Recent Tragic Events: What Jesus Might Think, Say, and Do.

Vol. 19 No. 33 | August 20, 2017

It has been a week that has certainly made many of us think.

It began with the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, which sparked the inevitable media coverage on race, politics, who is to blame, and what the President should have said and done. Then came the senseless violent acts that occurred in Barcelona, Spain…

Mix those events in with the craze, semi-panic and resulting chaos over the Solar Eclipse. We even have predictions of major traffic issues in our area because of it. There are Eclipse festivals planned for the weekend, and glasses have become a hot item going for anywhere from free to $150 or higher. I’m thinking about skipping this one and waiting for the next.

Throughout the week I have watched and listened. I have prayed and pondered. I have tried to find words that would be helpful and also tried not to speak about it all. As I have reflected what Jesus might think, say or do during times like these, I finally arrived at these possibilities.

Jesus would weep with those who are weeping.

In chapter eleven of John’s gospel account, he shares the story of what happens when a dear friend dies. He already knows the facts of the event, and although He took his time in getting to them, once He did, He did the best thing anyone could possibly do: He weeps with them. He knows he is about to raise Lazarus from the tomb, but still, He weeps. Maybe it was because they were weeping. Maybe it was because He was disappointed in their lack of faith. Maybe He was weeping because they still do not understand who He is or the powers He possesses. Regardless, He came, He comforted them, and He wept with them.

Three people died in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at the time of writing, fourteen have died in Barcelona, Spain. I know Jesus would weep for and with those people. Obviously, we cannot all travel to Charlottesville or Barcelona to weep for and with those people who have suffered such significant losses, but we can weep for and with them right where we are. And, we can pray for them.

I think Jesus might say that this is not a time for hate or revenge.

Proverbs 20:22 says: Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

And Paul reinforces this when he says, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for Gods wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NIV)

Yes, there are times when hatred is understandable, but we may not always know best when those times are. God does.

There are six things the Lord hates and seven that are detestable to him:

Haughty eyes; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked schemes; feet that are quick to rush into evil; a false witness who pours out lies; and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV)

I think Jesus might remind us to lead with love, not with hate.

Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Mt 5:43–44). That is very difficult in times like these because of the many potential enemies out there. He also reminds his disciples:

 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV)

I think Jesus might say that the world is a difficult place for good people who try to follow him, but He overcame this world, as can we.

Just like Jesus knew what going to happen with Lazarus, He knew what would be happening in our world. He knew. He knows. He can handle it…in His way and in His time.

Jesus said to his disciples, A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33, NIV)

No one knows what might happen this weekend, next week, or next month. We live in uncertain times. But this does not mean we resolve to be helpless victims. We may not be able to defeat the Enemy or erase evil from the world, but we know the One who has defeated the Enemy, and in time will erase evil from the world. And we can weep with those who weep, we can stay committed to loving, not hating, we can resist the urge(s) to seek revenge, and we can trust the One who created us, bought us with His blood, filled us with His Spirit, and is in control — even when it seems no one is.

These are some of the things I think Jesus might be thinking in response to these events and times, and that is what I’m doing my best to stay focused on.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

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We are Missing the Point

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I had finished writing this week’s article and sent it to my editor when images like these from Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill newscasts and social media. So as an introduction to this week’s A Norvell Note this is my plea: We must be better than this!

 


Vol. 19 No. 32 | August 13, 2017

The story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 has been the focus of these notes for the last two weeks. Thus far, we have observed that we have a tendency to want to blame others for our problems as well as demand an explanation for everything that happens to and around us. Somehow, being able assign blame or identify an explanation provides us with a sense of comfort. Or, maybe it gives us a sense of satisfaction to think that people get what they deserve.

We are a peculiar people.

As this story reaches the climax and concludes, I see a third interesting characteristic of humanity.

We often miss the point.

Jesus corrects His disciples’ view on why some things are not the consequence of sin, but are instead designed to bring a new vision of God. He proceeds to demonstrate why the wonders of God do not need to be explained or defended when the man whose sight had been restored offered no explanation other than the simple facts of what Jesus did to his eyes. Now as the mans shares his miraculous healing with the religious leaders, He reveals our tendency to focus on the wrong thing when the man attempts to share his miracle with the religious leaders.

