A Building DTR: From Maybe to Probably

Sup, Church?

Last Sunday Jerry gave us an update on the building. You can listen more to his announcement on the sermon podcast here: http://normandychurch.com/sermons/2017/12/3/advent-i

Here are a few quick points: 
- The land option is transitioning from a maybe to a probably.
- We need space primarily because of our growth in kids. If all the kids showed up on Sunday we would have 73 kids! 
- We have looked at 20 options in Lake Highlands (private/public schools, other churches, retail spaces, etc).
- The elders feel called to be located in Lake Highlands.
- Currently, we are in the option period on the land. Patrick Tam, Jackson Thomas, Bryan Larson, Miles (Davis - just kidding) Durham and Jerry Williams have been looking into preliminary design, finances, feasibility of the land, etc. 
- Justus and John met with Scofield to explore adding a second service to deal with immediate needs for our children 

All in all, this looks like a very real, viable option for us as a church. The elders feel peace about where we are in the process. As the plan develops, we hope to outline a soft plan for how this will work (numbers, time-frame, what to do in the mean time, etc). We covet your prayers during this time. If you have further questions, please email questions@normandychurch.com 

Pastor J

Update on Giving Sunday

Church Family: 
Breaking news! This Sunday we were planing on having a giving Sunday for the building at 9090 Skillman. We are postponing for two reasons: 

1. Our Values - one of the main things we value is unity and peace. Over the last few days we've had several questions from the body regarding the finances, the plan moving forward if we don't raise the desired amount and questions of whether this is indeed the only and best option. Overall, we've felt excitement from the church, just a measure of questions and a lack of clarity. Therefore, we are going to pause the giving Sunday. 

2. Another Option - On Wednesday night when we started the fast, I received a call about another option for us as a church. In between 9090 Skillman and this option, the elders and I are very excited to see what God does. 

SO: 
We are still going have our lunch on Sunday - which the church is providing. PLEASE REGISTER FOR LUNCH! We will use this time to answer the questions about 9090 Skillman and present the second option to you all. 

Thank you for your flexibility and grace. I am excited to be with you on Sunday. 

JSB

Fasting Prayer Points

Hey Everyone:
We are fasting this week for the building! We want every person in our church to participate in this fast. We don’t care if it is for every meal or for one meal. We want you to fast!
We want to position our hearts to hear from the Lord on this building endeavor. It is so exciting I can’t stand it! I am not sure what God is going to do, but I am excited to see the results. It is going to be great!  Here are a few things we are fasting for:

Direction - Fasting is a great way to position our hearts to hear from God (2 Chronicles 20)

Power - Jesus fasted for 40 days and came out with power and authority - have you seen our world? We need the gracious power of the Holy Spirit!


If you need some resources on fasting look here and here.


November 1st - Evening
Matthew 7:7-11 - Ask the Lord to give us all that we need to move into the building

November 2nd - Morning
James 1:5 - Ask the Lord for wisdom on how to best proceed with the building

November 2nd - Noon
Matthew 6:9 - Ask that God's kingdom becomes more and more apparent in our midst

November 2nd - Evening
Exodus 35:21; 2 Corinthians 9:7 - Ask the Lord would stir the hearts of our church and that we would giving willingly and not under compulsion  

November 3rd - Morning
1 Timothy 6:9; 1 John 2:15 - Ask the Lord that we would not give into the love of money or of the world

November 3rd - Noon
Malachi 3:10 - Ask the Lord to open up the heavens and pour out His blessing on us! 

Building FAQs

Normandy:

We’ve enjoyed getting feedback and questions regarding the prospective building. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to answer in one place for your consideration. Don’t forget to review the building meeting recap to catch up on all is happening. Remember, as elders we think the Lord is using this process to challenge the way we operate. Whether or not it leads to a new building, we have opportunities to operate more effectively as a body and to be more strategic, consistent, and deliberate in what we do and how we do it.

What are you asking Normandy, as a body, to do?

Our plan is to attempt to lease and build out the space at 9090 Skillman. In order to do that, we want to know if you, our church family, are with us. We are moving forward unless there is an outcry from the church of “no”.

We want you to pray, fast, and ask the Lord what He thinks and what He wants. Additionally, we want you to ask the Lord how much money to give to the building. We care more about you hearing from the Lord and obeying what He says than giving a lot or a little.

