Face to Face


Vol. 18 No. 47 | November 28, 2016

2 John 1:12,

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Writers of the New Testament shared the Holy Spirit’s teachings in a similar style. They iimagesncorporated their own personal feelings for their recipients and expressed their desire to share more, but with the preference that this be done “face to face”.

A similar sentiment exists with many preachers, almost all writers, and all close knit families. We can preach a sermon, write an article, send texts and emails, and have telephone conversations, but, in the end, we usually feel that there is always more that we wanted to share. We are fortunate to have access to all of these methods of communication, but they are insufficient for sharing the full expression of feelings from the depths of the heart.

So it is with John.

In his first letter, he gave what he called a ‘new teaching’ on the importance of loving one another, although this teaching was not new to many of Jesus’s followers. John reiterated his teaching that Jesus is the Christ to dismantle contradictory teachings from deceptive teachers on their mission to confuse Jesus’s followers.

It is essential to express your love for the Father by loving one another and your fellow human beings, and the importance of walking in love. 

Paper and ink were not sufficient for communicating all of the things that John needed to share. Even though our methods of communication are vast and readily available to us, we may find it difficult to share our deeper thoughts until we are face to face.

  • Serious and emotional discussions need to be shared face to face.
  • Conversations about the future that involve plans for the future should happen face to face.
  • Many business decisions should happen face to face.
  • Tender and romantic conversations most surely should be face to face.
  • An apology should be delivered face to face.
  • Expressions of gratitude are more meaningful when exchanged face to face.
  • Disappointment and heartbreak can be better expressed and handled face to face.
  • Joy and happiness are better enjoyed and shared when face to face.
  • Even anger is likely to be received and understood better when you can look into the eyes of the person with whom you are angry, or who is angry with you.

To be able to see the face of a loved one through an electronic device held in our hand or sitting on a tabletop is an absolute marvel of our day. Thanks to the technology we have available to us, many of us were blessed to share a Thanksgiving message with someone we love from hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, it is not the same as being able to reach over and touch their hand or see their expressions from across the table. I suspect we would all agree that it would have been better to have our loved ones home sitting next to us instead of looking at them through a screen.

This week you will likely have a moment of reflection or a thought of love that you would like to share with someone. Send a text, write an email, or make a phone call if you can or must, but if at all possible, do it face to face. You and whomever you are sharing it with will be blessed by it.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell. All Rights Reserved.

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Live Like Jesus

Vol. 18 No. 46 | November 21, 2016

imagesWhen I glanced at the schedule, I saw that the text for this week comes from John 1:6 of chapter 2, and this came to my mind:

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”[1]

The tendency when reading this one verse is to focus more on the physical activity, “living as Jesus did”, than the condition of the heart. But there is more to it than simply changing some of your actions.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way as he summarizes his letter:

“If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated.”[2] He carries this idea in his rendering of the passage: “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”[3]

The examples of those who claim to be living like Jesus lived can vary dramatically. Politically speaking, one group claims that Jesus would exclude the weak, the needy, the helpless, and all who are different. He would send the immigrants back to where they came from. He would be proud of His status and His high standing in the social arena. He would withhold His blessings from anyone who could not carry his own load and perform all the requirements of the law. He would demand that members of His tribe be devoted to Him entirely and show no mercy on those who failed to live up to His expectations.

Another group would boast about their Jesus and declare His openness to all people; His inclusion of people from all nations; and His acceptance of people of all colors, all ages, all economic levels, and all gender identifications. He would love sacrificially and give generously. He would speak honestly and directly with the utmost gentleness and compassion.

Another group might claim that Jesus would dwell in the middle ground. He would be accepting, but also harsh. He would be gentle, but firm. He would be neither conservative nor liberal. He would stand up for the downtrodden and might speak disrespectfully of the wealthy and those who live extravagantly.

Another group might prefer a Jesus that lives simply, quietly, kindly, and gently. He would truly love all people, be giving, and lift up the fallen. His words would be consistent with His actions. When He spoke, you would know His words were true. If He made a promise, you would know that He would follow through with His promise.

Here are four things to consider as you respond to the challenge of living like Jesus:

First, read the gospels to get an accurate picture of the real Jesus. Do not depend on someone else to tell you how to live like Jesus. Let Jesus tell you how to live like Jesus.

