5 Reasons to Say YES to VBS!

In case you are new to our church, VBS is a time where kids gather from around Hampton Roads for a week of fun AND learning about Jesus! This year, they will discover that Jesus’ love provides a foundation that will last. Just like you, every kid is a work in progress. Life is not easy! Every season continues to be a hard hat zone. This year, every kiddo will see and hear about God’s everlasting love for us that will never fail!

With VBS only 5 days away, our church is buzzing with excitement about all that God will do next week! If you are still on the fence about being involved with VBS, here are 5 reasons you need to say YES to VBS!

1. Snack time. Certainly, snacks themselves are not the most important reason to say YES to VBS. And it is likely that I thought of this first because I am hungry as I am writing this. But the snacks are just what is being devoured while you hear the laughter of kids and the conversations about their day. The snacks are awesome, but snack time is one of my favorite times to see and hear how God is working in the lives of each kid!

2. Running in the hallways. While we encourage every child to walk and not run, it is inevitable that some of them will run through the hallways of our church at some point. Why is this a reason you should say YES to VBS? Well, you’ll get to see what they are running for! They’ll run because they are excited about the next activity. They’ll run because they can’t wait to get to the big room for worship time. They’ll run so that they can catch up with their new friend. While our adult leaders are helping maintain order, inevitably some of the kids will get so excited they will run through the hallways. This is something you will get to see if you say YES to VBS!

3. Songs with motions. If you are like me, you might still be carrying a few holiday pounds. Songs with motions are a cardio workout! You’ll get to burn some extra calories AND worship God AND have fun at the same time. This, my friends, is what is called a win/win/win. Do you want to be a winner? Then say YES to VBS!

4. Conversations with kids. Whether or not you have your own children, there is something different about having conversations with kids that are not in your family. You’ll be surprised how much they open up, what you learn about them, and what the world is like through their eyes. One of the best parts of VBS is hearing how a child is processing their life, then helping them process it through the lens of the Gospel. You want to have these kinds of conversations! They will bless your life and better your own walk with Christ! Do you want to be blessed by conversations with kiddos? Then say YES to VBS!

5. The Gospel. This is the greatest reason to say YES to VBS! If it has been a while since you have seen someone believe the Gospel for the very first time, VBS is where you need to be! The Lord is gracious and moves as He will, but I have never seen a VBS where God does not move to help people know and believe in the Gospel. It’s incredible! Do you want to witness firsthand the work of God through the Gospel? Then say YES to VBS!

So there you go! Say YES to VBS! There will be snacks, running, songs with motions, conversations with kiddos, and the Gospel through all of it. You don’t want to miss this week!

Check out http://firstnorfolk.org/vbs for more info or to register!

I confess! (But how?)

Have you ever had thoughts like this before?

“I don’t understand why I keep being tempted by that. I really want to stop sinning like that, but it seems that I don’t do what I want. Instead, I do what I don’t want to do and it’s driving me crazy. It’s almost like I both love God and His commandments in my heart, but in my mind and body I keep feeling a love for things I know He doesn’t want me to want or do. What hope is there for the sin in my life to ever be overcome? I know that God will through Jesus Christ! So how do I deal with it now?”

Any honest Christian will admit that they have been there before. In fact, the above statement is simply a (very loose) paraphrase of Paul’s description of his struggle with sin in Romans 7:13-20! Things that Paul knows he shouldn’t do he does. But that does not stop him from dealing with his sin! You can see others in Scripture suffering from the same sins that have plagued them their entire lives (Peter in Galatians, Timothy in 1 and 2 Timothy, etc.). There is a beautiful reality that one day we will all be free from the plague of sin in the day-to-day processes of our minds and bodies. But until that day comes, what do we do? 

Well – we make a practice of confessing our sin to God.

While they are all deeply related, confession of sin is a bit different than repenting of sin or admitting we have sinned. Admitting we are a sinner is so easy that even someone who does now know the Gospel can do it. They aren’t perfect, they’ve messed up at least once, therefore they are a sinner. While there may be someone who won’t admit they’ve ever sinned, they are rare! If a believer in Jesus isn’t careful, simply admitting you’ve sinned is something that can become the last step in dealing with sin. In Paul’s example above he admits that he struggles with sin – but he doesn’t leave it there! He then goes on for several chapters to talk about how to deal with it! 