  • November 1st - 3rd: Pray and fast

  • November 2nd: Pray at 9090 Skillman at 6:30 PM

  • November 5th: Giving Sunday & church lunch. We are going to do giving Sunday a little different. We will have a normal church service and then we will provide lunch for everyone. YOU HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR LUNCH! During the lunch we are asking you to bring your checks and pledges and we will count it and announce the number to the church. If you are not going to be there, we want you to email the number you feel like the Lord is asking you to give to finances@normandychurch.com.

  • The week of November 6th we are going to sit down with an asset manager to discuss our options.

  • On November 12th we will give the church a report on next steps.

Why are we fasting?

We want every person in our body to fast. Whether it’s one meal or the full 48 hours, whether it’s putting your phone down or refraining from a favorite treat, we want you to fast and position your heart to hear from God. We are asking for your voice and your heart as we move forward.

How much money are you looking to raise?

We hope to raise $450,000.

  • $375,000 in upfront cash for the build-out.

  • $75,000 in pledges from 2018-2019. This means if you give on average $200 a month to Normandy, we want to know how much in addition to that $200 you are able to give for two years.

$450,000 is a lot of money - what is it for? And what happened to the money we raised last time?

We want to raise the cost of the build-out for the space on 9090 Skillman. Michael Gooden and Miles Durham put together a quote that is  $30/square foot. To date, $345,000 has been raised (way to go, church!) and that money goes to cover a few things:

  • Three months savings for operations (think an emergency fund a la Crown Financial)

  • Money to cover the cost of rent for two years (we get six months of free rent - we still pay triple nets during that time).

  • We want to “prepay” rent for two years so we do not have a constant pressure to meet the monthly payment

Can we afford to pay for the rent? All in, it is around $20,000 per month. What about growing the staff and paying them well? (Thanks for asking that!)

  • Our average monthly giving in July and August was 60 households, both single and married, giving $526 a month. That is $31,560 per month.

  • With the increase in rent our monthly budget need will get to $57,000. This means we need to increase monthly giving, get new givers, or raise enough support to cover the budget need prior to moving.

  • This is why we want both the upfront cash and pledges. The purpose of both the cash in hand and the pledges is to give us two years of a runway to grow into the space without needing a ‘Giving Sunday’ every other Sunday.

  • As for growing the staff, our projections, our cash on hand, and our staffing needs led us to our ask of $450,000. In other words, we are projecting what it will cost to move into the building and grow our staff and church. We did not employ a monkey to throw a dart at a number. We employed Patrick Tam (CMA, CPA) and Jackson Thomas (BBA, MBA, FPU) to give us healthy projections that include attrition and growth. And by employed, I mean we volunteered them.

Are we actually growing? Do we need more space? Are we being faithful with what we have now? Is there a plan for staffing and growth?

Some Sundays, church attendance can be light. Some Sundays, we are adding chairs. Some Sundays, you had too much wine the night before and didn’t show up to church. From January to June, over 24 Sundays, we averaged 92 adults and 42 kiddos at church. Once we got our kids ministry in order and limitied the number of children per kids worker, we saw a dramatic decrease in attendance from our core families and guest families due to new new restrictions on numbers in each classroom. If a family can’t get their kids in, they typically didn’t come to the service.

We believe we are being faithful. We know there is a ton to grow in (communication being one area). We believe we’ve maximized the use of the space Scofield has given us. We will begin looking at adding a second service soon. Additionally, there is a plan for the staff that we’ve been working since our board meeting in July. We are getting our team in the right position, clarifying roles and expectations in order to better fulfill the mission of the church. In addition, we are planning for future roles.  

What if we don’t get the $450,000? Can we phase into the building? Can we “whitebox” the sanctuary and finish the kids space? (When I say whitebox, I am referring to the concept of having to top floor completely open without walls for the sanctuary. In this scenario we would phase in walls for offices and sanctuary.)

There is some “value engineering” we can do to cut some costs on finish out if we do not raise the desired amount. However, for the most part we cannot phase in and we cannot whitebox the top floor which consists of three offices, the sanctuary and gathering space.