Second, be prepared to make changes in your life. Even if you are already doing a decent job of living like Him, you will surely find ways to improve, which can sometimes result in uncomfortable adjustments.

Third, build in space for grace. Living like Jesus takes time. Living like Jesus will not always be easy or enjoyable.

Fourth, don’t give up. There will be times when you will want to quit. Don’t! If you keep moving toward living like Jesus, you will discover that all the effort and discomfort is more than worth it.

I recently rediscovered the song, “I Want to Live Like Jesus”, which can serve as a regular prayer to help you as you learn to live like Jesus

                        Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”[4]

You can do this! I am here for you, so please let me know how I can help!

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell. All Rights Reserved.

[1]The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Jn 2:6.

[2] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), 1 Jn.

[3] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), 1 Jn 2:6.

[4] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), 1 Jn 2:6.

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No Bullying

Vol. 18 No. 45 | November 14, 2016

images

In the introduction section to Peter’s letters The Message says this about Peter:

In the early church, his influence was enormous and acknowledged by all. By virtue of his position, he was easily the most powerful figure in the Christian community. And his energetic preaching, ardent prayer, bold healing and wise direction confirmed the trust placed in him.

The way Peter handled himself in that position of power is even more impressive than the power itself. He stayed out of the center, didn’t “wield” power, maintained a scrupulous subordination to Jesus. Given his charismatic personality and well-deserved position at the head, he could easily have taken over, using the prominence of his association with Jesus to promote himself. That he didn’t do it, given the frequency with which spiritual leaders do exactly that, is impressive. Peter is a breath of fresh air.

The two letters Peter wrote exhibit the qualities of Jesus that the Holy Spirit shaped in him: a readiness to embrace suffering rather than prestige, a wisdom developed from experience and not imposed from a book, a humility that lacked nothing in vigor or imagination. From what we know of the early stories of Peter, he had in him all the makings of a bully. That he didn’t become a bully (and religious bullies are the worst kind) but rather the boldly confident and humbly self-effacing servant of Jesus Christ that we discern in these letters, is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as “a brand-new life, with everything to live for.”

One line that stands out in this description is: “From what we know of the early stories of Peter, he had in him all the makings of a bully.”

We hear about and are appalled by bully stories. We cringe at stories of the damage done by bullies. We are horrified when we hear a story about a teenager who attempts to take her life as a result of being bullied at school and in social media. We are heartbroken by stories when the attempt is successful.

One would think that a spiritual community would be a safe place where bullying would not be a problem, but too often that is not the case. How sad it is to hear about a church leader, or would be leader, who abuse their power and influence by bullying those under their care. Spiritual bullying may result in the loss of faith, a separation from their church, or walking away from a relationship with God all together.

If you have ever dealt with a religious bully you will agree with Peterson’s comment that: “religious bullies are the worst kind.”

In the early part of chapter 5 Peter demonstrates his understanding of the better way, by offering wise counsel to those who serve as spiritual leaders. He says,

I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

You see more proof of Peter’s understanding of the Jesus style by explaining how to avoid being a spiritual bully.

And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—

God has had it with the proud,

But takes delight in just plain people.

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. (1 Peter 5:5-7, The Message)

Peter suggest two attitudes.

First, “Be down to earth with each other.” Why? Because “God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people.”

Second, “Be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.” Why? Because “God’s strong hand is on you; He’ll promote you at the right time.”

This is not easy. Most of us have a desire for people to think like we think. Those of us who are considered spiritual leaders may have to really fight those same tendencies. We may, at times, try to persuade our friends, co-workers, and those under our care to adhere to our way of thinking and our style of living. If our way is not accepted we may resort to intimidation or forced conformity.

Peter says…Jesus says…Just be you. Let others be who they are. Live your life. Be a guide to others who look to you as an example. Encourage them. Teach them the Jesus life. Love them as they grow and just be plain people. Don’t be a bully! Because God knows how to deal with bullies.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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He Will Do the Lifting

 

Vol. 18 No. 44 | November 7, 2016

imagesThe 4th chapter of James could be summed up with his one statement in verse 10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

It is impossible to submit to God without humbling yourself to God.

Most fights and quarrels could be solved and resolved with a good dose of humility.

Making requests to God makes much more sense when you are humbling yourself before God.

Humbling yourself before God is the only way to get rid of pride.

Submitting yourself to God requires significant humility.