At first, they reject the miracle all together.

Some of the Pharisees say, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”

Others counter, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.

They come back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”

He explains, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with, so they called on his parents to inquire.“Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?” (16-19, The Message)

Next they question his parents, who because they fear being rejected from the community, offer no explanation and direct the conversation back to their son. (20-23)

When they continue to demand an explanation from the man, his response is brilliant:

“I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind … I now see.” (25)

Yet they are still not satisfied and proceed to interrogate him, demanding details of how it happened. The once blind man chides them a bit and sarcastically ask if they want become one of his followers. I love the way Peters expresses their response: With that, they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.” (28-29)

The healed man continues to tease them, alluding to their lack of understanding. This incites the men to the point of throwing him out of the synagogue, yelling “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” (30-34)

Jesus finds him in the streets and reassures him, engaging in one of many encounters with the Pharisees that will follow. (35-41)

Let me share a few observations and admonitions.

When our interpretation of the Word focuses more on adhering to rules and laws more than people, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders show no interest in this man who had been blind and is now healed. They are concerned only about the rules that have been broken. They show no concern for his parents, except for what information they might provide for finding fault with the healer. How many times do we miss this same point? Something really good happens to someone we know and our concern is more for how it happened and who is responsible than for the person who has received the blessing.

When our interpretation of the message from God focuses on power and reputation, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders know they have the power to expel this man and his family from the religious community. They use threatening and condemning language to intimidate them and to protect their authority and reputation and miss the intent of God’s message. Churches and religious leaders, who are more concerned with their reputations as the voice of authority than with the souls of people, have missed the point.

When our understanding of God excludes celebration over God’s workings, we have missed the point.

Why didn’t they rejoice with this man? This provides one of the most revealing and disappointing images of God’s people in all of Scripture. How often do we miss this? Whether from jealousy, fear, and/or stubbornness, we miss the opportunity to rejoice, celebrate, and acknowledge the wonders of God displayed through His people. What a shame! What a waste! What a disgrace!

How can we miss these opportunities to rejoice with people? How can we miss these opportunities to celebrate the power of God displayed all around us? How can we disregard God’s workings for the sake of our reputation or position of authority?

We have missed the point too often, too many times, and for too long. We have too often allowed people to be ignored and disregarded. People, all people, matter to God and must matter to us. People matter more than being the fastest growing, most innovative and influential church in our community. People matter more than being the most powerful person or leader or President or nation.

We can do better than this. We must be better than this!

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

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I Can’t Explain It

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Vol. 19 No. 31 | August 6, 2017

One of the first questions we learn to ask is Why.

Daddy, why is the sky blue? Mommy, why do I have to take a nap? Why can’t I have more candy? Why do I have to go to the dentist?

Questioning everything does not stop when we get older. The desire to understand why, to be able to explain why, and to find a reason for life’s situations seems to continue though every season of life.

As adolescents, we want an explanation for ever request made by our parents. Then, we reach the stage when we are convinced we know the answer to everything. And eventually, we arrive at the season of life when we realize we don’t have a definitive explanation for much of anything. So we continue to ask questions.

In last week’s article, based on John 9, I pointed out how the closest followers of Jesus demonstrated the struggle many of us have with wanting to blame others for why things don’t go the way we want them to. Perhaps part of this need to blame is an extension of our inherent need for an explanation.

The members of the blind man’s community could not understand why he could suddenly see and wanted an explanation.

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 

“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”  Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

“Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. (John 9:6-12, NIV)

In this scene, and in others later in the chapter, you see and hear people hoping for an explanation and never receiving one.

A couple of thoughts come to mind to explain this.

First of all, we may never know the reason why some things happen as they do. Sometimes, God does things to and for us for reasons we cannot explain and will never understand. But we know that He loves us and is constantly working in and around us to bless us, teach us, and shape us into the people He created us to be.

Secondly, it is okay to not know the explanation. We do not need to have an answer for everything God does. God can answer for Himself. We do not need to explain why or how He works. We know He works. We see the result of His work. We are the recipients of His work.

The man who was cured of his blindness did not need to know why Jesus’s simple acts involving mud and spit made him finally able to see. The end result was good enough for him.

