is clear and persuasive.  He argues that much of the answer to whether or not we’ll learn to live with our deepest differences depends on rejecting two erroneous responses to the culture wars. First, we must say no to a “sacred public square”—a situation where one religion has a position of privilege or prominence that is denied to others.  We must also say no to a “naked public square”—the situation where public life is left devoid of any religion. This is what is advocated by the new atheists.  The alternative to both is a “civil public square.” one in which everyone—peoples of all faiths, whether religious or naturalistic—are equally free to enter and engage public life on the basis of their faiths, as a matter of ‘free exercise’.  

Tim Challies had a great interview with Os and developed some of these ideas more fully.  It was helpful to me as we imagine Restoration as a place that promotes truth, embraces the reality of pluralism, trusts that the good news of the Gospel will rise above the cacophony of voices, and (maybe most important of all) refuses to demonize those with whom we disagree.

I hope having access to some of the original sources that I was quoting will help you as you talk to God about gentleness and choose civility as your posture with those whom you disagree.  May God, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, use our opportunities to be gentle to make us more like Him.

-David

 

Bethany Hoang

Bethany Hoang

As promised…  When we began this series, I mentioned that we would have a few ‘experts’ who would take the pulpit and talk to us about justice.  On May 17, we will hear from Bethany Hoang who is one of the premier voices in North America on the theology of justice.  From her bio…

Bethany is an author and speaker who is passionate about helping others live the connection between justice and spiritual formation. She serves as special advisor and founding director for International Justice Mission’s (IJM) Institute for Biblical Justice

She has been profiled for her leadership in the justice movement by Christianity Today (one of “50 Women to Watch”), Outreach! and Relevant magazines, the White House, Fuller Seminary, as well as organizations such as Catalyst, Q Ideas, The Justice Conference, Urbana, Lausanne, and Ideation.

Bethany has published two books:  Deepening the Soul for Justice (IVP, 2012) and forthcoming The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance with coauthor Kristen Deede Johnson (Baker, 2016).  In addition to these longer works, she has written numerous essays and articles, as well as notes/commentary on Zechariah for the “God’s Justice” global Bible project (Biblica, 2016).

Bethany holds a BA in religion and history from Miami University of Ohio, and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she received the distinguished Fellowship in Theology. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives with her husband, two kids, and a puppy in Minneapolis.

I like to say that Bethany Hanke Hoang is ‘the famous one’ in our family.  She is an incredible speaker with a compassionate heart who is living these things out in her one, small life on a big, influential stage.  You don’t want to miss this.  I’m a huge fan and a proud big brother.

-David

a pastor more than an activist

congestion

 

How’s it going?  Feeling congested in your soul?

This post is a little longer than most, but I want to bring you up to speed with what God has been doing in my heart and the hearts of the people at Restoration.  Thanks for reading.

We just finished our 4th week in a sermon series about Justice and the Generosity of God.  Each week I gave you an invitation to go deeper into what God is saying to us.  Here is a summary if you need to catch up…

Week 1  We began by defining ‘the justice of God’.  It is grounded in his never-ending steadfast love.  God’s justice rectifies wrongs and distributes rights.   The prophet Jeremiah tells us

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but  let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9: 23-24

If we want to know God and be a part of the things He is doing, we will do justice by practicing these things as well.  I invited you to consider 4 categories that might define your posture as you come to this topic of God’s justice:  the sentimentalists, the suspicious, the frayed, and the hardened.  What have you decided regarding the state of your heart?

Week 2  We recognize that all of us are maxed out.  We have a hard time coming to this justice conversation because we are so pressed and working constantly.  It makes us get so caught up in counting ‘what we deserve from our work’ that we don’t notice ‘what we have received by grace.’   I invited you to make space for justice by practicing the disciplines of gleaning and sabbath–  gifts that God gave to His people so that their lives would look different from everyone around them.  How is it going making space?  

Week 3 I invited you to own what you have been taught about who is on the outside of God’s justice.  We must recognize that each of us learned in our families, our homes, and the places where we grew up–   the people it was ok to leave on the outside.  None of us comes to this conversation with clean hands or completely open minds.  Everyone has their personal criteria for determining who is in or out:  race, social class, level of education, work ethic, place where you live.  We must be vigilant in searching our hearts and admitting our assumptions that this person or group of people do not deserve the steadfast love, justice, and righteousness of our Lord.  How is it going with your searching confession of the criteria you use?

