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A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Aug 2016, 10:26 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 33 | August 22, 2016 


Known By God

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? (Galatians 4:8-9, NIV)
In a chapter what Paul is writing to a church in danger of being sucked back into a system of legalism from which they had been set free, Paul is pleading with them to stay free. He urges them to avoid the dangerous trap being set for them by those who would enslave them again. In these two sentences he describes two contrasting human conditions.
He reminds them of a time “when they did not know God.” Can you remember that time in your life? You were depending on your own merits to save you. You were holding yourself responsible for your own salvation. It was all up to you. You did not know the loving God who sent His son to earth live and die and come back to life. All you knew was human effort ant human achievement. The only meaning to life was what you could accomplish. You did not realize, because you did not know better, but you were a slave. You were so enslaved that the you were not even aware of your enslavement. You thought that was the only way to live. 
That has all changed because “now you know God—or rather are known by God.” You know of His love. He made you aware of His love by sending Jesus, His only Son, to break the chains of slavery and set you free. You know of His love through the merciful kindness that tore down the walls that separated you from Him. You know of His love that has been lavished on you through the shedding of blood and the power of His mercy and grace. 
You know of His love, but you are also known by the living and loving almighty God who created the universe. He knows you. He cares for you. He showers you with His love. He cherishes you. He knows your weaknesses and sinfulness and loves you completely. He knows your hurts, heartaches, and heartbreaks. He knows your need for refreshment and graciously provides you with seasons of refreshment. 
You know Him. He knows you. He as set you free from your bondage. Why would you ever consider going back into a life of slavery? 
Please be wise. There are still those who would pull you back into a life that is about making sure you are not breaking any of the rules and trying to keep all the laws. You can try. But you cannot do it. They will promise it as the right way, and the only way. But do not believe their lies. You will fail and fall right back to “those weak and miserable principles.”  
The next section of Paul’s letter begins with these words: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
You know God. You are known by God. You have been set free. You are created to be free, so be free and live for the One you know, and the One who knows you. There you will find joy.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 15 Aug 2016, 8:50 am

Vol. 18 No. 32 | August 15, 2016 


When I Am Weak

Complete this sentence: when I am weak… 
When I am weak I feel like a failure. 
When I am weak I want to quit. 
When I am weak I want to give up.
When I am weak I want to cry. 
When I am weak I want to run away. 
When I am weak I feel lost. 
When I am weak I think my life is a waste. 
Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It is rare for us to hear anyone admit a weakness in our day, much less take pride in our weakness like Paul does. You almost never hear an athlete admit a weakness. When a celebrity admits a weakness it is usually only after a scandal has been uncovered. Certainly not in our current political conversation will you hear any of the contenders admit a weakness. 
Paul had reached a level of spiritual maturity where he not only admits his weaknesses, but takes pride in them (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). A man who most who read and believe the Scriptures consider a spiritual giant takes pride in being a failure.  
What is the message? What are we to learn from Paul’s example? 
Simply and profoundly this: God is our strength.
When you feel that you are weak that is when God will fill you with His strength. 
When you have failed God will give you victory. 
When you want to quit God will help you go on. 
When you are crying God will renew your Spirit. 
When you feel lost God will be your home. 
When you think your life is a waste God will show you your value. 
When you are weak, God’s grace will be sufficient. 
If this week is anything like last week, or the week before, or the week before that, there will be something that happens this week that makes you realize that you cannot handle everything by yourself. It could be a family disturbance. It could be an upset customer. It could be a disgruntled employee. I could be a bad report from the doctor. 
Whatever it happens to be you may find yourself feeling weak, helpless, and powerless. When that happens listen closely and carefully and you will hear God saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Trust that. Lean into that. Know that is true. 
Thank Him, and when you are sharing your story include this statement: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 08 Aug 2016, 11:14 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 31 | August 8, 2016 


Make Room For Us


2 Corinthians 7 begins with these words: “Make room for us in your hearts.” Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth as part of an ongoing relationship with them that involves and in part because of a request for them to give to a special effort to help another group of people. You can read more about that in chapter 8. But for the purposes of this post I want to focus on this one statement: “Make room for us in your hearts.”
Consider the people who are calling out for someone to “Make room for us in your hearts.” 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the children down the street who needs supplies to begin a new school year. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the mother who shows up alone at church every Sunday with two small children.
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the single guy who comes in, sits alone, and quietly leaves alone.
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the elderly gentleman sitting alone at a table not far from you in the restaurant where you and your church friends go after you leave church services. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the line of people standing in the hot sun waiting for their chance to fill a shopping cart with food. (See OneGenAway.)
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the man at the intersection holding a sign that reads: “No job. No home. Will work for food.” 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries child that moves from foster home to foster home. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the wife and mother as she feverishly bundles her children in her arms, packs what she can in the car and escapes to a shelter. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the middle aged man who goes through life alone, a casualty of being on the wrong side of the power systems and still strives to be a blessing to all. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the grand parents who have reared their own children and now provide a love-filled home for their grandchildren. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the family leaving the comforts of home to move to among the people of a distant and poverty-stricken country to remind them that they have made room for them in their hearts.
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the immigrant coming to America hoping to find a safe place to pursue a life where her gifts and talents are acknowledged, respected and appreciated. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Cries the lonely forgotten masses as they hope for someone somewhere to remember they exist, acknowledge they have value, and believe they worthy of our attention. 
“Make room for us in your hearts.” Will we hear their cries?

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 01 Aug 2016, 9:28 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 30 | August 1, 2016 