  • We cannot whitebox the top floor in an effort to save money. The primary reason being we would not be able to get a certificate of occupancy (CO) unless we made massive changes to the building. Simply having a whitebox upstairs would increase our occupancy from 500-2200. The cost to get the CO for a whitebox would cost more than our original design because we would have to:

    • Add bathrooms to hold more people

    • Build out more stairs for fire safety (adding staircases to an existing building is cost prohibitive)

    • Factor in structural engineering costs to ensure 2200 people do not collapse the 2nd floor

  • The mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) alone would cost over $200,000 - just under 50% of the total cost.

  • To phase out some electrical and plumbing work would cause us to have to pay more later (we would essentially pay twice for work). We would have to get a new CO each time we made additions to the space.

What if we don’t get the money? What do we do?

Regardless of the amount of money we raise, we are going to sit down with the asset manager the week following our Giving Sunday to see if we can work out a plan that is beneficial to both parties. We are going to take our oil and flour and see what God does. In addition, we are going to begin exploring the option of two services at Scofield regardless of whether or not we get the space.

Will the building have enough space for our kids?

We currently have 75 kids coming to Normandy. We are fruitful and we multiply. Gracious. The space will allow for 85 children and we are looking to add more rooms when we talk with the asset manager.

What about a kitchen?

No. Not yet. We will have space to fellowship and eating, but we will not start with a full blown kitchen.

Have we explored all the other options? What about buying? What about other churches? What about getting more space at Scofield? What about two services? More kids workers?

Okay, settle down, one question at a time.

  • We’ve looked at buying a piece of raw land. No dice thus far.

  • We’ve looked at doing a land lease and building. Again, no luck.

  • We’ve asked other churches (which doesn’t really solve our problem).  And they said no.

  • We’ve asked schools (public and private) with the same answer.

  • We’ve talked to churches that are… slowing getting smaller -- the answer is no.

  • There is no more space at Scofield we can use (they have given us everything! So generous).

  • Going to two services will alleviate kids’ space issues and help us grow. More to come on this one.

  • Everyone is serving at our church (at least upwards of 85%). Y’all are doing well. We’ve started paying temporary workers to help serve our children. This gives us more space so that families are not turned away and brings more order for our kids volunteers.

Are we going to become a fancy church that simply gathers church people from other churches because we are new and shiny in this fancy building? What about the lost, the hurting and the poor?

Yes! Wonderful question! We want this building to become our home - a place we can train and equip people to carry the presence and purpose of God into a lost and hurting world. The way to Life is narrow - that means we have to fight the temptation to become like the world. We are doing this by seeking counsel, hearing from the Lord, walking in community, and fasting. Additionally, we think our revamped membership process (to be launched in 2018) will help further move our body into Dallas to carry the presence and purposes of God. This means people who aren’t typical ‘church people’ should, by the grace of God, start coming. Finally, we are typically not a good place for church-hoppers. They tend not to stick around.

John, how are you feeling?

I am so excited! I do not know what is going to happen, but I am so excited to see what God is going to do. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. And my faith is rising - not that we get the building, but rather that God is setting us up for something new and refreshing and hopeful.

The book of Joshua comes to mind - “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It’s going to be great.

Hey God!

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Hey Church, 
Here is a guest post from one of our members, Tess Clarke. It was originally posted on the If:Gathering website. Enjoy! 


God had been leading me there for years, I just didn't know it. The quiet whispers, the stirring of my heart, the trips oversees, the deferred and fulfilled hopes and dreams.

It was a Wednesday night and my husband, Jason, and I heard there was a group of Americans and refugees holding a prayer meeting. After living oversees (and loving it) we were looking to connect with people from other cultures. The meeting was great and we left anticipating what would come!

We stopped at a little taco joint in the area with a couple of friends. Two bites into my carnitas I heard a man’s voice coming from behind me. “Give me your money right now.” I turned slowly, my eyes met his, then they met the gun he was pointing at my husband. The story is rather long so I will spare you the details but after some negotiating (and protection from the Holy Spirit) we left unscathed.

A few days went by and we could not stop thinking about that night, about the vulnerable space we were in and what the refugees being resettled in that community must be experiencing. We knew what God was asking us to risk; our safety, comfort and maybe even the life we had dreamed of creating. After praying together with friends and seeking the council of trusted mentors, we broke our apartment lease and signed a new one in what was one of the most crime ridden, dangerous places to live in Dallas.

I am sure you can imagine the fears and tensions we were experiencing, neither of us had lived in an area like this before, the roaches in our kitchen and the mold in the bathroom, seemed to serve as daily reminders of the prevalent darkness we had entered.