Week 4  I invited you to own what’s been done to you.  It is difficult to have compassion for others when you are bitter about the injustice that’s been done to you.  “Why should I care for someone else when no one cared for me?”  It’s almost impossible to do justice unless you have experienced justice.  It is almost impossible to extend grace unless you have experienced grace.  Our experience of justice often releases us to do justice for others.  So, I carefully, tenderly invited you to remember your injustice:  The things you have done.  And the things that have been done to you.

Walking into the memory of injustice will push you to this question:  Do you believe that God will vindicate the just?  Vindication is the experience of being made right in the eyes of others.  It is the opposite of shame, which is the experience of being exposed as guilty in the eyes of others.   We looked at the heart wrenching story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech in Genesis 20.  For those who have perpetrated injustice like Abraham, there is the hope of forgiveness.  For those who have been placed in the way of harm like Sarah, there is the hope of vindication.  How is it going walking into your memory of injustice?

Hard Work

If you have accepted these invitations and engaged these questions, then God has been doing a lot in your heart over the last month.  These are inquiries that probe the depths of our soul and shake our foundations.  It’s hard work.

Why?

Some of you may be asking, ‘David, why are you doing this series this way?  Why start with us rather than the systems and cycles of injustice in the world?’

It’s because I am more of a pastor than an activist.  There are activists who are excellent pastors and teachers (people like Soong-Chan Rah or Shane Claibourne or Brenda Salter McNeil).  But my calling is to create, nurture, and pastor a community of people who will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and be sent out into the world to do the work God has given them to do.

And so, in a sermon series on justice, my first priority is to expose and heal the stuff that is broken in US.  I do that first because I love the people of Restoration.  My heart is crushed by so much wrong, harm, evil, and pain that is in the world–  that comes from broken systems and broken people.  But (and!) out of all the injustices that I want to see God change by His power through His people, the place where I bring all the prayer, love, intellect, and creativity I can muster is the church gathered and scattered on Quincy Street each week.   I am called to you.

We’ll get to some of the big topics.  But we had to start with the place in which we have the most visibility and ability to change–  our own hearts.  How’s it going?

See you soon.

With love,  David

critical moments

critical moments

Jesus was never afraid to ask the hard question.

In fact, sometimes that seems like the sum of his entire work…  a ministry of hard questions.

On Tuesday night, our Tri2 Small Group Leaders got together for a bit of training as we head in to this trimester.  We spent our time talking about the well-resourced young man in Mark 10.  It is such an encouragement as we think about the critical moments that God gives us with all kinds of different people.

It begins with this man, who seems to have everything (financial wealth, moral obedience, good standing in society) running after Jesus to ask him a question.  And what a question!  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It gets at our core longing to know peace and security, to be right with our Maker.  It picks up on our ubiquitous insecurity–  have I done enough.  Everyone asks it in one way or another…  and it is especially poignant coming off the lips of one who seems to have all the answers.

Everyone has an entry point to hear about Jesus-  no matter how much they appear to not need him.

In response to the most important question this man could ask, Jesus says the most difficult thing he could hear—  sell everything you got and come follow me.

The guy balks.  Then walks away in the opposite direction from Jesus.  The answer was too much.  He had too much of his worth, identity, and security invested in his stuff…  and Jesus was not compelling enough to make him leave it.

In between the most important question that one can ask and the most difficult thing that one can hear, Mark notes that Jesus looked at the man and loved the man.  These details of seeing and loving are almost ‘asides’ but they hold the key to the entire interaction–  Jesus says this most difficult thing because he loves him and he sees what he most needs.  Critical moments become life-changing moments when the difficult answers to the hard questions come from a posture of being seen and loved.  

As followers of Jesus, we are called to regularly speak REALLY difficult things.  And, like Jesus, we may very well experience the rejection of others in response.  It happened to Him.  It will happen to us.  Regularly.

Love is how we share in the cost of what is difficult to say.

