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A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Feb 2016, 4:32 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 08 | February 22, 2016 


Seeing Jesus Clearly

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 
24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26, NIV)
The disciples were a lot like this man in that although Jesus was right there in front of them they could not see clearly who He was or what was happening. While they occasionally demonstrate partial understanding of “the way of the Lord,” they never fully grasp its implications. We are a lot like the disciples in that our vision and our understanding are often impaired to cause us to occasionally demonstrate partial understanding of “the way of the Lord.” We have a difficult time remembering and living according to what we know. 
The blind man knew he was seeing people but they looked like trees. He knew what people looked like but as his sight is being restored he was not sure of what he was seeing. Jesus’s disciples experienced the same issue. They knew Jesus. They had seen and heard enough to know who He was, but at times, especially when following Him became more of a challenge, they had difficulty letting what they knew to be true was true and could be trusted. Since reading these words I suspect you have some knowledge and some belief that Jesus was who He said He was, did what He did, and is capable of doing what He said He could do. The problem for us is the same as the disciples we have trouble allowing what we know to be true to sustain us when following Him becomes a challenge.
The blind man could only see after Jesus put His hands on the mans’s eyes. He could see partially, but not total vision until Jesus touched his eyes. The disciples were only able to see clearly after spending more time with Jesus, after watching Him, after listening to Him, and after He filled them with His Spirit. When Jesus fills us with His Spirit will we be able to see Him clearly, understand His ways, and follow Him completely. Not before. Until then it will be as if we see people who look like trees walking around. 
Are you seeing Jesus clearly? Would you like to see Him clearly? Here’s a suggestion: Beg Jesus to touch you. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 16 Feb 2016, 12:28 am

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 07 | February 15, 2016 


How To Make God Angry

The title of this article is probably not something you would expect from a Christian writer, so let me state upfront I am not advocating that you become skilled in ways to make God angry. I do, however, want to point out that there are several places in the gospels where it seemed that some of the people Jesus came to teach and to save had that as their goal. Obviously they were not trying to make Him angry, but their stubborn hearts and fear of losing control of their businesses prevented them from receiving for who He was. 
In this particular story from Mark chapter 3 Jesus did want most of us on this side of the cross assume would bring them joy and cause them to be impressed. But it did not. 
“Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, (italics mine) said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mark 3:1-6, NIV)
Did you see what happened? It’s the Sabbath, the day of rest. The day devoted to God. Instead of having their minds and hearts focused on God’s mercy and love, they were focused on how to trap Jesus in breaking the law. So, they wait and they watch. Then, they pounce. Unlike other occasions when they spoke to Him directly or mumbled under their breath, this time they remained silent. Instead of rejoicing with the man who had been healed, they remained silent. Instead of praising God for a miraculous healing, they remained silent. Instead of being thrilled with the display of God’s power, they remained silent. 
Because of their silence and unbelief, Jesus was angry and deeply distressed. Because they refused to rejoice, Jesus was angry and deeply distressed. Because they refused to acknowledge Him as the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus was angry and deeply distressed. Why wouldn’t He be? How could He help but be disappointed? 
That was then. What about now? Do you suppose we ever anger, distress or disappoint Jesus by not recognizing His greatness? Do you suppose we ever anger, distress or disappoint Jesus by our failure to rejoice over the wonders He performs in our midst? Do you suppose we ever anger, distress or disappoint Jesus by being silent when we should be rejoicing and praising Him? 
That sunrise you saw this morning and were too sleepy and were more concerned about getting your first cup of coffee than you were about taking just a brief moment and saying, “Thank You Lord for that sunrise.” As the snow was falling were so frustrated about another day of delays and cancellations that you failed to praise Him for the sheer beauty of a pure fresh fallen snow. (I know…easy for me to say we’ve been in 70-80 degree weather all week.)
Instead of making God angry, please Him by praising Him with your words and actions. Instead of making God angry, please Him by rejoicing with others when you see them healed, restored, reconciled, refreshed, and refueled. Instead of making God angry, please Him by honoring Him with your good works, your kind and gentle heart, and loving ways to all people. 

Tom
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Post  Admin on Mon 08 Feb 2016, 8:04 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 06 | February 8, 2016 


In Her Memory

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Lessons we can learn from this story. 
There is never a wrong time to approach Jesus. This woman did not care what was going on. She was determined to get to Jesus. She did cared that she was not supposed to interrupt the conversation. She was on a mission to anoint Jesus. She would not be stopped. Jesus did not stop her. Are you feeling the need to move toward Jesus? There is not a wrong time, go to Him.
Some things are more important than money. The disciples were a lot like many of us are in that we allow money and other pragmatic things get in the way of the things that are really important. We de-emphasize expressing emotions and feeling. We call it weakness. Jesus did know consider it weak. His words: “She had done a beautiful ting to me.” Feel like expressing your feelings to Jesus. He welcomes that. Go ahead.
Just because some people think you are foolish does not mean you are foolish. We do not like to be criticized. Too often withhold our feelings and fail to express our love for the Lord or for another human being because we are afraid of being made fun of, criticized or rejected. What Jesus thinks about you is more important than what anyone else thinks. If someone tries to stop you, let Him handle them. 
Jesus always welcomes a sincere heart. Your words may not eloquent, but He does not care. Your may not be able to get through your speech without tears, but that’s okay He can wipe your tears away for you. Your past is ugly, messy, shady, and you feel unacceptable. He is the Master of accepting the ugly, messy, shady and unacceptable. He looks beyond all that straight into your heart. Is your heart telling you to approach Jesus? He is ready to receive you. 
This story needs to be told everywhere. “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Tell this story. Better yet, live this story. Be this story. Jesus will welcome you and may tell your story too. 
Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 01 Feb 2016, 10:17 pm