Try as you will, there is no way to resist the devil successfully without first humbling yourself and admitting that you cannot do it on your own.

If you have humbled yourself before the Lord, there is no reason to slander anyone, or speak against a brother or sister, or judge your neighbor. When you engage in those activities you confirm that you have not humbled yourself before the Lord.

When you boast about what you are going to do tomorrow, and where you are going to go, and how you are going to carry on business, you are certainly not humbling yourself before the Lord.

If you are busy trying to promote yourself, elevate yourself, push your way to the top, stepping on and over people to make sure you are first in line, you are not humbling yourself.

According to James humility is a pretty important thing. Apparently some in his day did not consider it as important. Unfortunately it does not appear to be very important in our day either.

Humility has not made much of a showing in the current election. Humility rarely makes an appearance on talk shows, in sporting events, or in movie theaters. There are not many job postings that read, “We are looking for a humble servant to lead our company.”

You may have heard about the man who won the award for being the most humble employee in his company. He proudly displayed the award in the office for all to see. He did not win it the next year.

Jesus reminded us of the importance of humility. He began His sermon with “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Later Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

In Philippians 2:8 Paul reminds us that not only did Jesus talk about humility, but He lived it, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Knowing Jesus so well and having watched the way He lived, it is no wonder that James emphasized the importance of humility by speaking into an apparent tense situation with, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

What are we to make of this idea of humility in these times when arrogance and pride seem to be the norm? Is it even possible for us to live a life of humility when there is so much encouragement for self-exultation and boasting? I think it is possible and here are three reasons why I believe that.

First, Jesus said this is the way to live. He would not have asked us and instructed us to live it out if it were not possible.

Second, Jesus lived it. Since Jesus lived it, I too must live it.

Third, as we become more like Him it is only natural that humility will begin to develop in us. If it is essential it is achievable.

It may not happen immediately, but maybe these practical suggestions will help getting it started.

When you feel the urge to brag about yourself, don’t.

When you have accomplished something significant, keep it to yourself.

When you have the chance to push others out of the way so you can get ahead, deny the urge.

When someone else brags on you or pays you a compliment, let them, thank them, then move on.

When you are feeling like the Lord is not acting fast enough to get you in the limelight, keep waiting and let Him do what needs to be done when He is ready.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” He will lift you up. It is not your job to do the lifting. Remember, He’s got this and He has you. So, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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“I’ve Got This!”

Vol. 18 No. 43 | October 31, 2016

img_0235It was another warmer than usual late October afternoon as I started my walk on the Stones River Greenway and through the old Ravenwood Golf Course. The scenery included the colorful leaves falling and drifting in the breeze, the occasional jet making the final turn toward the airport, and squirrels scurrying around occasionally pausing to look around as if to say, “Why is so warm?”

The Friday afternoon birds songs joined the soundtrack coming from the Pandora music app set to shuffle through selections from my playlists which included quiet contemplative selections from movie themes to Phil Keaggy and Kenny G, from Chris Tomlin and Kutless, to Dave Matthews Band, Bella Fleck, James Taylor, John Denver, and of course Barbra Streisand. I was reminded of what faith can do and how deep is God’s love. I reflected on images of country roads and times when I’ve seen fire and rain. I thought of journeys that seemed to take a thousand years, times when it seems as though grace is gone, and times when I’ve wondered if one more drink would help me be on my way.

As I the walked people were heavy on my mind. That was also part of the motivation for the walk. I lifted up the friend with whom I had shared lunch. I carried thoughts for our children and grandchildren so many miles away, and those on that particular day who were even further away than normal. I prayed for friends and family, some going through difficult times, and for families who are hurting. I prayed they would sense God’s presence, know that He has not abandoned them, and that they could somehow know that I was thinking about them.

I walked. I listened. I prayed.

In that prayerful state is when I felt the leaf from one of the trees brush the top of my head then slide off. I reached up to brush it away when the leaf literally dropped into the palm of my hand.

There were many other leaves that were brighter and more colorful. This was an ordinary brown leaf from one of the many trees lining the path. There was nothing special about this leaf except for the fact that it had fallen a that precise moment and ended up in my hand. You may think I’m making this up. Think that if you wish but as my friend, Jim Wood, would say, “You believe what you want, but I think it’s hand of God.”