Pour On the Love

As you read these words let me ask that you think about a person who has hurt you. You may be thinking of a friend who has betrayed you by sharing something you told them in confidence. You may be the victim of verbal or physical or emotional abuse. You may be thinking of your spouse or one of your children who walked away from the family for a while and now is ready to come home. You may be thinking of a business partner who went behind your back on a deal that ended up costing you a great deal of money. Any one of these can be terribly painful and create havoc and heartache. 
As difficult as the above scenarios may be, and I do not minimize the pain involved with any of them, in Scripture, especially in Paul’s writings there are things that happen that he emphasizes because of the broader and more widespread pain created by the offender. The letters Paul wrote to the church in Corinth deal specifically with an individual(s) who’s sin has and is having a negative effect, not just on individuals but on the collective body of Christ. In earlier writings he has given instruction on the importance of separating the disobedient individual from the fellowship. The process would be similar to that of removing a tumor from the physical body in order to protect the rest of the body. 
With that as a backdrop I ask you now to think about a person within your spiritual community who has done something, said something, or acted in some way that is not in keeping with a follower of Jesus. The face of the individual appeared in your mind as you read those words. You remember how angry they became when they were confronted. You can still hear the poisonous words that spewed from their lips. You remember the tension that emerged when people chose sides. You remember how your leaders struggled to deal with them and keep peace in the body. You think of them every time you walk into the building and see the empty space where they usually sat. You grieve over the loss. 
Then they came back. Apologetic and broken they are asking to be forgiven. How do you respond? How should you respond? Questions like that must have been what the Corinthians were asking Paul when he responded in 2 Corinthians. Here’s what he said: 
5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, [WHY?] so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11, NIV)
From that response I find these truths that should help you as you deal with a person who has caused you grief. 
First, there comes a time when the punishment you inflicted is sufficient. Parents you know that moment when you have punished your child and he comes to you with tears running down his face and say, “I’m saawwy, Mommy.” Your teenager comes to you after having broken curfew and hands you the keys to car. There may still be consequences to their actions, but you have done enough. The Lord has done good work in his heart.  
Second, forgive and comfort her. The words “I forgive you” are tremendously important for her, and for you. She needs to hear them. You need to say them. Maybe you can follow-up with these words, “How can I help you now?” Paul shows that he knows there is a limit to the amount of sorrow and individual can take when he says, “…so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” It is easy to ignore this step and replace it with, “I will forgive you, but I will never forget what you have done.” It is true that you may not be able to fully forget the offense but you can stop reminding her. 
Third, reaffirm your love for him.  This is when your child crawls up in your lap and you hug him and kiss him and say, “I love you so much. There is nothing you can ever do that will change that.” The same sort of thing needs to happen with your friend. They won’t literally crawl up in your lap but in some manner you need to remind him, that there is nothing he can ever do that will cause you to stop loving him. The Message says it this way: “My counsel now is to pour on the love.” What a great way to say it!
Some of these words may have stirred up deep seeded emotions that you have had successfully buried. You pushed them down and had successfully ignored, until now. Now you are reminded that the anger, resentment, pain, sadness and heartache are still there. You smile and act like everything is “Fine. Just fine.” Maybe it is time to take things a little further with deal with them. I hope this helps. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Jul 2016, 7:59 pm

A Norvell Note for July 25, 2016

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 29 | July 25, 2016 


Where’s the Love?

Paul wrote these words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)
This one paragraph in what many call the “Love Chapter” is a small portion of a letter written to a church that struggled with just about every problem imaginable. In what seems to be his best effort to bring peace to their volatile situation he writes these words describing the one thing possible solution: love. 
It appears that as Paul pondered the things going on in Corinth the Spirit provided him with the words that were the opposite of what he was seeing among the Christians there in Corinth. He saw impatience and unkindness, envy, boasting and pride. He saw Christians who were dishonoring other Christians, acting out of selfishness, easily becoming easily angered, and holding grudges. He seems to basking where’s the love? 
Reading these words in the context of the events of our day in our communities, political arena, and even in some churches, we ask the same question: where’s the love? 
Words of love were sparse to say the least during last week’s Republican National Convention. 
It is not likely the language will be much different in this week’s Democratic National Convention. 
Although there are references to something that sometimes resembles love you really do not hear much about it in news reports. 
Many homes are filled with language that expresses feelings far different from the languages of love. 
Work places are commonly known for the conversations that take place during breaks, lunch hours, office parties but it may not be the same kind of love that Paul describes in his writing. 
The language that Paul uses describing the truest love there may or may not be found in those places, but perhaps that was never the intent. Paul is writing to Christians. He is writing to those of us who claim to walk with Jesus and like Jesus, and encouraging us to live the life of love. Live in our homes. Live it in our work places. Live it in our schools. And definitely live it in our churches. 
It is not the task of politicians to speak and demonstrate the love that Paul describes. It is not the task of the corporate world to speak and demonstrate the love that Paul describes. It is not the task of news media to speak and demonstrate the love that Paul describes. 
It is my responsibility to speak and demonstrate the language of 1 Corinthians 13. It is your responsibility, if you claim to follow Jesus, to speak and demonstrate the language of 1 Corinthians 13. It is the responsibility of the church to speak and demonstrate the language of 1 Corinthians 13. 
Where is the love? Hopefully the search will be found with and in the people of God.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Jul 2016, 9:21 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 28 | July 18, 2016 


If Everyone Were Like Me

Life would be so much easier for me, if everyone were like me. 
If everyone were like me when I tell people I get up early and stay up late to watch the British Open no one would consider me strange. 
If everyone were like me when I tell people I do not like raw tomatoes, no matter how fresh, no one would say, “And you’re from the South!”
If everyone were like me we would all cheer for the Yankees, the Celtics and the Cowboys. 
If everyone were like me we would never have another heated discussion on politics. 
If everyone were like me wearing jeans, untucked shirts, loafers, and no socks would be the preferred attire for all occasions. 
If everyone were like me mornings would begin slow, easy, quietly and with a really good cup of coffee…just black.
If everyone were like me Italian food would be on the menu at least once every week…maybe twice.
If everyone were like me all tables that seat more than two people would be round. 
If everyone were like me it would take about 10 seconds for all of us to be bored out of our brains.
Fortunately not everyone is like me. 
In 1 Corinthians 8 gives a very clear illustration that not everyone is like me. He is talking to a group of people who had issues over eating certain kinds of food that emerged from their spiritual heritage. Paul’s message here is simple: if I can do or not do something that will enhance your walk with the Lord, I will do it.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul describes the Body of Christ like this, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” His message is simple here is equally simple: We are all different and God made us all just the way He wants us. 
When I combine the two messages I get this: When I am who God created me to be and your are who you created then, we build each other up, encourage each other to be who we are created to be we will be our relationships with the Lord will be enhanced and the Body will be strengthened. 
We are all different. God made us different for a reason. He created me to be me and He created you to be you. I cannot be you and you cannot be me. I am glad God created us all like we are. I am glad not everyone is like me. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Jul 2016, 9:43 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 27 | July 11, 2016 


Be God’s Fool

In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul offers some solid advice to the Christians in Corinth that would be worth our consideration today.
Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It’s written in Scripture,
He exposes the chicanery of the chic.
The Master sees through the smoke screens 
 of the know-it-alls. 
I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift—Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God.(1 Corinthians 3:18-23, The Message)

Our world seems enamored with acquiring and possessing knowledge. Or maybe we are enamored by the idea of having knowledge. We like to appear smart. We like for people to perceive us being intelligent, and we love it when they tell us that they think we are intelligent. Unfortunately, the knowledge we often seek is what Paul describes simply as “Being up-to-date with the times.” 
In some of the posts I read on social media I think I see the desire to posts the smartest, most clever, and most intelligent comment on the events of the day, or whatever subject is being discussed.  
In day to day conversations I hear people, sometimes I hear me, hoping to be considered smarter than anyone else in the conversation.  
When I listen to politicians speak I feel sorry for them because of the pressure they must be under to always have all the correct answers, never admit they are wrong, and never acknowledge failure. 
I have never been a fan of preachers who represent themselves as “The Answer Man” and need to be the center of attention. They know all the answers to all the questions. They even have answers to questions that few people are asking. 
Educational institutions seem to thrive on promoting and expecting ultimate knowledge, achieving higher scores, and better ratings. 
Do not misunderstand, I believe knowledge is important, information valuable and wisdom in essential to survival in our age of enlightenment. Education is extremely valuable. Being as knowledgeable as possible of our subject matter and reaching the top of our professional career. A verse many memorized in the King James Version says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). The emphasis is on knowing the Word so we can best share the Word. Paul’s encouragement here and in Corinth is to be wise in God’s things, not “What the world calls smart.”
As the events of the last week unfold it seems that the “the know-it-alls” came out in mass. Each one knows all the facts. Each one knows exactly what is in the hearts and minds of everyone involved in every incident. That is until the next one comes along and proves the first wrong. 
Let me encourage you, me, all of us, as we go through these times of uncertainty to seek to be God’s fools. Be aware and informed. Be as wise as you can be so you can make good judgments, offer accurate observations, but don’t get carried away. Remember: “What the world calls smart, God calls stupid.” 
One good way to get to the point of being “God’s fool” is to pray for God’s wisdom. And when you receive His wisdom you no longer have to worry about all the bragging. Instead you get to enjoy “Everything is already yours as a gift.” It will be a challenge. It will be tempting to veer off into a “know-it-all” attitude. Resist. Be a different kind of fool. Be God’s fool. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 04 Jul 2016, 9:44 pm

