Resources on Poverty

Hey Church!

After Zach Garza’s sermon yesterday, we wanted to get you some resources on poverty and some places to support organizations that care for those affected by poverty in our city. As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:10, the apostles asked Paul, “to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do”. Here are some ways we can consider the poor.

Framework for Understanding Poverty - Dr. Ruby Payne:

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Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. is the founder of aha! Process and an author, speaker, publisher, and career educator. Recognized internationally for A Framework for Understanding Poverty, her foundational book and workshop, Dr. Ruby Payne has helped students and adults of all economic backgrounds achieve academic, professional, and personal success.

As an expert on the mindsets of economic classes and overcoming the hurdles of poverty, she has trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, from educators and school administrators to community, church, and business leaders.

You can purchase Dr. Payne's book here and learn more about her work here.

Forerunner Mentoring

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We would be remiss if we did not mention Zach Garza’s organization, Forerunner Mentoring. The heart is to break the cycle of fatherlessness one boy at a time. The mission is to invest and to love in hopes of transforming the young men that come to Forerunner. They actively serve through after school programs, mentoring, and serving the single mother. You can see a video and get more information here.

Austin Street Center

Another friend of ours, Daniel Roby, is the executive director of Austin Street Center. For over 30 years, Austin Street Center has specialized in caring for the most vulnerable homeless men and women in Dallas. Beyond meeting basic needs, Austin Street is committed to individualized care for each person who comes to us for help. You can see a video for more info here.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America - Linda Tirado

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In this article on Slate.com, taken from Tirado’s book Hand to Mouth, explores what is often hard for us to understand, why poor people seem to make such bad choices that keep them in poverty. You can read more about her book here.

Seek the Peace

One of the most vulnerable group of people in our society is the refugee. Seek the Peace, run by Jason and Tess Clarke, is a community peacemakers, working to restore what conflict has undone and prevent future violence by equipping refugees to become leaders for peace at home and abroad. They do this through advocacy and relationships. You can support Seek by purchasing either a shirt or candle here or by volunteering here.

Resources on Racial Reconciliation

Hey Church:

In light of Justus' sermon Sunday, we wanted to give you some resources on race and the gospel.

How to talk about race - Thabiti Anyabwile

A friend sent me an email following the Twin Lakes Fellowship. Because my talk there was basically an exhortation to unity in the church, he asked if I might do a post to help “all those white guys out there that feel so incompetent when it comes to talking about race.”

Actually, it’s a request I get often in one form or another. And that’s sorta ironic… because folks who know me well know that “race” is the last thing I want to talk about with people. Literally, it’s the last thing… right after a number of topics I’ll label as “women’s issues.” (Don’t ask me to elaborate, these are my next-to-the-least-favorite topics to talk about in public or private).

But if you have to talk about race… here are some things to keep in mind that keep you from getting Imus-ed out of a job or a friendship.

You can read more of Pastor Anyabwile's blog here.

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Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition. He wrote on how to talk about race.

 

Is Black Lives Matter the new civil rights? - Mika Edmondson

Mika Edmondson delivered this powerful talk in May 2016 to Council members of The Gospel Coalition. It was an empassioned plea regarind race and the gospel and addressed many contemporary issues. TGC’s Council meets every year to challenge and encourage one another in a private setting by sharing prayer requests and engaging with especially sensitive and urgent issues facing the church. In that spirit the Council invited Dr. Edmondson to help them consider how God is working for justice and mercy in our racially charged and polarized society.

 

Pastor Edmondson is native of Nashville, TN, is the pastor of New City Fellowship. You can listen to his powerful message here.

 

Blood Lines - John Piper

Sharing from his own experiences growing up in the segregated South, author John Piper thoughtfully exposes the unremitting problem of racism. Instead of turning finally to organizations, education, famous personalities, or government programs to address racial strife, Piper reveals the definitive source of hope: teaching how the good news about Jesus Christ actively undermines the sins that feed racial strife, and leads to a many-colored and many-cultured kingdom of God.

You can download the eBook here for free. John Piper is the founder of desiringGod.

 

13TH

13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the "intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States;” it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (unless as punishment for a crime).

The documentary is intense and should be watched with humility and with the help of the Holy Spirit. You will need humility in that it is humbling to listen to another's opinion. And like always, we need our Helper, the Holy Spirit, to discern the times and the heart of the Father in what is going on in our nation. You can preview the trailer here.

Bower Family Sabbatical

Church Family:

Yesterday, John Kaserman shared with everyone that Kasey and I will be taking a sabbatical in August. For those who were here 3 years ago, our vision for 2014 was “Rhythm.” For those who know me and Normandy, getting vision is easy, implementing it is like pulling teeth! Here we are three years later and we are going to practice it in a fairly major way.

During the first part of the year, I began to think about a sabbatical as something I should consider. Then some dear ones close to us confirmed that I, in fact, I do need one. Soon thereafter, I began talking to the elders about it and they gave me the go ahead to start planning.

I am both excited and nervous. Apparently, there is a measure of rest involved (rest is not something I am very good at). Just taking a simple day off has been a learned experience for me. Eugene Peterson said, “If we do not regularly quit work for one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously.”  I guess I am guilty of taking myself and my work far too serious.