The stories we were hearing from our refugee neighbors were unimaginable. The destruction of their countries, fleeing for their lives, losing children, husbands, wives to those that sought to destroy them. My eyes were opening to their pain, and my heart was moving towards it like a freight train. As my husband says I went from “woke to wrecked.”

How could God allow these things to happen? Where was he? What did blessing and goodness look like for persecuted people living on the margins of society?  I was overwhelmed with emotions, not good ones. I just could not understand God’s plan and purpose in the lives of my new friends from around the world, people I was growing to love. I needed God to show me a glimpse of hope somewhere in these stories.

That is the amazing thing about God, we can ask him these questions, and he answers. In my anger, in my fist shaking, in my doubt He started to whisper things to me about “heaven on earth.” Wait, what? What are you talking about? Heaven on earth, this is hell. Yet, he kept saying the same thing, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

It was here, in my questioning and confusion that I started learning about the “upside down kingdom of Jesus.” As I entered into the lives of people who didn't look like me, think like me, or even believe like me I saw the sermon on the mount come to life. I saw what Jesus was driving home about his life, the life in his Kingdom and the goal of his mission: a simple yet powerful love of others - all others. All of us, and all of “them” too. So we said “yes” to joining Jesus in loving others. We took a step toward his radical love and began to pursue the flourishing and shalom of these extraordinary people.

Through all of this learning, changing, hurting, hoping, praying, breaking, my husband and I started a non-profit, Seek the Peace. At Seek our mission is simple: we cultivate relationships with refugees and journey with them. Together, with our unlikely friends, we discover what flourishing looks like in their lives and in ours. 

Jesus keeps showing me that his kingdom is about people, its about the space between me and you, between you an someone else, between us and them, between the created and creation. It is who we are and what we do in the space between us that defines whether this kingdom becomes tangible and produces flourishing for others.

This is it, this the place God had been leading me all those years ago, to his kingdom on earth.

Building Meeting Recap

Below is an overview of the materials that we covered at our Building Meeting.  The full audio is also below including vision from the Elders, commentary from the Building Team, and questions from the audience. 

We would love to hear your feedback!  Please send all questions and comments to questions@normandychurch.com.

The Tabernacle as a Template

Hey Church,

This Sunday was so much fun. I've relished the collective sense of anticipation to see God move in our family each week. Yesterday I answered Lauren William's question, "what am I supposed to do during worship?" We looked at the Tabernacle of Moses to give us a template for how to worship the Lord (Exodus 25-27; Exodus 35-40). 

tabernacle_1.jpg

So, what does this have to do with our worship? It shows us what to do on Sunday. 

Thanksgiving - The Gate - Psalm 100:4 says we "enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise". It ain't easy to worship each week. Sometimes we flat out don't feel like it. One of the ways we combat this tension is through thanksgiving. Gratitude marks a believer (Colossians 2:7) and it helps us guard the atmosphere of our minds. When you are thankful, you don't have time to complain. Practically this means when we start worship, start thanking the Lord for specific things in your life. You can say it out loud, write it down or meditate on it. 

During the week thankfulness looks like keeping a journal about what you are grateful for. When I get in a rut I keep a thanksgiving journal, listing 20 things each day I am grateful for. Not only that, I bring friends and family into it. At dinner, my family will often share with one another one thing we are thankful for and why. Then we rejoice with what the other shared. Joy and gratitude go hand in hand. 

Praise - The Altar - The altar is where the priests would make atonement for sin in order to inter into the Holy Place. Jesus became our lamb, our atonement for sin (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:10; 1 John 2:2). At the altar, we praise the Lord. We give Him a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Praise means to confess Jesus is Lord out loud. So, we sing! We shout. He is enthroned on the out loud praise of His people (Psalm 22:4).  When we begin to praise out loud His rule becomes apparent. Praise is usually high and lifted up, more upbeat, more joyful and it leads us to the next part of worship: 

Worship - The Holy Place - After the priests made atonement, they entered into the Holy Place. Using the tabernacle as a template, after the altar (and praise) we move into worship. Worship is much more intimate than praise. Worship means "bow down". When Moses met with God in Exodus 34:8 he bowed his head before the Lord. This is something that requires vulnerability and humility. This week whether in group, with your spouse or with your friends, you can bow the knee as an act of worship to Jesus. Having practiced gratitude and praise, worship becomes more natural. And your physical posture proceeds presence. Sometimes we don't *feel* anything because we are not giving out loud praise and humble worship to God. Therefore, we position our body in a place to receive from the Lord. 