What about repentance? Repenting is a gift from God that frees us from the power of and guilty verdict caused by sin. In the New Testament, repentance is certainly an action that the hearers are required to do in order to receive salvation. While that’s how it is mostly used, there are also arguably a handful of times that Scripture tells believers to take the step of repenting for besetting, deadly sins that are corrupting a life or an entire group. Repenting is an important aspect of the Christian life – it’s the place where life in Christ begins and where those who find themselves incredibly far from God should turn. It’s where we as believers first turn from sin and begin the journey of running away from it. If we get lazy or slow down our stride and something completely catches us, we repent and turn to run again. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gives the idea.

But for the believer above, sometimes we can beat ourselves up with phrases like, “If I really repented of that, I would not struggle with it anymore.” It can be used wrongly as a buzzword that creates a constant, low-level guilt for the sin we continue to strive against. In my own life and in the lives of those I serve, it sometimes sounds like, “If I would just repent of my anger, I wouldn’t be so argumentative” or “If I would just repent of my pride, I wouldn’t compare myself to others as much” or “If I would just have more faith in how God has made me, I wouldn’t be as dissatisfied with my life.” 

In truth, sometimes we use this gift that God has given to be freed from the guilt of sin to guilt ourselves into thinking we haven’t really repented because we still struggle with sin! It’s vitally important, so though it’s sometimes misused we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the battles we face with sin. So what do we do? 

I have found it more helpful to think of “confession” for the areas that have been and may continue to be lifelong struggles with sin. Confession is not just saying you’ve sinned – that’s admitting. Confession is not what one does to turn away from a deep, besetting sin that has completely corrupted their life – that’s repentance. Confession is a moment of telling God how you’ve sinned so that He would forgive you. In a single verse:

“If we say we have no in, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Confession doesn’t bypass admission – it begins there. Confession doesn’t throw out repentance – it’s based there. Confession is helpful for believers who keep finding themselves struggling against the same thing over and over. It’s the practice of stopping, telling God how you’ve sinned and seeking His forgiveness.

It’s where we say, “God, I was angry there. Would you forgive me of being angry?” It’s where we say, “God, I was really prideful in comparing myself to them. Would you forgive me of my pride in that moment?” It’s where we say, “God, I failed to believe that You alone can bring satisfaction. Would you forgive me for seeing ________ as more satisfying than You?” 

Confession is where we agree with God that we have sinned and ask Him to forgive how we sinned. 

So, this week as you struggle with the exact same things you struggled with last week, try taking some time to confess your sin to God in the moment of the sin! Repentance is vital, but thinking about confession this way might help you in the day to day battle.

Called to Ministry?

One of the things that excites the heart of a pastor most is when members of the church come up and say, “I think that God is calling me to ministry, but I’m not sure if I’m called.” Here’s why: When God is moving in a place, He raises up people to do the work! It’s exciting because it is an obvious sign that God is at work in a congregation and getting ready to do even more in the days ahead. 

While every member has a ministry, some are called out by God to be ministry leaders. In fact, right now we have a group that meets every week to help equip those who are called to ministry (contact twhitney@firstnorfolk.org to learn more about this group!). As Pastor Eric said on Sunday, being called to ministry is something you grow into from the time God calls you until you see Jesus face to face. Just like Jesus isn’t waiting for you to “get yourself together” to come to Him, we aren’t waiting for men and women who will first “get yourself together” before accepting the call to ministry. If God is calling you, we’re here and ready to equip you – to help you grow from where you are to where God is calling you to be! And to help you in every step of that – from discerning His call to being equipped to fulfill the ministry God is leading you to do! 

While we can help you with the equipping and discerning the calling, there’s one thing that has to be present that is all between you and the Lord: a compelling desire. In fact, look at one of the hallmark passages of pastoral calling/qualification and you’ll see it as an assumption right up front! Check it out:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Do you see the assumption here? “Aspire” and “desire” are two words that give us the same idea – someone who actually wants to do it and is compelled by an inner desire to do so! 