The word “sabbatical” comes from “Sabbath”, the day of rest on the seventh day of the week. In the Old Testament, every seven years there was a Sabbath year -- a year of rest for the soil -- and every 50th year was to be a year of Jubilee, also a year of rest for soil. The idea of a pastoral sabbatical goes back to the Middle Ages when the university professors and the doctors of the church were one in the same. The sabbatical, granted every seven years, was an opportunity for these teachers and leaders to simply become students and worshipers for a season.

Ironically enough, it was 7 years ago that we all gathered together at Bryan Street Tavern to announce that we would be starting a church. I began doing specific work in my free time to get the church up and running by January 2012.

Years ago, when thinking about starting Normandy, a friend told me, "church planting will take a chunk of your soul." I have felt the reality of that in the last two years. The transitions in leadership, our journey in foster care, our desire to shepherd people, and our experience seeing people leave the church have all been taxing. However, the good things have been taxing too! The dreaming, the preaching, asking my favorite question: "How does that make you feel?" all have a way of wearing you down emotionally and spiritually.

So, we are going take a sabbatical.  We will be out of town trying to be refreshed, to think, to rest, and to play. I am going turn off my phone (at least, I think I am) and leave the church to trustworthy men and women. I imagine in my absence, all of the problems will be solved and the church will enter into a season of unprecedented glory and growth. I am only moderately joking.

Justus Murimi and Mark Heger will be handling the preaching and teaching while I am gone, while Jesse Benavides will be helping with our community groups. And if you have any problems with your life, you can ask Rachel Clarke to solve them!

I am grateful for the opportunity.

Grace and peace,

John & Kasey

God’s Pleasure to Do You Good

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

(Luke 12:32)

This is a repost from Desiring God by John Piper


Jesus will not sit by and let us disbelieve without a fight. He takes up the weapon of the word and speaks it with power for all who struggle to believe.

His aim is to defeat the fear that God is not the kind of God who really wants to be good to us — that he is not really generous and helpful and kind and tender, but is basically irked with us — ill-disposed and angry.

Sometimes, even if we believe in our heads that God is good to us, we may feel in our hearts that his goodness is somehow forced or constrained, perhaps like a judge who has been maneuvered by a clever attorney into a corner on some technicality of court proceeding, so he has to dismiss the charges against the prisoner whom he really would rather send to jail.

But Jesus is at pains to help us not feel that way about God. He is striving in this verse to describe for us the indescribable worth and excellency of God’s soul by showing the unbridled pleasure he takes in giving us the kingdom.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Every little word of this stunning sentence is intended to help take away the fear that Jesus knows we struggle with: that God begrudges his benefits; that he is constrained and out of character when he does nice things; that at bottom he is angry and loves to vent his anger.

This is a sentence about the nature of God. It’s about the kind of heart God has. It’s a verse about what makes God glad — not merely about what God will do or what he has to do, but what he delights to do, what he loves to do and takes pleasure in doing. Every word counts.

Devotional excerpted from The Pleasures of God by John Piper, page 251

Normandy Splash Pad Sunday!

Thanks to all who came out this past Sunday. A special thanks to Matt & Josh for grilling the food!

Good News: God Is Happy

. . . the gospel of the glory of the blessed God . . .

(1 Timothy 1:11)

This is a repost from Desiring God by John Piper


This is a beautiful phrase in 1 Timothy, buried beneath the too-familiar surface of Bible buzzwords. But after you dig it up, it sounds like this: “the good news of the glory of the happy God.”

A great part of God’s glory is his happiness.

It was inconceivable to the apostle Paul that God could be denied infinite joy and still be all-glorious. To be infinitely glorious was to be infinitely happy. He used the phrase, “the glory of the happy God,” because it is a glorious thing for God to be as happy as he is.

God’s glory consists much in the fact that he is happy beyond our wildest imagination. As the great eighteenth-century preacher, Jonathan Edwards, said, “Part of God’s fullness which he communicates is his happiness. This happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in himself; so does also the creature’s happiness.”

And this is the gospel: “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.” It is good news that God is gloriously happy. No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God.

If God is unhappy, then the goal of the gospel is not a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all. But, in fact, Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he says, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).

Jesus lived and died that his joy — God’s joy — might be in us and our joy might be full (John 15:11; 17:13). Therefore the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.”

Devotional excerpted from The Pleasures of God by John Piper, pages 11-12

Love the One You’re With

This is a repost from Desiring God by Jon Bloom.


It can be really hard to love the church. Every Christian, who’s been one for very long, knows this.

The earthly church has always been a motley crew. It’s never been ideal. The New Testament exists because churches, to differing degrees, have always been a mess — a glorious mess of saints still polluted by remaining sin, affected by defective genes, brains, and bodies, and influenced by life-shaping pasts.

This mess rarely looks glorious to us up close. It looks like a lot of sin and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested into a lot of futility. It often looks like something we’d rather escape than join.

But this is the way it’s supposed to be. Because the mess is what draws out the one thing that advances the church’s mission more than anything else. And this one thing is why we must not, for selfish reasons, leave the church.


The Church We Didn’t Choose

Jesus’s very first disciples didn’t get to choose each other. Jesus chose them (John 15:16). They just found themselves thrown together.

