1 out of 5 People Still Do This…Do You?

one out of five

According to research by Onovative, a marketing firm in Louisville, KY, what only 1 out of 5 people still do is worth our consideration for Summer Advance.  This Sunday, June 26, is our final Sunday for this emphasis.  Summer Advance is the plan for our church to fully fund our needs for the month of June and prepay additional expenses incurred with Vacation Bible School (June 27-July 1), Student Camp (July 25-29) and Children’s Camp (August 1-5). These three events provide the greatest opportunities each summer for individuals to hear and respond to the gospel.  Summer Advance allows us to recognize the value in these events and commit ahead of time to make sure the resources are available at the time when they are most needed.

So what is it that 1 out of 5 people still do?  The answer is: Carry A Checkbook. For some reading this electronic blog post, there may be some confusion.  Prior to electronic banking and the popularity of debit cards, most Americans routinely carried a wallet for cash and credit cards, and they carried a checkbook.  The fact that only 1 out of 5 people still carry checkbooks means that when people arrive at church and are presented with an opportunity to give an offering in worship, they may find themselves without cash or a checkbook.  Unless they have already set up and established online giving, they are without opportunity to give. I know that I may have good intentions to give to some cause later, but often discover that by the time I get home, I have forgotten all about my good intention.

I want to encourage you to be sure that you have considered what you will give this week to meet the need of our Summer Advance goal of $500,000.00. Many have already given, but this Sunday will be a significant time to give generously. I am pleased to announce that our church now offers TEXT TO GIVE.  Why?  Because while only 1 out of 5 people carry checkbooks, According to the Pew Research Center nearly 7 out of 10 Americans carry a smart phone with them daily. Text to Give provides a secure manner in which to give when individuals desire to do so while in worship or any other time they choose.  Text to Give provides a way to give consistent with how many people live.  While our church still receives offerings of all kinds (cash, check, stocks, gifts in kind, online giving) this provides one additional way to help people do what they sense God leading them to do in the moment. In order to use this service, you will need to set up your account online to connect your giving with your cell phone number.  To set up your account go to www.firstnorfolk.org/give and click on the Mobile Online Giving link to set up your account.  Once set up, during the offering or after an appeal to give to support a certain mission or cause, you can simply text your gift.

If you have questions or any difficulty setting up your account please contact our financial controller, Wendy Howard at whoward@firstnorfolk.org

However you do it, I want to encourage you to participate in helping children and teens come to know Jesus this summer by allowing God to use to invest in His Kingdom work this summer!  We give, not for ourselves, but for God’s glory! Let’s exceed our goal this summer!

 

4 Benefits for Children at Vacation Bible School

“Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16, HCSB®)

 

Vacation Bible School!  It’s summertime! Church buildings everywhere are splattered with posters and signs promoting VBS. Why? What is the big deal about VBS? Churches have found that VBS is a tool that continues to have great effectiveness in demonstrating how much they value children in their communities. Preparation is made months in advance for this week. Dollars are spent on supplies and refreshments that are sure to bring smiles to the faces of countless boys and girls! While true this still does not answer the question, why do all of this?

That can be answered by reading the words of Jesus recorded in Luke 18, where He declared, “Let the little children come to Me…” It is true that Jesus loves the little children, and the church follows His lead in doing likewise.  VBS says – “Let the Little Children Come!” VBS reminds all adults of the value and beauty of childlike faith.  When the church is buzzing with the noise of children’s voices, the sounds of feet trying hard not to run inside the hallways of the building, and the echoes of children singing praises to God through worship, there is a fresh sense of what it means to be the church!

Beginning on Monday – June 27, our church begins what promises to be one of the most amazing weeks of the year – Vacation Bible School! I want to remind you of four blessings that will be your child’s if they join us this week:

FUN!