So here’s a question to ask yourself if you’re considering a calling to ministry: Is it something you actually want to do? A wise mentor once sarcastically told me, “You don’t want to go kicking and screaming into ministry. Trust me – in ministry you’ll get kicked and screamed at plenty. Your ministry doesn’t need your own added into that.” Every ministry leader can laugh with the truth of that statement! There will be times in every ministry where everything is difficult, but you simply can’t help but keep going because of the compelling desire to be in ministry. If you don’t want to go into ministry, you may not be called to vocational ministry!

But if in your heart/gut/desires you are compelled to do so then this, my friend, is from the Lord. If it’s something you want to do – even if you’re not sure how or what it looks like – then that is a fantastic sign that you may be called to ministry! And it is the very first thing to answer for yourself, because I certainly can’t answer that for you!

So is God calling you to lead a ministry? Here’s the first question to answer: Do you have a compelling desire to answer the call? You aren’t less spiritual or ungodly if the answer is a no. But if the answer is “yes,” don’t even try to say no! Reach out (twhitney@firstnorfolk.org) and let us know! If you don’t know how or what it looks like, we can help you. If you don’t think you’re mature enough, we can help disciple you. If you know you’re supposed to but not sure the next step, we can help you! If God has granted within you a compelling desire to be in ministry, let’s fulfill our ministry together! 

This, my friend, is a beautiful thing that happens when God is moving in a church!

Praying is Easier than Not Praying

Last night we gathered with 30-40 church members to pray. As I was listening to the prayers of those gathered (some who have been believers longer than I’ve been alive), I was struck by a new beauty regarding what prayer does to the community of faith. It seemed as if some who prayed carried the same tone the Puritans before us – thoughts of hopelessness and despair if not for the grace of God and His kindness toward us in Christ. While some prayer times will often focus on the beauty and joy that can be found in Christ, sometimes it is good for the heart to reflect on the heavier things or to despair in light of what is difficult around us. After a difficult 2020, the Church carries burdens it didn’t know existed prior to March of last year. Tonight it struck me as others were praying – it would be really hard to bear these burdens if we were not bringing them before the Lord in prayer. 

In fact, when it comes to heavy burdens in our church, praying is much easier than not praying. 

When we choose not to go to the Lord in prayer over the things we are concerned about we are taking the burdens we all feel and carrying them alone. While we may be quick to remain quiet or share our concerns about church with another, the truth is that there is only One who can do something about His Bride. And the means by which we collectively cast our cares on the only One who can hear and act is by corporate prayer. 

We know that not praying is a difficult road for an individual Christian. In fact, while the only hope of salvation is faith in Christ alone, you won’t find much comfort in Scripture for someone who claims to know Jesus as their Lord and simply does not pray. If the church is the Bride, not bringing our burdens to God in prayer is like a wife who forsakes the help of their faithful husband to lift weights she cannot. There is only one set of shoulders that is meant to bear the corporate burdens of our entire gathering, and those shoulders have scars from a whip that are now covered by a white seated high on a throne. Bearing the burdens we feel as a church is meant for the shoulders of Christ. Prayer is where a group of believers can find help by the yoke of Christ bearing their burdens for them. Jesus is stronger than all of us could ever be together in a million lifetimes. Because He is stronger, praying for the burdens of our church is much easier than not praying.

So tonight I sat and listened to saints who placed heavy burdens on the shoulders of Jesus. With full confidence I rejoiced because I know He can take them. If He bore the sins of the world and conquered death, surely He can bear our current sorrows and concerns about whatever tomorrow holds. And after casting their burdens on Christ, I watched as those who gathered walked away with an easier load because they prayed. 

Maybe next week you too will join us as we seek Jesus and let Him do the heavy lifting. Trust Him as we find together how much easier it is to pray than to carry the burdens of our local church body alone.

Drink Deep This Summer

Isaiah 55:1-2

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of foods.