Our obligation is to say things from a posture of knowing/seeing the person and loving the person.  Love is what allows us to share in the cost of what is difficult to say.  And love is what turns critical moments in to life-changing moments.

We have 2 critical moments on the horizon for our church:

  1. Tonight at 7pm, Dan Allender will begin his To be told conference at Restoration.  Over 350 people will get to consider the critical moments in their story when Jesus intervened to change their life.  It’s happened for all of us–  the invitation is to live God’s story as one who has been restored by grace.
  2. On Sunday we start a new sermon series:  Justice and the Generosity of God.  This is one of those watershed series where almost every part of our private and corporate life comes under the scrutiny of the Gospel of Grace.  As we will see, we can’t escape that ‘doing justice’ is a central (maybe the central?) part of being the people of God.  ‘Doing justice’ is how God expected Israel and then the church to be known.  And the way God described ‘just’ will challenge us every week.  I hope you won’t miss a Sunday between now and the end of June. And I hope you are in a small group during the week to wrestle through the consequences of these passages.

None of us wants to miss the critical moments that Jesus brings in our life.  All of us want to know we are loved.  Some of us will put it together and run after the author of life who loves us more than we ever hoped.

Grateful to be running with you,

-David

Holy Week 2015

Holy Week 2015

Holy Week — the week between Palm Sunday and Easter — is the heart of the Christian year. This is the time when we remember Jesus’ final days, his passion and death, and ultimately his glorious resurrection. We’re deliberate about walking through this story step by step, inviting God to draw us more deeply into the great truth that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead so that we might have life in him.

It is THE week when those of us who are in the church have a profoundly different experience from those who are not.  Most of you will work during the day.  Many of you have plans for spring break while the kids are off from school.  Let me encourage you to not miss this week, to not treat it like the other 51.  We have an opportunity to take a journey together.

Here are all the details you need for each corporate worship gathering.  Please look for notes on the liturgy, childcare, parking, and what you need to bring.  I look forward to walking alongside you.

Palm Sunday:  March 29 at 9am, 11am, 5pm

  • We’ll begin our worship outside on the front terrace, waving palms and shouting, “Hosanna!”  We’ll end our worship with the story of Jesus’ trial and execution, shouting, “Crucify him!”  It’s a powerful, ironic journey in just 90 minutes — and a bit of a preview of the week to come.
  • Preschool-5th grade Kids’ Small Groups check in will be outside.  Nursery check in will be inside.
  • Please allow 15 minutes for parking and getting to your seat.  We use the lot at the corner of Quincy and 15th Street and provide shuttle service to the church.

Morning Prayer:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7am

  • Each morning we will gather for 30 minutes to focus our attention on the passion of our Lord and to listen to the voice of our Father in heaven.
  • Kids are welcome, but there is no childcare provided.
  • Please park in the lot that is adjacent to our building.

Maundy Thursday:  April 2 at 7:30 pm

  • The liturgy includes a service of footwashing and ends with the Holy Eucharist.  We remember the story of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, when he taught them to serve each other and to remember him in the breaking of bread.
  • Kids are welcome in the service.  There is a nursery available for those who are 2 and under.
  • Please allow 15 minutes for parking and getting to your seat.  We use the lot at the corner of Quincy and 15th Street and provide shuttle service to the church.

Good Friday:  April 3, 9am-5pm

  • The sanctuary will be open for silent prayer and meditation from 9am until 5pm.  There will be an opportunity for you to nail a piece of paper with your sins written down to a cross as part of your confession.
  • At 12pm, 1pm, and 2 pm, there will be guided reflections on the stations of the cross for adults and children.  Our RestoArts team has worked hard to create images that will be used to remember these key points in Jesus’ passion.
  • Kids are welcome to participate in the stations and to nail their confessions to the cross.   There is no childcare provided and please be aware of others who are gathered for silent prayer.
  • Please park in the lot that is adjacent to our building.

Good Friday:  April 3 at 7:30pm

  • In the evening we will have a corporate worship gathering that focuses on the Seven Last Words of Christ.  The liturgy is done in the darkness and is a beautifully poignant series of reflections, prayers, and music.
  • Kids are welcome in the service, although the adult reflections are sometimes more mature in content.  Nursery is available for children 2 and under.
  • Please allow 15 minutes for parking and getting to your seat.  We use the lot at the corner of Quincy and 15th Street and provide shuttle service to the church.