Any way you slice it, every day at Vacation Bible school children see and experience moments of laughter, smiles, and exuberant joy.  This happens in the hallways anticipating entering the worship center for the early morning worship kickoff.  Singing loudly of God’s love is amazing with hundreds of children. Running and playing outdoors during recreation also brings smiles to the faces of children and adults alike. Then those amazing snacks at break time bring additional satisfaction! To top it all off, children love the way Pastor Eric makes the opening and closing celebrations more FUN than most would believe each and every day!

DSC_3444 blog

FRIENDS!

Each year at Vacation Bible School children discover new friends who have moved to our area.  They discover the opportunity to meet friends of friends.  They are encouraged to bring friends each day with them, and they are encouraged to grow like Jesus  – “in favor with God and man” by learning to be a better friend to those around them.  Additionally, children will make new friends with adult and student leaders in each classroom. God made us for relationships with himself and others.  VBS allows many children to make friends for life.

FAMILY!

VBS means opportunities for the entire family.  This year we will offer classes for parents of children on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to address issues of parenting. Middle School students have their own event called CRAVE on Monday – Wednesday evenings where high school students and adult leaders will engage students in incredible bible study and fun activities afterwards.  Thursday evening is  all about family.  We will eat together, join in a great celebration of all that has occurred during the week, and drop by classrooms to see what children have been doing. More than all of these, VBS will provide clarity to children on what the bible teaches about how to be a part of God’s family (John 1:10-12).

FOREVER!

The greatest blessing for children participating in Vacation Bible School is that they are learning the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah writes, “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of our God remains forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) This week provides an opportunity for children to learn, study, memorize and experience this Word of God that will last forever!  I want to encourage you to consider how your children will benefit from understanding the truths they will learn from Psalm 139 this year at VBS.  Consider how blessed their friends will be from this experience.

For Registration/ More Information visit  www.firstnorfolk.org/vbs

Want to see who is new to our Church Staff? Welcome…. Brent and Kate Wilson

Brent Wilson family picWe are excited to introduce to our church, Brent and Kate Wilson and their two daughters, Eden and Scarlett. Brent begins his first Sunday as our Minister to Young Adults by preaching in the Onetwentyseven worship gathering in the chapel at 9:30 a.m. on July 3. Brent and his family are relocating here from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Brent is a native of Kernersville, N.C. and has served in churches while attending school at Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He has a heart and passion for seeing people come to know Jesus. He loves to preach the gospel of Jesus so that others might know what it means to have new life in Christ. He has a heart to shepherd people and is convinced that this is what God has called and prepared him to do. Outside of vocational ministry, Brent enjoys hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, playing and watching sports, playing guitar, hunting, reading, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

Kate grew up in a pastor’s home and has lived in a variety of cities and church settings in Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Texas .  In addition to being a wife and mother, she earned her Bachelors of Science in Women’s Ministry from Boyce College in Louisville, KY. She and Brent married in 2011 and are both passionate about using their gifts to serve God in vocational ministry.

Please pray for Brent and Kate as they transition their family to join us in the work God is doing in our midst.  Pray for them to find housing, meet friends, and establish new relationships with people far from God who they may help to find new life in Christ.  Why not send Brent and Kate a welcome message at bwilson533@gmail.com

Campus Catalyst Update

“Campus Catalyst” is First Norfolk’s response to the expansion of the highway adjacent our property. As you are aware, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has taken ownership of a portion of our property for this expansion. Over the next several weeks, months, and years, there will be construction on our property. We are thankful for what the highway expansion will mean for Hampton Roads, and we are thankful for how God will use this expansion, even in the face of some difficult circumstances, for the continued mission of First Norfolk in the days to come!

Our attorneys continue to negotiate and talk with the representatives of VDOT, and they continue to make progress. It is anticipated that you will see Sunday, June 19th, five (5) grey containers that will store our lawn mowers, golf carts, tools and equipment, and other maintenance materials. The containers will be in place during the 3-5 year construction and will not interfere with future expansions or parking. VDOT will be moving the items from the warehouse July 12-15th.