One of the things no one tells you growing up is how hard it is to get grass to grow. This is a picture of my grass. Yes – I am aware that my grass is not the best lawn in the neighborhood. That award goes to my neighbors. While some of my lawn is green, this specific spot is along the back of my fence. It’s in a weird spot. Every year, what I plant there turns green when the spring rains begin. But then when Spring turns to Summer (like it is right now), it starts to die. Then when winter comes the shriveled roots simply do not survive. That leads to muddy shoes and paws as a daily reminder during the winter and Spring that I need to grow grass along the fence line. 

So this year I asked an expert for help. I followed the guidelines, got something that thrives in shade, prepared the soil, and laid down some sod. And then it grew! Well, most of it grew. Except this area. Once it got hot it stopped growing. I called the expert back and do you know what they said? “You’re not giving that spot enough water.” 

This spot is literally within feet of a sprinkler head (the metal flag you see in the picture). How is it still dying? Well, it turns out the expert was right. The sprinkler head only hits it with overspray but never actually waters it to the root. Where the grass turns green is where another sprinkler is putting enough water. The roots in the dead are aren’t growing right, which means it can’t “eat” the soil for nutrients. While that section of grass is near water, it never actually drinks any. It is both thirsty and starving because it isn’t getting enough water to grow strong! In fact, the overspray simply acts to burn the grass instead. If I don’t give it more than surface water the grass will simply stay dormant until the winter. Then in the winter it will die.

I’m not a grass expert, but I do know that grass needs water and soil. So I did something that would have saved me time, money, mud tracks through the house, and lots of frustration for several years now – I looked at my sprinkler pattern. For $12 and a few hours of work, that area now has water.

The grass can now drink deeply so that when winter comes its roots are strong enough to continue to thrive year after year.

While this is true for my grass this is even truer for our souls. One of the concerns I have for believers coming out of 2020 and into summer 2021 is this: While the summer months are times we enjoy getting out, we need to be really careful to still deeply water our souls. Being near water is not the same as drinking it, and you need to drink deeply this summer to keep your roots strong and healthy. If your soul is thirsty after a year of interrupted church schedules and personal routines, you are normal! And everyone needs vacation and summer sleep ins – those are good for the soul and healthy for our bodies! But going without the water of the Word, fellowship, and community is simply not an option for a believer – especially coming off of the last year! Being near water is not enough. While it is important to do so in every season, you especially need to drink deeply this summer.

Finding somewhere to drink deep this summer is not complicated. In fact, it is all of the things you already know to do: Take yourself or your family to church on Sundays (even if you’re out of town), spend time daily with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer, connect with a LifeGroup to grow together, and participate in the ministry opportunities at church and in your community. You don’t have to be an expert to know how going to church once a month, never reading the Bible and praying, and not spending time with other believers will lead to a parched soul. You are surrounded by so many opportunities to drink deeply this summer! But being near water and drinking deeply are not the same thing. The winter weather will come again – whatever that may be – and the roots that shrivel now may not make it through then. 

So this summer, water your soul! Take some time to look at your calendar and make a plan to drink deep in the summer months. And lets get ready to thrive this fall and winter! 

Processing a New Song (Guest Post by Justin Erwin)

Hi. I’m Justin, one of the drummers on the worship arts team.

This guy.

I’ve been involved in worship ministry for about half of my life. In that time, I’ve dropped a few sticks. Every time it happens, I feel the same emotions: in the minute, pure panic; on the other side, comedy. And maybe a gentle reminder on the fragility of human will in the scope of an eternity governed by a sovereign God. 😉 

Even though I am imperfect at leading, I am passionate about worshipping God through music. Gathering with the people of God to sing His praises on Sunday mornings are some of my favorite times. These moments are a mere fraction of what every day will be like when we are united with Christ in eternity to come. Plus, we’re commanded to worship God! It is a command that God knows will bring joy (Ps. 150:6, ESV)!