This Week’s A Norvell Note 
A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 26 | July 4, 2016 

Celebrating Our Independence AND Our Interdependence

We value our independence. We are grateful for our independence. We are proud to live in a  country where we are free to worship as we please, free to assemble, free to travel wherever we want whenever we want, free to carry a weapon or not carry a weapon, free to dress as we choose, and free to be whoever we decide to be. I recently heard of a woman who thinks she's furniture. You can do that if you want. I suppose. 
On this day, millions of dollars will be spent on fireworks shows, cookouts, picnics, lake outings, and feasts of various kinds all for the purpose of celebrating our independence as a nation. We are proud to be Americans “And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.” 
Hear me when I say, I value my independence. I am grateful for my independence. I am proud to live in a  country where I am free to worship as I please, free to assemble, free to travel wherever I want whenever I want. On this day, I will gather with family, enjoy a meal and a day off work to celebrate the independence of our nation. I am proud to be American where I can live a free and independent life, but as we celebrate our independence I read these words from Paul that addresses the importance of living in community with believers of all shapes and sizes in a world that emphasizes and often demands independence.
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7,8, NIV) 
Earlier Paul wrote these words in Romans 12. 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 
As we Americans celebrate our independence may I remind all who are citizens of the Kingdom of God of the interdependent lifestyle of a follower of Jesus. May we never forget that though I am free, as a child of God I am also dependent upon God, upon my brothers and sisters, upon spiritual leaders who watch after my soul, of family members and friends! When my brother hurts, I hurt. When my sister struggles, I struggle. When my neighbor is in need it is my place to help. When one weeps, I weep. When one rejoices, I rejoice. When my friends need me I pray, I go, I help, I serve, I love. “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone”
Yes, we are free. Thank You, Lord. Let’s use our freedom to live the life God has modeled for us. May we celebrate it and live it with great vigor and enthusiasm!


Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 20 Jun 2016, 11:10 pm

Click here for A Norvell Note for the week of June 20. 

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Post  Admin on Mon 13 Jun 2016, 6:45 pm

Trying something new this week. 
You can see this week’s post by clicking this link:  A Norvell Note http://www.anorvellnote.net  

Thanks for reading.
Tom


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Post  Admin on Mon 06 Jun 2016, 7:23 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 22 | June 6, 2016 


May I Say Something To You?

As move toward the end of the book of Acts the focus is on Paul.  In fact Acts 21-26 is all about what happens to Paul when arrives in Jerusalem and arrested. He is arrested, tells his story, offers his defense, claims his rights and innocence, then repeats that scenario multiple times. Some would call what he does sharing your story. Some call what he does giving his testimony.
Reliving Paul’s story as told by Luke I notice three significant elements to consider when sharing your story. It begins with the arrest: “As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’” (21:37)
As for permission to speak. You may have an amazing story that cause jaws to drop when you tell it, but not everyone wants to hear your story. It is a simple question, “May I say something to you?” It is simply common courtesy to ask before you start your story. If they ask, share it. If you ask if you can, and they say yes, share. Otherwise pray for and wait for the opportunity, then share your story. 
Speak in a language they understand. Use your language. Avoid flowery church talk. Say it like it is your story, the way you feel it, not like how you think others want you to say it. Be real. Don’t exaggerate or be unnecessarily dramatic. 
Tell the simple facts. There is no need to embellish the story. If God is in the story that is enough. There is no need to try to make more dramatic. It is your story. Not everyone has a made a dramatic turnaround and not everyone has a dramatic conversion. Paul is the only one we know of who was struck blind and confronted directly by God on the road to Damascus. Yours may be a simple story of God working in your life to place just the right people in your path at just the right time with just the right words. So be it. Tell your story. 
Keep the emphasis on God.  God is the star of your story. God is the star of Paul’s story. God is the story of everyone’s story. Resist the temptation to turn the spotlight on you. God may have done something amazing with you, but He could have done the same thing if not even greater with someone else. When requested someone may say, “Tell us your story” but the truth is, your story is really God’s story. Keep it as God’s story. 
Let God handle the results. Once you share the story of how God has worked in your life let it be. Let God do with that whatever He choses to do with it. If it touches someone, encouraged someone, inspires someone praise the Lord. If it does not result in an immediate and visible impact, so be it. Remember that what He did in and with you did not happen immediately. Let God handle the results. Let God place it in the hearts where He can do the most good with it. 
I hope you are praying for an opportunity to share your story. I hope these suggestions are useful when that opportunity is presented. And I hope God is glorified and a life is changed when your story is shared.  

Tom

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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 21 | May 30, 2016 


Share and Move On

By the time you reach the middle chapters of the book of Acts you understand why the book has that title: the Apostles are in full action mode. For example, read what happens in Thessalonica when Paul and Silas share the story of Jesus. 

They took the road south through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, where there was a community of Jews. Paul went to their meeting place, as he usually did when he came to a town, and for three Sabbaths running he preached to them from the Scriptures. He opened up the texts so they understood what they’d been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead—there were no other options—and that “this Jesus I’m introducing you to is that Messiah.” 
Some of them were won over and joined ranks with Paul and Silas, among them a great many God-fearing Greeks and a considerable number of women from the aristocracy. But the hard-line Jews became furious over the conversions. Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorizing the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:1-5 The Message) 

