A word for our men…

Men, I want to thank you for attending our PUSHBACK retreat this Pushback_mensretreat15bpast weekend.  As several men shared, God is doing something powerful at Restoration Road Church.  Our church is not perfect; we are never perfectly balanced; we are never wise enough to not be desperate. Despite our insufficiencies and weaknesses, God has blessed us with an amazing church full of amazing people. With every passing day, God reveals more leaders who are willing to serve and servants who are willing to lead. God has done all of this by His grace.  He has brought us all together onto the same field to be friends, brothers, and co-laborers for His glory and our joy.   Below are a few of my personal reflections from this weekend’s instruction. They are more like reminders of who we are in Christ…

We are not selfish consumers.  We are selfless worshipers. 

Jesus said it is better to give than receive.  Consumers take.  Consumers complain. Consumers are passive and only participate when they benefit personally. Consumers only ask what others can do for them, not what they can do for others.  Consumers are selfish.  We must be worshippers who contribute.  Motivated by Jesus’ service to us, we do not wait for the pastor or a program to meet our needs-we work to meet the needs of others.  Our living, our loving, our serving, and our sacrificing are all our spiritual worship.

We are not abandoned orphans.  We are a kingdom family.

Jesus said we are his brothers. The church, community centered on the gospel, is not an addendum to our Christian life. Jesus did not merely die for individuals; he died for His church.  The Bible says the church is his family and his body. As a family, the love we have for one another is our greatest evangelistic tool.  We need to be known and to know.  We need to be encouraged and encourage.  We need to admonish and be admonished.  We need to love and be loved.  As a body, we are healed with, guarded by, built up in this love together—we need each other to grow, to heal, and to succeed.

We are not sentimental believers.  We are disciples of the way.

Jesus said to follow Him.  Jesus did not merely call us to ascent to certain truths but to live a certain WAY. Faith in the gospel transforms us into new creatures with a different identity, a different mentality, and a different trajectory. We have, therefore, lives foreign to the world because, even though we live in one kingdom, we are governed by another.  We become who we are supposed to be in Christ as we endeavor to live out who Jesus says we are.

We are not worldly citizens.  We are exiled ambassadors.

Jesus said to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  We have a job to do, a hill to charge, a mission to complete. This I not our home, we are exiles.  More than that, we are sojourners, aliens, and ambassadors in a foreign land.  As exiles, we must fight becoming too attached to the things of this world, the things that won’t last—positions, power, prosperity, and even particular people.  All of these things will fight to distract us from our primary purpose to work for God until He returns or calls us home.  Until then, even though we are living in one kingdom, we are governed by another.

From who are WE to who am I

The spirit of this retreat tempts us to spend our time examining our church.  Ironically, we are tempted toward a reflective consumerism.   How quickly we forget that the church is not an impersonal organization; it is a gathering of disciples.  In other words, we are the church.  As we unavoidably consider where our church is “weak”, let us obey the apostle Paul’s command to do the hard and humbling work of examining ourselves (2Corinthians 13.5).  How do you to this?

Step 1 | Consider that the Bible calls you to mature spiritually.  Spiritual maturity is unlike physical maturity—it doesn’t happen naturally.  Stated simply, spiritual maturity is the growth of a personal love for Jesus and an increased devotion to Jesus. Jesus is the motivation, the means, and the model for this maturity.

Step 2 | Evaluate your level of satisfaction as a follower of Christ—someone who intends to live like Christ.  Some helpful categories to use (certainly not comprehensive) are a worshipper, family member, disciple, and ambassador.  Where are you as a worshipper (relationship to God), a family member (relationship to church), a disciple (relationship to self), and ambassador (relationship to the world).  If you must make comparisons, compare yourself with Jesus so as to avoid self-delusion.

Step 3 | Make a plan.  Paul tells Timothy to “train yourself for Godliness” (1Timothy 4.7-8). Motivated, empowered, and guided by the person and work of Jesus, we are to be intentional about our maturity.   Training intending to impress God is sinful.   Training because God is already impressed with you is joyful. As I have often said, God will delight but not love you more for your commitment to read, pray, serve or witness more than you have.  But, undoubtedly, you will end up loving Him.