As a leader in the worship arts ministry, one of the things I do is help find and introduce songs to the congregation. Some of them are new while others are just new to me. In fact at the end of the month, we’re singing two new songs! When I hear new songs that might be used in worship, I take some time to ask questions about the song that helps me know how it may affect my heart toward God. Whether or not it’s a brand-new song or a song that is new to me, I want to process what it is I’m singing so that I can worship God in the fullest with my mind and heart. It’s one of the ways I’ve learned to apply 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (“test everything” and to cling to that which is good). These questions have helped me and they may help you as well! With that in mind, here are the questions that I use to process potential worship songs:

  • Is what I’m singing contrary to who God is or what the Bible really means?
    • This seems like an obvious one but it is important. Generally, no one tries to write Sunday morning hits that talk about how God ISN’T powerful, loving, and just. But does the song talk about God’s love, power, and justice the way He talks about it in the Bible? Sometimes, there may be a song that we should shy away from because it may minimize God’s glory or power. In others, I’ve come across some that indicate that it’s our work or our deserving that brought us to saving faith in Him. Every lyric needs to be examined through the lens of Scripture. 
  • Is what I’m singing focused more about me than it is about God?
    • This is, I think, a common trap for all of us as we sing any song! Sometimes in new songs, the language can make the song about us. Often, we can sing a song about God as if its about us – and that’s even more dangerous! An adage I was taught to consider is, “Who’s in the spotlight of this song?” Does the song present God as the center of my needs, or is the song centered on making God a genie? If I’m not careful, I can let my pride and self-centeredness become the focus of the very worship we should be directing toward the One who made us. I’m sure if you’re not careful, you might do that to! So ask yourself: Who’s in the spotlight?
  • Is what I’m singing something I genuinely believe?
    • Do I genuinely believe what I am singing? This isn’t a question about content as much as it is about faith. This first occurred to me when the student pastor I had growing up went over the lyrics of a new song line-by-line with the band. Reading lines like “the cry of my heart is to bring You praise,” and “Your will above all else, my purpose remains; the art of losing myself in bringing You praise,” he challenged the band: Is that the truth? Does your heart cry out to bring God praise? Is His will, above anything else, your purpose? He then concluded: “I’d rather you not sing lyrics you don’t believe, than lie to God.” Admittedly, it was pretty sobering for high schoolers to hear, but it’s resonated with me!

It seems like a lot: filtering worship songs through the Bible, discerning if they are we are making ourselves the focus, and genuinely believing what we’re singing. To an extent, it IS a lot! But it’s necessary. I’d encourage you, the next time you hear a new song or a song that is new to you – ask yourself those questions. We have a high calling, after all, as God’s children to exalt His name and be His witnesses “to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV) Let’s make sure what we’re singing aligns with that conviction and calling. 

For His Glory Alone!

Justin

Men – My son needs you.

This is my son. He’s the loud one that runs to the front at the end of church, jumps off of the stage, and plays chase in circles around the instruments. I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t broken any equipment yet – but don’t worry, it will likely happen at some point. He is all boy. He wrestles, runs, hits (not always at the right time), smashes bugs, and can talk about dinosaurs and sharks all day long. In fact, he can talk about anything all day long. In this picture, he’s learning about baseball, kites, and Jesus. He scratched his face earlier picking up and throwing boxes.

He’s also struggling with the things those his age normally struggle with! He chooses disobedience. He acts long before he thinks. He gets angry and rude. He sometimes doesn’t like it when he can’t get his way. He needs help processing disappointment. He doesn’t always tell the truth. And he has perfected the art of cute-but-inappropriate-because-I-said-wait-patiently-for-the-thousandth-time interruptions. He likes to correct mom and dad. He doesn’t easily receive correction if he is convinced he’s right.

Here’s a confession: Momma, dad, and the grandparents are doing what we can the best we can in teaching this kiddo about Jesus. But I know his story will perhaps be like mine and yours – thousands of conversations adding up over many years until the Lord sews them all together in a moment where God opens his eyes to see and savor the gift of Jesus.

As I survey the list of teachers in his life, he is gifted with so many “mothers” who sow the seeds of the Gospel in his life. So y’all keep doing that! Thank you!