I found this quote from Andrew Murray in Humility very helpful. 

When God created the universe, it was with the one object of making the creature partaker of His perfection and blessedness... The life God bestows is imparted not once for all, but each moment continuously, by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of (a person). 

Worship puts our hearts in position to receive the very life of God. 

Thanksgiving, praise and worship - this is template to help us worship the Lord. Next week we will learn about what happens in the most holy place (the hot spot of God's presence). 

Pastor John 

 

Why Worship

Hey Church,
Since coming back from my sabbatical (or medical leave of absence), the past few Monday's I have been writing a blog as a follow up to the sermon. It has been rather cathartic for me offering a space to collect my thoughts about all I am learning and what I feel God is doing in our midst. 

This past Sunday I tried to hammer home the why of worship. Like in general, why do we worship? The goal of worship is to see Christ manifest (make apparent) His kingdom (His will, presence and power) on earth as it is in heaven. Sometimes that hope and belief is not enough to rule the day of our hearts. We need a why. 

In Revelation 4-5, we get part of John's kaleidoscope vision of heaven that pulls in many the most apocalyptic books of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel). And it is in these chapters we get our why. 
1. God is Holy (Revelation 4:1-8). We often think of holy as being morally pure - which it means. But it also carries a sense of otherness. God is utterly transcendent, utterly unique. For some additional help on holiness, check out this video from the Bible Project

2. God is Creator (Revelation 4:9-11). He created everything! He made you, me, atoms, subatomic particles, black holes, lions and food. We see these four living creatures (representing created, earthly creatures), naturally respond to their creator with praise and worship. 
3. God is Redeemer (Revelation 5). In Revelation 5 we have this dramatic picture of someone in heaven kinda upset at what I think is the state of affairs on earth. No one is found who is worthy to open this scroll (which represents the fulfillment of God's purposes). John hears that it is going to be the Lion of the tribe of Judah and he sees a slain lamb. Picture a white lamb walking up with its neck cut and bleeding. It is Jesus! The hero all of creation is groaning to see! 

So there is your why. So why am I writing this? I see praise and worship, what we do on Sunday's, being a huge part of how God wants to work in and through our church. These three profound truths can become an anchor for our Sundays as we expectantly look for God to manifest His domain, His freedom in our midst. 

Hey God!

JSB

Worship and the Kingdom

Hey Church: 

It was a joy to preach about worship this past Sunday. As I have been thinking and studying and preparing, something became clear - I need to teach and preach on worship. Our church family is made up of a wonderful mix of Baptists, Charismatics, Anglicans and others with all sorts of ideas on what worship should look like. 

Lauren Williams reached out to me several months ago with some great questions about worship: 
- What am I supposed to do during worship?
- How do I love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength during worship?
- Is worship for me? For God? For others?
- Is worship an outpouring or and in-pouring? 
- How do I recognize the presence of God? Is it like someone turned on the AC and I get cooler? Or is it like when I have too much coffee?
- What does "minister to the Lord" mean?

I hope to address several of these questions over the next few weeks. 

And on top of all that, what in the world does this have to do with the kingdom of the heavens?

I am glad you asked. 

The story of the Bible is about the union of heaven and earth. From Genesis to Revelation, we see heaven and earth overlap, separate and finally unified permanently in Revelation 21-22. 

The goal of worship is to see Christ manifest (make apparent) His kingdom (His will, presence and power) on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 28:18-20). God is looking for worshipers (John 4:23), He inhabits their praises (Psalm 22:3) and wherever He is there is freedom, righteousness, joy and healing (Isaiah 9:6-7; Romans 14:17; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Revelation 21:4). 

Picture our times together - what would it look like if we all walked with belief, hope and expectation that God was going to manifest (make apparent) His kingdom when we gathered? The atmosphere of unity and praise would be contagious! There are times where we've all sensed this and times we've had to fight for it. 

So here is a reminder for us - worship is something that the people of God have done together throughout history and will do into eternity (that whole every tribe and tongue worshiping before the throne deal). We are made to worship and worship together. We bear the image of a relational God. There is a grace upon God's people when we worship together - it is easier! It clears the airways and sharpens our hearts to go about our lives. 