I believe the leaf was a sweet reminder from the Lord saying to me: “I’ve got this! I’ve got these people. I’ve got all those situations that are way beyond your realm of control in my hands. Just as you caught that leaf as it fell and are holding it gently in your hand, I have caught you in mid fall many times, I have you now, and I am holding you gently in My hand. All these other people (your wife, your children, your granddaughters, your friends) who you care so deeply for are gently and safely in My hands. I may need you to be near them. I may need you to listen to them. I may need you to put your hand on their shoulder, or embrace them, or hold them, or pray with them. I may need you to speak to them as I speak to you. I may need you to serve as a leaf reminder to them that I am with them just as I am with you today. I may need you for one or all of those things at some point, but today I need you to relax, to trust Me, to keep your eyes focused on Me, to rest and be at peace in full assurance and complete confidence that I have them and I have this!”

As you go through your week, and as you unload your burdens in the strong and gentle hands of God, know that He has you. He is aware of and has your situation in His hands. And if you watch and pay attention, you may feel a leaf drop on your head and end up in your hand to remind you that that He has everything under control.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Our Confidence

 

Vol. 18 No. 42 | October 24, 2016

unknownI hear and read statements like these on a regular basis.

“What are we going to do?”

“How are we going to survive?”

“What has happened to our nation?”

“What is happening to our nation?”

“What is going to happen to our nation?”

“If ______________ [you fill in the blank] is elected president in November the world as we know it will cease to exist!”

I wish I could tell you that these statements come only from the liberal or conservative media. I wish I could tell you that these statements come only from one political party in reference to the opposing party. I wish I could tell you that these statements of fear and despair and confusion come only from those who have no hope.

I wish I could tell you those things, but I cannot tell you that. These statements of fear and despair and confusion are often spoken as loudly and with as much intensity by people of faith as they are by people who make no claims about having a faith.

There are times when these statements of fear and despair and confusion push me toward feelings of fear and despair and confusion. Then, I read Hebrews. When I read Hebrews I remember that our confidence is in the Lord. Our hope is God.

The letter of Hebrews is written to a group of people who like many in our day are living in fear, despair and confusion over what has happened to them, what is happening around them, or what might happen in the future. They were tired. They were disappointed with how life was turning out for them. They were uncertain about the future.

So, God sent them a letter to remind them that in spite of, and maybe because of, their circumstances, there was still a reason to be hopeful. The letter encourages the strugglers to remember where their real hope is and where their confidence is. The One in whom they trust is greater than all the others. He is greater than all the angels. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than any high priest. He is greater than any of their sacrifices. He is greater! He is worthy of confidence! He can be trusted!

In chapter 10:19-24 they (and us) are given this reminder and challenge under a heading (in the New International Version) of A Call to Persevere.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Within this challenging statement there are three specific things we can do to help alleviate our fear, despair, and confusion. They are easy spot as they begin with the words, “Let us…”

(22) “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” God is near, so draw near to Him. He has not deserted us, so draw near to Him. As you draw near to Him, remember that He is worthy of your trust and your confidence.

(23) “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” No matter what, do not let go of your hope. No matter who is in power do not let go of your hope. No matter what appears to be happening do not let go of your hope. Why? Because He is faithful.

(24) “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Stick together and encourage each other. Stay close physically and encourage each other with actions and with words. Encourage each other personally, emotionally, and spiritually. Stay connected in body and spirit.

This is not a time for those of us who have put our faith and confidence in the One who has “cleansed us and washed us clean” to “shrink back” (10:39). This is a time for those of us who have hope to share our hope. This is a time for those of us who have confidence in Him to remind our friends and our brothers and sisters that our confidence is in the One who dwells in the Most Holy Place. This is a time for those of us who have confidence in the living God to display our confidence that He is able, that He is in control, that He is our God and Lord and Savior.

Our confidence, like those who have gone before us, this great cloud of witnesses, is in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Let our confidence be in Him, let our hope be in Him, and let us keep our eyes on Him!

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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What We Have Heard

Audio Version of A Norvell Note:

Vol. 18 No. 41 | October 16, 2016

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What have you heard today? Take a moment and think back on the last hour, half a day, the last two days, or the last week, and call to mind the things you have heard.

You have the heard the two leading candidates for the highest office in the land use language and make statements that most of us would never use in our most private conversations as they criticize, smear and do everything in they can to discredit their opponent.

