He Is the Light!

What I Want You To Know About Jesus, #2

Vol. 19 No. 13 | March 26, 2017

Let’s talk about light.

I make no claim to be an expert on the history of light, but I know we are indebted to Thomas Edison for inventing the electric light bulb. Although there is evidence that before Edison, British inventors were demonstrating that electric light was possible with the arc lamp. Everything becomes much clearer when we have access to more light.

But when it’s dark, when there are no overhead lights, what do we do for illumination?

Before smart phones, if you wanted to see where you were going in the dark, you needed a flashlight. Before the flashlight, lanterns were the best way to overcome the darkness. Before the lantern, one may have used a candle. Before the candle, a torch might have been the light of choice. Before the torch…well, I am not sure what was used. There were probably a lot of stubbed toes and bruised heads. The point should be clear; if it is dark, you need light.

You need light when you are trying to navigate the darkness. But sometimes, just having a light is not enough.

For example, in a dimly lit restaurant, you can see, but maybe not well. You may need to move the menu closer to the candle to read it. Or, it is not uncommon to see people pull out their smart phones to help them see the menu better.

You may be in a room with a television on and a lamp on the table next to you. There is light, but if you decide to read the newspaper or a book, you may need more.

When I am in my bedroom looking for socks to wear, I may need additional light to tell which one is black and which one is blue. If the overhead light is not enough, I hold them under the lamp. If this still is not sufficient, I open the window shade to let the sunlight come through. Then, I can easily distinguish between to two colors. The sun is the true light. The Son of God is the true light.

John uses this kind of imagery when he describes Jesus.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:6-13, NIV)

The people had been waiting for and looking for the Light of God to come into the world. There were others who had come claiming they were the light or that they had the light. So it was only natural that those seeking it would go to John the Baptist to find out if he was the true light. John clarifies it when he tells them, “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”

Then he says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him”. Jesus is the true light. John could only point to the true light. He could provide some light, but he could not give the light that everyone was seeking, nor did he claim he could.

As it was in Jesus’ time, people are looking for more light today. A light that can reveal what is true, what is real and right.

People themselves can at times be the darkness that surrounds us and can be oppressive and depressing. In His sermon Jesus tells us that we are the “light of the world.” But we can only be the light when we have seen the light.

Jesus is the light. Jesus is the true light. Jesus is the One who can illuminate our path in the darkness. Jesus can bring light into our dark world. That is what He came to do. That is what He wants to do.

That is why I want you to know Jesus. He is the light! Move toward the light.

Tom

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

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The First Thing I Want You to Know About Jesus: He Is!

Vol. 19 No. 12 | March 19, 2017

A few weeks ago, I shared that one of my greatest passions is my desire to help people know Jesus (My Role in the Kingdom). The first and most important step to knowing Him is to just know that He is!

These words come from John, Chapter One:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John1:1-5, NIV)

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out. (John 1:1-5, The Message)

Obviously I cannot make you believe this if you do not already or if you do not want to. But I believe it. In one way or another, the fact that Jesus is influences everything I do.

Because He is, I have a purpose.

Because He is, I have confidence that life is more than a series of unrelated events and coincidences.

Because He is, as the old song says, “I can face tomorrow.”

Because He is, I know I am never alone, regardless of how alone I may feel.

Because He is, I know that life is not about me. It is all about Him.

Because He is, there is light even in the darkest of days.

Because He is, the world and all of creation was made for us to experience and enjoy.

Because He is, we have someone who listens to our hearts, understands our discontent, and forgives our sins.

Just knowing that He is, just accepting that reality, is a good place to start on a journey with Him. It is not necessary to know everything about Him.

For now, just take a deep breath and say, “He is! HE is! He IS!” Meditate on and take comfort in the beautiful reality that He is!