And we need to be reminded of this - you will worship - it is just a matter of who or what you are worshiping. Do not forsake the assembling together as is the habit of some (Hebrews 10:24-25). Instead let our worship be a cry together - "thy kingdom come, thy will be done!"

As He manifests His presence, we will be changed. 

See you next Sunday. 

JSB

The Atmosphere of Our Minds

Hey Church, 

As you all know, we are going through a sermon series about "The Kingdom of the Heavens." Over weeks of study I have found my heart stirred and my mind blown at the nature of God and of His kingdom's availability. Two Sundays back we focused on hope. This Sunday I communicated a desire that the atmosphere of our hearts and minds would reflect that of heaven. 

Before I share more on that, I wanted to share a resource with you all. The Bible Project is an organization I was introduced to recently. They have a video on Heaven & Earth that shared everything I have been trying to say this year in 6 minutes (!?) with pictures and video! 

The question is - what does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with the atmosphere of our minds or of our church? Well, since Jesus taught us to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", we play a role of setting the atmosphere in our minds, our homes, in our lives and in our church. 

As Jesus announced God's kingdom, His purposes began to become known - salvation, mercy, righteousness, justice, kindness and forgiveness. Sounds wonderful! The atmosphere we breathe in the kingdom is just that - mercy, kindness, goodness, salvation! Part of the way that we experience that here in now is by guarding the atmosphere of our minds - what we think about. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, but the mind set on the flesh is death (Romans 8:6-8). We have a choice - what are we going to do when faced with judgement, commendation and shameful thoughts?

Take them captive! 

Wired_17_slides5.jpg

Part of seeing the kingdom on earth starts with the atmosphere of our minds. As we spend time in the word, listen to the voice of our King, Jesus will set us free from wrong thinking and strongholds that promote death rather than life and peace. And as we become more like Him we will reflect that back into the world. 

Pastor John

Hope in the already, not yet

This weekend, we looked at hope in the Christian life. As believers, our hope isn't that we escape this world and go on to the next one. Our hope is that Jesus' prayer of "thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" comes true. The kingdom of the heavens is about God's sovereign rule coming down on earth as it is in heaven. This is what Jesus went about announcing and this is what Revelation 21-22 describes happening in the end. 

CS Lewis details this for us in The Great Divorce. 

[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it," not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.

This is a wonderful hope (a feeling of expectation for something to happen). 

What about now? How do we hope in this life? If hope keeps going unmet then our hearts will become sick (Proverbs 13:12). 

Saint Paul shares how hope is given to us - through suffering, a perseverance that produces character and, finally, hope - a hope that doesn't disappoint or put to shame (Romans 5:1-5). 

This sounds great, but if my hope is in me to persevere, I am going to be disappointed. I know how fickle my heart can be. The thing that gave me hope in the middle of NICU and all the ups and downs of life is that Christ has a hold of me and He will not relax that hold. He is faithful. He called me. He will do it. He is at work to will and do His good pleasure in me. He will never fail me. No one can snatch me out of my Fathers' hands. His seed of righteousness will produce the fruit of righteousness (a heart that is whole, just and correct).  

Charles Spurgeon says this beautifully in Morning and Evening: 

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

Additionally, my hope is that my trials, suffering and trials are not trite, trivial or meaningless. It is not simply a test to pass, or a carrot that He dangles before me until I can "arrive". Rather it is the groaning of the Spirit within me, it is Christ moving in me in the midst of suffering so that my internal heart can receive more of His heart. Christ is working through the suffering to prepare me to receive more of Him and walk in greater measure of His kingdom project here and now. He will not waste one tear or trial. Therefore, rejoice!  

To my beloved church family, you have reason to hope today! Your Christ will not leave you. He is with you in the midst of suffering and trials. He is readying your heart to move "further up and further in" to His kingdom then and there and here and now. 

There will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Pastor John

Son, Soil, Water

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Yesterday was a wonderful time with our friend, Peter Louis. He preached and gave some very straightforward practicals on walking in the design of God - how to become what He has made us to be. 
Romans 5:17

...much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Peter pointed out that God has planted, through the Holy Spirit, grace and righteousness. The only thing we need to do is receive the gift and we will become what He planted. Much like a apple seed produces apple trees, the seed of grace and righteousness will make us become grace and righteousness. 