Onward.

RE:sermon | Who Jesus Receives and Rejects

RE:sermon is an effort to share the best thoughts from the most recent sermons.  resermonToo often, some of the “nuggets” of truth get lost in the noise and length of the sermon.  Some of these need to be forgotten while others need to be repeated.  As Doug Wilson once told me, “If it is good enough to say once, it is good enough to say twice.”  With that in view, the following quotes were taken from two sermons preached in early March 2015.  Both sermons come from our series in the Gospel of Matthew (Book 3).  One sermon is titled WHO JESUS RECEIVES and the other is titled WHO JESUS REJECTS.

If we are going to love children, then we they must be SOUGHT for, BROUGHT to, and TAUGHT about Jesus.Twitter-Button

We have a responsibility to care for our family, our church, and the world…We all have a tendency to focus on caring for ONE of these areas, often at the EXPENSE of the others.  We need to balance the competing tensions that exist between the three in order to avoid idolatry of any one.

All children need to be taught even though you come to Jesus with nothing, by grace through faith, you get everything from Him.Twitter-Button

Few of us hinder the children by actively stopping them from coming to Jesus; many of us hinder them through our PASSIVITY and INDIFFERENCETwitter-Button

The greatest hindrance to eternal life is a heart that wants to DO for Jesus versus a heart that wants to BE with Jesus.Twitter-Button

No amount of your goodness will get you into heaven, because no amount of your goodness is actually good. Twitter-Button

Jesus says, in order to enter heaven, you must perfectly satisfy the law or have it perfectly satisfied for you by someone else.Twitter-Button

The Road of life is the Road of God’s commandments. But the way to get on this road is THROUGH Christ.  The way to walk this road is IN Christ.  And the way to stay on this road is BY Christ.

Whatever you are least willing to surrender for Jesus is what you are most apt to idolize.Twitter-Button

Jesus does not offer something to do, he offers something to believe. Twitter-Button

Hula Dancing and Jesus

I found this in an old sermon back from 2008. It made me laugh. I thought I’d post it for kicks…

One Hula Dancing Boy
The other day, my oldest son Fischer came home with a special flyer cjghdf_editedfrom this school. Apparently, a local group was offering Hula Dancing Lessons to boys and girls. For $120, my son, my one day going to be a man son, could experience 8 weeks of grass skirt hip gyrating exercise that would be the envy of manly Dad’s everywhere. Not Karate or Kung Fun, not hammering nails or building forts, not skateboards or video games…no, hula dancing. It took me all of three seconds to decide that my son would not be doing it, although Caylin had said he was really excited about it.

So I had to tell him…

ME:   “Fischer, you will not be doing hula lessons.”
FISCHER: “Ohhhh…why?”
ME:  “Hula dancing, well, it’s, um, it’s for girls. You’ve already mastered the art of twisting and shaking your bottom. Go put some grass clippings in your pocket and there you have it.”
FISCHER: “Well Dad, it was originally just for boys.”
ME:  “So you say.”
FISCHER: “Yeah…” And Fischer proceeded to give me a detailed explanation as to the history of hula dancing.

I did a little research of my own. Hula dancing basically began as a religious ritual rather than entertainment. There were a number of rules about how to do it, when, etc. It had been around for thousands of years until the Christians showed us as missionaries in the 1800s. They believed the dance was of the devil, against God, and it almost disappeared as a result. Eventually, a king made sure it didn’t all but disappear and revived the art underground.

Now, there are some of you probably thinking, what does this have to do with the gospel of John AND what kind of freakish Dad thinks his son will be damaged by gyrating around in a grass skirt. Did you listen to what you just said? Your talking to a Dad whose took his boys for some man-therapy the other night by going to Joe’s and looking at punching bags, knives, and guns to feel normal again. Sorry, I want my boys to be manly and grass skirts appear to be a step in the wrong direction.