The very next generation of early Christians didn’t get to choose each other either. They too were thrown together with others they likely wouldn’t have chosen: Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews, Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, slaves and slave owners, impoverished and aristocrats, former zealots and former tax collectors, former prostitutes and former Pharisees.

And Jesus gave these early disciples, and all disciples afterward, an impossible command: love one another (John 15:17). It had to be impossible to obey in mere human power because this love was meant to bear witness of Jesus in the world (John 13:35), and to give visible evidence of the invisible God (1 John 4:12). It had to demonstrate that “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

And Jesus gave his disciples an impossible context in which to carry out this impossible command: the church (Matthew 16:18) — a community of diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts living life together in an impossible love.

Then Jesus gave his church an impossible mission: preach the gospel throughout the whole, God-rejecting, Christ-hating world (Luke 21:17John 15:18), and plant impossible communities among every people where diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts would live out Jesus’s impossible command to love one another (Matthew 28:19–20).

Impossible love, impossible community, and impossible mission: this is a plan doomed to fail. There’s no way this works, unless a God exists who makes possible the humanly impossible.

And here we are, two thousand years later. The impossible mission has produced impossible communities carrying out this impossible command throughout much of the world. For all the church’s problems, and they are legion, something miraculous is at work here.


Miraculous, Struggling Community

But the church rarely looks miraculous at any given moment. “The church,” as we most directly experience it, looks like the less-than-ideal local church we belong to, made up of ordinary people struggling to get along, struggling to figure out how to “do church” in a world of constant change, and struggling to do its part to fulfill the Great Commission.

Struggling doesn’t look or feel miraculous. It’s fatiguing, frustrating, and at times exasperating. Struggling can make us want to give up.

But we must not give up on the church. Because it’s the messy things — those extraordinarily difficult and painful things that can drive us crazy — that provide the very opportunities for the humanly impossible love of Christ to be exercised, giving visibility to the existence of the invisible God.

According to the New Testament, a church’s success is not measured by the number of its attenders, the size of its budget, the excellence of its event production, or the scope of its public influence. Its success is measured by the quality of its love. A church that most effectively witnesses Jesus in the world pursues love through:

And what calls such love out? Read each line again and ask what situations prompt such opportunities to love. The short answer is: lots of various kinds of struggling. It’s the messy struggles that call out love.

Churches are designed to be communities of impossible love that only work if God is real, and Christ’s sacrifice is real, and heaven is real. In void of love, the community falls apart or degrades into consumer event products, empty formalism, formless “spirituality,” social advocacy groups, or essentially civic gatherings — all dying or dead remains of a past vitality.


Graciously Disappointing Community

Jesus did not design the church to be a place where our dreams come true. Actually, it’s where many of our dreams are disappointed and die. And this is more of a grace to us than we likely realize, because our dreams are often much more selfish than we discern.

Our personal expectations easily become tyrants to everyone else, because everyone else fails to meet them. When we are more focused on how others’ failings and foibles obstruct the ideal community we want to pursue than we are on serving those others and pursuing their good and joy, our expectations can kill love, which impedes the real mission.

Jesus designed the church to be a place where love comes true, where we lay our preferences aside out of deference to others. It is meant to be a living laboratory of love, a place where there are so many opportunities, big and small, to lay down our lives for each other that the love of Christ becomes a public spectacle.

That’s why when it comes to church in this age, the picture of community we should have in our minds is not some utopian harmony, but Golgotha. In living life together, we die every day (1 Corinthians 15:31). We lay down our lives for each other (1 John 3:16).


Love the One You’re With

Over forty years ago, Stephen Stills sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” Though he certainly didn’t write this with the church in mind, we can draw a redemptive application.

There are numerous legitimate reasons to leave a church, and departures are one more messy opportunity to extend gracious love. But we must have a healthy suspicion of our motives if disillusionment, restlessness, boredom, discontentment, burnout, relational conflict, and disappointed expectations are fueling our impulse to leave. Often these fruits have roots in selfish soil. We must not love the church we can’t be with — that idealized community of our imagination. We must love the one we’re with.

We don’t get to choose the disciples we live with; Jesus does. We get thrown into a motley group of sin-polluted, defective saints, among whom, in our own ways, we are the polluted, defective foremost (1 Timothy 1:15).

What we get is the incredible privilege of and plethora of opportunities for loving these fellow disciples like Jesus loved us. We get to love them, warts and all. Because it is through the mutually self-dying, forbearing, forgiving love warty disciples have for one another that Jesus is most clearly shown to the world and his mission is most powerfully advanced.


Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

Family & Wired

By Matt Clarke

In today’s culture, it is easy to lose our identities in the shuffle of being busy. The culture in and around Dallas pushes us to be more, do more, get more, earn more, spend more, and go more. As a result, many people feel like they are failing, they are flailing, they are driven too hard, and are drowning under the pressure of performance, unmet and unrealistic expectations, and making lists for our to-do lists. In Psalm 127 though, we are reminded that “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who work labor in vain.” It is far too familiar and easy to become burdened and burned out, even by worthy causes, if we are not pursuing a deeper relationship with the One who sustains us. Eating the bread of anxious toil (Psalm 127) characterizes far too many of us instead of being nourished by the Bread of Life (John 6:48).