As you go through your day, keep thinking about the fact that He is. Whisper it when anxieties increase. Say it out loud when you sense doubt creeping in. When you open the shade in the morning to check the weather, remind yourself that He is. When you lay your head on your pillow at night reflecting on your successes and failures, breathe deeply and remember that He is.

Tom

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

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The Toddlers and the Moms

Vol. 19 No. 11 | March 12, 2017

I look up and gaze out the library window. A toddler and her mom are walking, well sort of walking, in the late afternoon sunshine. The toddler is preoccupied with the blooms on the wildflowers, the bright green blades of grass, and the sticks that are all but invisible to her mother. A gentle tug of war takes place, the mother finally winning the battle of wills. And off they go to their very important destination.

Another toddler, this one a curly, blond-headed boy, drops to the ground refusing to take another step. There are flowers to explore. He pulls off the purplish bloom with his little hand and claims it as his own. He got it, and not a second too early. His mother takes him by the arm with loving authority and leads him on to their very important destination.

Apparently there is a toddler’s or ‘mother-of-toddler’s’ gathering happening nearby. Whatever the case, the mothers are certainly more concerned about making it to the event than the little ones are. 

Sometimes I see a bit of myself in those mothers.

Like the mothers, I often find myself fixated solely on getting to my very important destination. And time is of the essence. Traffic delays frustrate me. Red lights irritate me. Green left-turn lights that only stay green long enough for the four cars in front me to get through are the absolute worst! I don’t have time for such inconveniences. We are losing daylight here.

The gray-hair in front of me is clearly oblivious to how busy I am and how important my time is. The confused out-of-town driver should surely know better than to get in my lane. The teenager, the grandmother, or that well-dressed businessman need to all get off their phones and focus on getting through the light!

Outside, I appear calm and in control. Underneath, I am so anxious and stressed out that I see nothing but the clock on the dash ticking the minutes away. No time for chitchat. No time to connect with friends and family.

No time to stop and pick those purple flowers in bloom.

When I, like those mothers, am hurrying about, checking of my list of my very important to-dos, I feel good about what I have accomplished throughout the day. But then sometimes I wonder what I missed along the way.

And then sometimes I see myself in those toddlers.

As ‘the toddler’, I am relaxed and calm and in the moment. I cannot understand why that guy behind me feels compelled to ride my bumper. I shake my head in amazement as the driver in front of my speeds up to get through the yellow light that he knows is going to be red by the time he gets to the intersection!

When I see the world as the toddler, I not only want to pick the purple flowers, but also the jonquils. I want to stop and take pictures of the way the sun is reflecting off the water and pause with amazement as the sky turns from blue to red to pink to purple. On those days, even dandelions can have a certain beauty…although I have to really be in a childlike state of mind for that to happen. 

When I toddle along, I find great delight in what I have seen and experienced throughout the day. But sometimes I wonder what I could and should have done to be more productive.

I see God in those toddlers.

Pausing. Seeing. Exploring. Urging me to stop and take it all in. Challenging me to just be, relish in the moment, and do nothing but reflect on all the beauty that God has created.

But I also see God in those mothers.

Pushing. Pulling. Nudging. Urging me to move along. Challenging me to do something, to make something happen, to get on with what needs to be done.   

As I drift between the mindset of a toddler and that of the parent, I try to find peace in the words of the one who modeled the attitude of each. I pray that He will show me how to balance both and take comfort in that He continues to love me whether I am picking blades of grass or rushing to a meeting.   

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-33, NIV)

Tom

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

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My Role in the Kingdom

Vol. 19 No. 10 | March 6, 2017


Over the past several months, I have been doing a lot of thinking, praying, and reflecting on what my new role is, what my ultimate purpose is, here in the Kingdom.

For most of my adult life, my purpose and role have been very clear: to work with and lead local churches. This involved teaching, preaching, counseling, comforting, leading, and mentoring. Five months ago, much of that- how I do it, when I do it, where and with whom- changed significantly.

Since then I have been on a journey of discovery that has focused on answering these questions:

What is it that I do best?