His encouragement was to partner with the design of God. Like all seeds, we need three things: 
Son
Soil
Water

Son (get it?) - in order for a seed to grow it needs time in the sun. Or in our case, time in the presence of the Son. Here are three simple ways to do that: 

1. Stillness (Psalm 46:10) - As we sit still in His presence (literally being still, no phone, resting) God will shine the light of His Son on our hearts. 

2. Worship (all of the Psalms) - Worship is a declaration that Jesus is the Lord. Typically, the places where Jesus is not yet the Lord of our hearts indicates an idol, a part of our flesh that doesn't want Jesus to rule. 

3. Word (John 5:39) - Daily time in the word. Whether reading, meditating, or listening to the word - He promises to nourish our souls and bodies with His word (Duet. 8:3; Matthew 6:11)

Alright now pause - this isn't about striving. Before we all start striving and performing a wonderful religious duty, remember the air that we breathe is grace and mercy. This is the air of the kingdom. 

Soil - Community - a seed needs to be rooted in soil, in the case of a Christian, believers are to be rooted in community. Our tendency is to put things, programs, events and goals before relationships. However, when we walk in God's design, the more attached we are to one another, the more fruit we will bear. 

1. Confession (James 5:16) - Confession is part of how we are known. It is a regular practice of believers. And as we do this, God will heal us (confess your sins and pray for one another so that you will be healed). 

2. Fellowship - (1 John 1:7) - be with one another! This is the joy part - the glad to be with you. Have fun and enjoy the grace of each other's presence. 

3. Encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25) - Encouragement is one of our top ten needs. Encouragement calls out the gold in another. Each time we meet we can look for someone to encourage. 

Water - The Holy Spirit - You can have all the soil and all the sun you want, but no seed is going to grow without water. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. Remember this is God's design - to send the rain of the Holy Spirit to wash and refresh you. The Holy Spirit can wash over you in a few ways: 

1. Fall on you like rain (Acts 10:44-48) - Sometimes God just decides to pour His presence on His people. It can happen during the preaching of the word or perhaps during worship. This is something to be desired! 

2. Manifest through the laying on of hands (Acts 19:1-7) - Throughout the Bible gifts, callings, and blessing are passed through the laying on of hands. It is not some is magical formal, but simply our Father's heart to bless. 

3. We can drink and be filled with the Holy Spirit (John 7:37; Ephesians 5:18) - Think about it. You can drink your 8 ounces of water in your trendy Yeti, but you are going to need a refill from time to time. Ask God to give you drink of the Spirit today! 

Remember Christ desires for you to reign, to make it, to overcome and He is doing His part. He longs to cherish and nourish you (Ephesians 5:29). Be encouraged to put some of these things into practice this week!

Pastor John


Peter Louis has a passion to see the nations of the earth liberated from the bondage of sin, sickness and death through the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Church Update

Church Family:

This past Sunday I gave the church an update on a few business items going on at Normandy. Over the last few weeks we had our quarterly finance team  meeting and our annual board of advisors meeting. Here are a few updates.

Finance Team Meeting:

The elders along with our finance team (Jackson Thomas & Patrick Tam) met to discuss how we are doing financially. The good news is that we are doing very well! Our church is generous and has continued to grow in giving. Also if you are interested in serving, we would love one more person on the finance team. Here are the year to date numbers:

2017 Budget $300,000

YTD Giving June - $188,736

YTD Building Fund - $347,084

Building:

We currently in the analysis stage of our building process for the space at 9090 Skillman Street. Michael Gooden, along with several other friends are helping put together some pricing so we can make the best decision possible for our church. At our BOA meeting, we were advised to hire a church building consultant to make sure we are thinking through this space. John Kaserman is taking the lead on that portion. Not only that, but we have two gracious attorneys giving us advice on the actual lease.

The next steps for us will come once we get a final cost estimate for the build out. I (John) will be out of town during this time and John Kaserman will take the lead on the building process to coordinate between all the parties involved.

House in Order - Kids Ministry:

One of the highlights of the board of advisors meeting was discussing how we've grown in kids ministry. It has gotten so much better! Justus Murimi and Sam Harvey did a wonderful job of getting our house in order. Our kids ministry has vision and structure and the volunteers have done a great job of giving time and effort to what we are doing. We are thankful!