As believers in and followers of Christ, we know that being drawn into the alluring practice of higher performance and goal attainment can often push us further from God, our families, relationships, and purposes. It will happen without our permission if we lack discipline, direction, and intention. We are not made to burn out, and yet so many of us are running on fumes through the week and trying frantically and unsuccessfully to pull it together by the next Sunday. Chasing significance from both the world and Christian activities will remove our focus from the purpose of the cross, which is meant to invite us into meaningful, significant, and transformational relationships, first with God, then with others.

We are made to receive from God and in the overflow of our connection to Christ, pour ourselves out into the lives of others so they might experience comfort, healing, joy, grace, mercy, and love that surpasses understanding.

One of my favorite characteristics of our body is that we seek to operate as a family. We desire to build each other up, outdo one another in honor (Romans 12:10), encourage one another, push each other into deeper relationship with our Creator, mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice, and expand our family through discipleship and lengthening the cords of our tent (Isaiah 54:2) in our communities.

Many of us may come from families who struggled to care for us well, to meet our emotional needs, to support us, build us up, and make sure that we knew who we were. At Normandy, we want to be marked by the Holy Spirit who guides us as we connect as a family and have the Lord, as our Heavenly Father, meet our needs so that we might meet those of others in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 1:23).

Our annual conference, Wired, helps us do exactly that.

Because we are biologically, emotionally, and spiritually wired for connection to God and others, we believe that the best way to understand who God is, who we are as a family, and the mission he has entrusted to us is to learn more about Him, together. As we understand more, we are able to practice applying the knowledge so that as a family we can care well for those inside and outside our church body.

In the latter part of the Psalms, the Israelites are beaten down. The culture in which they exist doesn’t favor them. Life, in general, was both disappointing and difficult for them. However, they were not defeated. There was One who favored them. The Lord. They were his chosen and so He promised in Psalm 125 to “surround his people, now and forevermore.” Their flesh wanted to despair, but their hope would not allow it. In Psalm 130, they were promised “plentiful redemption” because the Lord was for them. He saw their struggle, had compassion on them, and had a plan to provide for His children physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Much like the Israelites, we find ourselves beaten down by our to-do lists, our commitments, our work, and our responsibilities. We often sacrifice so much of ourselves on behalf of our busyness and schedules that we lose sight of the One who gives us rest, restores our spirits, and lifts our burdens (Matthew 11:30).

You have enough on your list. We are not inviting you to add one more thing.

Wired is an invitation into life, into connection, into family, into comfort, into healing, into peace, and into knowing God and our purposes more deeply and more clearly.  

Good Friday

Jesus tells His followers in John 13:32 that when He is lifted up, all people will be drawn to Him. Today is the day we remember Him lifted up and crucified on the cross (Matthew 27:32-57). 

And Christ was right! All men are drawn to Him! To this day no other person has been more revered, more vilified, or appeared on more magazines two thousand years later. His name is used to bless and to curse. All peoples are drawn to Him. Allow your heart to be drawn to Him today. See our Christ, the crucified Lamb of God:

Matthew 27:37: 

And over his head they put a charge against him, which read, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.'

Matthew 27:45-46; 50:  

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

 Today remember His death. Give time to picture Him there on the cross – the sinless Son of God hung between two thieves. And let your heart be stirred to worship Him! 

Before the Throne of God  

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Maundy Thursday

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This week we celebrate Easter. Together with millions of faithful followers of Christ, we will celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. During this week, which is known as Holy Week, it is good to reflect on what happened over 2,000 years ago.

Today is Maundy Thursday – the day Christians commemorate the Last Super (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-39). In the Gospel of John we are given an intimate picture of Christ’s last moments with His disciples before He is betrayed and arrested. From John 13-16 Jesus both demonstrates His love for His disciples and pours out His heart to His friends. The climax of the Last Supper is John 17 and Jesus’ high priestly prayer:

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Drink from the words of Christ! Delight in the joyous relationship He has with His Father and Holy Spirit. Glorify His name! Christ alone has been given authority over every human creature. And the Father gave Christ the task of bringing eternal life here and now to those who know and love Him. To know Christ is to experience His very life – His joy, His peace, His love, and His comfort here and now.

Life in the Family

Hey Church: 

People often tell me funny things given my occupation as a pastor and shepherd. Recently someone told me of a list of requirements they had for a church. While I am usually quick to offer Normandy as an option for them to check out, their list made me hesitant to invite them to check out our church family. 
I believe we are wired, actually designed to want to be in a family. Yet many of us do anything and everything to avoid being a part of a church family. Yet this is who we are - a family. We are the blood bought sons and daughters of God (John 1:12-13) and members of His household (Ephesians 2:19-22). As believers we don't really have a choice in it; Christ brings us into His family. As we dedicated our babies this past Sunday I was reminded of that fact. These babies didn't choose their family - they were born into it. 