What is my true passion?

How do I now do what I do in this new life setting?

Is it time to do something completely new and different?

I have received sound advice and guidance from wise friends and family members (some older and some younger). I have listened. I have prayed. I have journaled. I have read books and articles. I have listened to podcasts, sermons, preachers, teachers, counselors, those who are retired and those still in the workforce.

But one question has emerged that has helped me, more than anything else, get closer to the answers I seek.

What breaks my heart?

This question came to me recently while I was praying.   I then came across it again in an article by Brandon Cox, Great Leadership Often Starts with a Broken Heart.

Cox makes a poignant case to support this notion:

“Great leadership often starts with a broken heart.”

After much reflection, I have realized that there are two scenarios that truly break my heart.

First, it breaks my heart when I encounter people who do not know Jesus.

Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

It breaks my heart to see people who know the facts about Jesus, but do not know Him. It breaks my heart to see church leaders who know rules, regulations, and how to keep people in line, but who do not know, really know, Jesus.

Second, it breaks my heart to see children who are sad and alone.

I often see news stories about abandoned animals. These stories are heartbreaking, and I always hope they find their way home. But stories about sad, lonely, abandoned, and abused children, this is something that absolutely breaks my heart.

As I ponder my role in the Kingdom, I realize now what I have known in my heart for decades. My role is to help people really know Jesus and to bring comfort to sad and lonely children in whatever capacity that I can.

I am still working out the details- the how and the where- of how I can best serve in these areas that I now know are my true calling. These details will sort themselves out. But the essential piece, identifying what truly breaks my heart, is the solid foundation I needed on which to build.

Maybe you are at a similar crossroads in your life? Perhaps asking yourself this question will help bring you clarity as well.

What breaks your heart?

When you discover the answer, think of one thing you could do to help change it. And then do it. Even if it seems like the smallest step. Even if it seems like it won’t make a difference. Do it anyway. The details will work themselves out.

I truly believe that when you take the time ask, to listen, and to follow your heart, you will uncover your role, your ultimate purpose here in the Kingdom. 

Tom

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

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He Hears My Voice

New Ministry Website

Vol. 19 No. 09 | February 26, 2017

My journal entry began with these words: “It has been a difficult week in many ways. There have been lots of good things, but the pressures from without and within often seem to overpower me.”

Those words were written a few minutes after I finished reading Psalm 55. David laments of the battles raging around him that were created by his enemies. This particular battle is more difficult for David because it is being waged by one who was once “[his] close friend” (Psalm 55:12-14).

Throughout the Psalm, David expresses his desire for his enemies to be defeated and even destroyed: “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them” (v. 15). Near the end, however, his thoughts shift toward the One who “hears his voice” (v. 16). Read these words and let David’s words remind you of the One who also hears your voice.

But I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—     Selah
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.
My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.[1]

So I read those words as I reflected on my week and realized that the enemies I battle against are also very close to me. In fact, most of my enemies are within me. My enemies are the pressures that come from destructive thoughts, painful memories, negative thinking, reminders of failures and inadequacies, and fear.

These enemies, though within me, seem to be all around me. They lurk in the dark places of my soul. They hide in the secret places of my mind, waiting for the perfect moment to launch an attack.

There are days when I am able to see the attacks ahead of time, resist them, and walk away in victory. There are other days, when my defenses are down, that I am taken completely by surprise down, and I crumble in defeat.

These enemies are as real as any physical being that may have my destruction as their goal. The battles are just as difficult. And yet, to my amazement, I have survived this week of battle, and I am still standing.

The amazement comes as I realize that God has been with me through each battle. Some of the enemies He has defeated, some permanently. He has surrounded me, protected me, and empowered me to live to fight another day. He has reminded me that my task is to cast my cares on Him and He will sustain me. He will destroy the enemies.

With this recognition of God’s power, I, like David, conclude these thoughts with this simple statement of confidence in the one who will never let the righteous fall.