Maybe acknowledging and appreciating that God has worked and is working in your life is all you need. I don’t know how or why, all I know is that God works. He shows up at just the right time and in just the right way. And I am blessed by that. And that is good enough for me.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

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Seeing Beyond Who Is at Fault

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Vol. 19 No. 30 | July 30, 2017

These five verses serve as the introduction to one of the great stories from the life of Jesus.

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:1-5, The Message)

The disciples are trying to understand Jesus. They are watching his every move. The religious leaders are trying to catch Him in sin, but His disciples ultimately, are just trying to understand Him. They have committed to follow Him, and they want to be like Him. But they are blinded by their humanity. They make human assumptions. They ask questions based on human understanding, and they give human explanations. Their eyes have not yet been opened to see Jesus for who He really is.

When they see the blind man, they revert to a common assumption of human reasoning: Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. If someone is suffering, it is because he or she has sinned. That is what His disciples believed. This belief may go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were punished for their sin. And you certainly see this logic conveyed in the story of Job when his friends and advisors tell him:

Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?

Where were the upright ever destroyed?

As I have observed, those who plow evil

     and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:7-8, NIV)

This understanding of life was common then, and is still common today. There is some truth to the fact that we reap what we sow and that sin has consequences. However, suffering is not necessarily the result of sin. In this scene, Jesus is not only trying to enlighten His disciples to this truth, He is also attempting to teach them that something much bigger is going on.

Read His words again:

You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.

Now, consider what Jesus is saying.

First, as followers of Jesus, we need to stop trying to blame people. Blaming others — someone, anyone — is a favorite pastime of our culture. Consider what is going on in Washington D. C. with the election tampering issue; the healthcare debate; and the arguments between the White House and the media. Read the comments on social media. (On second thought, you may not want to do that.) Listen to the discussions in corporate offices, church business meetings, and between husbands and wives. For some reason, we feel that we must blame someone when things do not go the way we want them to.

Jesus offers an alternative that leads us to move toward seeing beyond who’s at fault. He seems to be saying that sometimes people get sick, sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes people suffer for no apparent reason. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things come to those we consider bad. It seems unfair and it seems wrong, but it happens.

Second, when circumstances seem dark, God may actually be doing great work.

Look instead for what God can do.

In this story, Jesus is about to do something amazing. Jesus is about to do something radical and  scandalous. If we keep our focus on blaming this man or his parents, we miss the miracle, we miss the thrill, and we miss the amazing. This is the message of the entire story in John 9, and this is the tragedy of much of what we call religion. While searching for someone to blame, we miss what God is doing.

I suspect you will see things, hear stories, and have experiences this week that by all accounts are unfair, cruel, and tragic. In some instances, who is at fault will be obvious. In some instances, justice will be carried out, and in some it will not. In some instances, you may be called upon to pass judgment, determine who is at fault, and place blame. Please be careful with this, and do your absolute best to move through this process thoughtfully, prayerfully, and with as much kindness as possible.

As you move through those difficult situations, remember to look for what  God is doing or is about to do. Do not spend your time seeking to place blame and miss the miraculous work of God.

Move toward seeing beyond who is at fault to seeing what God is actually doing.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

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Life Can Be Disheartening

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Vol. 19 No. 29 | July 23, 20

Life can be disheartening. You may have experienced it. In fact, you may respond to that opening statement with something like: Disheartening? Are you kidding? My life is frustrating. My life is tough. My life stinks! My life is a constant struggle. My life is miserable. My life is a disaster.

I chose the wording of that statement for a reason. Disheartening presents a gentler and less severe description of life that seems a better fit for most of us. Of course, there are times when life is full of frustration, disappointment, and downright misery. But when most of us consider our life in total, we would agree that life can be disheartening, but it is not always disheartening.

There are times when life is full joy and celebration, when you are healthy, when your work is going well, and your family is happy. There are times when life is good.

Balance these times with times of sadness and defeat. You, or someone in your family, is not healthy. Your work is not going well, or perhaps you cannot find a job. Your family is in the midst of a crisis. Life, in its entirety, is not good, and you feel disheartened.