The Great Vigil of Easter:  April 4 at 8:30pm

  • This corporate gathering of worship is the culmination of Holy Week and the beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. The liturgy is in four parts and through Scripture, song, and sacrament, unfolds the story of redemption.
  • The liturgy begins outside on the front terrace with the kindling of the new fire and the burning of the papers from Good Friday.  Then we tell the whole story of creation, fall, and redemption, finally shouting out the first joyful “Alleluias!” of Easter and celebrating the Eucharist.  Bring a bell to ring!  Cow bells, sleigh bells, dumb bells.  Bring em!
  • A “resurrection party” follows in the fellowship hall — we’ll break our Lenten fasts together.  Bring food and a fun beverage to share.  You can put them on tables in the fellowship hall before the liturgy begins.
  • Kids are welcome in the service, although the length is close to 2 hours.  Nursery is not provided.
  • Please allow 15 minutes for parking and getting to your seat.  We use the lot at the corner of Quincy and 15th Street and provide shuttle service to the church.

Easter Sunday:  April 5 at 9am, 11am, and 5pm

  • Invite a friend or neighbor to join you as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection!
  • Kids are welcome in the service.  We will not have our normal Kids’ Small Groups, but will provide a worship guide for children during the service.  Nursery is available for kids 2 and under.
  • Please allow 15 minutes for parking and getting to your seat.  We use the lot at the corner of Quincy and 15th Street and provide shuttle service to the church.

 

 

the shame of being a vine

the shame of being a vine

In the Old Testament the vine is a common symbol for Israel.  Most remarkable is the fact that whenever historic Israel is referred to under this figure it is the vine’s failure to produce good fruit that is emphasized, along with the corresponding threat of God’s judgment on the nation.

-Don Carson from his commentary on John

For example, on Sunday we prayed through Psalm 80 which refers to the unique specialness of Israel as a vine that God himself rescued and cultivated:

You brought  a vine out of Egypt; you  drove out the nations and planted it. You  cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.  It sent out its branches to  the sea and its shoots to  the River.

But then immediately refers to the judgement that Israel is facing because of her infidelity and apostasy:

Why then have you  broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?  The boar from the forest ravages it,   and all that move in the field feed on it.

You were my choice, chosen people–  the vine I brought out of Egypt.  But you have wandered from me and not followed my good instruction.  So I have allowed you to experience the consequences of those choices–  just like a vine that is not tended becomes overgrown and ineffective for bearing fruit.

Every time Israel is compared to a vine, it is for the purpose of showing Israel the consequence of her failure, shortcomings, and disobedience.  Take a look at:  Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, Jeremiah 12:10(ff), Ezekiel 15, 17, 19.  And maybe most poignantly to us in the most expensive county in the United States…

  Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.   The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.  Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.  The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.

Hosea 10: 1-2

Every time that Israel was compared to a vine, it was a teaching moment to show them their shame.

So can you imagine what it was like when Jesus said to his friends, in the last evening he had with them, ‘I am the the true vine.’  Their impulse must have been to expect a lecture on how they had failed–  that’s what prophets did when they compared God’s people to a vine.

But Jesus doesn’t bring up this ‘vine-word-of-their-shame’ to criticize them.  He calls himself the vine because He wants to re-write and re-orient the experience of their shame.  We are fundamentally creatures that want to attach.  We want to connect and to be in a vine.  And, like Israel, we are all aware of the ways we have failed in our attachments.

So Jesus explains:  I am securely attached to my Father.  And you can be securely attached to Him through Jesus by the Holy spirit that lives in us.

Abiding in the vine can re-write our story, can re-orient us to what is true, and can attach us to what brings life–  forever.

JESUS is the vine.  We are branches.  Our shame is gone.  Thanks be to God.

-David

You can listen to the whole story right here.

New Year, New Series, Old Questions

alley

 

Happy New Year!

This morning I was thinking and praying about my hopes and goals for 2015.  I love a few minutes of stillness and quiet before everyone else is awake (i.e. chaos happens).  The sunrise was beautiful.