So what does this have to do with John or Christianity—everything! See, I realize that a lot of people will view me as some man-o-maniac who is trying to make their son some sort of Chuck-Norris He-man hybrid. But, I have a plan for what I want to teach my son and it’s not to be a hula dancer. There is nothing wrong with hula dancing in itself, but it feels like today’s world refuses to draw any lines on anything. Perhaps they would understand if Fischer had requested to starting using a purse or wearing a dress. At some point the answer is simply NO…you’re a boy. They are hesitant for fear of what people say to declare I believe this, this is right, and/or this is wrong. All in the name of tolerance.

What happens when this extends into Jesus and Christianity? There has to be some lines drawn from Scripture about who Jesus is, who we are, and how we are supposed to live. All too often, people have started to declare who Jesus is or what the faith in him looks like without any basis in Scripture. In fact, most of them have abandoned Scripture all together. It seems like EVERYTHING is up for grabs these days. If you start changing Jesus, say, he’s not born of a virgin, it will never stop there. Suddenly, you’re not certain if Hell is a real place and whether homosexuality is in fact a sin. That is exactly what Satan did in the beginning when he showed up and started having an “innocent” conversation with our first parents Adam and Eve asking, “Did God really say that?” There is nothing wrong with questions—BUT WHERE ARE THE ANSWERS COMING FROM? At some point, if you haven’t taken a stand, even on the SMALL THINGS, you’ve changed something enough that he’s NO LONGER Jesus of the Bible, it’s no longer Christianity!

Re:Sermon | Are you killing it?

Taken from Mystery of the Mind of Christbekillingsin

Your fight against sin begins with believing there is a fight to be had. Sin will either tempt you to not fight, to fight the wrong things, or to fight the wrong way. I’ve heard it said, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. You can get very good at fighting the wrong thing the wrong way. Here is the right way:

1. Fight honorably – the fight for the glory of God (Right motivation)

2. Fight intentionally- the fight is strategic (Right battle plan)

3. Fight ruthlessly – the fight is painful. (Right and Radical Sacrifice)

4. Fight relentlessly – the fight is never over (Right disposition)

5. Fight skillfully – the fight is biblical (Right weapon)

6. Fight communally- the fight is together (Right Community)

7. Fight faithfully – the fight is Christ-centered (Right means)

Our fight is not just one of defense, it is one of offense. Repentance is both walking away from and walking toward—it is not standing still.

Jeremiah 2.1 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

The trouble with talking about sanctification

The trouble with talking about sanctification is that our flesh always gets in the way. Even if we know thatgrace_series_renovation the ACT of God’s grace (justification) has secured our union with Christ, we wrongly believe that our communion with Christ (sanctification) is a work dependent upon ourselves. Without question, there is an inescapable tension between justification and sanctification; between our position of holiness and our practice of holiness; between faith and works.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2.12-13

How does it all happen? It is all God? Is it all me? There are two ditches on each side of the road. In one ditch is the “Let go and let God” people who believe they have ZERO responsibility to do anything regarding their behavior—I prayed the prayer—I’m saved…God will do the rest magically. On the other side of the ditch are those people who believe “It is all up to me” and they have 100% responsibility to change their thoughts, feelings, and behavior which results in a pendulum swing between pride and despair depending on how well they do. The question becomes, where does God’s sovereignty start and man’s responsibility begin when it comes to changing our attitudes and behaviors?

I recently preached a rather unsatisfying sermon on sanctification. Though I know Jesus was proclaimed, I am hopeful that the gospel was preached—there is a difference. I have learned that, even when grace is preached, the flesh has a tendency to speak and to hear works. Even if Jesus is said to have done everything, our flesh screams to do something. 

To be clear then, I believe that the righteousness we have received is Jesus’ not our own. I believe, therefore, that God graciously (but painfully so) God takes us through a perpetual RENOVATION process that ends either in our death or his 2nd coming. As sinners we were an old abandoned meth house destroyed by squatters. Through the death and resurrection Jesus, our ownership has changed and the new caretaker intends to not only clean it but fill it. He not only wants to make it livable, more than that, he wants to make it beautiful. Why? In order to increase three things: grace, gratitude, and glory to God. We are redeemed works in progress, slowly becoming in practice what we are in position.