They preach Jesus. Some accept it. Some respond with violent opposition. If you read the next section of Acts 17 you see that the same thing happens in Berea. 
The Spirit of the Lord has filled these men so they preach with courage, to preach with power, and to preach with energy as they tell the simple story of Jesus.  
As I look at this story and other acts of the Apostles I see these lessons for us to consider as we share the story of Jesus. 
First, they stayed in the Scriptures. Paul was in their meeting place. He was a guest. He did not have home court advantage. So, he started where they were. He could have presented his theories on what he thought they needed to do. He could have forced on some issue they were struggling with in their community. He could have begun with an argument that proved a point he wanted to make. He did not do any of those things. He started with and stayed in the Scriptures. 
I hear a lot about churches where the focus is only about providing entertainment and having fun. Where instead of Scriptural teaching they present, at the very most, a water-down message that aims at being politically correct and socially acceptable. I hear this especially when talking about churches that attract large gatherings of the younger generations. I do not know where these churches are. I suppose there are church like that, but the church where I preach and most of the churches with whom I have interaction are deep into the Scripture. They start in the Word and stay in the Word. Although I try really hard to do that myself, some of the messages I hear from these “younger” preachers put me to shame. They know the Scriptures, they preach the Scripture, and their audiences who are hungry for the word appreciate their efforts and are thrilled to be spiritually fed on a regular basis. 
My concern is to make sure I am doing that. Pouting about larger churches and bigger crowds down the street does me no good if it takes me away from the Scriptures. I do not have time for that. It is my responsibility and honor to stay in the Scriptures. 
Second, they helped them understand what they had been reading. This community of Jews had been reading the Scriptures all their lives. By staying in the Scriptures Paul’s helped them understand that what they had been reading was pointing them to Jesus. And he helped them understand why Jesus had to be put to death, and why He had to be raised from the dead. He helped them to see that this was God’s plan for redemption. 
Our goal should be to help our audiences understand that Jesus is the Messiah, that He came to earth, lived, died and rose to provide us a way of salvation. There is no other way for us, and that this is the plan and working of God.
There are many in our world who have a grasp of what the message of Scripture is. We hear a lot of God talk, but much of it talk without understanding. Many do not have a good grasp on the Scriptures. If put to the test some would not know the difference between the books of the law and the Lord’s prayer. If we have opportunity to explain the plan of God, we need to explain the plan the plan of God. We need to explain that it is God’s plan, and that it is the only plan.  
Third, they focused on Jesus. Jesus was their theme. Jesus was their message. Jesus was their focus. Jesus was the story. Jesus was their passion. Jesus was their reason for existence. 
Jesus needs to be our theme. Jesus needs to be our message. Jesus needs to be our focus. Jesus needs to be our passion. Jesus needs to be our reason for existence. 
What good will it do us if we argue our point on controversial issues if we fail to share Jesus? What good will it do us if we shout our political views and demand that our rights be respected, if we fail to share Jesus? Let’s focus on Jesus. Our goal should be to tell people about Jesus.
Fourth, they accepted the results and moved on. All through the book of Acts we read stories of conversion and rejection, conversion and rejection, conversion and rejection. Some in Thessalonica and Berea heard and accepted the message. Others refused to hear and reacted at times with violent aggressiveness. 
Paul and Silas accepted the results and moved on. Sometimes it was their choice to move on. Sometimes it was not. The results did not alter their plan. They kept their focus on what God had commissioned them to do. 
These courageous men were able to do what they did because they were empowered by the Spirit of God. They did what they did because they knew that the message was not about them. Their message was about God. Acceptance or rejection did not hurt their feelings nor did it pad their ego. They loved God, surrendered themselves to spread the story of Jesus with everyone they could for as long as they could wherever they could. This is our task as well. 
This week may we do our best to stay in the Scriptures, help any we can to understand God’s story and see Jesus more clearly, and accept the results and move on. May God bless us as we live for Him. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 23 May 2016, 2:40 pm

.A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 20 | May 23, 2016 


God Loves To Do That

Let’s talk about prayer. Do you pray? If you do pray, what do you expect to happen when you pray? Do you expect anything to happen when you pray? Do you pray for specific results, or do you pray in generic terms and leave the results up to God to do whatever He chooses to do “according to His will?” 
There is a story in Acts 12 about a group of people who were praying for a something very specific: Peter’s release from prison. James had already been put to death by King Herod, Herd’s plan was to do the same with Peter. Peter’s friends had gathered at Mary’s house to pray for Peter. One would assume they were praying for his safety and release. Under the circumstances it would surely take a miracle. To their amazement, it happened. 
Peter knocks on the door of the house as the group is praying. The girl who answers the door get so excited to tell the group that Peter is at the door, she forgets to let him in. The people who had praying for him did not believe he was at the door and said she much be crazy. “But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.”
Has that ever happened to you? You pray for something and before you are finished praying, you have the answer. Like the group praying for Peter, you do not believe it. Like Peter you think you must be dreaming. 
What did you expect? When you prayed did you think anything would happen? When you prayed specifically for something to happen and you wanted it to happen as soon as possible, were you astonished when it happened…even sooner than you expected?
You pray for direction from God concerning an important decision. Suddenly as you are praying you experience an unexplainable sense of peace. You know what you need to do. God loves to do that. 
You need a new job. You have found the job you want and have had the interview but have not heard anything from them. You ask several of your friends to pray for specifically for a position that you are convinced is perfect for you. They agree to set aside a specific time to pray about your new job. The next day you get a phone call from the person in charge of hiring apologizing for not being able to reach you sooner and the job is yours if you want it and the salary and benefits package is even better than you had expected. God loves to do that.
You heard the words that everyone dreads to hear: “There is nothing we can do.”  The prayers that have already been prayed are increased and intensified. Friends and families offered fervent prayers for healing and restoration to the living God. Then you received the follow-up reports indicating an unexplainable absence of the disease. God loves to do that.
You have prayed and waited and prayed and waited and prayed and waited for the right person to come along. You have had your check list and marked off person after person who have failed to meet your criteria. You continue to pray and hope and wait. You have grown weary and just about given up when “out of the blue” you run into a friend you have known for years. Suddenly you see them differently. You realize, though you have never noticed it before, that this person meets all your requirements. In fact, exceeds them. God loves to do that.
God loves to do that. God loves to surprise. God loves to hear from us and loves to respond to us. God loves to amaze us. 
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)
The next time you pray, pray expectantly. Get ready to see what God has been planning for you even before you began praying. Prepare to see what He does. God loves to do that.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 16 May 2016, 11:23 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 19 | May 16, 2016 


You Aways Resist the Holy Spirit! 


“You Aways Resist the Holy Spirit!” Those were the stinging words of a man named Stephen spoken to the members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme council of the Jewish people in the time of Christ and earlier) who had ordered him to stand before them in response to his teaching “words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” (Acts 6:11) He was teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ as “a man full of Grace and power.” (Acts 6:8)
After being questioned Stephen delivered a power message telling the whole story of God with conviction and courage. Near the end of his speech, and his life, he said to them: “You Aways Resist the Holy Spirit!” That did it. They took him out and stoned him to death. 
What Stephen said about the members of the Sanhedrin was true. They refused to accept the full story that Stephen was sharing. They listened, but when it came time for them to hear the Holy Spirit speak truth to them about Jesus. They obviously would not, or could not, accept that the Spirit of God was speaking to them through Stephen. They silenced him. 
As we read the story we might think how could they miss it? How could they not believe all the messengers that had been sent through the ages? How could they be so blind? 
Before we go too far with our criticism, maybe we should consider whether Stephen’s indictment could be waged at us. How many times have we resisted the Holy Spirit? 
You know your co-worker is having a difficult time. She comes in every day tired, sad and by her own admission struggling to keep going. You sense the Holy Spirit nudging you to speak to you her about their and offer to help, but you resist the nudge.
You listen to the preacher as he seems to be speaking directly into your world, your circumstances. You are convinced he has been peaking through your window at home. You know God is leading you into a new direction for your life, but you resist Him. You ignore what you hear. 
You know that God is prompting you to stop an unhealthy habit. You have no doubt that the prompting is the right thing to do. You resist the prompting. You ignore the prompting. You continue the unhealthy habit. 
You hear the Lord calling you to step out in faith and follow Him on a new and exciting adventure. Your heart races when you consider the possibilities and the opportunities. You have trouble sleeping because you sense you are on the verge of finally fulfilling your purpose. Even with all that you resist the Holy Spirit. You decide to stay put. 
You know from your study that forgiveness is best route. You know from spending time with Jesus that you cannot continue to hold on to the grudge. You know you should, but you can’t. You know it is the best thing, but won’t. You resist the Holy Spirit. 
I am not worried that you will stone me for suggesting that you may be resisting the Holy Spirit, because I assume you understand that I am no more critical of you than I am myself. I cannot count the number of times I sensed the prompting of the Spirit and failed to respond. I saw something that did not seem right, but resisted the Holy Spirit’s prompting to say something. I knew the Lord was empowering me to do something for Him, but I ignored His prompting. 
The alternative is to listen to Holy Spirit and when we hear the Word speak to us do not resist. Follow His lead. Do what He prompts you to do. Then, be amazed with the results. 