Also, we ask that you pray earnestly:

1. God’s favor in decisions that will be negotiated tomorrow, June 17.

2. Unity in the vision that we are prayerfully seeking now and that we will pursue in light of this highway expansion.

3. Wisdom in responding to the new realities we face in light of the construction.

4. Greater mission faithfulness as we more urgently help those who are far from God find life in Jesus.

5. Pray for Hampton Roads! We ask that you join us in praying that First Norfolk be a blessing to these 7 cities which we love.

The Bridge

A bridge is the creation of an intersection between two separate points. There is a distance between holy God and sinful humanity. Jesus creates the intersection between God and humanity, and we are called to help people to that bridge to life.

We cannot reach God, so God reached out to us.

Here is the scenario of our human dilemma. God is holy and sinless and perfect. He is God, above all and creator of all. And we are encased in the death of our sin. We are corrupt and contaminated beyond our own repair. The distance between God, who demands righteousness, and you and me, who are unrighteous, cannot be spanned through our efforts.

Paul was a person who sought to reach God through his own efforts. His life was a model of living in religious devotion and dedication. If anyone could reach God through morality or religious duty, Paul could have done it.

“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:4-7, NKJV)

Paul’s dilemma and mine are the same. We strive to escape the emptiness of our soul and the chains that grip our heart. We work to build a bridge to God. The tools in our hand are the good works and religious duty that we embrace. Yet, try as we might, we fall short.

We could not reach God, so God in love determined to reach us. He sent Jesus to create the intersection, to build the bridge, between holy God and sinful humanity.

Jesus let go the glory of God’s throne to intersect with sinners.

Jesus Christ left the throne room of heaven to intersect personally with humanity so that He might fulfill God’s mission (Philippians 2:6-7). The statement of Jesus “being in the form of God” shows us that He is and always has been God. Jesus possessed the unchanging and essential nature of God. But Jesus willingly let go the glory of God’s throne. Jesus did not hold onto the glory of God’s throne for His own benefit, but He let go in order to bridge the distance between God and humanity. He emptied Himself to become a servant, even though He remained the King of creation.

Jesus, who is and always has been God, chose to become a real, physical man. He did not give up His deity, but He chose to take on humanity. Like the mathematical genius limits himself to teach math students, so Jesus Christ limited Himself to take on the garment of humanity.

The Son, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead resided, took the tools of redemption and built a bridge for sinners’ salvation. Jesus became a man, born in the womb of a virgin through the miraculous work of the Spirit.

Jesus became the Bridge.

God is holy and righteous. We are people perishing in our sin. We can’t reach God, so Jesus came to build the bridge to God. The tools in His hand were the holiness of His heart and actions and the blood that He would spill (Philippians 2:8).

As a man, Jesus determined to take the lowest place in order to build the bridge between God and man. In obedience to God’s purpose, Jesus paid the supreme price for you and me. That’s the powerful scope of God’s love. When we understand His suffering, we begin to understand the Son. Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for the sin of others that sinners might taste life through faith in Him.

Jesus became a man. He was attacked by Satan. He was abandoned, betrayed, and denied by His closest friends. He was rejected, despised, beaten, humiliated, and killed by His own. This is the great price that Jesus paid through personal suffering. Jesus took the place of sinners on the chopping block of sin. He is our substitute. The foundation of salvation is Christ’s sacrifice. He came and died and rose again so that humanity might have the chance for a relationship with God.

God’s response to Christ’s work is the declaration that the mission was accomplished. Jesus built the bridge and God has exalted Him (Philippians 2:9-11)! Jesus, the Lord and King of Creation to whom we are accountable, chose to take our place of judgment for sin so that we might have salvation and relationship with the Father. The Son’s appearing reveals the infinite mobility and passion of His love for sinners like you and me.

The bridge-building work is ours to fulfill.

There remains a distance between sinners and God. Jesus has built the bridge, but we are commissioned to bridge the distance. His work has become ours. He has given His heart for bridging the distance to His followers (Philippians 2:5). The term that is translated “let this mind” points to more than intellect or wisdom. It is a term in this context that points to purpose and intention. It is the way we live informed by the purpose of Christ Himself.