You have heard scores and updates and highlights on football games, baseball pennate races, soccer and hockey games.

You have heard comments about the damage done by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and on the East Coast, as well as messages from your children, grandchildren, and friends, and countless commercials and advertisements.

You have heard music. You have heard familiar old songs that have touched your heart and brought back memories of tender moments. You have heard new songs that remind you of what is good in your life and they give you hope about the future.

You have heard a lot. As you go through today you will hear a lot. Many of you will listen with headphones or earbuds to block out other sounds so you can hear what you want to hear. Because you are hearing so many stories, opinions, judgements, conversations, and noise it might be helpful to listen to these words from the New Testament book of Hebrews.

The writer begins the second chapter of Hebrews with this: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” If you have listened to preachers and Bible teachers you probably understand that the “therefore” in the middle of the sentence is “there for” a reason. Usually it is a reminder to pay attention to what has just been said. As you read through the letter you will notice that the writer of Hebrews uses “therefore” quite often. “Therefore” his statement at the beginning of the sentence is important to him, “We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard.”

When you see “therefore” and you read back over what you just read it helps you connect what you are reading with what was just written. In this case, the writer is reminding us to make sure we understand that he is sharing his testimony (perhaps God’s testimony) about Jesus and the importance of recognizing Him for who He is.

He begins with a descriptive statement about Jesus superiority over the angels: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1:1-4, NIV)

Then you come to the statement in chapter 2: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

The writer is telling you that if you are hearing messages that take you away from God, that cause you to drift away from the Lord, or distracts you from Jesus, you must pay more careful attention.

I think he might also include these warnings.

If you are hearing messages that discourage, you must pay more careful attention.

If you are hearing messages that weaken your resolve to follow Jesus, you must pay more careful attention.

If you are hearing any message that might cause you treat another human disrespectfully or think of another person as inferior you, must pay more careful attention.

If you are hearing a message that makes you feel superior or above Gods laws or the laws of the land, you must pay more careful attention.

If you are hearing messages that cause you to drift away from what you know is right in God’s eyes, you must pay more careful attention.

If you are hearing messages that tell you that anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is the path to salvation, you must pay more careful attention.

You must pay more careful attention to what you have heard. We have heard, many of us since before we were born, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, that He is the Lord of all. Are you paying careful attention to those words?

In the next twenty-four hours you will hear many things, many different things. Some will be good and positive words, and some will be uplifting words of truth. Some will be degrading and dehumanizing words. You must pay more careful attention to what you hear and what you have heard. (Here is a song that might help: The Voice of Truth.)

Pay more careful attention to what you have heard and what you will hear this week. It is very important.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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The Complaining Stops Here

 

Vol. 18 No. 40 | October 10, 2016

unknownThe Jesus Calling entry for October 9 hit me right between the eyes. I told the Lord that in my own prayer journal entry. The reason it hit so hard is that it was not only the words from Sarah Young, or the words she included in her writing from the Lord, but these have been my words.

I have spoken them. I have taught them. I have preached them. I have counseled with them. I have written about them. As I read them again in this setting and in the context of my circumstances the power of the words penetrated in my heart like never before.

What are the words? They are found in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

Earlier in the day’s thoughts Young had written: “You have been on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent.” And I said, “Yes, I have and my energy is almost spent.”

Then, I read further, “Though you have faltered at times, you have not let go of My hand. I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me.” And I said, “Yes! Thank You, Lord for noticing.”

Then, I read further: “There is one thing, however, that displeases Me: your tendency to complain.” And I said nothing. I could not believe what I was reading. I was stunned. I was frozen in the silence of the morning and by the convicting nature of these words. Eventually I said, “You are right, Lord.”

I finished the reading and at the bottom of page were the words, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

The words of God have spoken and I have heard them, so today the complaining stops. At least that is my goal…again.

As I have “been on a long, uphill journey” and as I have spend so much of my energy, I have enjoyed a season of complaint. It has felt good. I have felt justified. Those who have listened have affirmed my justification and kindly listened to my complaints. It stops today.

How can I complain about anything when others have lost everything due to the storm that has been slowly crawling up the East Coast?

How can I complain about anything when I have enough food in our refrigerator and pantry to feed us for days?

How can I complain when I can sit in a comfortable chair where I have access to more excellent reading material and information than I can possibly ever consume?