Tom

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Post  Admin on Wed 11 May 2016, 10:10 pm

Welcome to the Nugget
May 10, 2016
God of a Small Nation, Part 4

By Answers2Prayer 
  In the fourth part of our series on the importance of the "little, Big" Nation of Israel to the contemporary Christians, we focus on the subject of Israel being "the time-piece"...

Symbol...
Once the Fig tree--symbolic of Israel--starts blossoming again, you can assume that I am right at the door, remarked the Saviour (Matt 24:32-33). He was speaking on the subject of the Signs preceding His Second Coming in the whole of Matthew's 24th Chapter.
So Israel, in a way, is a time-piece by which we can discern and arrive at the proximity of the Master's second advent. For approximately 2000 years, since 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army (did they not ask for God's wrath to come upon them? Matt 27:24-25) and the subsequent dispersion of the Jews, Israel has resembled a withered fig tree; but now, 66 years since their re-birth in 1948 (God's grace once again coming to the fore in conjunction with His covenant with their forefathers -- Deu 7:7-8), they once again symbolize a budding, blossoming and thriving fig tree.
Now looking at Israel's rebirth from another dimension...it would not be possible for the Anti-Christ to emerge as a Global problem solver (after the Rapture of the Church) without the existence of Israel.
Rev 6:1-2 portrays the Anti-Christ as a conqueror who would win over the people's hearts initially by deception (Daniel 8:25) without shedding blood. Note, he is depicted as carrying a bow, but no arrows.
Today, because of the presence of Israel, there is an Arab-Israeli conflict in West Asia, whereas 200 years ago, it was not the case. If Israel had not been "re-born", there would be no turmoil at all, leaving no scope for the Anti-Christ to display his "peaceful" problem-solving abilities, broker a temporary Arab-Jewish peace pact, and consolidate his position as an undisputed Global leader during the seven years of tribulation. 
Boy, if the Anti-Christ's rapture seems imminent, how much more imminent is the Church's rapture (Rev 4:1)!
After initially posing as the friends of the Jews (he may be of Jewish origin also), the Anti-Christ will reveal his true colors in the second half of the tribulation (Daniel 9:27), posing as God himself (Rev 13:1-8) and subjecting the Jews to severe persecution. In the midst of their heavy troubles, the Jews would in desperation finally look sky-ward to the rejected Messiah (they had rejected Him in His First advent, but would accept Him now as their Saviour--Romans 11:26) for deliverance. Jesus, in answer to their prayers, will come, He will defeat the Anti-Christ and his assistant, the False Prophet, in the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 19:11-21), which will, in turn, usher in the Millennial rule (Psalms 2/Rev 20).
Prayer: Father, even as we see the Nation of Israel "budding and blossoming" in front of our own eyes as a sign of the imminent Church rapture, enable us to be alert and alert others. In Jesus' Name. Amen. 
Suresh Manoharan
An Unworthy Servant
J and SM Ministries
 
Announcement:

Israel is close to celebrating it's 66th birthday. In honor of the rebirth of this country, the Nugget is posting a 5 part mini-series, "God of a Small Nation" by Suresh Manoharan, designed to bring to the forefront the significance of Israel to all followers of the Lord God of Abraham. Join us on Thursday for the concluding edition.
©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely give."
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Post  Admin on Mon 02 May 2016, 10:52 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 18 | May 1, 2016 


A Good Ending


John 18 gives the account of Jesus being arrested and put on trial. Even as we read it today, knowing what happens next, it is still a very sad part of the story. As sad as the story itself is, there’s even a sadder story included in John’s version. Simon Peter, and his denial of Jesus is specifically mentioned. Here’s this way it is spelled-out in the New International Version. 

Peter’s First Denial
15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. 
Peter’s Second and Third Denials
25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

How would like to have our name printed in every Bible that has ever been printed? 

Tom’s First, Second, and Third Denial 

Everyone who ever reads the gospel reads Peter’s name in bold print. Everyone who ever shares the gospel story speaks Peter’s name specifically. It’s a good news bad news scenario: Good News: My name’s in the Bible. Bad News: It’s in there because I denied Jesus three times. 
It is sad, but it was would be worse if that was the end of the story, but it is not the end of the story. 
John 21 includes the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter (15-23). The heading for that section in the New International Version is: Jesus Reinstates Peter. It could be: Peter Confesses His Love For Jesus Three Times. 
When you follow Peter into the book of Acts you see a courageous, confident, Spirit-filled leader of the new Kingdom movement. He still makes bold statements and is not afraid of going public with the story of Jesus. The heading for the section of Scripture that begins in the middle of Acts 2 is: Peter Addresses the Crowd. It could also read: Peter Leads the Revolution. Or it could read: The Transformed Peter Helps Transform the World. 
It does not need to be the end of your story either. Maybe you have denied Jesus one, two, three times, or more. Maybe you are trying to find your way home, but guilt and shame is paralyzing your movements. If that describes you maybe you should do what Peter did. Confess your love and devotion to Jesus. Then, listen to Him as He reminds you that you still have a job to do. He told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” A bit later He said, “You follow me.” 
Maybe your task is not to feed the sheep, but you can tell the story. As you follow Him share His story, share your story, make His Kingdom real in your life. Then, follow Him and celebrate God’s good ending. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Apr 2016, 6:56 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 17 | April 25, 2016 


