Community Fast, Day 3: Unity

Binding our church body, our families, and ourselves together in unity with The Lord

Let’s set the scene: The Last Supper has just concluded, and Jesus is soon to depart from his beloved disciples. In His last moments with them, Jesus launches into what is now known as the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17). Jesus leverages these last moments to emphasize the very things He does not want His disciples to forget. He repeatedly comforts the disciples with the promise of the coming of the Helper (the Holy Spirit), He reminds them of the significance of abiding, and He stresses that they love one another. The greatest theme weaved throughout the discourse, however, is the unity of love between the Father and the Son.
 
In John 17, He prays:
 
“That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
 
As someone who deeply values individualism and autonomy, this concept of oneness and unity is incredibly challenging for me to grapple with. Any argument to me is worth arguing. For the sake of debate, if you’re on one side, I’ll take the other. 
 
A lot of that could be attributed to the era in which I’ve grown up. We are in a state of increasing polarization and division in our churches, our nation, our world; one in which the norm is, “If you are not with me, then you’re against me.” The idea of unity seems, at times, elusive and even utopian. 
 
And yet, in His eleventh hour, Jesus prayed on my behalf that I would become perfectly one with the body of Christ.
 
Unity, as Jesus is praying for, isn’t individuals “uniting”; unity is us, you and me, followers of Jesus, becoming one. This does not mean that we do not have differences or that we throw our individuality out the window. Unity happens when we die to self and in doing so prize togetherness over our individuality.
 
The crown of glory of the Father was the cross, the greatest act of love by His son. It is only the communion, the divine mystery of the Trinity, that was the very strength of Jesus to commit the ultimate act of love.
 
And that’s why Jesus wants us to experience communion. So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
 
The body of Christ becoming one is nothing short of a miracle and solely dependent on us communing with God. We cannot do it without Him.
 
Take a moment to reflect: Are there any places where your preferences are taking precedence over unity? Alternatively, think of a time in which you felt at one the church.
 
Today, please join me in praying for deeper unity as a Church family, that the love of God would bind us to be perfectly one. Pray that unity would mark us and heal us, and that lives would be transformed.

Ashlea

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Ashlea Holt has been a member at Normandy since 2018. As a former Baylor Bear, she spends her free time sitting in Common Grounds while reading Chip and Joanna’s newest book. 

Community Fast, Day 2: Thankfulness

Remembering the great things the Lord has done

Hey Normandy! Hope Day 1 of our corporate fast yesterday was awesome for you… and if you’re reading this on Day 2 and realizing “Oh shoot, I forgot all about the fast”, today is the perfect day to start. Whether you’re doing an absolute fast (woah!), a juice fast, or even a social media fast, I pray that your time with the Lord this week is life-giving and that you’re connecting with him in new ways!

Our theme for Day 2 is Thankfulness – Remembering the great things the Lord has done. 
Starting at the most basic level, (thanks to Wikipedia) gratitude and thankfulness come out of the Latin word gratus and are defined as: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation; and to be conscious of the benefit received. 

As believers, I think we have a decent grasp on the concept of thankfulness, right? It’s constantly referenced throughout scripture starting with Israel in the Old Testament. Psalm 95:2 says “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song”. Jesus modeled giving thanks throughout his ministry, as seen when he fed the thousands or at the Last Supper, “Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it” (Matthew 26:26). And Paul continually encouraged the early church by beginning his letters with the theme of thankfulness, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8).

 But if we’re being honest with ourselves, despite being thumped over the head with thankfulness as we read the Bible (in a good way), it’s not always something that’s top of mind for us. The world around us is tough, and when we’re dealing with the weight of job stress, marital problems, infertility, sickness… (insert your trial here), thankfulness doesn’t always come naturally or easily.
So, if you fall into this category, or even if you are thankful 9 times out of 10, there is good news that we can ask the Lord for a heart change and mind shift centered around thankfulness - and He actually desires for us to change! 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Let’s press pause here and take a few seconds to ponder that verse. We’re supposed to rejoice (i.e. be joyful) and give thanks no matter the hand of cards we’re dealt. Not because we’re trying to muster it up, but because the Lord willed it… he intended it. And he willed it so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross and accomplish that for us. Thank you, God! After re-reading the definition of thankfulness, I think the last part ‘To be conscious of the benefit received’ really hit home for me. Once we accept Christ as our savior and fully realize that we actually have access to a relationship with the Father and eternal life with Him, we can’t help but be thankful for this incredible gift we don’t deserve.
 The reason I’m probably writing on thankfulness this week is because I had one of these deep realization ‘Thank You’ moments at church only a few weeks back. On January 20th, Mark was preaching on Ephesians 3 about the purpose of the Church and our individual purposes. Go listen to it once it’s up on our website or podcast – and yes, we have a Normandy podcast! Paraphrasing from my notes, he reminded us that “People need to know Jesus is better than they think… that people are worth it” and encouraged us to reflect on our own history during ministry time. As I sat and thought about my own story, I couldn’t help but be so thankful for how the Lord pursued me in college, how he surrounded me by a group of dudes who cared for me, encouraged me, and reintroduced me to Christ. How I was worth the time and effort to them and how I’m still worth it to Jesus… and I just started crying. I was so overwhelmed, and I was so thankful for the Lord’s influence in my life that my only response was to be brought to tears.