This is a gospel-powered renovation. This is more than a little paint and washing the windows. In order to look like Jesus there will be ADDITIONS, SUBTRACTIONS, and MODIFICATIONS. We are, individually and corporately, a redeemed work in progress. It would be appropriate to put an UNDER CONSTRUCTION sign on our front door. As a work in progress, we are not complete. That is not the same as saying we are deficient, because God’s Spirit has given us all of the materials are there to complete us. It does mean, however, that our faith has unfinished areas, exposed areas, weak areas, even ugly areas. But there is a sense that the slowly, over time, our faith, and our faith family, will take on the shape, beautify, and function it God planned for us with all grace, gratitude, and glory.

This kind of renovation occurs ONLY as we behold the glory of the Christ. As we do this, His glory mysteriously but decisively transforms us into the same image of Glory from one degree to another (2Corinthians 3.18). How do we behold God’s glory? God gave us both desire and means to pursue His glory—which is His love in Christ. We read the Bible to learn about God’s love. We pray to respond to God’s love. We gather with God’s people to experience God’s love. We serve to share God’s love. And God, by His grace, sends trials refine us with His disciplining love. These are God’s means of grace through which we grow into who we already are in Christ.

In summary, as believe that Jesus loves us just as we are, by grace, we become who we actually should be.

The Road Church Network | Redefining and Renaming

WHY WE PLANT CHURCHES

 We believe our mission is to live out the Great Commandment as we fulfill the Great Commission.  Through the gospel, Jesus gathers us into a family of families and then sends us on mission into the world. Specifically, we believe we are called to make disciples and plant churches. This commitment requires the conviction that the Great Commission can be accomplished and will be completed. Image Furthermore, it requires that pastors and churches view themselves not as the end of the mission, but as a means to mobilize and equip people for mission through the local church. As God saves us by the power of the gospel, believers are gathered into a FAMILY where we grow in the gospel together—taking it deeper into our own hearts as we share it in one another’s lives.  But our family is not only a collection of maturing brothers and sisters who love one another; we are a team of ambassadors who are SENTon mission into the world. Genuine faithfulness requires that we both gather and scatter.

A church that lives out its “sent-ness” is a church that understands the Great Commission to be a call to make disciples AND plant new churches.  Since its beginning, Damascus Road Church has been a church committed to such reproduction.  It is our hope that disciples will make new disciples, groups will launch new groups, and churches will plant new churches. The elders believe that a continued commitment to this kind of reproduction will require a redefining the relationship between our two campuses.

WHY WE’RE LAUNCHING ROAD CHURCH NETWORK

It has been nearly two years since the elders cast vision for a campus in Snohomish.  At that time, the elders envisioned becoming one church that met in two locations.  Multi-site campus models like this have proven effective in maximizing resources, minimizing costs, and reaching more people for Christ.  The elders were decidedly against any form of video-preaching, so we cast a vision to for a second preaching pastor to lead one of the two campuses.   Unified by the Spirit, we officially launched Damascus Road Snohomish on the evening of January 13, 2013.

God faithfully grew His young plant in Snohomish.  Soon, God opened the door to lease an old historic building in the heart of downtown.  As expected, we transitioned to a morning service in the Summer of 2013.  What once felt like an additional service quickly grew into a flourishing church plant.  And though we had planned to continue as one church, with one elder board, one bank account, and one mission, the elders soon recognized the natural movement of the campuses was toward greater autonomy.  Though we shared the same essential DNA, we found that the people, the communities, and even the missions took on unique personalities like siblings from the same family.

Despite the pragmatic benefits of our model, we also found there were great costs.  Things such as staggered service times, a travelling preacher, shared staff, and combined events proved difficult for the pastors, and the people.  In early Fall, the elders began to discuss how we could continue to maximize the benefits of shared resources while minimizing the emotional, material, and psychological costs to the people.  Over the next three months, we prayed, fasted, and discussed our next step.  By 2014, we had made two decisions:

First, we decided to install a new lead pastor in Marysville and further empower the local elder boards.  This eliminated any travelling preachers, and ensured that the people were shepherded by local pastors and their families.  This also generated needs for more robust leadership teams to help with the operations of the ministry locally.