Known By Our Love


“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34,35, NIV) 
“Love one another.” Sounds easy enough. Just love each other. That is how people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples. Just love each other. 
You do not need any title. You do not need to pay a membership fee. There are no hoops to jump through. You do not need any special marking or identification badge. You do not need to make a loud public announcement about being a follower of Jesus. Just love one another. 
Churches who bear the name of Jesus Christ: Love one another. Churches who disagree on some doctrinal beliefs: Love one another. Churches who almost nothing in common except your love for Jesus: Love one another. Churches that disagree on the specifics what should be preached from your pulpits, the specifics of how you should worship, but agree on who you worship: Love one another. 
As you live within your churches you really need to love one another. Your roles are different so love one another. Your gifts are different so love one another. You may differ on the exact way ministry should be carried out  so, love one another. There are going to be times some people really get on your nerves so, love one another.  
Love one another. That is how everyone will know that you are my disciples. Sounds easy. It easy as long as everyone stays in their designated places doing what they are supposed to do. It is easy as long as no body tries to do anything that goes against what I am comfortable with. It is easy until I am not getting my way, or it appears that I am not getting my way. It is easy one another as long as we think alike, dress alike, and talk alike.
Those times when life gets stressful are the times Jesus probably had in mind when He said, “Love one another.” He knew His disciples were about to experience stress, distress, danger, and confusion unlike anything they had ever known. He knew they were going to tested in their faith and devotion and would be tempted to turn against and away from each other. He knew that the world would be watching them as they endured the images fo Jesus on the cross and in the tomb. He knew they would need one another more in the future than they had in the previous three years. So, He tells them, “Love one another.” 
Jesus knew the challenges disciples of His day would be facing as the cross loomed closer. He also knows the challenges disciples in our day are facing as we attempt to live faithfully in our times of stress, distress, danger, and confusion. He knew our faith would be tested and that we will be tempted to turn against and away from each other. He knew that our world would be watching us as we endure difficult times. He knew we would need one another more and more as we wait for the Lord’s return. He knew so He still tells us, “Love one another.” 
Sound like it should be easy. Whether it is easy or not, He wants us to love one another so that everyone will know we are His disciples because of the love we have for one another. He still wants us to be known by our love.  

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 18 Apr 2016, 7:09 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 16 | April 18, 2016 


The Sound of Dropping Stones

John 8 begins with the story (questioned whether it was actually included in the original text) of a trap set by “the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees” that involved a woman caught in the act of adultery being brought into the courtyard to stand judgment for her sin. Apparently not totally out of the ordinary, one has to wonder how often this was done since this was an opportune time for these religious leaders to put pressure on Jesus.  (John 8:1-11)
Although it does not say it the text, surely at that moment when Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground for the second time, the only sounds in the temple courts area was that of stones dropping to the ground, the sniffling of the woman standing in front of Jesus, and shuffling of feet as those who moments earlier were ready to stone her leave the courtyard.
Can you imagine how deafening that must have been? One moment she was humiliated and feared for her life. Then, as the stones dropped she received another chance at life. Or, since we do not know her whole story, maybe this was really her first chance for a real life. 
Expecting to feel the pain of the stones, instead she heard them drop to the ground, the silence, then the gentle loving voice of Jesus, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “Then, neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”   
Maybe as Jesus spoke to her, she opened her eyes and looked around to discover that the sound she heard really was that of stones dropping to the ground. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, or perhaps Jesus did, she began to see like she had never seen before. Instead of seeing a life of condemnation and shame, for the first time in a long time she saw a life of hope. For the first time she felt the power of forgiveness. For the first time instead of dreading the events of another day of being used, she began to think in terms of newness, refreshment, and kindness. 
Jesus’ stories give us the opportunity to ask, “Where I am I in this story?” 
Like most of His stories this one is aimed at those who held the stones in their hands. They have already passed judgment on this woman. She is yet again only an object to be use…this time by religion. They had no concern for her; only how she could be useful in catching Jesus in a misapplication of the Law. If you find yourself identifying with this group, maybe it is time you heard what that stone sounds like when your hand releases it and it drops to the ground.  
Maybe you identify with the woman. You are guilty. The judgment waged against you is true and right. Whatever punishment the law demands is justified. Any feelings of value or self-worth left you long ago. The humiliation you feel as you stand there in the middle of the courtyard is only unique because you now stand there alone with Jesus. As you await His sentencing you are stunned when instead of glaring eyes and painful stones you hear His gentle voice ask about your accusers. When you acknowledge that they have departed, you are further stunned as you hear Him say, “Neither do I condemn you. God and leave your life of sin.”  
Could this be happening? Could He possibly be forgiving me? Could this One they call Jesus actually be this loving, this gentle, this kind, this merciful? 
Some will identify with the judgmental crowd, some will identify with the judged. It is my hope that we will strive to identify with and develop a spirit more like that of Jesus. Not as a judge; though He certainly could have judged her. Not as one who condemns; though He could have condemned her. May we strive to be one who loves gently, judges rightly, and forgives completely! 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Apr 2016, 10:46 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 15 | April 11, 2016 


Jesus and Merle Haggard

When the news reported that Merle Haggard had died, not only was it a big story for the Nashville community, but for country music fans everywhere. Merle was truly a legend in country music. 
His death prompted me to spent parts of the next couple of days listening to Merle’s music. I listened in my car, in my office, and some while walking the Greenway. I was reminded of years long ago when as a college student a friend and I would sit around with your guitars in “pickin’ and a grinnin’” sessions which often included some of Merle’s tunes. Our playlist often included: “Mama Tried,” “White Line Fever,” “Holding Things Together,” “If We Make To December,” and “Sing Me Back Home.” As I listened to Merle’s simple and easy tunes I relived some of times that also seemed, in retrospect, pretty simple and easy.
The more I listened the more I began to see a connection between Jesus and Merle Haggard that I had never noticed. 
The members of the church where I preach are reading through the New Testament together this year. We read five chapters a week (Monday-Friday). Each Sunday we are using one of those texts for sermons, classes and small group discussions. The reading for today is John 3. Reading ahead in preparation for this article I saw a connection between this well-known passage and the music of Merle Haggard. 
John 3:16-17 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Merle sang songs about life. Many of his songs described a side of life that many followers of Jesus not only try to avoid, but spend considerable time condemning. For instance: “Working Man Blues,” “The Fighting Side of Me,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” “Branded Man,” “Rambling Fever,” and “I Threw Away the Rose.” No doubt one of the reasons for Haggard’s impact on the music world is that so many could relate to what he was singing. 
Maybe you have felt if we make to December…or to the end of the month, or next year, or through the holidays, or until we get paid…we’ll be fine. Surely you have had days when you felt like you’re just “Holding Things Together.” 
We, Jesus’ people, sometimes like to put those kinds of stories in the category of what “those” people go through. “Good Godly people don’t live like that.” “Church goers don’t have such hard times.” “If they’d only get their life right and change their priorities they wouldn’t have so much trouble and heartache.” 
Jesus’ words reminds me that I’m missing the point when that is my attitude toward people. Jesus said, “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his one and only Son,…” Not only the good people. Not only the people who have life all together. Not only the good Christian people. God so loved the WORLD. People who don’t have it all together, those never seem to be able to get it all together, and those who at one time had it all together but failed miserably at keeping it together. 
Jesus’ words further convict my too often quick-to-judge attitude when He said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Where did we get the idea that it is our job to condemn? Where did we get the impression that God could not handle His creation and needs us to step in and set things straight? 
Merle Haggard sang from the heart about life. Sometimes life is hard, and then it gets worse. Sometimes we mess up; sometimes we get things right. Sometimes we feel like we are down and out, but we keep trying. 
Jesus lived, died, and rose again to teach us to love the world like He loved the world. What if we loved the people Merle sang about like Jesus did? Maybe it is time we started. 