So today I wanted to remind you to be who you were made to be. Be a member of the family. Act like you belong!  In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson paints a wonderful picture of life in the family:

Whether we like it or not, the moment we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior... we are at the same time a member of the Christian church - even if do not permit our name to be placed on a church roll, even if we refuse to identify ourselves with a particular congregation and share responsibilities with them, even if we absent ourselves from the worship of a congregation. Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ. We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family. Membership in the church is a basic spiritual fact for those who confess Christ as Lord.

He continues... 

So the question is not, ‘Am I going to be a part of a community of faith?’, but ‘How am I going to live in this community of faith?’

How are you going to live in a church with a bunch of sinners? As Peterson says, "Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren't bad enough, they all have sinners for a pastors." Thanks Eugene. I will take it from here. 
You belong in our extended family because Christ has made you a part of His family. A family is a place to love, to grow, to be accepted, to contribute and to serve. No matter what you feel on this ("I don't feel a part" or "I am hurt and alone" or better yet, "this church family isn't doing it the right way"), Christ, the creator of the universe and conqueror of death says you are in the family. You are accepted in the Beloved. Become who you were saved to be!

Grace to you, 
John

Associate Pastor, Justus

Hey Fam: 

Recently we had the joy of ordaining Justus Murimi as the Associate Pastor here at Normandy. I wanted to add a little clarity to what happened two weeks ago

As an organization we have it in our by-laws to commission, license and ordain people within our church as we feel led. When Justus first started to work with Normandy, it was in a part time basis and we licensed him (meaning he could marry and bury people legally in the state of Texas).  He had a heart for the youth of Lake Highlands, felt called to Normandy and came on to help us fulfill our mission. 

At the end of last year we (staff + elders) began to sense a few things. First, there was a need to shift some roles in the church. As our church grows one of the greatest places of need is in our families. Our church is taking the whole "go forth and multiply" quite literally. 

Secondly, we all began to confirm that Justus is called to a life of ministry. Meaning it was Christ, not Justus, who has called him to this vocation. Think about Ephesians 4. In it there is this great picture of Jesus vanquishing the enemy and plundering his riches. And those riches are people - men and women! As Christ leads out in a victory parade He gives gifts to the church. And these gifts are men and women - apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and shepherds - gifts given to the body to equip them for works of ministry. We believe Justus is one such man. And because of that we wanted to publicly affirm his calling and ordain him. 

So now he is our Associate Pastor. He is going to be over our family ministry, both children and youth. His work is going to be more focused during this season. He has been charged to help bring our kids ministry up - creating an irresistible environment for our workers and children. Not only that he will continue to "take the land" by reaching out to the youth of Lake Highlands (and at times be the assistant to my assistant - forgive me one bit of humor). 

So let's rally around him, encourage him, pray for him and thank God for Justus! 

Justus (is for justice) Murimi! 

Justus (is for justice) Murimi! 

Opportunities to Serve

Hi Normandy Fam, 
We need help with some service opportunities. Let us know if you would be interested in helping with the following...


Finance Team Admin

Principle function: To assist the Church Finance Team in carrying out its mission by planning, organizing, and administering effective fiscal processes and communication.

Duties are to Assist with:

  • Coordination of human resources, finance, and accounting responsibilities
  • Preparation and printing of reports and handouts for meetings
  • Record Keeping for Expense Management and Tax Reporting
  • Managing email inbox
  • Communication to the Elders and Church through updating church websites and programs, as needed
  • Coordination of money distributed and collected for ministries and events, especially women’s ministry
  • Open, review and route bills to the correct person or group and secure money and in coming checks.
  • Evaluates periodically the insurance needs of the church.
  • Participates in quarterly finance meetings and scheduled committee meetings

Role Requirements:

  • Can maintain discretion and confidentiality as the Church Administrator often works with highly confidential information and conflict situations. 
  • Must demonstrate an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ through regular prayer, Bible study and worship attendance.

Estimated Time Commitment: 5 Hours / Month

Please reach out to Rachel Clarke if you are interested in this position. rachel.clarke@normandychurch.com


Normandy Kids Captain

Before worker pre-meeting (9:00-10:20)

  • Attend 9:00 meeting with leadership, pick up orange folder from closet

  • Prepare for Kids workers’ pre-meeting

  • Lead 10:00 pre-meeting with workers

Check-in (10:30-11:10)

  • Greet families and check in all kids

During Service (11:10-12:15)

  • Float between classes and support classes and workers where needed

After Service (12:15-12:30)

  • Help workers clean up rooms

  • Turn off all lights and close all doors to classes used

  • Return materials to closet in room 219

  • Complete Captain Recap and put in orange folder along with lessons and check-in sheet

  • Return orange folder to closet

    Please reach out to Sam Harvey if you are interested in becoming a Kids Captain. kids@normandychurch.com


Wrecked Rides

Once a month, we open up the youth group for kids to invite friends.  This makes for a large group of kids that usually need a ride home.  What are the requirements?  You need a car and a heart to serve your neighbor.  Our Bible study meets at the Thomson's house and ends at roughly 9pm.  Depending on number of kids and number of drivers, you might take one car load or have to swing back by and pick up a second.  It will most likely take less than an hour of your time.  Most of the kids live in the Lake Highlands neighborhood, but we do have a few that live further out.  It's a great opportunity to serve, get to know some really cool kids and if you come early, you can get a peak at what Normandy Youth is all about. (Oh! and a bonus. . .Justus, Dane and Christy will think you are AWESOME!)