A Norvell Note 

They Missed Him

Vol. 18 No. 05 | February 1, 2016 


Jesus told a story about a father and two sons (no, this is not the story of the prodigal son; it is a different father and two sons story of Luke 15), but there are some similarities, and the group of people He was hoping to reach with the stories is likely the same. Jesus came to save all people. Not just the Jews. Not just the Gentiles. Not just Americans. All people. However, one group He was especially interested in was His own people. Even though, as John tells us, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him,…” (John 1:11-12a) throughout his ministry He attempted to get them to believe that He was who He said that He was. 
This story of the two sons is located in a section of Scripture as Jesus moves closer to the cross. Reading through the story again makes it seem that as the cross nears the intensity with which He pleads for the Pharisees and Teachers of the law to wake up, listen, and accept Him as their true King. It seems as if He tells story after story hoping they will open their eyes and really see Him. The story of the two sons goes like this:
28 “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’
29 “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went.
30 “The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.
31-32 “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said, “Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’s kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32, The Message)
It is easy for us, knowing the whole story as many of us do, to call them foolish, and blind, and ignorant. “How could be so dull? How could they be so stubborn?” Before we start showing stones, remember we DO know the whole story. We know what happens next. We know that even though He is tried, convicted, beaten, crucified and died, the story did not end there. We know that He rose. We know that He is alive! From our perspective it makes no sense that they missed Him. 
So, what is our excuse? We have the whole story written down for us in our own language, in transactions and paraphrases and interpretations that are easy to read and easy to understand. We can listen to it being read. We can hear it from pulpits. We can watch it on video…recorded and live. We have no excuse, yet some us, not them, will still miss Him. 
Why? Because He is not the kind of king we want any more than He was the kind of king they wanted. We want a king that accepts us as we are and does what we want when we want Him to do it. We do not want a king that tells us how to live, how to treat people, and how to express our love to Him. We too often want a king that responds to our requests and demands more, instead of us giving allegiance to Him. So, we miss Him. 
You may not have heard Him, obeyed Him the first time, or followed Him the first time He called out to you. He is still calling. Like the brother in the story, you can change you mind and follow Him now. Don’t miss Him by waiting for or hoping for a better king or a different king. Some will miss Him. Some will follow Him. You can. As long as you are able to read these words you can. Please, please, please don’t miss Him. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Jan 2016, 10:54 pm

A Norvell Note 

Never, Lord!

Vol. 18 No. 04 | January 25, 2016 

Once Jesus was talking to His disciples and began to explain to them that He about to enter a time when He was going suffer, be rejected, killed and then rise on the third day. From the disciple’s perspective He as gaining influence and power so they could not imagine things turning in that direction, so Peter speaks up tells Him, “Never, Lord! That shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)
When I read that I cannot help but think of the times when the Lord has spoken to me through His word, or after praying I sense His leading me in a direction I prefer not to go, or when I see a person behave in a particular way that seems beneath me, and I responded with, “Never, Lord!”
Like the time years ago when it seemed pretty obvious that the Lord was leading me into full time ministry. “Never, Lord! Do you realize what that might cost me?” Then, I went into full time ministry. 
Like the time several years after having been in full-time ministry for a while when it seemed clear that transitioning to preaching seemed to be God’s plan for me, “Never, Lord! Do you realize how difficult that will be for me?” Then, I started preaching.
There were the times before I was married when I would see a husband behave in a manner toward his wife that did not seem appropriate and I would say, “Never, Lord! I won’t ever treat my wife that way.” Then, I got married. 
There were those times before we had children when I would watch parents and proudly announce, “Never, Lord! I won’t ever be that kind of a Dad.” Or, “My child will never act like that!” Then, we had children. 
I can remember times when the decisions and direction of the church where I happened be serving went against what I thought was best and I would say, “Never, Lord! This is not what You want, is it?”
It is one thing simply to remember those times, but it is even more significant when you read what Jesus said to Peter after his emphatic, “Never, Lord!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23, NIV)
If I understand what Jesus is saying to Peter, and to me when I say, “Never, Lord!” it is a pretty serious comment. “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Ouch! I just thought I was expressing my opinion. I never thought that I might be a stumbling block to Jesus. Never meant to be, nor do I want to be. 
The second part of the statement may be even more convicting, and probably more accurate. Although my intentions are to have in mind the “concerns of God” there  is no doubt my interests are more often than not “human concerns.” More specifically, my concerns. I want what I want. So, I pray…
Father, forgive me for all the times I have been more interested in human concerns…my concerns…than I have been in Your concerns. I repent of my selfishness. I will try to do better in the future.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Jan 2016, 12:01 am

A Norvell Note 
_____________________________________________________________________________
Vol. 18 No. 02 | January 11, 2016 
_____________________________________________________________________________

Can I Trust Your Church?