You do the best you can, but some days your best just does not seem to be enough. You feel like you have made the right decisions, you have received and followed good advice — the best you could ask for — but the results you had hoped for did not come. You are not down and out, but you are disheartened.

There is good news. You are not alone. If you follow the story of Jesus and His disciples through the gospels, you will notice times when His followers did not understand what He was saying, or where He was headed. They became confused, frustrated, and disheartened by the lack of what they considered progress. On one of those occasions Jesus addressed their low spirits.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1-4, NIV)

There is more good news. Not only does Jesus understand being disheartened, He gives a reason for hope. You know the way. You know Jesus. Even though He is not physically with you, His spirit will always be with you. Comfort will come. You will not be alone.

Please do not think me naive. I understand that reading the words of Jesus, acknowledging that other people at times also feel disheartened, and remembering that Jesus is always with you is no magical formula for making you immune to occasionally being frustrated, discouraged, and disheartened. But I do suggest to you that knowing Jesus and relying on His constant presence is the best place to start.

When the negatives of the coming week begin to knock you around, remember Jesus’ words. By knowing Him, you know where things are headed, and He will be with you.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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A Time to Come Together, a Reason to Celebrate

Vol. 19 No. 28 | July 16, 20

Reunion: a gathering of two or more people coming back together after a period of separation.

To reunite with the ones we love, we will travel great distances, take time off from our jobs, and spend as much time and money as it takes to get to spend time together.

And on the day we all come back together, we celebrate.

We talk. We catch up on all the details of what we have missed since our last reunion. We talk about our careers, our health, and our kids. We talk about about how so much has changed, and how some things haven’t changed at all.

We listen. We listen to the details of recent weddings, of those who couldn’t attend and why. We hear stories about our distant relatives and marvel at the fact we’ve never heard them before. We listen to explanations of photographs, old and new, and search for familiar faces. We listen closely, a bit more than we used to, mainly because we can’t hear as well as we used to.

We remember. We reminisce about what it was like when we were kids, the trips we took, and the holidays we spent together. We remember our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and brothers and sisters. And we remember the ones who are no longer with us.

We laugh. We laugh about stories from our childhood, the same ones we laughed about last year and the year before. We laugh about the things our parents said and the countless other things no one else would find humor in.

And we cry. We cry because we laughed until we cried. We cry because we are together again, and because we miss those who are no longer with us. We cry because every time we get together, we are fewer in number, older, and maybe a littler bit slower. We cry when we think of who might not be with us next time and because we know our time together will end much sooner that we want it to. We cry because we know we have to say good-bye.

And so, another family reunion has come and gone. We talked, we listened, and we remembered. We laughed, we cried, and we said good-bye, knowing we were blessed with another chance to do so.

One day, we will reunite with our families and friends here on earth for the final time. But this is not a time mourn. It is a time to celebrate. For we will then be reunited with our family, and the Lord, God, in heaven.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Relationships Matter

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Vol. 19 No. 27 | July 9, 2017

Life is full of demands, and these demands create stress that tend to cause confusion, making it difficult to see the things that are truly important in life. When we lose our focus, possessions, position, power, and being productive crowd out what is really important: relationships.

Relationships are what matter.

When a baby is born, we realize the importance of relationships. Parents shed tears of joy when they realize they have been blessed together. Grandparents rejoice over the opportunity to share the joy with their children. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, close friends, and neighbors share the joy of being a part of the baby’s life.

Graduations remind us of the importance of relationships. Classmates celebrate the shared struggle of the education process. Students acknowledge the support they have received from parents, grandparents, teachers, and spouses.

Illness highlights the value of prayerful partners, neighbors who provide food, friends who help with medical costs, and the quiet servants who show up at just the right moment. When we are sick, we are thankful for doctors, nurses, and lab technicians who use their skills to provide healing for the body.

Memorial services create an atmosphere where we pay honor to someone with whom we have had a special relationship. Through stories, songs, poems, tears and embraces, we express our love and appreciation for the deceased and the survivors.

Relationships matter.

Jesus demonstrated His desire to have a relationship when He came to earth to dwell with us. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, The Message)

Jesus modeled His desire for His disciples to build strong relationships with one another when He washed the their feet and said to them:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:15-17, NIV)

Jesus expressed the importance of good healthy and loving relationships when He told them:

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:34-35, NIV)

Jesus assured His disciples that even though He was physically leaving them, He would continue to be with them.