“But as for me, I trust in you.”

Tom

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

 

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ps 55:16–23.

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Friday Afternoon

Vol. 19 No. 08 | February 19, 2017

It is Friday afternoon.

Many people look forward to Friday afternoon. For many, it is the last work day of the week. The majority of folks are clock-watching, counting the seconds until it is time to go. We use “hump day” as a marker for how much closer we are to Friday afternoon. We even have a restaurant named T.G.I.F (Thank God it’s Friday). All week long we make plans for what we are going to do on Friday after we get off work. Some want to party. Some want to relax. Some exercise. Some just relish in the fact that they are not at work.

For some people, Friday afternoons have a different feel. For some, Friday afternoons are lonely. I am a part of that ‘some’. I find Friday afternoons to be lonely.

Maybe it is because for most of my formative years, Friday afternoon was a time to get ready for a ballgame, a date, or dinner out.

Maybe it is because for all these years, our children were home on Friday afternoon, and it was a time to help them get ready for or go with them to a ball game, dinner out, or a movie.

Maybe it is because for much of my adult life, Friday afternoon meant I was either playing golf, doing yard work, or preparing to join friends or family for a meal.

Maybe it is because for so many years, and even still, the bulk of my work has been finished by Friday afternoon and I am ready to do something different, something fun, something relaxing.

We often plan to go to a movie or have dinner out on Friday evenings simply because it seems like a good thing to do.

Maybe Friday afternoon is often a struggle for some because it marks an end to the week, and we have more time to reflect. I tend to think about all the things I accomplished during the week. I think about all the things I wanted to accomplish. Then, I think about all the things that I did not accomplish that will be waiting for me tomorrow or Sunday or Monday.

I reflect a lot on Friday afternoon. I am more likely to listen to “Pacing the Cage” by Jimmy Buffet, or John Denver’s “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” on Friday afternoon. And it is not unusual for me to play “I Built Myself a Life.”

I must admit taking time to reflect is one of my special pleasures in life. Some might call it daydreaming, but that is something different. There is a purpose to reflecting. There is a purpose to reflecting on the day, the week, the month, the year, on life. I think reflection is a much needed and much forgotten instrument for developing a healthy soul.

Obviously, you can drive yourself crazy in your reflection time if you focus only on those unfinished tasks. Instead, try your hardest to reflect on what you have accomplished. Reflect on how God has helped you accomplish those things. Reflect on all the moments of beauty and rest and peace that God provided for you. Reflect on the struggles that God has helped you through. Reflect on promises He has made to you that you have yet to see fulfilled.

I wonder about Jesus’ reflections on that Friday afternoon on the cross. (No, I do not want to argue whether it was Friday or Thursday.) The story tells us He often went away by himself to pray, and I suspect reflect. On this particular Friday afternoon, He was focused on what was waiting for Him. The pain. The humiliation. The angry crowds. The nails. The tears. The hours before He finished what He came to do.

As He pondered those things ahead of him, I wonder if, to help get through it all, He might have reflected on being with the Father when they, along with the Spirit, created the world. I wonder if He might have reflected on the twelve who He had chosen and the times of teaching, sharing meals, laughing with them, and watching them struggle to understand His teaching.

I wonder if He reflected on the time He changed water to wine, watched Peter stop out of the boat and walk toward Him, and the look on the blind man’s face when he first opened his eyes and could see.

I wonder if He reflected on those things and so many other things that He and the Father had done together as he pleaded for there to be “another way.”

Obviously, I will never know all the things, what Jesus reflected on as he prayed in the garden on that Friday afternoon. But one thing I am sure of, He prayed. As He reflected, He was thinking of you and me, even though we were centuries from being born, and the provision for our sins to be forgiven that He was about to reveal to the world.