How can I complain when I live a beautiful part of the world in a beautiful time of the year and where I am reminded multiple times every day that I am loved by people and by the Lord Almighty?

If I understand the passage I cannot “shine like a star in the universe” unless the complaining stops.The Word of God speaks. The power of the Word has penetrated my heart. The complaining needs to stop. It might as well stop with me. You can join me if you like. If you chose not to, I’ll try not to complain.

Tom

P.S. I do reserve the right to sometimes make sarcastic comments about sportscasters and news reporters.

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Godliness With Contentment (Or, a Cow, a Cat, a Dog, and a Baby)

Vol. 18 No. 39 | October 3, 2016

imagesWriting to his young friend, Timothy, Paul reminds him: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8, NIV)

If godliness with contentment is great gain, what is contentment without godliness? By definition contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction. Hmmmmm. That sounds a bit shallow.

The images that come to mind when I read that definition is of a “contented” cow standing in a field chewing her cud. I see a cat sitting on the real of the deck looking out over the back yard feeling satisfied that he has everything under control and saying: “I’m fine. Don’t bother me!” I see a faithful old hound dog laying on, or under the porch, who lazily raises his head offers a single wag of his tail to acknowledge your presence and to remind you, “Yeah, I see you and I hear you. I need a nap.” I see a baby unhappy and desperate for a bottle suddenly become calm and resting in the arms of her mother as she drifts off to sleep.

Contentment alone not only seems shallow, but temporary. The cow is contented until she gets hungry. The cat on the deck is contented as long as you leave him alone. The dog is contented until she sees a squirrel run across the yard, or hears you rattle his food dish. This contentment is based on temporarily having immediate needs met. Once the need arises again, the contentment fades.

I am like that…sometimes. When I am hungry, feed me and I’ll be happy. When I am tired, let me sleep for a while and I’ll be fine. When I am lonely, spend some time with me, then leave me alone and I’ll be fine.

Without the godliness you have the chaos Paul describes in verses 1-5: “He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction.” Yuck! I have been there. No more!

Without the godliness you have what Paul describes in verses 9-10: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Yuck! I have experienced enough of that and seen enough of that to know that I want no part of that.

Add godliness to the equation and it changes completely.

Godliness with contentment is real contentment. Yes, I want that!

Godliness with contentment helps us realize “we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it.” Yes, I want to accept that and live like that.

Godliness with contentment enables us to say, “If I have food and clothing, I will be content with that.” Yes, I’m not quite there yet, but I am trying to get there.

Maybe the cow in the field, cat on the deck, the dog under the porch, and the baby asleep in the arms of her mother are not bad images after. Maybe they know something we mature types knew at one time, but have forgotten. Maybe they have a connection with the Creator that we ignore. Maybe they know more than we think they know. Maybe they know that godliness means He has this so I don’t have to worry about it. Maybe they know that godliness with contentment is great gain.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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Considered Trustworthy

Vol. 18 No. 38 | September 26, 2016

imagesIt is a time of transition in our household. I will not go into much detail, but this statement from Paul to his young friend in the faith expresses very well my feelings.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. … 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12, 14, NIV)

To be considered trustworthy to His service is an honor beyond description. I have been in full-time local church ministry for almost 41 years. It has been an honor and a privilege that has created unspeakable joy, and at times unutterable heartache.

To feel appointed to His service, which we might consider a calling, is an incredibly humbling experience. It is an honor to think that the Lord could use me in a special way to introduce Him to people who do not know Him, to help those who know Him know Him better, and to encourage the discouraged. St. Frances of Assisi has probably said it best:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

To feel appointed in His service, which we might consider a calling, is also a curse. Once you get a taste of being considered trustworthy in His service you cannot get away from it. You cannot stop wanting to know that feeling. You cannot resist the joy that is found in serving Him. You cannot un-call the calling.

To be considered trustworthy for His service is an honor and a challenge. It can be a blessing and a curse. It can be joy-filled and heartbreaking. It can be rich and rewarding and it can be difficult and draining. There are good seasons and seasons of distress. Through it all when we realize that we have been considered trustworthy in His service we move forward with courage. We seek opportunities to serve. We strive to please Him with our hearts, souls, mind, and strength. When we fail we try again. When we fall down we get back up. As we get back up we look around to see who else may have fallen and reach out our hand to help them stand back up. And as we serve we find rest and pleasure in knowing that, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2016. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

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