It did not take long for me to realize that my hopes for this coming year were almost the same as my hopes for 2014:  disciplined sabbath keeping, deliberate time with my family, regular practice of my musical instrument, time management that allows my gifts to flourish and not get whittled away by ‘urgent’ needs.  Sure, I made some intentional progress on these in 2014, but they are still important avenues to a full life that need my diligent attention.  New year, same issues.

I wonder if some of you who have been doing this for longer than I would agree that my experience is normal for people who are growing in years, wisdom, and maturity.  The issues and opportunities and places of focus don’t really change, but our regular attention gives more and more views of how we can develop and change–  kind of like turning something in your hand and looking at it from another angle.  We grow up.

Bring your questions

I am really excited about our new sermon series at Restoration.  In the Gospel of John, there are about a dozen significant interactions between Jesus and people who had sincere questions.  The way Jesus answers them reveal a lot about his personality and his core teachings.  As one writer put it, “we see Jesus addressing the big, universal, ‘meaning of life’ questions:  What is the world for?  What’s wrong with it?  What (if anything) can make it right, and how?  How can we be a part of making it right?  And where should we look for answers to these questions in the first place?  These are the big questions that everyone must ask–  and that honest skeptics are particularly keen to explore.”

We’ll start off with Nathanael’s biting cynicism:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Maybe that’s a question you have asked.  Can anything good come out of the church?  Can anything good come out of this year?  Can anything good come out of me?  We all wonder what will finally make things ‘click’.  At Restoration, we believe that Jesus has answers to our most heartfelt questions.

So wherever you are as you stare ahead into 2015, may God give you grace to keep working hard, grace to know Him more, and grace to ask the courageous questions of life.  We’ll see you at 9, 11, and 5 on Sunday.

-David

Do you love money?

snares

 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6:10

It was Tim Keller who said, “It is really hard for us to see our greed.  No one thinks they are greedy.  In fact, as a pastor, I find that it is easier for people to talk about their sexual sin then about their greed.  I cannot recall anyone ever coming to me and saying, ‘I spend too much money on myself.  I think my greedy lust for money is harming my family, my soul, and people around me.’  Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it.  Therefore we should all begin with a working hypothesis that ‘this could easily be a problem for me.’”  Counterfeit Gods

One of the ways we can discern if ‘the love of money’ is a problem for me is by asking lots of questions that come at our emotions and behaviors around money.  You will have a chance to process your answers with your small group this week.  And you can listen to my thoughts on contentment and greed right here.

These are a tool to honestly dig out what is going on in your heart.  Hope they help you avoid the snares and live in freedom.

  • How do you treat people when they ask you for money?  Are you proud that you have something they need?  Are you annoyed that they can’t figure out how to get it on their own?
  • Are you doing a job that you don’t love but you can’t leave because of the income?  Are you loving money more than vocational flourishing?
  • Do you want to be noticed and recognized when you give generously?
  • Do you expect lots of accountability when you give a financial gift–  This better not be wasted or used for something different?
  • Do you only give to a point that it doesn’t affect your day to day life?  Have you ever had to say no to something you want because of the money you gave to someone else?
  • Do you get mad about money?  Do you fight with your spouse about what the other is spending or who makes decisions or who has control?
  • Do you want people to notice what you wear, what you drive, or what you talk on?  Do you like it when people ask you—  ‘where did you get that?’
  • Have you ‘spent all your money’?  Are you carrying consumer debt of any kind?  Do you live beyond your means?  In a weird irony—  sometimes the ability to save money is an indication that you don’t love money.
  •  In a weird irony, sometimes your choice to save is a clear indication that you love money.  Are you ‘spending all your money’ by saving it so that you feel secure?  How much do you need to feel secure?  What’s your number?
  • Do you worry about money?  Are you distracted because you are not sure how much you have?  Do you wonder how you are going to pay that bill?
  • Have you ever just given a lot away?

Tim Keller says that money is a surface idol that can lead us to our deep idols–  the ones that drive us and we aren’t even aware.  Our love of power, approval, comfort, and control.  These are the deep idols that shape how we love, trust, and serve a surface idol like money.  Those deep idols are the ones that can destroy us.  Those deep idols are where we need to be rescued by the grace of Jesus Christ.

God loves you.

-David

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