As I reflect on this Friday afternoon, I am reminded of children that are grown and living on the meals shared between them and good friends, lonely Friday afternoons when no one was around, and that special Friday afternoon when Jesus said, “This is why I came. And it is finished!” And I find that in the midst of my reflections, I am extremely grateful and forgiven.

It is Friday afternoon, and I am thankful.

Tom

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

 

 

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Maybe Not As Healthy As I Thought

Vol. 19 No. 07 | February 12, 2017

I am not sick! I am not in a health crisis of any sort (physical, mental or spiritual)!

I have kept this to myself to avoid rumors starting, but I have discovered in recent weeks that I may not be as healthy as I thought.

I had my annual physical a few weeks ago. After having made some adjustments to my blood pressure medicine at the end of 2016, I was pleased that my numbers were again in the acceptable range. I did the rest of the things a 63-year-old-men is supposed to do in those check-ups- blood work and a serious conversation with the doctor, which included, “Why are you not exercising?” Left the office feeling pretty good, thinking “I’m doing pretty well for a semi-old guy.”

A few days later the doctor’s nurse called saying, “The doctor wants you to make a few adjustments.” I will not go into the details but some numbers were not where they should be. She went on to inform me that I needed to back off on some foods, increase some of my meds and vitamins, and begin taking another med. Turns out that I’m not as healthy as I thought.

Several months after leaving my preaching position, my wife and I were binging on the West Wing. Many times we had to pause between episodes for brief conversations on how that scene impacted us. Most included a passing wish that Josiah Bartlett could be in the current presidential race, or how we had forgotten about that actor or actress being on the show.

During one season, the White House team had faced several challenges but had survived them all and came out victorious in the second term election. C. J., Toby, Josh, Leo and the whole team enjoyed a jubilant time of celebration. During that episode, I paused it, wiped tears from my eyes, and when my wife questioned me, I muttered, “I miss the team!” Turns out, I’m not as healthy as I thought.

Having survived a few months in this new chapter of life, I was feeling pretty good about things. I decided to venture off into a pretty exciting and demanding new phase to develop some skills and add a few more tools to my ministry tool box. I was pumped. I was excited. I was invigorated by how enjoyable and helpful this was going to be.

That is, until I had a mind implosion. “I have no room for this information in my brain.” “As much as I want to do this, I cannot.” I was sad. I was disappointed with myself. I was angry with myself. I was frustrated with wasting money we did not have to waste. Turns out, I’m not as healthy as I thought.

I’m not as healthy as I thought. That is quite a realization. Yes, I realized years ago that I was not as young as I once was and could not physically do many of the things I once did. That is part of life. That is part of getting semi-older. No Sweat! (Partly because I do not move as quickly as I once did, so I don’t sweat as much as I once did.)

So it is, or will be, with accepting the reality that I am not as healthy as I thought. After numerous conversations with my wife, friends, and the Lord, I am understanding more about what these things mean and how to deal with them.

The primary message I have received is simple: It is okay! Maybe you’re not as healthy as you thought, but you still have a good heart, a good mind, two good legs, good friends, a loving family, and all kinds of opportunities to serve the Lord in your present condition. So, it is okay.

Closely attached to that is: It is a time for you to rest. Enjoy it, and rest.

Words like the following have brought me peace as I realize that I am not as healthy as I thought.

Ecclesiastes 2:22-24, (NIV)

22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,..

Matthew 11:27-29, (NIV)

27 All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Maybe you are going through a similar phase of life. Against your will, you are slowing your pace. You keep hearing the same message in every sermon, every song, and seeing it in everything you read: “It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to back away for a while and let yourself heal.”

Jesus did it regularly. God considered it important enough to include it as one of His laws. If He thought it was such a good idea, and necessary, maybe you can crawl down off your self-made pedestal long enough to let the Lord run the world. He has been doing it for a long time.

Maybe you need to rest a while so He can make you healthier than you ever thought you could be. The things He has planned for you to do will get done when He is ready for them to get done.