Part of the pain of getting our kids ministry in order means that at times we have to turn kids away because we simply don't have enough space. That part flat out stinks. However with a limited number of rooms, we are maxing out. Which begs the question...

What is Next?

I joked on Sunday that I have "vision for days". I love to dream and think about all the things that could be. However I couldn't strategize my way out of a wet paper bag. When it comes to planning how to get people plugged in to the church or how to get more space for kids, I would rather dream than plan. The good news is that many of the strategic, tactical and detail orientated people in our church are rising to the occasion.

Moving Forward:

Next we are going come up with a strategic plan to move forward. Zach Garza has graciously come up with a plan that we've begun to implement. Rather than frantically try to figure out how to put out whatever "fire" is raging at the moment, we are walking through a systematic process as elders. Here is a brief overview of what we are going to do:

1) Get unified on vision and mission (done!)

2) Prioritize what is most important for the health of the church (next)

3) Figure out the "how" of our priorities

4) Implement!

That is rather simplistic but it is all the details I could bear to write (ha). We will be communicating as we get these priorities up and running.

Thank You:

There is probably more I could say, but I think this is enough for now. And there are so many people who are helping behind the scenes, I wish I could list them all here! Thank you for you generosity, your patience, you grace and your heart.  We left the board and the finance team meeting very pleased with where we are as a church.

If you have any questions feel free to ask the elders.

Grace!

Isaac's Freedom

Hey Family:

This weekend one of our old friends, Matthew Williams, was in town. Matthew and his wife Bethany lead Exile International. Exile exists to empower children of war to become leaders for peace.
Matthew pointed us to a recent testimony from Issac and his journey to freedom. Exile is one of the mission organizations Normandy supports and Issac's testimony is a great example of why!

Issac's Freedom:

“I was told killing with a gun is nothing. It’s like you haven’t killed. For my initiation, they handed me a machete and told me to kill a man.  They said if I refused, they would kill me.”

Isaac was 14 when the Lord’s Resistance Army came to his village in Uganda.

“I told my mom to run,” he says. “I was going to lock the house and catch up, but they came too fast.”

Isaac hid inside.  When they torched his house, he ran out and was captured. Forced to become child soldiers, he and many others were given uniforms.

“My friend refused to put on the uniform,” he remembers, “They made me watch as they stabbed him to death with bayonets.”

Isaac put on the uniform.  He and two other boys were told to kill a man with machetes.

“The man cried, ‘I’m innocent.’ But the commanders screamed, ‘Kill him, kill him.’ If we didn’t, we would take his place. It was the worst moment of my life.”

He tried to run away many times, but was caught and beaten nearly to death.  During one battle, he was shot in the leg, and later forced to keep marching.

“I prayed all the time, ‘God get me out of here.  Please get me home.’”

Knowing he would be killed if he got caught again, Isaac planned another escape. He went to fetch water, but didn’t return.

“When they came after me, I hid in a banana plantation,” he says. “I heard one of them say, ‘If we catch him, we’ll cut him into pieces and take him back for meat.  We will show everyone this is what happens when you try to escape.’”

Eventually the soldiers gave up their search and left. Isaac could finally go home.

“When I arrived home people were afraid, and told their children to stay away from me. I felt so guilty. At night I dreamt of everything I was forced to do, and I woke up screaming and shouting.”

Then Isaac went to a gathering in his village held by Exile International, which is supported by CBN’s Orphan’s Promise. Through one on one therapy, singing, dancing, and drama, we’ve helped many former child soldiers and war orphans heal from terrible trauma.

“You have brought so much joy back into my life. You helped me know God.  Ilearned not to focus on the past, but to look at what is new,” he says.

We helped pay Isaac’s tuition and fees, and enrolled him in a Christian boarding school, where he’s made lots of friends.

“It makes me so happy to be here,” he says. “My school uniform is always clean and fresh, and it smells so nice.  The LRA uniform was for doing bad things, and it was always dirty.  When I put on my school uniform, my thoughts are good, and I am so proud to wear it.”

We also gave Isaac a Bible, which he reads as often as he can.

He says, “Reading my Bible brings me so much peace. I know that God is the reason I survived.  Without Him I would be dead.  He knows the plans He has for me, and I know that I am completely free and forgiven. I appreciate all your help.  You will be blessed for it.  My future is bright because of you.”

---

You can donate to Exile here.

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