Second, we decided to establish an umbrella organization called Road Church Network. This decision is aimed at maximizing the local distinctiveness of each church while maintaining the pragmatic benefits of being one unified organization.  An additional reason for this decision was an unforeseen need to file as a 501c3 with the federal government. The timing of this requirement only helped confirm our decision to move forward.

We are currently in process of completing the paperwork for this transition.  When it is finalized, the church in Marysville and the church in Snohomish will exist as distinct entities under the one organization called the Road Church Network.  Having one organization will eliminate the need to duplicate systems and allow us to share costs of things such as: healthcare, the CITY, the Website, the APP, and even some branding.  In essence, we will be able to grow in our unique identity, and still maintain a shared familial history and bond.

In essence, we will exist as separate churches functioning under an umbrella organization called the Road Church Network.  We believe that a church network positions us to be more efficient, more contextual, and more biblical, in our commitment to church planting.  We believe it protects church autonomy while maximizing accountability.  We believe it fosters regional unity while maximizing local authority.  We believe it avoids church imperialism while maximizing church reproduction.

WHY WE’RE CHANGING NAME OF SNOHOMISH CAMPUS

As we launch the Road Church Network, we will change our language to reflect the changes in our organization.  We will no longer use the word campus, but church, to describe our respective bodies.  To further clarify our distinction, the elders have decided to modify the name of Damascus Road Church in Snohomish to: Restoration Road Church.

The church in Marysville will continue as Damascus Road Church, without the name of the city attached. With this announcement, we will begin a systematic transition over the next two months, to be completed in August.  The initial changes will include things like THE CITY, Facebook, and the website.  By the end of Summer, all signage and logos will be rebranded in Snohomish.  The elders trust that distinguishing the two churches in this way is a wise decision for the church in Snohomish, the church in Marysville, and any future churches we plant together under the Road Church Network.  We expect that this name change will: 

  1. Eliminate natural comparisons or competition between churches of the same name
  2. Emphasize each church’s unique missional identity (under Jesus’ greater mission)
  3. Redefine the churches’ relationships as complementary versus codependent
  4. Increase the cultural connection with the city
  5. Establish a naming precedent for future church plants.
  6. Release each leadership team to pursue and implement a more local vision
  7. Exchange the popular multi-site model for a more biblical planting model
  8. Increase the sense of local responsibility to support the local church
  9. Simplify evangelistic invitations to attend a particular church
  10. Reduce network needs in order to focus leadership on the needs of local ministry

WHY WE’RE CHOOSING RESTORATION ROAD CHURCH

Names are important to God.  Throughout Scripture, names are attached to people, places, and things in order to provide a meaningful identity.  The Road Church “last name” ensures we have a binding family identity amongst every church that is planted out of our network.  But it also allows churches to determine a “first name” tailored to their particular cultural context or mission.  We believe the word “RESTORATION” aptly describes the church’s building in Snohomish, fits the culture, clarifies the mission, and reflects a belief in gospel.

  1. Restoration of the place:  We gather in a historic 19th century building in the heart of the city.  Once a stable for horses, God has reclaimed this place for His flock.  God’s spirit, through the worship of God’s people, has restored this empty building to life.   As we restore the aesthetic of the building, we make our dwelling place in the city more beautiful.  Our name helps remind us that we are called to bless the city in tangible ways.
  2. Restoration of the culture:  The city of Snohomish is known for its antique-rich culture.  The name simply aims to engage the existing culture of restoration.  Jesus incarnated into the world and dwelled for 30 years in relative obscurity.  He lived, worked, and enjoyed the culture as one of the people.  Our name helps us identify with the people of the city through contextualization.
  3. Restoration of the mission:  In Revelation 21.5 Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Jesus intends to restore all that sin destroyed.  Our mission is to see the culture restored back to God’s original design.  This includes things such as manhood, womanhood, parenting, marriage, finances, and work.  Our greatest joy is to see Jesus restore people, places, and practices back to their God-given purpose.  This name helps focus our mission as a call to glorify God in all things.
  4. Restoration of the gospel:  Restoration is the completion of the story of God.  God created a good world that broke because of man’s sin.  Jesus came to redeem his people from sin and restore humanity back to complete wholeness.  Though Jesus is reigning as King, we experience His Kingdom “now and not yet.”  Though we see God restoring creation, we live in a broken world, experiencing sin, death, and inconsolable suffering.  In truth, there are some things which will only be fully restored in eternity with Jesus.  This name helps us hope in our future restoration which comes with our resurrection.