If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! (John 14:15-17, NIV)

During His time on earth with the disciples, Jesus demonstrated the importance of relationships by loving them, teaching them, and modeling what it means to love God and love people.

Spend some time this week reflecting on the relationships that you consider most important. Are relationships more important to you and to your church than buildings, budgets, inward-focused programs? Are you expressing the value to these relationship? Are you doing everything you can to strengthen and nurture these relationships?

Don’t allow the demands and pressures of life rob you of the joy of your relationships. Take the time to enjoy them, for they are what truly matter. 

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Come to Him

Vol. 19 No. 26 | July 2, 2017

As described in Luke 24, Jesus’s disciples had been following Him for some time, experiencing many miraculous things in His presence.

When Jesus receives news that John the Baptist has been beheaded, He retreats to a solitary place to reflect upon and mourn his death. Once His followers discovered where he was, they crowded around him with the hope of receiving more of his teachings.

His compassion would not allow Him to turn them away, and he healed many of them. As the day came to an end, He asked His disciples to provide food for all. At least 5000 people were fed that evening with a miraculous display of food.

He dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples out onto the lake, while He again retreated to a place of solitude. What happened next reminds me of the quandary in which I often find myself.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:27-29, NIV)

This is how I can relate to this story:

I am trying to go to Jesus, to follow Him, and do what He wants me to. I am trying to sort through my options to discover His will. Like Peter, I am frozen in time wondering if I should step out into the unknown, or if I should I stay where it is safe and familiar.

It is decision time. I have heard the Lord say, come and I want to go. But fear paralyzes me, filling my head with all the reasons why I should stay where it’s safe. You’ll look foolish, people will laugh at you, they will think you have lost your mind. You will think you have lost your mind. What if you fail? What if this is the wrong decision?

These voices get louder, as my heart pounds faster. I want to step out and join Him. But I also want to be where is it comfortable.

So here I stand, one foot placed firmly in the boat, and the other perched on the edge, ready to step out into the unknown.

I can remember times when I choose to play it safe and risk nothing. God has never scolded me, ridiculed me, or deserted me when I chose this path. I have experienced good times in those safe places and been blessed in many ways. I have also known times of regret for choosing to stay where it was safe, looking out where Jesus is, wondering what it would be like to be standing in front of him.

I can also remember times when I did step out, overcoming my fear of the unknown and accepting His invitation. The experience was exhilarating! The reality of knowing and accepting that it is not me, but him who is in control is overwhelming. Yes there were those who wondered what I was thinking, and times when I wondered the same. There were others who said I was a fool, and times when I felt like one.

The difference between these two paths is that I cannot recall a time when I walked toward Jesus, and then looked back and wished I had stayed in the boat. This is not to say that I haven’t had moments of doubt and long periods of waiting to see where He was leading me. But I never regretted taking the risk. My only regret has been that I didn’t do it sooner.

Maybe you are in the boat and hear Jesus asking you to come to him. Perhaps He is asking you to choose do what it takes to have a better marriage. Maybe he is asking you to take the necessary steps to improve your relationship with your children, or maybe to pursue a new career and a better way of living.

I cannot read this passage from Luke without being reminded of these words from Patrick Overton that I have shared so many times: “When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”

Is it time for you to step out into the unknown? Or are you content where you are, playing it safe.

Listen closely, He might be asking you to come to Him.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Rough Road Ahead

Vol. 19 No. 25 | June 25, 2017

Rough Road Ahead

As we traveled recently we saw an electronic sign on the interstate with flashing lights warning “Rough Road Ahead.” The warning proved to be true and appreciated by some, while others chose to ignore the warning and kept right on moving at the same rate of speed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with warnings like that? Wait, maybe it does.

You have your annual physical. Your doctor says, “You have gained some weight, your blood pressure is a bit elevated. I think we should put you on some medication. And you should lose some weight and get some exercise.” You respond with, “Thanks, Doc. I appreciate the suggestion.” You ignore his warnings, continue to eat the same foods, fail to exercise or lose weight, and the next thing you know you are in the emergency room with what appears to be a stroke.