Just as Jesus “let go,” we must “let go.” Stop living solely for our own benefit and pursue God’s mission of love to perishing people. We live as the servant of God in service of His mission to perishing people.

Just as Jesus “humbled Himself,” we too must “humble ourselves.” We must live to serve God, not ourselves. Our obedience to God includes sharing His radical rescue with people who are far from Him.

Just as Jesus came to humanity to intersect with us as God’s servant, God calls us to intersect with people who are living in the dungeon of life apart from Him. We must cross the distance to sinners who are far from God and help them see the bridge to life, who is Jesus Christ. Our church exists to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior.

 

God’s Radical Rescue

The ship was gone and 34 men were fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Atlantic.  The frigid waters sapped the strength from their arms and hope from their hearts.  Severe hypothermia had set in as they struggled for survival.  They were perishing.  They needed a radical rescue.  An intersection of deliverance to their danger.

Our faith as followers of Christ is built upon this wonderful intersection of deliverance to our danger. God demonstrates His majestic mercy and life-giving love to a world of people perishing. We are the people who have been rescued by God through Christ. And our faith, the core of who we are, must meet real life with this vision of radical rescuers.

In order to understand how our faith intersects with real life, we need to be captured once again by God’s divine intersection with real people in the world. Perhaps the single most quoted passage to help us understand God’s intersection with real people in the world is our text, declaring God’s mission is to rescue perishing people from the icy grip of their sin.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)

1. Perishing people need a radical rescue.

Nicodemus was perishing. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness to find answers to the questions of his heart. Nicodemus approached Jesus to find the answer to his question. Jesus knew the heart of Nicodemus. Jesus knew the questions that were swirling in his soul, and Jesus pierced the darkness of doubt and fear with God’s love.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed a radical rescue, a new kind of birth (John 3:1-6).  Unless there is supernatural birth in the soul of a person, there will be no participation in God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be born from above to enter God’s kingdom. One must be born spiritually. We need a radical renewal of the soul.

We don’t need a new lease on life or a new view of our world. We need a new spirit. Only God can accomplish that! Just as the wind blows freely and cannot be controlled by human hands, the Spirit’s work is not subject to control or manipulation of human beings (John 3:7-8). Only God can accomplish a radical rescue in the heart of perishing people. This is the divine intersection of His love in the real world of Nicodemus and you and me and the people in the world in which we live.

2. God initiates a divine intersection.

The men are perishing in the icy waters of the Atlantic. As they slowly sink and the strength is sapped from their soul, their only hope is for someone to deliver them. For someone to pay the price and pluck them out of the icy grave. The call comes to the Search and Rescue team of the US Coast Guard. They hear the cry for help from those who are perishing, and they fly to the rescue.

God has initiated the mission to rescue those who are perishing. This mission of rescue has been initiated by God’s particular love for the perishing.

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:13-15, NKJV)

Jesus is the divine intersection. Only Jesus, the Son of Man, can speak authoritatively about the things of heaven. God gave Him to a world of sinners because of His great love. Jesus descended from heaven to be lifted up on a cross for the rescue of those who are perishing. When the children of Israel in the wilderness gazed upon the bronze serpent that Moses raised, their physical life was restored. Jesus declares that when perishing people set their faith on Him, they will receive eternal life.

God sent Jesus to deliver redemption to us. Redemption is the payment-price for sin. Because of His love for sinners, God sent Jesus to provide the righteousness we require so that we might have the relationship with God that we all desire.

God does not remain in icy isolation from those who are perishing. God sent Jesus to the rescue for sinners like you and me. Because of His love, God has sent Jesus on mission to give eternal life to those who are already dead in the icy waters of sin. God sent His one and only Son to be a missionary to people perishing.

At the national search and rescue school in Yorktown, there was a patch adorning the sleeves of the rescue swimmers that tells the story of their commitment:

“Always Ready…So that others may live.”