 So just like a few weeks ago, I encourage you to take those moments today where you’d normally be eating or checking your phone to be thankful and remember the things the Lord has done in your life. If it’s spending a few minutes worshiping God for how good He is, do that. Here’s a song about thankfulness by UPPERROOM to help you out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHhCZBarneQ. If you need to call up that person who discipled you for so many years when you needed it most and just thank them, come on! Or if it’s simply journaling things you’re thankful for on a list, I encourage you to do so.

 I truly believe being thankful can change the atmosphere around us. When you practice thankfulness, you’re becoming more of who God created you to be, and people around you can’t help but notice. Praying this over all of us today! 

Spencer Thames

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Spencer Thames, a.k.a “Sweet Spence”, has been a Normandy member since 2016 and currently helps lead a Normandy Group at The Happy Lane House.  He is a proud member of The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of ’15, graduating with a degree that primarily focused on Wakeboarding.  He is engaged to his soon-to-be wife, Ali.

Community Fast, Day 1: Repentance

Shifting our focus from ________ to the Lord

Hi Normandy fam, 

We are kicking off a church wide fast here soon. Very few things make church people more amped or crabby than fasting! What a fun dichotomy! 
I would guess most amped people have had an experience while fasting, solidifying their love for it. I would also bet money they didn't start that way, more on this later. 
For the other people group, we could chalk it up to "crabby people be crabby". Or as any former wait staff can attest, people lose their manners and their minds when they are hungry. 

When I was in college, I was a YoungLife leader with my best friends. We decided, as a group, to fast once a week together. And we were TERRIBLE. We complained up and down, everyone within a 20 foot radius knew what we were doing, and at the end of the fast, we would gorge ourselves. I don't know if we all had blood sugar disorders or something but it was not a fruitful time. We were immature, performing this legalistic ritual while moaning about it's necessity. Like being in boiling water, our true selves bubbled to the top. Fastforward to a few years after college, I was struggling to find my way, struggling to handle life and was in a desperate place. Two of my friends fasted and prayed with me every Wednesday. I would spend time reading my bible, journaling and sharing what I was learning with my friends. I was hungry for food but I was hungry for the Lord. I needed Him, His peace, His Word and His encouragement. I met with the Lord there and it changed my faith, it changed the way I viewed God's character and how I viewed myself. Now I'm an amped person, still trying to fast and pray every Wednesday, looping in coworkers to join me. 
_______________________

Use this time to discover in which ways are you desperate for the Lord. In what ways are you dependent on yourself? As we begin on our church wide fast, repent and turn away from 
+ worry
+ self-reliance
+ anger
+ complaining
+ blaming

Going without things you need or want, whether voluntary or involuntary, is a surefire way to discover your idols. If you find yourself spending more time in these spaces than seeking the Lord, be honest! God cares about your heart more than anything.

Fasting puts stress on the body and it shows us our delicacy. Being hungry is a vulnerable position, being in need is uncomfortable. And it is expected of us. Matthew 6:16 says "When you fast..." Notice, it doesn't say "should you decide to fast" or "if you decide to do God a solid". When you fast, do so with a humble heart. 

Spend time fasting and pay attention to where your mind and heart go. If you are like me in my college years, take heart! Be encouraged and keep pressing in to fasting. This can be a very meaningful time if you stay tuned into your heart and mind. If you are someone who has had great experiences fasting, please share with everyone at the various prayer sessions this week! Let's all grow in our faith and unity as a church family.

Rachel

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Rachel Benavides has been a Normandy member since 2015, back when she was known as Chester. She produces photoshoots, hangs out with Jesse, one dog she really likes and one she could do without. #behonest

Sanctity of Life Sunday: Resources

To Read & Watch:

Someone Cares Ministry

Someone Cares is a post-abortion restoration ministry at Watermark Church led by Lulie Thomas, the mother of one of Normandy’s members, Jackson Thomas. Lulie has a truly remarkable story of post-abortion restoration and healing of her own. Hear her share her story at a recent Council for Life meeting here.

Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn

This concise book offers factual answers to central issues in the abortion debate & presents a solid case for why we are to defend unborn children and their mothers. For any readers on the fence, this book answers important questions and examines multiple sides of the issue, and for those already pro-life, this is a valuable resource through which they may become more informed. Download a free copy here.

To Volunteer:

Thrive Women’s Clinic | Website

The clinic’s purpose is to ‘empower women in unexpected pregnancies to make informed choices by providing medical, educational, and emotional support.’

