Who Wrote It? Chaplain Norman Brown on "From Here to Jerusalem and Beyond"

By Josh DeGroot

March 31, 2017

Josh DeGroot – Welcome to todaydevotional.com’s Who Wrote It, where we get to know our Today authors better and understand the inspiration behind their writing.

I am Josh DeGroot, and today we are talking to Norman Brown, who has written your devotions for the month of April. Norman, thanks for joining us.

Norman Brown – You’re welcome. Happy to be here.

Josh DeGroot – Your writing covers the last days of Lent and Holy Week, Easter and beyond, your theme: From Here to Jerusalem and Beyond. So, it gives us a pretty clear idea where these readings will take us. The basic question: Why did Jesus leave heaven and carry out his mission here on earth?

Norman Brown – Why? Because the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has loved us since before time began and wanted to redeem his people since before the foundation of the world. So, he sent his son into our lives—into our history—to become one of us and to live amongst us, to go on the journey that we are on called life, and to die for us. Why that had to be the way for us to be redeemed is in the mind of God alone, but that is the way he did it.

Josh DeGroot – Is it a challenge to write about Lent in the sense that, okay, you are assigned the month of April; we know that you are going to write about Easter…that’s a given almost. How do you creatively write about something that everyone knows?

Norman Brown – Yes; that is exactly this case. How do you write about…it’s something you think everyone knows, and yet, I am sensitive, having been a chaplain for two decades on active duty and pastored for 36 years, that there are people out there, even people within the church who don’t have a clear sense of what salvation/redemption is all about. So, since this is the essence of the story: Lent, Holy Week, Easter, the resurrected life of Jesus—that’s the essence of our story of salvation—the challenge is also to get it in and in as few words as possible. So, it was a challenge…more challenging than writing sermons.

Josh DeGroot – You do talk about being a military chaplain and you were raised in a blended family. Do our life’s experiences help shape our Christian life and walk with Christ?

Norman Brown – Absolutely. I’ve come to see that God uses many tools to shape our characters, to touch us, to use us. He uses our talents, our upbringing, our life experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly—our education, especially that which we get through the Church and the family; our relationships within the family of God, outside the family of God; our backgrounds, and so on and so on. He uses these to prepare us for what is to come, to shape us into what he wants us to be; and one of my favorite terms is imago Dei, the image of God, where we reflect back to God his nature; and that is essentially what he is out to do in us; and how he makes that happen is by using all of these tools, and one of the primary ones is our life’s journey and all that goes on and every person we meet, every experience we have.

Josh DeGroot – Are there any readings this month that are especially more meaningful for you…that you would like to elaborate on further?

Norman Brown – Yes; that is what I spent the last day or so doing was reviewing what I’d written because I wrote them way back in the summer. I like the one on April 6th when I talk about my grandfather, for whom I am named, whom I never met. He has always been one of these unseen characters in my background, and evidently his inability to grasp what grace was. That was a lesson my mother taught me well. Grandpa never knew…he never understood grace. The idea of being chosen on April 11th, that idea of having been selected. I was chosen to be raised by my mother’s sister and her husband. I was a little 4-year-old at the time. I had no choice over that, but because of the broken family and my father having abandoned my mother and my brother and me. My uncle, who said we needed a dad—so he chose us, and there was no decision on my part. In a sense, I went along for the ride and was the beneficiary of that. And possibly my favorite, aside from the resurrection story itself—the favorite is the series on April 17, 18, and 19, which are the Emmaus Road and the two disciples or whoever they were—perhaps even a husband and wife who were walking the Emmaus Road after the crucifixion, and Jesus just shows up. In my experience, Jesus walks with us, and oftentimes without our even being aware of him being there; and that has always been a powerful simile.

Josh DeGroot – Well, Norman, thanks for your writing and thanks for joining us here today.

Norman Brown – Thank you very much.

Josh DeGroot – That was Norman Brown, the writer of the April Today devotional. Together, let’s refresh, refocus, renew at todaydevotional.com.

About the author — Josh DeGroot

Josh DeGroot is a graduate of Columbia College in Chicago. Josh began as a sound engineer with Back to God Ministries International in July 2008. In addition to the "Who Wrote It?" interviews for Today, Josh works on almost every audio project produced by Back to God in the US. He also writes and produces episodes for our sister ministry, the children's program, Kids Corner. Josh lives in Alsip, IL with his wife. They are expecting their first child.

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