Tom

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

 

 

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Gas Prices, Politics, the Weather, and Jesus

Vol. 19 No. 06 | February 6, 2017

Gas prices change at irregular intervals. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the changes. Gas prices go up and go down, sometimes multiple times during a twenty-four period. In our area, you can drive down the road and the price of gas will fluctuate as much as ten cents higher or lower. This varies from week to week, depending on which location you go to. If a gas line is ruptured in Alabama, the price of gas in areas near us will go up, and some will not. Economists try to predict what will happen with gas prices, and sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are not. There seems to be little consistency.

Politics is as inconsistent as gas prices. Whoever is in a position of leadership determines the protestors and the supporters. The amount of power of the president is dependent upon which political party has control of the various branches of government. Even then, it seems that the bill he signs or does not sign can cause a shift in those who are supporters and those considered the opposition. Political analyst try to predict how politicians will act or react and how the constituents will respond, sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are not. There seems to be little consistency.

The weather, particularly during this season, is almost impossible to predict. We get frustrated with, amused with, and sympathetic towards those who have the task of making accurate predictions. Temperatures on some winter days are more like early spring or late fall. Predictions of light snow are overturned with a slight shift in the jet stream that produces several inches (and of course global warming must also be factored in). Predictions of heavy snow excite children, only to disappoint them when the jet streams moves just a degree or two in one direction or another. Forecasters, using all of their advanced technologies, do their best to make predictions that are as accurate as possible, sometimes they are exactly right, and sometimes they are not. There seems to be little consistency.

Jesus! Ahhh, Jesus! Jesus is someone who you can know, with absolute certainty, is consistent. We can consistently depend on Jesus. Jesus offers us something solid to hold on to. Jesus provides us with a tangible understanding of consistency. The writer of the Hebrews encourages the followers who were weary of the inconsistencies of living the holy life in a very hostile world with these words. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV)

Sometime today I will fill my car up with gas. Before I go, I will check an app on my phone to see who has the cheapest price in my area.

Several times within the next twenty-four hours, I will get updates on all my devices or scan comments on social media that are giving details and opinions on the latest decisions coming out of the White House.

Before I leave the house, I will check the weather to see if there will be rain, sunshine, or clouds.

The sources that provide me with information about gas prices, politics, and the weather are useful and as dependable as ‘humanly’ possible. I am blessed to have these many tools at my fingertips to help make life more predictable and easier to manage.

Jesus, however, is always on target. His Word is always right. His predictions of what will happen to those who follow Him are true. His projections for those who do not follow Him are solid. He is never surprised by the price of gas, the actions of politicians, the weather, or anything else that happens in our world. When we turn to Him for direction, for wisdom, and for strength, He always comes through with exactly what we need.

As you face the inconsistencies of day-to-day life, use whatever is available to help you live the best life you can live. But more than anything or anyone else, keep your eyes and your heart focused on Jesus. He is the one you can depend on all of the time. “He is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

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, 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. 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 2017. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Until Hope Returns

Vol. 19 No. 05 | January 30, 2017

 The Story

Matthew 14:22-23: As soon as the meal was finished, He insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. When the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be alone and pray. He stayed there alone late into the night.

24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them, the waves battering the boat. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, acting boldly, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

32-33 The two of them then climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” (Matthew 14:22-33, The Message)

The Observations

In Mark and John’s accounts, this story immediately follows the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people. Jesus feeds the masses, sends his disciples out in the boat to the other side of the lake, then goes off to be alone. What do you suppose the disciples were thinking? In Mark and John’s accounts, this story immediately follows the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people. After witnessing this miracle, he sends his disciples out in a boat and then leaves them to be alone. I wonder what the disciples were thinking.

They surely were amazed, astounded, and more than a little confused by what they had just experienced. According to John (6:15), the crowd was excited and ready to force Jesus to be King. Knowing He needed rest and the crowd needed to settle down, Jesus did what He believed to be best for His disciples. He sends them out in the boat away from the crowd.