You have been married for seven years and have two children. You live in a lovely neighborhood and both of you have demanding and high pressure jobs. The sky is the limit for both of you as you continue to work longer hours and miss more of your children’s activities. You see articles, hear sermons, and even have friends who tell you, “You better be careful!” You respond with, “Thanks, friend. I appreciate the suggestion, but we know what we are doing.” A free months later you call that same friend and say, “You were right. We’re in trouble.”

You notice a change in mood and attitude from your teenage daughter, but assume she is just being a teenager and let those warnings pass. A couple of weeks later you get a note from one of her teachers asking you to come in for a meeting. The teach tells you her grades have dropped and her whole disposition seems to have taken a negative turn. You thank her for her interest in your daughter but assure her that you know your daughter better that she does. A few more months pass and you get another call. This time from your daughter. She is at the police department. “Mom, I’ve been arrested.”

Your son is a great athlete. If he continues to grow and get stronger he will be a starter. He works hard and has a good change of a college scholarship. You push him hard. When he slacks off you push harder. Your wife tells you, “You push him too hard.” You ignore her and insist: “He’s just getting lazy! He’ll never make in college if he does not work harder!” In the middle of his senior season he disappears. After a desperate search you find him at a friends house. His explanation? “I just can’t do this any more!”

Were there warning signs? Sure there were, but you were too busy and moving too fast and making great time too slow down, so you ignore them. As a result people got hurt. Damage was done. Loved ones are now suffering.

The book of Proverbs (the entire Bible for that matter) is filled with warnings that help us avoid the rough roads ahead of us. Here are a few examples.

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
from something worse than death. (Proverbs 22:22-23, The Message)

Don’t hang out with angry people;
don’t keep company with hotheads.
Bad temper is contagious—
don’t get infected. (Proverbs 22:24-25, The Message)

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (Proverbs 23: 4-5, NIV)

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
from something worse than death. (Proverbs 23:13-14, The Message)

Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
would you use your lips to mislead?
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
I’ll pay them back for what they did.” (Proverbs 24:28-29, NIV)

One of my high school teachers often said, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” She was right. Call them warnings, good advice, or wise suggestions they are there to help us avoid the rough roads ahead of us. Pay attention. Heed the warnings. 

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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The Best Thing May Be Silence

Vol. 19 No. 25 | June 18, 2017

“The one who knows much says little;

an understanding person remains calm.

Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise;

as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.” (Proverbs 17:27, 28, The Message)

Imagine a vey long, uncomfortable silence here.

Every time I read those words, I pause and reflect on the many times I have spoken out when I should have remained silent. I am also remind myself of the multiple times I have been engaged in conversations when all would have been better served by my silence.

One of the freedoms we value most is our freedom of speech. Yet it is one of the freedoms we abuse the most.

This verse from the New Testament addresses this:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29, The Message)

 So this is what I try to do before I open my mouth (or type).

1. Is what I am about to say going to fuel the fire or calm the chaos? (Proverbs 17:27)

If the conversation is already tense and uncomfortable, my role should be to calm things, not to further agitate them. Making other people angry serves no purpose. There are times when I may need to speak up to confront injustice or correct an unchristian attitude, but if I end up offending or angering another person, is it really worth it? I want to be a voice that calms, a voice of peace, a voice that builds bridges with my words.

2. What are my words and tone going to reveal about me? (Proverbs 17:2)

There may be times when making a fool of myself is a good thing… if it is a worthy cause. Generally speaking, however, proving that I am a “dunce” only confirms other peoples’ suspicions. If that happens, then my credibility is gone and my chances of making a positive impact are severely diminished. I want to be a voice that encourages, instructs, and uplifts.

3. Are my words beneficial and helpful? (Ephesians 4:29)

Many of my words are kept to myself because I first ask, “Will these words benefit those who hear them?” If not, I should remain silent. If I consider my words as a gift, then I need to use them wisely, but also with restraint. I want my words to be helpful. I want my words to lift others up and encourage them. I want my words to be a gift.

Before I say something that may violate one or all three of these principles, let me be quiet and allow you to consider them. If you find any value in them, please apply them and share. If not, the best option might be silence.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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