Tom

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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 14 | April 4, 2016 

Get Up and Pray

Just before the last leg of His journey to the cross, Jesus spent time praying in the garden. He asked His friends to stay near and pray with him. They stayed but they fell asleep. When He finds them sleeping He expresses both frustration and concern for them, when He says, “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” (Luke 22:46, NIV)
Maybe you have heard those words yourself. I have. It is the middle of the night, or maybe very early in the morning. What sleep you have gotten has been restless and really pretty unrestful. You had a lot on your mind when you laid down, but knew you needed to rest. So you tried. You tossed. You turned. You wrestled with your pillow, the covers, and looked at the clock dozens of times. Finally, you hear the Lord say, “Get up and pray.” 
So you do. You go to your spot. Your study. Your living room. The closet. Maybe the bathroom. You go there and you pray. You open your journal, or you get on your knees. You lay it all out before the Lord. “Lord, this is what is own my mind. I don’t don't know how to say it, so I’ll just lay it out.” 
You tell Him what you are worried about. You tell Him why you are sad. You tell Him about the conversation you had the day before that you cannot put to rest. You talk to Him about your marriage, your children, your job, your frustrations, your dreams, your desires, and your needs. You get it all out. Then, you say, “So there it is Lord. All of it. I don’t know what to do with it so I’m giving it to you.” 
You take a few deep breaths, go back to  your bed, put your head on your pillow and fall back to sleep for another hour to two. Or, you get ready and go out to face the day. Now, you feel like you can face the day.
Before you go out to fact the day there is one more thing that Jesus mentions that we should not overlook. He said, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” No doubt His instruction reminded them of the prayer He had shared with them earlier when He prayed: “And lead us not into temptation,” (Matthew 6:13). 
Jesus knew what was ahead for His friends. He knew that within a short time they would be confronted with the reality of His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He knew that as things digressed confusion and fear would seize them. He knew they would be tempted, that most would desert Him, and that others be filled with confusion. 
Jesus also knew that eventually, after His Resurrection, they would be reunited, restored, and commissioned to spread His story throughout the world. As messengers of the Way they would face severe opposition and persecution. Not only had He promised that He would always be with them, but now instructs them to pray for themselves that they would not fall into temptation. 
If it was important for Jesus to remind His disciples to avoid temptation, maybe we should consider doing the same. Maybe as we express our gratitude for all God does for us asking Him to supply our needs, we should also ask Him to help us not fall into temptation. 
On any given day we can be faced the temptation of compromising our ethics in business, tempted to lose control of our anger, give in to sexual temptation, or give up on our faith. On any given day we can be tempted pass judgment on a co-worker, cheat on our taxes, take advantage of the vulnerable, or abuse alcohol or drugs. Temptations are all around us. 
Remember the words from Paul, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV)
Temptation is real. It is possible to resist it. The ability to resist may begin when we “Get up and pray so that we will not fall into temptation.” You have read these words, now, maybe you need to “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Tom

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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 13 | March 28, 2016 


The Day After Easter

Luke ends his account of the life of Jesus like this: 
44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses (Italics mine). What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
50-51 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.
52-53 And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes. (Luke 24:44-53, The Message)
I hope your Easter Sunday included a time of genuine fellowship, energized and God focused worship, and a message from the Word that challenged you, encouraged you, and inspired you to greater service in the Kingdom of God. 
I hope as you spent time over the last week reflecting on the last days of the life of Jesus, you also reflected on how you are living your life, how you would want to spend the last week of your life. I hope, now that we have passed through another Easter season, you and I will accept the same role as that of those who were with Jesus after His Resurrection. In verse 48 of the text above Jesus explains their new identity in the Kingdom: “You are the witnesses.” 
A witness is one who sees an event. Jesus told them that they have seen the fulfillment of things He had told them would happen. “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it.” (46-47) 
When you are witness you can testify as to what you have seen. If you see an accident or a crime you may be called into a court of law to serve as a witness, to give a testimony, to confirm or deny what is being said. If you witness something exciting—a great game, a beautiful sunset, or an act of inspirational courage—you cannot wait to share that with others. Given an opening into any conversation, you’ll seize it and share what you have seen. 
When Jesus tells them, “You’re the witnesses” He is challenging them, and giving them an open door to share what they have seen and experienced. He basically tells them to wait until the Spirit comes to them, but be ready to be the witnesses. If you read farther in Luke’s writings (the book of Acts), you will see they accept and excel in being His witnesses. 
You and I witnessed something yesterday. Because we are witnesses, it is now time for us to share what we saw, what we experienced, how we were impacted, and why it was so significant to us. That is what a witness does. That is what we are. 
The only question that remains is, will we accept our role as His witnesses? 
It is the day after Easter. Will you be His witness?

Tom

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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 12 | March 21, 2016 


Where Is Your Treasure?

Jesus often talked to His disciples and interested followers about the danger of becoming too attached to the physical things of the world. In the midst of increasing opposition to His teaching and the cross that loomed on the horizon, Jesus reminded His disciples of importance of maintaining their focus on what was (and is) really important (Luke 12:22-34).
He begins by explaining the futility of worrying (12:22-26). Don’t worry about your life, your food, your body, or your clothing. Birds are cared for by the Father. You are much more valuable than the birds. Worrying does not change anything, so don’t worry about these things. 
In 12:27-31 He uses the flowers that grow in the fields as an example of God’s care and provision. The lilies do nothing but grow. God takes care of them. The pagan world worries about these things, you don’t need to because the Father knows what you need. So seek His Kingdom and these things will be provided. 
Then, in 12:32-33 He reminds them that there is no reason to fear. What a great reminder for us in this age where fear is promoted as the natural way of life! Focus on helping the poor and not focusing on your possessions. Focus on Kingdom things, not earthly things. Kingdom things cannot be destroyed. Earthly things can be. So, examine your heart to see what’s there. 
Now the question: Where is your treasure? 
Worry, anxiety and fear come as a result of making our treasure the things of this world. Do worry, anxiety and fear describe you? Then, your treasure is in the wrong place. Your heart is focused on stuff. 
The remedy? Get rid of some of it. Give some of it away to those who really need it. The more you have the more you want and the more you want the more you worry about hanging on to it. It is a vicious cycle. I know that sounds idealistic in our world of “give me more,” but it is God’s way that will bring us peace and calm. 
What are the things that you really treasure? What is that you hold on to so tightly? What is it that occupies and preoccupies so much of your time and energy trying to protect and maintain? What are the things that you believe will give you peace and provide security? What is it that you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night? What weighs on you most heavily when just before you drift off to sleep at night? Stuff? Clothes? Food? Your physical health? 
Jesus wants us to know that there is a better way. When our focus in Him and on His Kingdom all that stuff that we need He will provide. Many of us have more that we can use. Our refrigerators and pantries are over stocked. Our garages are so full we cannot park our car(s) in them. Our closets are full of clothes we never wear. Our schedules are over-booked and our minds are over-loaded. Stress, hypertension, and panic attacks are common ailments that plague us and increase or levels of stress, hypertension, and panic attacks. 
When will it stop? Today would be good time. Change your focus. Exchange your treasure for new treasure. The things that matter to God. Let Him be the manager of your life. Let go of some of the control. Put Him in charge. He is already in charge, so let Him. Stop worrying and start enjoying. 
Where is your treasure?
 