They may also have been disappointed. They could sense the momentum building as Jesus traveled through the villages healing, teaching, and gaining followers. Their visions of kingdom, power, and control seemed to be in their grasp, and Jesus leaves them to be alone. What is up with that?

In the next scene, the disciples are in a boat in the middle of the night, when Jesus walks toward them. They are terrified until He identifies Himself.

Peter is overcome with excitement and starts walking on the water toward Jesus. Some say the wind scared him. Some say the waves scared him. Some say he took his eyes off Jesus. Some say he suddenly realized what he was doing. Whatever the reason, he started to sink. Jesus pulls him up, and they climb into the boat.

The Application

As we journey through life, there are times when we are overcome with disappointment and hopelessness, only to be amazed and energized by what happens when we allow God to work within us and among us.

The disciples go from being amazed by the miraculous feeding of the crowd, to being frightened in the boat during a storm, to being overjoyed when Jesus joins them in the boat. Peter probably went from “This is it!” to “This is not it!” to “Hey, look I’m walking on water!” to “Lord save me”, to ‘resting safely in the boat’.

As you travel through the ups and downs of life, remember this: there will be times when your faith grows weak and your hope begins to fade. When this happens, stay close to Jesus, keep walking with Him, and listen to His voice until hope returns.

Tom

 

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

 

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Sometimes You Just Can’t 

Vol. 19 No. 04 | January 23, 2017

Sometimes you just can’t do it. You want to. You try everything and consider multiple options. You arrange and rearrange. You do everything you can but you just can’t do it.

Sometimes there are things that you just can’t do.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do things through Christ who gives me strength.” I know that if the Lord has something He wants me to do, that it will be for His glory and honor. He will provide me with the strength and the ability to do it. I believe that. God has proven that to me in my life more times than I could ever list.

Yet, there are some things I just can’t do. Here are some examples:

When I was growing up I wanted to play basketball for a career. I read books about Bob Cousy and the Boston Celtics. I played and replayed basketball scenarios on our dirt court at our home. Eventually, the dream evolved to the point that I would eventually play college ball, end up with the Boston Celtics, hit the winning basket to win the NBA championship, and drop dead at center court of the Boston Gardens.

A series of things happened that made that impossible. I was not that good, and I did not receive a single offer to play in college.

Those who knew me then are thinking, “You really thought you were good enough to get a college scholarship?”

But, this did not stop me. When I got to college, I decided I was going to walk on. I took one look at the team and realized I was not tall enough, fast enough, or good enough to even walk onto the court. The dream was gone. I learned that there are somethings I just cannot do.

Through the years I have discovered other things that I just cannot do.

  • I cannot run like I once did.
  • I cannot play basketball like I once did.
  • I cannot be in all the places that I want to be.
  • I cannot be everything people want me to be.
  • I cannot help all the people I would like to help.
  • I cannot fix all the problems I would like to fix.

Sometimes I have to admit that I just can’t do everything. Sometimes it is a painful admission. Sometimes it is easy to admit. Sometimes it is a frustrating realization. Sometimes the realization is a relief. Sometimes it is difficult to accept. Sometimes it is an easy acceptance.

I have grown to understand that although there are many things that I can do, and many more things I could do if I allow God to empower me, that there are some things that I just can’t do.

In those times of feeling weak and inadequate, I find comfort from these words from God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26,27, NIV)

As you go through this week, you are going to be faced with requests, invitations, and demands for your attention, time, and energy. Some of you will accept and fulfill these obligations without hesitation or reservation. You will do these things enthusiastically and with delight.

There will be others of you that, regardless of your desire to fulfill these obligations, will most likely not be able to do. You may feel frustration. You may feel like a failure. You may look back on your week with regret.

You tried. Take comfort in that. You did as much as you could. Take comfort in that. God appreciates your efforts and loves you just as you are. Keep loving God and serving His people.

Tom

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

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