Social Media Fast - Prayer Points


As you fast from social media and spend more time with Jesus, focus on these few prayer points!
- Ask Jesus to give us a desire to see Him as He really is. The rule of the kingdom is to ask in order to receive (Matthew 7:7-11)
- Ask that all dissension and disunity be removed from our body. Our cry is that we would be unified and filled with the Holy Spirit (John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:1-3)
- Ask for the Presence of the LORD to be poured out and to engulf our church (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4)
- Ask that Jesus would pour out His kindness on us that we may repent and surrender to His goodness and mercy (Romans 2:4; 1 Chronicles 7:14)
- Ask for His Kingdom to manifest in our midst – His Will, His Life, His Power (Matthew 4:17; 22-25)

Normandy Instillation and Ordination Sunday

Church Family: 

I wanted each of you to read this in light of what we did yesterday as a church. We installed two new elders (Jerry & Mo) and ordained Justus Murimi. It is from Eugene Peterson and he is a master in painting word pictures. He gives clarity and color to what we did yesterday and what we hope for in these three men: 

We are going to ordain you to this ministry and we want your vow that you will stick to it. This is not a temporary job assignment but a way of life that we need lived out in our community. We know that you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as we are. We know that your emotions are as fickle as ours, and that your mind can play the same tricks on you as ours. That is why we are going to ordain you and why we are going to exact a vow from you. We know that there are going to be days and months, maybe even years, when we won’t feel like believing anything and won’t want to hear from you. And we know that here will be days and weeks and maybe even years when you won’t feel like saying it. It doesn’t matter. Do it. You are ordained to this ministry, vowed to it. There may be times when we come to you as a committee or delegation and demand that you tell us something else than what we are telling you now. Promise right now that you won’t give in to what we demand of you. You are not the minister of our changing desires, or our time-conditioned understanding of our needs, or our secularized hopes for something better. With these vows of ordination we are lashing you fast to the mast of word and sacrament so that you will be unable to respond to the siren voices. There are a lot of other things to be done in this wrecked world and we are going to be doing at least some of them, but if we don’t know the basic terms with which we are working, the foundational realities with which we are dealing – God, kingdom, gospel - we are going to end up living futile, fantasy lives. Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command and promise and invitation. 

February - All About Jesus

Church Family: 
Hope this blog finds you incredible. I am writing to communicate a few things we have going on during the month of February. As I write I want to have you thinking about two things. 
First - our rallying cry - The Kingdom of the Heavens is here and now! His will, His presence, and His power is available to us. My heart is that we seek it with our whole heart. 
Second - our world. I have said this several times over the last few months, but the time we live in is electric with activity, drama and controversies. There seems to be both a spirit of offense (I'm offended!) and a spirit of condemnation (you are wrong and I borderline hate you!) that is stirring up our nation. Neither of which have any place in the Kingdom of the Heavens. 
With that in mind February is going to be all about Jesus. He told us that our world would offer us many trials (John 16:33) and many things to be anxious about (Matthew 6:25-34). With trials and anxieties, and in light of the spirit of offense and condemnation floating around our atmosphere, we are not to focus on that, but rather we are to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Jesus promised that if we did that all these things, the things we need and the things our world needs will be added unto you. 
So we are going to preach about the King! We are going to worship Him and remove things that will keep us from knowing Him and savoring Him. Here is what is coming down the pipes:

Sermons
February 5th - Humble King - Jerry Williams
February 12th - Shepherd King - John Bower (plus a little Potluck!)
February 19th - Holy King - John Bower
February 26th - Savior King - Mark Heger 

Fasting + Worship
February 13th - 17th - Social Media Fast
February 19th @ 6 PM - February 20th @ 6 PM - Food/Daniel Fast
February 24th - Worship Night - at Scofield (more details to come) 
Social Media Fast - most of the condemnation and offense seems to be brewing online. So we are going to take 5 days to STOP IT! And then turn our hearts affection and minds attention on Him. DesiringGod had a great post about turning off social media and praying. You can find it here
Food Fast - Jesus said to do it (Matthew 6:16). Jesus said we live off of more than bread (Matthew 4:4). Fasting is so helpful to kill our flesh so that His Spirit can rule our hearts (Romans 8:12-13). We wrote a blog that has some practicals when fasting and the "why" of fasting. 
Worship Night - Right now we are planning to host a worship night at Scofield. We will keep you posted, but go ahead a mark your calendars for February 24th. That night we will enter in to His presence and minster to Him through thanksgiving, praise and worship. 
Finally. 
Jesus. 
What a Beautiful Name. This song about sums it up. 

The peace of Christ upon you!
Pastor John

Rally Cry #2

Hey Family: 
As I mentioned in a blog last week, we have a rallying cry for 2017: The Kingdom of the Heavens is here and now. That is our external focus, the heartbeat for our year. 
However, behind the scenes, with the staff and elders, we are working diligently toward our second rally cry which is for health & stability within our body. From kids ministry to community groups to our staff and Board of Advisors, we desire to see more health throughout our church as a whole. We will be working throughout the year to see that this happens. The first place we are starting is with our leadership. 