Current needs include administrative volunteers, doctor & nurse support, volunteers to sort donations, event support, and website design. The clinic is offering a volunteer training on Saturday April 25, 2015 from 9am-1pm at West Dallas Community Church 2215 Canada Dr. Dallas, TX 75212. Contact Earlene Jones at ejones@thrivewomensclinic.com

Involved for Life | Website

Involved for Life’s mission is to educate and empower women to make informed decisions by providing knowledge and resources through the Downtown Pregnancy Center, Uptown Women’s Center and Sonograms on Site ministry.

Each site currently needs volunteers to work with clients, instruct classes, and facilitate group projects. For more detailed needs at each site and to download the Volunteer Application, see the website’s volunteer page.

Other opportunities to serve:

Forerunner Mentoring | Website

Forerunner is ‘a mentoring program that changes lives through investing in a relationship with a fatherless young man.’ The mentors seek to fulfill young men’s potential by ‘equipping them with tools to help them succeed in education, in character, and in leadership, all while ministering to the heart of all who are affected by fatherlessness.’ This ministry was founded by one of our members, Zach Garza. Forerunner’s current needs include 12 after-school tutors who will be trained to fulfill potential in 4th grade young men in Fall 2015 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:45-4:45 and 6 mentors to invest time, love and joy into 4th grade young men.

 

Doing the Stuff

Living Free Through Our Identity in Christ

Over the last few months, God has been joyfully reminding me of who I am in Christ. He keeps bringing me back to what Jesus has done for me and who He says I am as a result of the Cross. It has been refreshing to drawn upon God's Word for gentle reminders of who I am. 

A deep understanding of our identity in Christ is such a profound need in our culture today. All over our culture we see men and women looking internally to discover who they are. The good news for us as believers is that we don't have to search far. We only need to go to His word for our identity.

Feel free to download this Identity in Christ bookmark (thank you Lindsey Duggins for formatting it for us!) by clicking on the image below and joyfully remind yourself of who God says you are in His Son! This format was drawn from Freedom in Christ Ministries. I am grateful for Neil T. Anderson's work given to the Body of Christ. 

JSB


Look at the Book

For those of you that may admire the teaching ministry of John Piper, you may be aware of his latest project over at Desiring God, Look at the Book.  Recently we have begun to use Discovery Bible Studies as a simple way to not only read the Bible and discover truth within it, but as a way to easily discover how to follow Jesus and obey His teachings.  A resource like this is incredibly helpful for teaching how any and all Christians can discover the Word of God for themselves. Below you'll find a description found online along with a terrific video and an example of what a single LATB passage looks like.


There’s no book like the Bible. Learn to read it for yourself.

Look at the Book is a new online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 8–12 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John Piper’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.  

Check out how John works through Luke 12:32 below.


Luke 12:32

Fear Not, Little Flock


Principle for Bible Reading

There are often riches and depths of meaning in the simplest verses. Luke 12:32 is one verse with two short propositions, but there are riches buried in its simplicity. Pastor John gives a few tips for meditating on verses like these and seeing all that’s really there. In this case, it reveals several reasons not to fear.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:36)

Tips for Meditation (00:36–08:29)

  1. Take words or phrases in your passage and restate them in your own words (e.g. “fear not”).
  2. Ask yourself why the writer chose the words he did (e.g. “flock”).
  3. Look for meaningful connections between words and phrases in a passage (e.g. God as a Shepherd, a Father, and a King).
  4. Look for meaningful connections between words and phrases in a passage (e.g. God as a Shepherd, a Father, and a King).
  5. Identify individual propositions (subject + verb) and the connecting words between them (e.g. “for”).

Summary (08:29–09:50)

  1. In God, we have a Shepherd, Father, and King.
  2. He enjoys freely giving us the kingdom at great cost to himself.
  3. Therefore, we should not fear.

Study Questions

  1. What pictures or metaphors are used to describe God in Luke 12:32?
  2. How is “for” connecting the two propositions in Luke 12:32?
  3. Take the verbs in Luke 12:32 (“fear” and “give”) and restate them in your own words (other words that mean the same thing). What do you learn?
  4. How many reasons not to fear do you see in Luke 12:32? What are they?

Crucial Questions / 20 Free eBooks from R.C. Sproul

Two of the things that shape our lives the most are the people we spend time with and the things we read.  R.C. Sproul's ministry, Ligonier, is giving away his series of 20 eBooks called Crucial Questions.  For free.  Click on the image below to take you to their site, or simply select the links below for each book that grabs your interest.  And, if you do choose to download a copy or 20 copies, consider supporting their ministry with a modest donation so they can continue to provide resources like these.  


To further help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it, in May 2013 we made the ebook editions of R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series free forever. We continue to publish new ebooks in this series and this year have added Are These the Last Days?What Is Repentance?, and What Is the Relationship between Church and State?

Here is a complete list of the free ebooks in the Crucial Questions series:

You can also download the free collection from Logos.

Please share these resources with your church, family, and friends. Not sure how to download an eBook? Please see our FAQ section.