Tom

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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 11 | March 14, 2016 


An Invitation To Forgiveness

The gospel of Luke (Luke 14:36-50), NIV) includes the story of a woman who breaks through the walls of tradition, religious custom and social propriety in order to see Jesus. Jesus was invited to the house of one of Pharisees for a meal. Keep in mind the Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought during the time of Jesus; they were constantly suspicious of Jesus and searching for ways to destroy His reputation and eventually to destroy Him. 
As the story of Jesus unfolds and the conflicts between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Pharisees continues the gap between the two continues to widen, making the fact that Jesus actually went even more amazing. A woman who interrupt the meal becomes the subject of discussion and how she is described gives the story a personal meaning that we cannot afford to miss. 
In the beginning of the story Luke labels her as: “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.” (37) “A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life.” She brought a jar of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feel. She wet his feet with her tears, then wiped his feet with her hair. 
The custom of the day was for a host to provide a servant to wash the feet of the guest. (You can see another story where this same practice was neglected in John 13. Jesus also used that opportunity for more teaching.) This Pharisee had failed to provide for this during this meal with Jesus. The woman learned that Jesus would be there so she came, obviously with the intent of caring for Jesus. 
The Pharisee objects (40) to himself, he thinks. 
But Jesus, knows his thoughts and, as the invited guests says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” First, Jesus tells a story about debt and asks for a response to His question. Jesus then affirms is answer and follows up with another descriptive paragraph about the woman. The woman “in that town who lived a sinful life.” But the language used to describe changes. 
In verse 47 Jesus says, “her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” Or as some translate it, “She has loved much.” 
In this one encounter this woman has been transformed from “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life” to “her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” And, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (50)

No doubt Simon was stunned, disappointed, embarrassed, and angered. No doubt this woman was relieved, elated, set free and filled with joy. 
The amazing power of this story (and many stories Jesus told throughout His ministry) is that the message of the story was for the Pharisee, the woman, and you and me. 
We come to Jesus as “A woman in our town who lived a sinful life” or “A man in our town who lived a sinful life.” Because of our “great love” for Him, and His great love for us, we leave as one whose “many sins have been forgiven” and we “go in peace.” 
This woman was not invited to the dinner by the Pharisee, but she was invited by Jesus, as are we all, to come to Him for forgiveness. The Pharisee received the same invitation from Jesus. The invitation has been offered. What will you do with it? 
 
Tom

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A Norvell Note 
Vol. 18 No. 10 | March 7, 2016 

Treasured In Her Heart

    She had been feeling a bit more tired than usual. She also began having episodes of nausea. She knew that a child was growing inside her. She was overjoyed. As the child continued to grow and as she waited for the birth she treasured these things in her heart. 
    When the day arrived and the pain became increasingly intense she anxiously awaited the arrival of her child. The pain gave way to unbridled joy when the baby was place in her arms. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    The child grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with the God and man. The child seemed to be changing every day.  She treasured these things in her heart. 
    Moving toward adulthood brought struggles, pain, disappointments, and sorrow. There was heartache. There were days of victory. Together they shared them all. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    It came time for the child to move forward with independence which brought both joy and sorrow. This has been the dream from the beginning, but it has also been the dread. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    With independence and freedom came responsibility and another family. The new couple had children of their own. The grandchildren brought a new joy unlike anything ever experienced. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    The mother began to show her own age. She moved more deliberately and less frequently. She needed more attention which her child lovingly provided. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    When health began to fail and the days were numbered there conversations and memories and stories. There was laughter, there were tears, there were long periods of silence. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    Eventually as it was evident that her life would soon end and she laid on her bed peacefully breathing her last breaths and remembering the life she had lived. She treasured these things in her heart. 
    As her children gathered round her and celebrated her life. There were tears of immense sadness. There were moments of immense joy. Together they shared their stories. Together they relived her life and they treasured these things in their hearts. 

    Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52, NIV)        
Tom
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A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 09 | February 29, 2016 


Nobody Knows

In Mark 13 Jesus talks about “The End of the Age” (NIV) and “Doomsday” (The Message). Don’t worry, I’m not going to tackle those things. And if you respond to this article saying, “I know” I may remove you from this mailing list. Might as well, if know the answer these kinds of questions I will certainly have nothing to offer you. The phrase that caught my eye as I read this chapter is not actually in the text itself, but in the headings that are found in the various translations and interpretations (though worded differently in those translations and interpretations). That phrase: Nobody Knows. 
Nobody Knows. In context nobody knows the day or hour when Lord will return. Jesus basically tells us nobody knows so don’t believe anyone if they say they do. Since nobody knows when it will take place, be ready all the time. Be prepared. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t miss. Watch! Because nobody knows. 
There are lot of things that nobody knows. 
Nobody knows when they will die. There are times, near the end, when the medical team may say, “It could be anytime. An hour. A day. A few days. Nobody knows.” The end is certain…for all of us…but nobody knows for sure when.
Nobody knows what it is like on the other side. We can read stories, hear explanations and descriptions of near-death experience, but we do not know and cannot know and will not know until we cross from this life to the next. 
Nobody knows the influence they may be having on another life. We can try to live impactful lives and be a source of encouragement and life to those around us, but we never really know the influence or impact we are having.
Nobody knows the impact of our words. There is a reason the Scriptures advise and instruct us to use our words carefully and thoughtfully. Words can harm. Words can help. Words can build up. Words can tear down. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Wrong!
Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Most of the time we are not even sure what will happen in the next hour or two. We can make plans, predictions and forecasts, but things can change in an instant. Lives can be changed forever in an instant. 
Nobody knows when the Enemy will attack. If we knew ahead of time we would be prepared. If we knew ahead of time we would have our armor securely fastened and be ready for battle. He is the deceiver. He is the one prowling around waiting for the perfect moment when we are unprepared to attack and devour us. 
Nobody knows when an accident will happen. If we did we would prevent them. Accidents happen quickly. Accidents come out of nowhere. We can be cautious, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, take our vitamins, pray earnestly and constantly, but accidents still happen.
Nobody knows when any of these things will happen, but that does mean we are completely helpless, or that there is nothing we can do. As Jesus talks about the coming of the end of the age He gives this advice: “You must be on your guard!” (9) “Stand firm,” (13) “Be on your guard!” (23) “Be on guard! Be alert!” (33) “Keep watch!” (35, 36).
For all those surprising come-out-of-nowhere blind-side throw-you-for-a-loop events be as ready as you can be. Be on your guard, but don’t live in fear. Stand firm, but remember to be flexible. Be alert and keep watch, but don’t miss the life that is to be lived in between those events. Keep your eyes on the Lord, keep walking with Him, and trust Him to see you through because He knows what nobody knows. 

Tom

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