Elders
We are an elder-run church. And for the past 13 months, our church has been primarily lead by John Kaserman and myself. During these 13 months we have been in process to figure out who God might be highlighting to join us in leadership. We are now able to present to you two men, Jerry Williams and Mo Lawson, to join us as elders.
Acts 20:28 says this of elders: 

So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.

Elders are (1) called by God, (2) to share leadership of the church (equal in position, authority, and responsibility, (3) are to be shepherds of men and women's souls, (4) are to be dedicated to prayer and guarding the doctrine of the church, and finally (5) are called to lead and protect the vision of the church. 

Why this matters
Leadership matters. God allows nations to rise and fall on the backs of the leaders. How much more in His body! 
As I read over the list above and in 1 Timothy and Titus,  I am humbled that all three of these men and their families (the Kasermans, Lawsons, and Williamses) are willing to take on this awesome responsibility. The Apostle Peter exhorts the elders in 1 Peter 5:2-3: 

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  

These men and their families are not paid by the church to do this. It is both their desire and we believe, their calling. This is a tremendous step for our church family and will provide stability and protection for our church. Through the years I have been grateful to have men carry the load of caring for a church with me. 

What is next?
Here is where the church comes in: we've asked that you be in prayerful consideration of these men and their families. There is a consummation, a completion or finalization that has to take place with our church body. Throughout this process we've worked for peace and unity. And if the majority of our body isn't feeling peace and unity, we are willing to take time to process that. So we need your insight! We desire your feedback, both the positive and the places of questions. If all goes well (and it has thus far) we will install these two men as elders on February 12th. 

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing what our great King will do in 2017. 

Pastor J

Rally Cry!

Normandy:

I blogged about certain books I am reading (and recommending) for 2017. One of the books is 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni. In it, Lencioni says families need a "rallying cry".

Every family needs a single, agreed-upon top priority, something it can rally around for unity and maximum impact.

In scripture, the church is known as a family or household (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Timothy 3:15). We are in His family, members of Christ's body and a part of one another. And this year our family has this as its rallying cry: The Kingdom of the Heavens is here and now!

Here & Now

After 400 years of silence during the period of Malachi and Matthew (in between the Old and New Testaments), God speaks. And He does so emphatically through His Son, Jesus - the only-begotten Son of God... God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Jesus has an announcement in Matthew 4:17: "Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand". His Kingdom, the King's domain, is available here and now. The Sovereign rule of Heaven has come to birth on Earth. The Kingdom is both the present spiritual reign of God and the future realm over which Christ will rule with power and glory. It is the very activity of God coming to Earth and made available to all. Check out this 2 minute clip from N.T. Wright on the Kingdom. It is so helpful to understanding the Kingdom.

What we believe this means for us is that we are going to pursue His Kingdom. Think about what you would do if your beloved iPhone were lost. In all likelihood you would seek it until it was found (my preccioussss). Likewise, we are seeking His will (where what God wants done is done), His presence (the one thing that has marked His people throughout time) and His power (the very life of Christ made available to the needs of mankind) until they are found.

Go & Proclaim

In Matthew 10:7-9, Jesus sends His disciples out on a trial run of the mission to come. After giving the greatest sermon of all time that would ultimately upend the world (Matthew 5-7), healing everyone (Matthew 4-9) and teaching the disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven," He sent them out to go & proclaim what God is like. And Jesus' commission along with the Lord's Prayer shows us that this isn't a nice phrase to help you pray or a mantra to make you feel better, but rather "Thy Kingdom come" is the rallying cry that moves us to action.

Restoration

When the Kingdom is manifest and the people of God go and actually proclaim what He is like, then restoration is a natural result. And this is where our thinking has to shift - He longs to bring restoration or palingenesia (Matthew 19:28). At the "renewal of all things," when Christ returns, He will (palin) again (genesis) form what was lost in the garden of Eden. Let me have my good friend, Tim Keller, articulate what I am trying to say.  In The Reason for God, Tim (can I call you Tim?) says this of Jesus' return:

Jesus insisted that His bodily return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed all might-have-beens will be. The Biblical view of things is resurrection – not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you have always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that has ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.

Rallying Cry #1

Amen, yes! At the end of our prayers, we usually say “amen”. Amen means so be it and yes - I agree! Everything in my heart longs for this for our body - unity, agreement, wholeness. I long for our church to cry out with one heart, “amen, yes!” to what the LORD has laid out before us. In the morning when we wake, and when we gather together in homes, coffee shops, and restaurants, and especially when we gather to worship together, let us cry out "Thy Kingdom Come and Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven!"

2017 Reading Recommendations

Hey Church: 

Praise Him. 2016 is gone and 2017 is here (and now). I am excited to see our church family next week. In the meantime, a blog for your reading pleasure: 

You know, I am often asked, "John, what are you reading?" Actually that rarely happens. But if it did you could imagine how cool it would be. Regardless, I wanted to put together a resource blog on some books I have read, that I am reading or that I am planning on reading this year. Joe Galindo, a mentor and friend, once told me "There are two things that will greatly influence you - who you hang out with and what you read."