But men of every age and stage of life: if you love Jesus, my son needs a bunch of you to be those who share the Gospel in word and example. He needs to know how Jesus helps a man struggle with obedience. He needs to know how Jesus causes a man to think and act. He needs a man to show him how to follow Jesus when he doesn’t get his way. He needs to see a man’s example of how Jesus gives you hope and joy in disappointment. He needs to see men speak truth when it’s hard. He needs to see patient examples of strength, humility, kindness, courage, and attentive listening. He needs to see an example of men who live in submission to their Heavenly Father. He doesn’t need you to be perfect. He needs to see imperfect men follow Jesus. My little boy needs real men who love Jesus, live like they love Jesus, and let him see them love Jesus.*

My son needs to see you follow Jesus. But to do that, he needs to see you.

And truly – my son isn’t the only kid that needs to see you. Your kids need to see you. And thousands of others needs to see you this summer!

Men – you have a chance to be seen as the bearers of the Gospel for the next generation every single week! This summer, you can have an entire week where you help show Jesus to thousands of kids at VBS.** The opportunities are there for you to take.

My kid and thousands of others need you to show them Jesus this summer. Will you come show my son another example of what a man who loves Jesus looks like?

*If you know you need help knowing how to live and love like Jesus as a man, email pastor@firstnofolk.org and let us help!

**For more info about serving kids this summer, contact Julie Hunt (jhunt@firstnorfolk.org) or Jan Frost (jfrost@firstnorfolk.org) or go to firstnorfolk.org/vbs to register!

See a need, meet a need.

This morning after my run, I passed by a McDonald’s cup and fry container that had fallen out of someone’s car. I’m certain it was an accident because the fries were about half full – and nobody in their right mind would waste McDonalds french fries! I noticed it because it was right in front of my house. The neighborhood I live in does a pretty good job of keeping random trash off the streets. Sometimes someone else’s mess gets blown into another’s yard or a storm will spread a recycle bin around the area. Everyone just kind of picks it up when they see the need to make it happen, and in doing so it serves everyone well!

But today, I wasn’t a very good neighbor. I was tired, I had just finished my morning run, and I just wanted to get back inside the house to have a few minutes to myself before my son wakes up. I knew someone should pick it up. I knew that someone should be me (it was literally right in front of my house). I thought to myself, “Someone should do something about that.” Then I walked inside and did nothing.

In the scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. I thought about it a few hours later, but as I went to take care of it someone else already had. And while it should comfort me that someone else has taken care of it, it was slightly reminiscent of how often I can overlook the needs I see right in front of me and pass by without stopping to help. I failed to apply yesterday’s sermon and the language I’ve used so many times to encourage others in the church into action – “If it bothers you, you be the one to fix it.” 

I grew up in a church culture of spiritual gift inventories, personality profiles, and ministry matchmaking surveys. All of these are incredibly helpful tools that can bring clarity to a calling! Those are really helpful for knowing how one might serve in the church, but outside the church I’ve learned it can be hard to translate those findings into action. I’ve learned to stop and ask people, “What’s something around you that you wish God would do something about?” If the answer is something broad or general like, “The nation is (fill in the blank)” or “kids these days don’t (fill in the blank)” or “the church in America is (fill in the blank),” I clarify the question a little further. “What’s something at your work, your home, your school, or your church that you see around you that you can put your own mind, body, and resources to fix?” If the answer is still something broad or general – like “all the teachers” or “all my neighbors” or “all the members” or “all the people I work with” – I ask one more: “If you couldn’t choose wrong, which ONE teacher/neighbor/member/coworker will you choose to put your mind, body, spirit, and resources to help?” 

Often, the need we see in front of us is the need we need to meet. It doesn’t have to be all of them at once. One by one is plenty.

As we continue to learn and grow through the book of Acts, we are seeing how God uses His church to tangibly and visibly reach the world through proclamation of the Gospel and acts of service to the communities. They do both – proclamation and service. Being a follower of Jesus is certainly more than meeting the needs around us, but it certainly isn’t less either.

What would it look like to survey your life, your neighborhood, your church, and your family for the needs you see? Then what would it look like to make it appropriately known that the love of Christ compels you to serve, and serve in His name? See a need that bothers you and meet the need.

When it comes to serving others, don’t do what I did this morning to the McDonald’s mess. See it. Meet it. Praise God for it. And look for the next chance to do it again! 

