Just Use What You Have

Vol. 19 No. 22 | May 28, 2017

Imagine you are one of the disciples of Jesus. You have been following Him for a while and watched Him heal countless people. You have gone on many missions with Him, seen Him show compassion to those who needed it, and watched throngs of people gather just to hear Him speak.

Another gathering is taking place and you realize that it is getting late, so you suggest to Him that it is time to quit for the day. You have learned from His example to be show empathy and compassion for people. You know you are hungry and tired, so you suggest to Jesus to let His followers return home to have a meal and rest. .

To your surprise Jesus has another idea. ‘Then let’s feed them,’ Jesus says.

“What, feed them all? But how? There are thousands of people here, and all we have is a couple of fish and a little bread”.

“Give me have what you have,” he replies.

Suddenly, there are enough baskets of fish and bread to feed everyone in the crowd as much and they want. You and the other disciples begin collecting what is left and are amazed to discover that there are twelve baskets left- exactly enough for you and the other eleven disciples to eat your fill. You all look at each other in complete awe and ask, “What just happened?”

Jesus smiles.

You may not have experienced anything as dramatic as feeding thousands of people with one man’s lunch, but you have experienced a time when you were baffled by something miraculous that happened, only to sense God saying, “Just use what you have.” You look around at your options and finally come up with what seems to be a ridiculous idea, only to watch in awe as God turns it into something beautiful and miraculous.

You and your spouse are at the end of your rope. You are both unhappy and beyond miserable. Your communication has diminished to endless arguments, followed by long periods of uncomfortable silence and distance. One day, after yet another fight, you look at each other and admit that it is time to ask for help, or to give up. And then you hear His words, “Just use what you have.” So, you agree to make one more attempt to salvage your relationship and contact a counselor your friend recommended. Six months later, after a lot of hard work, you are seeing positive results. A year later, after even more work and a lot of prayer, you cannot believe how much better your relationship is. All you had to work with was a desire to make things work and faith in your ability to use what you have.

You have a major project due. Every time you sit down at your desk to start working, you are overwhelmed by the enormity of it. You finally slam down your fist and push away your chair in frustration. You are ready to give up when you hear a voice, “Just use what you have.” You sit back down, put your fingers back on your keyboard, and start with just one sentence. And then you write another. The ideas begin to flow effortlessly, and in matter of hours, your project is finished.

You have friend who you know is struggling. You do not know all the details, but you know something is wrong. You want to help, but you are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. So you pray and hear the words, “Just use what you have.” What you know you have is a compassionate heart and the ability to listen. That is all your friend needed, he just needed someone to listen. And he begins to share his story.

The paraphrase of Luke 9:10-17 and the three stories above are just a few examples of what can happen when you decide to use what the Lord has given you to approach a problem. It may seem impossible in the face of what confronts you, but in the hands of Jesus, it will always be transformed.

If you are facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that stands in your way of helping someone, improving your own situation, or seeing a dream come true, try this. Take what you have, hand it over to the Lord, and say, “I only have this, but here it is.”

God loves it when you do this. In fact, He is probably waiting right now, ready to take whatever you have to hand over to Him and transform it into something beautiful and miraculous. 

Tom

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

The Burning Bush

Vol. 19 No. 21 | May 21, 2017

As I left home late one afternoon, I noticed smoke billowing from around the corner. I pulled up far enough to see that the source appeared to be one of the condos just around the corner. Quickly parking the car so as not to be in the way of any emergency vehicles, I jumped out, and started running toward the house while trying to dial 911.

As I approached the driveway, I could see the smoke was coming from a bush. (try not to get ahead of me here) I dashed through the smoke and ash and pounded on the door. A lady came to the door, along with her very irritated dog. Startled and alarmed, she rushed to the garage and grabbed a water hose.

As she doused the smoking bush, another lady from the neighborhood approached us wondering what was going on. I turned to her and politely said, “It looks like we have a burning bush.” There was an awkward pause, then laughter.

Needless to say, as I walked back to my car, I was relieved and humored by the situation. And I continued to think, “A burning bush. A burning bush? What in the world? That was a burning bush!”

The original burning bush is described in the Book of Exodus (3:1–4:17). According to the narrative, the bush was on fire, and yet not consumed by the flames, hence the name. The burning bush is the location where Moses was appointed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.

No, I am not suggesting that my neighbor’s burning bush was any sort of miraculous sign from God to instruct the people of our neighborhood to lead Nashville to the Promised Land. Moses had a ‘burning bush’, we now have a ‘burned’ bush. Although no one has any idea how a seemingly healthy green shrub would suddenly catch fire, maybe there is a takeaway from this neighborhood burning bush.

For a brief few minutes, three people stood watching a smoldering bush reflecting on something that a few minutes earlier appeared to be a tragedy in the making. And then we all quietly thanked God that everyone was safe.

I left the neighborhood and traveled on to my planned activity thinking and pondering God’s goodness. Maybe He had nothing at all to do with the burning bush in the neighbor’s front yard, but He is good. He is kind. He is merciful. He delights in being praised.

As you go about your week, I hope you don’t see any literal burning bushes, but maybe you will see something or someone who will remind you that we have a great God who loves us. Or, maybe you will be the reminder to someone else who needs one, that God is worthy of our praise.