In my role as a shepherd, here are some books I believe will help you as Christ is being formed in you. Teresa of Avila said of the human soul, "The 'interior castle' has many rooms and they are slowly occupied by God, allowing us time to grow". These books should help Him take more ground in your heart. 

So here they are, in no particular order: 

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family - Patrick Lencioni
This is my 3rd read by Lencioni. Lencioni is a great story teller. I cannot emphasize how easy his books are to read because they are simply good stories. Think of modern day Aesop's Fables. He primarily writes business strategy books, however, in this one he turns his attention to the "most important organization in our lives - the family." 
Who should read this? Anyone who is drowning under the weight of kids, work, expectations, diapers, ballet recitals and Netflix binges. Purchase it here

The Bait of Satan - John Bevere 
We tried to emphasize this book last year as a way to protect what Christ is giving us as a church (His Presence). Bill Johnson said, "God loves to manifest Himself upon His people when we're known for our love of each other." It is like God is attracted to love and unity. Bevere powerfully points to the bedrock of our faith - forgiveness. We are called to forgive as we've been forgiven. Moses smell the roses... 
Who should read this? Anyone who can't forgive, is walking in bitterness, who loves negativity and judging everyone. Purchase it here

The Bible - Jesus Christ
Each year, well meaning Christians set out to read the Bible in a whole year. I have done it a few times and was able to last year because I listened to it. I felt like the LORD was asking me to read the entire Bible last year. However, because I am very religious, at first I wondered if it counted because I listened to it. Then I remembered the Bible is a story that has been retold over and over, starting with the ancient world, which was an oral society. Meaning they passed down history and tradition through stories, song and prose. My point is this - ask the LORD where to focus (for me it is the Gospels and Psalms) and use The YouVersion app to listen to the Bible this year. Listen to other versions, NLT, ESV, NASB, The Message, etc. Turn off The Edge (RIP), NPR and Spotify and just listen while you are driving, or doing the dishes. 
Who should read this? People who are breathing. Download it here

Anything book written by Eugene Peterson - Eugene Peterson
The amount of grace and joy and beauty I've come to see and enjoy over the past year is in large part to to Pastor Peterson. He is really cool (see interview with Bono on the Psalms). The two books I would recommend to start with are Run with the Horses and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Peterson is a story teller and is uninterested in phony religion. He wants his readers to find Christ, savor Christ and become fully satiated in Christ. 
Who should read this? Those who are dull and dry of soul and could use some grace and beauty.  You can purchase here:Run with the Horses & A Long Obedience

The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts - Sam Storms 
Finally! A reformed-charismatic-baptist book! Now there's something everyone can enjoy. Right out of the gate, Storms blasts you with the purpose of the book: "What the Church needs is the truth set aflame by the power of the Holy Spirit." Boom. If you are new to Normandy and this whole prophecy thing or if you want someone is smarter than you help explain the gifts - Sam's the man. 
Who should read this? Those hungry for more of the Spirit and those questioning the Gifts of the Spirit. Purchase it here

The Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard 
Excuse me while I find my brain. That is what happens when I try and get through more than 2 or 3 sections at a time. Willard was a brilliant philosopher. Brilliant is almost an understatement. In Conspiracy, Willard uses the Sermon on the Mount to reveal the radical dynamic of living in the kingdom of the heavens. 
Who should read this? Deep thinkers and drinkers. People tired of sin management and hopeful for a better way.  Purchase it here

God is Good - Bill Johnson
Bethel Church.  Love 'em or hate 'em, agree with 'em or disagree, God is moving at Bethel. There is a power coming out of the church and the effect is undeniable. Some of Johnson's thoughts are profound, but the main one centers around the goodness of God. He is better than you think.  I would read this alongside Diving Conspiracy. They are completely different in style and tone, but are after the same aim - Christ's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. My heart has been stirred as I've read this book. 
Who should read this? The faithless, the tired, the hurting and the hungry and anyone who questions the goodness of God. Purchase it here

The Longest Day - Cornelius Ryan 
This book is the reason we named our church Normandy. In it we saw heart, pain, the realities of life and death and sacrifice. Boys younger than the majority of us are now went to fight and give their lives to sacrifice for people they'd never really know - that they might be free. It is incredible. 
Who should read this? People watching Empire, OTNB, or GOT (meaning... this will be a better use of your time... no judgement though). Or if you like history and want to know more one of the most dramatic events in the history of our world (WWII). Purchase it here

The Babylon Bee - Funny Christians 
Think the Onion meets the Baptist Standard. This website is everything I have ever dreamed of when it comes to satirizing the Christian life (you know the parts that are kinda funny, kinda dumb, kinda sad and kinda true). Just listen to these delicious titles: 
Local Man's Bible Excited to Be Read for Whole First Week of January Again
Matt Chandler asks Drive Through Employee 42 Times if She's Tracking With Him
Rich Young Ruler Finds Home at Lakewood Church
Church Women's Group Organizes to Spread Good News of Plexus
Who Should Read this? Everyone at Normandy. See Hebrews 13:17. 

Hopefully this is helpful to give you a little vision or inspiration to shape your mind and heart towards Christ in 2017. If you would like to read one of these books and cannot afford it, come see me on Sunday and we will make it happen. 

Pastor J.