Posted by: Matt Norton | January 12, 2009

January Newsletter

January 2009

Dear family and friends,

I have gone to church all my life.  I remember laying in the pew as a little tike eating Cheerios and wishing the service would be over. As I got older I went through confirmation. I went to Sunday school throughout High School, but in all that time I still had a feeling of utter desperation.  I felt like I was lost, searching for a reason for my life.  I would try to pray to God but I never knew what say.  My life, though filled with church “stuff”, was not one of transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It was one of spiritual stagnation in which I was struggling to stay afloat amidst all the fear and insecurity of life and growing up.
My life quickly started to change my senior year in High School.  It began when my friend deeply invested in my life.  She showed love and care for the pain of my past, concerns for the present, and joys of everyday life.  This friend spoke Biblical truth into my life when I least wanted to hear it but needed it the most. We would pray together for others and for each other.  We would have Bible study together.  We were there for each other even when we selfishly didn’t want to be.  In retrospect, I can look at my senior year and easily say that I grew more spiritually that year than I had in all my life previously.  My life up to that point seemed to parallel Shane Claiborne’s, as described in “Irresistible Revolution”.  He said, “I had become a ‘believer’, but I had no idea what it meant to be a follower”.  I believe that many Americans struggle in a similar way.  Most of us have heard the Good News of Jesus’ death on the cross to forgive our sins and reconcile us to God the Father. Some of us believe, but there are even fewer who know how to follow Jesus. God is teaching me that it is not simply about being involved in church, reading the Bible, and praying.  All of those disciplines are supposed to draw us more into each other’s lives, so that we can fulfill the two greatest commandments. “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind…and…love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,39)
The longer I’m here at Jeff Street the more I see that there is a big lack of strong friendships.  I believe that many of the homeless folks are torn up inside as I had been, having a lost and unguided spirit. Many I see, seem to have never had a transformative Christ-centered friendship even though many know the “answers” to all of the “Christian questions”.  They are often exposed to scripture and Biblical teaching, but there seems to be a big disconnect between the knowledge of the trinity and the profound change that comes with sanctification, through the Holy Spirit.  They have much of the head knowledge but now God needs to work in their heart through relationships.
Daily, I see the pain on these homeless folks faces and I hear the stories that cause the pain. Their souls are weighed down by failure, betrayal, disease, hate, fear, insecurity, and inconceivable amounts of pain.  All these feelings and memories eat at their hope and humanity.  In their pain it seems as if no one cares. If they each had one friend who would listen to them, care for them, pray with them, and give selflessly, it could change their lives.  One friendship in which God is the centerpiece can change an individual from just a “believer” to a “follower”, as God did with me.  With each passing day I see more clearly that although these homeless folks need food and clothing what they really need is someone to love them as Jesus does.  They need a friend sacrificially involved in their life, teaching them how to live out the gospel in both Word and Deed.
God is slowly molding a selfish, self-righteous, and sinful boy into a friend of homeless people that Jesus loves.  He is teaching and blessing me richly in the deep friendships I am making.  Some days it’s hard to give as I should to my close friends and many days it hurts, but it is all for God’s glory as we aim to follow Jesus more steadfastly.
I want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this, because you have touched my life in one way or another.  Thank you for supporting my ministry hear at Jeff Street and I would ask you to continue to be in prayer for the Jeff Street staff, my team members, the homeless and me.  Here are some specific prayer requests.

•    Please pray for endurance, patience, love, and kindness for the Jeff Street staff and volunteers, especially with increasing large crowds due to the cold weather.
•    Please pray for the relationships that Lindsey, Kerry, and I are nurturing here with our homeless friends.  Pray that we give sacrificially and that we may share the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, our Savior.
•    Please pray for our new Executive Director. Pray that he may quickly acclimate to his new position and community and lead with godly wisdom.

With Love,

Matt Norton

TO DONATE TO HOPE | Send your tax-deductible donation to
Jefferson Street Baptist Center | Attn: HOPE 733 East Jefferson Street | Louisville, KY 40202
Matt Norton Fund ID #: HOPE-0809-MN1 Make sure to include ID in the check’s memo line
Visit the HOPE website at http://www.hopeforlouisville.com
Visit our online journal at http://www.hopeblog.wordpress.com

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