The Doxology

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Thomas Ken, 1674)

Tom

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

An Answer to Why

Vol. 19 No. 20 | May 14, 2017

One of the most common questions ever asked is ‘Why’?

We ask and are asked this question possibly more often than any other.

Why did this young boy have to die? Why did she get cancer? Why is there so much death? Why does God allow evil? Why did a marriage fail? Why did become an addict?

Why can’t she get over her addiction? Why did my parents have to get divorced? Why did he kill himself? Why is life so difficult? Why are some people so mean? Why does he get the breaks and I’m always struggling just to survive? Why did the church split?

Why didn’t I get that job I wanted?

When life is not going the way we think it should, and sometimes when it is, we wonder why it is happening. I believe Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament letters, gives the best answer that I have heard as to why bad things happen.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-9)

Paul’s answer to the question of why: So that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.

God knew, and mankind has proven Him right over and over, that from the time we are born, we crave control over our lives. When life seems out of control, we panic. When our plans seem to be straying from what we had intended or hoped for, we grasp to try to gain control and often demand an explanation.

Well-meaning and misinformed advisors will tell us that bad things happen to us because we have sinned or violated one or more of God’s laws. That is a valid explanation if we have sinned or violated one or more of God’s laws. But what about the person who has done neither of these?

Of course, we all are sinners and we all violate God’s laws, but Jesus made it clear that suffering is not necessarily the result of sin.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. (1-5)

Jesus and Paul offer the same answer as to why bad things happen. There is a bigger reason than punishment. There is something going on more than teaching us a lesson. The purpose is about something and someone greater than us.

God wants us to rely on Him.

He wants us to rely on Him not because He wants to dominate or control us, but because He has the answers we are looking for. He wants us to rely on Him because He is the One who can and will fulfill all of our needs. He is the power we need.

God is not a tyrant who wants to overpower or dominate us. He is a loving God who wants to empower us to live the life He has created for us. He knows what we need.

He wants us to rely on Him and He wants us to use our experiences to help others. If you read the paragraph that precedes the one we are referring to, you will see that there is another purpose to our struggle in addition to relying on God.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We are to learn from our experiences and share what we learn. When we struggle, there are valuable lessons for why it happened that God wants us to share. We were comforted and thus should give comfort. We received compassion and thus should be compassionate.

There is always an answer to why. It may not be what we expect or hope for. But we need to accept it is what is best to meet our needs. There is always a gift if we can have the patience and courage to look for it.

So, if you are in the midst of a battle or struggle, or you feel defeated, rely on Him. He can help. Then share it with someone else who you know is struggling. That, if nothing else, will always be the gift.

Tom

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

Listen and Hear!

Vol. 19 No. 19 | May 7, 2017

After telling the parable of the sower and the seeds Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9, NIV).

In different contexts, He makes similar statements emphasizing the same message:

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22).

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 2:19).

There are other topics mentioned more in the Scriptures, but I don’t believe any are as important as this one.

Listen and hear.

When parents are communicating important information to their children, it is sometimes necessary to say, “Listen to me”!

Instructors may say to their students, “Listen to this. You may see it on the exam”.

Preachers may say to their congregation, “Are you listening to me? This is important”.

Husbands and wives may say to one another, “I need you to listen to me”.

The fact is, we hear countless things going on at any given moment. Try it. Try to just listen. Close your eyes, sit still, and just listen. What do you hear?

What I hear is music playing. I hear water churning in the washer and clothes tumbling in the dryer downstairs. I hear a truck rumbling as it makes its way slowly down the street. I hear so many things that I most likely would not have had I not taken the time to listen.

It is understandable. There are so many sounds infiltrating our immediate environment at any given moment that we simply become numb to them. No wonder Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” And more specifically “Hear what the Spirit says.” His desire is not simply to hear the words and the sounds, but to absorb what is being said.

James’ admonition is not to just listen to the words, but to really hear the person who is speaking. Be quick to listen, instead of preparing what you will say when given the first opportunity.

In order to really get His message, we need to both listen and hear, focus our attention on what is being said, let it sink in, and absorb the message into our daily lives.

In order to do a good job in our profession, we much not only listen to what is being said by our boss and co-workers, we must hear what is being said and apply it.

To have a deeper level of communication with the important people in our lives, we not only need to listen to them talking, but hear what they are saying. Hear their words, their tone, their emotion, and their heart.

To truly understand what is going on in the lives of our children, we must listen- sometimes more to what is not being said than to what is. We must listen intently, even if they have not learned how to fully express what they want to say. And we must hear them.

During one of the seasons of the television series Parenthood, Camille and Zeek Braverman were having problems connecting with each other. Their counselor encouraged them to practice acknowledging when they were really hearing each other. The phrase: “I hear you and I see you” became an underlying theme for several episodes of the show, and I suspect a common phrase in the conversations of many fans of the show.

“I hear you and I see you.” I am focused on you. I am connected with you. I am in tune with what you are saying and how you are feeling.

It is important that we learn to listen and hear one another in all of our relationships. If the sounds around you are distracting you, find a way to focus in on what you really need to…which is the person who really needs you to.

Jesus was not just talking for the sake of hearing Himself speak. His words have meaning and the power to transform your relationships, with Him and with the people you love.

So listen and hear!

Tom

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