As we know the Father’s heart, we are compelled to live accordingly. That’s why we are a people on mission. The love of God constrains us to be. We live to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior. We live so that our faith might intersect with people who are perishing and bring them the good news of Christ’s rescue. We are always ready so that others may live.

 

 

Four Possible Giving Teachers…Which one most influenced you?

We enter this world selfish as a result of the fall. This leaves us in need of being taught to give generously, but who will teach us? There are at least four very good possibilities.

But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7

I recently cleaned out 20+ years (1986-2006) of tax return documents and receipts and took them to my friend’s document shredding company for proper disposal. As I made my way through mounds of paper, I came across some mail in each year’s tax files from the church I was attending during that tax year. I could not resist the opportunity to open these letters and review my year-end giving record to my church as I cleaned out these files. I was amazed that I never missed any money I gave away during my lifetime, and I noticed a pattern of increasing my giving over this time as my income and resources grew. I smiled as I reflected on what God had entrusted to my care and how blessed I have been on this journey of learning to trust God to provide for my entire life! I was thankful, but to whom?
The Bible makes clear that my gratitude goes first to God, because “every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above…” James 1:17. I also realized that I am grateful to four others who have taught me how to give of what God has entrusted to my care. Maybe you have benefited from the same teachers in your life. If so, today is a good day to stop and say “Thank you.”

PAUL
From reading my bible, and especially the letters written by Paul to the New Testament churches, I have gleaned much from God inspiring Paul to be very specific in teaching other followers of Jesus about giving. He took seriously the command of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20) to teach new believers everything that Jesus had commanded, including his instruction on giving. For more about Paul’s teaching on giving see , Romans 12:3-16, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Galatians 6:7-10, II Corinthians 8-9, Philippians 4:6-20 and 1 Timothy 6.

PARENTS
As a young child, I was keenly aware that my mother specifically gave a tithe of her income each and every week. She took out her checkbook each Saturday evening and wrote out a check for one-tenth of her week’s pay and placed it in her offering envelope, ready to place in the offering the next day. While we did not have a lot in material possessions, we always had enough. I credit my mother with teaching by example and instruction about the portion of our possessions that we were to return to God. I am thankful that I was taught by word and deed the value of giving to my church as a child.

PASTORS
In the summer of 1980 before leaving for college, our church air-conditioner had to be replaced. I am forever grateful to my pastor, Dr. Fred Lackey for calling our church to a challenge that summer to double-tithe for one month to meet the needs in our church. I trusted my pastor, and God used him to teach me about the blessing of giving over and above my tithe. His call to action stretched my faith to do more than I thought possible.

PEERS
It was election night in November of 1980, the day Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States that I recall getting a phone call that my father had collapsed from a heart attack and I needed to return home from college. As a broke college student, I was unsure of how I would make this trip back home. I had gone to see a friend in my dorm and when I returned another friend, Dale, had left an envelope on my desk with “Philippians 4:19” written on the envelope. Inside was cash I would need to travel home. I am sure I had read the book of Philippians before, but never had this verse come so alive before now. It was in this moment that I saw a living picture of how “My God would supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!” This peer was used by God to teach me a lifelong lesson in being generous with God’s blessings. His example spoke volumes. That summer, I also saw God provide for my needs for college in ways I could have never dreamed or imagined.

So, my question for you is…Who taught you to give? Giving is not our nature. The effects of sin are overwhelmingly strong, so we enter into this world selfish to the core. As a result, we must be taught to give. A heart transformed by the love and grace of God expressed in Jesus is the only remedy for this selfish nature. Once we follow Jesus, we begin a journey of learning what it means to give generously and sacrificially for God’s kingdom purposes. God uses many tools and teachers to help us grow in this journey. As we grow, we learn to live with our hands open, receiving from the Lord and giving generously as he entrusts his blessings to us.
Would you reply with your story of who taught you to give?