Thank you for your commitment to our mission.  We are all very excited about these changes.  Know that the elders are committed to honest, open, and clear communication as we move forward.  If you have any questions or concerns, please share them with one of the elders at your church. Grace.

Pastor Sam

on behalf of the elders

Re: Sermon | Jesus says some scary things

The first time I preach a sermon, I always wish I could preach it second time.  The second time I preach a sermon, I always wish I couldImage preach a third time.  I always feel there is more or less to be said, or much to be changed.  Such is the case with my last sermon titled JESUS IS SCARY  GENEROUS from Matthew 7.15-23.  “Scary” is probably not the most popular adjective to describe Jesus.  The truth is, Jesus said some scary things. 

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’(Mt 7:21–23). 

Below is an excerpt taken from my most recent sermon.  In essence, passages like this challenge us to consider what we are looking to for the true basis for our salvation.  In other words, what are we really putting our faith in? Consider:

  1. Intellectual understanding is not enough (LORD). There are certainly things we must believe.  We must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God—fully God and fully man, perfect representative and perfect sacrifice.  We must believe that Jesus was sent to save the world.  We must must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross, in my place for my sins.  We must believe that He died because it was the only way to remove our guilty and satisfy God’s wrath.  We must believe that he was raised the third day and is seated and has been exalted as Lord of all.  There are certainly things we must believe, but even the demons are orthodox.In Matthew 8, we’ll see that the demons acknowledge Jesus’ authority.  James 2.1919 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Suffice to say, everyone who believes will declare Jesus as Lord, but not all who declare Jesus as LORD will actually believe.

  2. Emotional feeling is not enough (LORD, LORD):  These people whom Jesus ultimately casts out, not only have a set of beliefs (many orthodox) but they also have a zeal for God. They not only say Lord, they declare LORD LORD! They have feelings and emotions involved.  Despite all of their excitement for the things of God, Jesus says they are outside of the kingdom.  How do we explain this?  Our feelings cannot always be trusted.  Often, our enthusiasm is entirely of the flesh. All tears, tickles, and tingles do not necessarily come from God.  Contrary to popular belief, more emotion does not necessarily mean more spirituality (though some of us could go with a little more).  It might mean you are just an emotional person. 

  3. Words and works are not enough (DID WE NOT DO):  Finally, these people present the evidence for their devotion—the works that they have done.  And what is frightening is that these false converts, non-Christians, unbelievers are able to accomplish things in the name of Jesus!  They are able to prophesy and deliver some sort of spiritual message.  They are able to preach right doctrine, even lead others to salvation, and yet himself remain outside of Christ.  Scary.  More than that, they are able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus—as a member of the 12, Judas had this power. Finally, they say we were able to do many wonderful deeds in Jesus’ name.  These are legitimate mighty works of building ministries, of serving the poor, even of miraculous healing.

This passage is so “scary” because it forces us to identify the true basis for our salvation.  For some of us, we rely on what we know, others what we feel, and still others what we’ve done.  Jesus seems to say that eternal life has nothing to do with what we understand, what we feel, or what we do.  When these men come before Jesus, He doesn’t say – you don’t understand me enough, you’re not excited about me enough, or you didn’t work for me enough.  Jesus simply says, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.”    

I continued in this sermon to direct us toward the only basis for our salvation, namely, GRACE.  If I were going to preach it again in a way that is more clearly organized (but perhaps less spirit-filled admittedly), then I would probably state is this way:

We are not saved by what we know about Jesus, what we feel about Jesus, or what we do for Jesus.  By grace, we are saved by what Jesus knows about us, by what Jesus feels toward us, and by what Jesus has done for us. 

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