Miscommunication has an end.

Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone understood everyone else all the time? In the shakable moments of Zoom calls, highway tunnels, autocorrect, and unsteady wifi signals we know what it is to not be able to understand even just one person we’re talking with – let alone everyone together in a group. Even face to face miscommunication happens. In my house, it is safe to say that sometimes I have no idea what my four-year-old is saying. And while my wife and I have been talking to each other for fifteen years, sometimes I still find myself thinking, “What did she say?” 

Now add to these dynamics the complication of different languages and cultures around the world, and you begin to get the scope of how many different ways there are to communicate meaning! Miscommunication is the reality we live in. 

But it isn’t a reality that will last forever. Miscommunication isn’t eternal.

As I read Scripture, I like to find the things that will be a part of the new eternal reality that God will create when He restores everything back to Himself. When I find these things, I think about them for a while in order to imagine just how great it will be when sin no longer has an influence over my life. For example, in Revelation 21:4 we find that “death will be no more.” How cool will it be that in eternity you will never die? Does that mean you can get as close as you want to the Grand Canyon? Can I try to throw a parachute out of a plane then chase it down to open it before I hit the ground? Can I swim to the depths of Loch Ness and wrestle whatever it is I find there? Can I surf an avalanche? While these are silly things I think about (and yes, I kind of hope all of those things can happen), the more important thoughts that come up. I will never have to only know someone’s voice by memory. I can live free of concern that a random dot on my skin signals 6 months left. I will be able to cherish the presence of my son forever. I won’t have to live with the reality of limited time. 

So what about miscommunication? Well – the new reality that God will create when He restores everything will be the end of miscommunication. While there will be ethnic diversity in all its beauty, we will all be able to say with one loud voice, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:6-8). That will be pretty cool. We’ll all be saying the same thing at the same time in the same language for the same God that has saved all of us from everywhere. 

Our communication about who is King and Ruler over all will be clear and loud. I can’t wait to see that day. What a day of rejoicing that will be! While the Bible doesn’t say that there won’t be varying languages in the New Creation, it is clear that we will all be saying the same thing!

So I look forward to many things when God makes all things new one day. Between now and then, He has given me the task of trying to translate so many things that are broken here and now. But one day I’ll know exactly what everyone around me is saying. That, my friends, I look forward to with all my heart.

Meet Seth Schwab!

Introducing a new staff member, Seth Schwab! Though many of you know Seth and Madeline, here are some things they would like you to know about them. If you see them around, stop and say hello! We are so blessed to have them join the team! From Seth:

Hey guys! My name is Seth Schwab. I am the new pastoral staff member at First Norfolk. My wife, Madeline Schwab, traditionally known as Madeline Hemphill, and I have moved back to Hampton Roads to pursue a unique, yet humbling opportunity God has placed before us.

Madeline and I have been married since August of 2020. As we have been married, I have seen the Lord display His patience through my wife to me through hard-pressed moments and in my impatience and weakness. Her Christ-like character, by His grace, has increased my faith in Him.

Many months ago, we felt a push towards leaving Lynchburg after she graduated. We searched and First Norfolk connected with us to be a part of what they were doing to reach the seven cities of Hampton Roads. As we sought Christ for His plan for our lives, He undoubtedly was leading us back home for me to join the pastoral staff as a pastoral resident while she is preparing to go to PA school.

My role as a pastoral resident is receiving pastoral training from the pastoral staff at First Norfolk. I am also attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), pursuing a MDiv. The church and theological training will equip me to become one of the pastors of a microsite for Scattered Church at First Norfolk. I am so excited for this opportunity.

I am deeply passionate about reaching and discipling our local communities. Truly, Matthew 28:18-20 makes this an imperative for all of us: 

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

Our burden is to see lives be transformed by Jesus Christ through our familial unity given in Him (John 17:21-23). I ask that you pray for our boldness, for humility of heart, and for our surrounding community to be receptive to the Gospel.

Most importantly, however, pray for how God can use you and your family to reach the communities you are in. I pray that as He unravels His plan for you to reach your communities, His Spirit will comfort you in this wonderful truth that is given at the end of verse 20: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”