Suppose someone moved to your community and they are looking for a church. They ask around and someone directs them to your church. They Google your church name, find the link, pull it up, check it out, then call the office number. When you answer the phone they ask, “Hi, I’m new to the community and I am searching for a church. I have heard some good things about your church and I have spent some time on your website. I see your meeting time and have found your location. I’ve had some experience with church but I’m a little nervous about finding a new church. I’m thinking about coming to your meeting on Sunday, but I have a couple of questions Are you a church I can trust? Are you the church I read about in the Bible?” 
How would you respond? 
Would you say, “We meet every Sunday, sing without instruments, have preaching, say prayers in the name of Jesus, partake of the Lord’s Supper weekly, and take of a collection.”
Would you say, “We believe in the autonomy of every local congregation. Our leadership structure is predominately male leadership consisting of elders (also called shepherd, or bishops), deacons, and in some cases ministry leaders.”
Would you say, “We have ministries and classes for all ages. Groups for senior citizens, young adults, college students, high school and middle school student, and children’s ministries. We offer support groups for the grieving, the divorced, alcoholics, and for those suffering from other addictive behaviors.” 
Would you say, “We read from the King James Bible, or the New King James Bible, or the American Standard Bible, or the New International Version, or the original Greek New Testament.” 
Would you say, “We believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God given to us by God as an expression of His love for us and instructions on how to live a healthy, holy, and productive life. We believe in Jesus as the Son of God and that is our goal to live according to the teachings of the Scripture, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. And it is our desire to share the love of God and the message of Jesus with as many people as possible. And we believe the best way to share that love of God is by loving one another and serving the world. We believe that if we adhere to these teachings, and follow the lifestyle of Jesus as closely as possible lives will be changed, souls will be saved, people who have lost a vision for life will regain it, people have been crippled by sin and addictions and the schemes of the Devil will learn to walk freely and vibrantly again, those who have had their lives ruined by sin and destructive behaviors will be restored to life abundantly, and the good news of Jesus will bring hope and joy and peace to all people.” 
Once, while in prison, John the Baptist, heard stories about the man known as the Anointed One’s teachings and healing. Matthew 11 records his confusion, his question, and Jesus’ response. 
Quite frankly, John is perplexed. He has been awaiting the Anointed, but he believes that person will be a great political ruler, a king, or a military hero. Jesus seems to be all about healing people and insisting that the poor and the meek are blessed.
So John sent his followers 3 to question Jesus.
John’s Followers: Are You the One we have been expecting as Savior for so long? Are You the One Scripture promised would come? Or should we expect someone else?
Jesus: 4 Go back and tell John the things you have heard and the things you have seen. 5 Tell him you have seen the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised, and the good news preached to the poor. 6 Blessed are those who understand what is afoot and stay on My narrow path. (Matthew 11, The Voice)

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Jan 2016, 2:11 pm

A Norvell Note 

Let the Show…End!

Vol. 18 No. 02 | January 11, 2016 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.’Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)
  Jesus introduced a new concept to his followers when He instructed them to do their good deeds and kind acts in secret instead of making a who of it. He followed up this discussion with similar discussions on prayer, and fasting. His message is simple: when you do these things do them quietly and without drawing attention to yourself. 
Apparently that was a problem for religious people in Jesus’ day. Jesus criticized them for the way they loved to show-off with their acts worship. When they gave they enjoyed people around knowing how generous they were. When the prayed they loved to perform as if on stage using flowery and pious language, being long and repetitious, and making sure they were recognized for their godliness. When they fasted they made sure everyone knew the sacrificial act of worship they were engaged in. Long faces. There was possibly moaning and groaning about the lack of food. 
Jesus says to His disciples, “This is not the way we do things.” The same wisdom should still apply. 
As disciples of Jesus, when we do good things, just do them. It is not necessary to call attention to it. It is not necessary to get credit. It is not necessary to hear a “Thank you.” It is not necessary to be repaid. If you intended to do a good thing, do not ruin it by letting everyone around you know what you did. It is enough for the Lord to be praised for the good you do. 
When you pray, especially in public, be quiet about it. When you pray use your simple everyday language. It is not necessary to develop a holy sounding speech pattern. If you say a prayer before your meal in a public, don’t announce to all the others in the restaurant, just say your prayer. You are talking to God, if others hear you, so be it. If they do not, so be it. 
And when you fast, do not tell anyone. Do not announce it in your Sunday School class or small group. Do not ask them to pray for you because you are fasting. Wash your face. Take a shower. Keep a pleasant look on your face. If someone notices you not eating and asks you about it, just give them a polite, “I’m just not eating today” and be done with it. 
For Jesus, and for Jesus people, it is not about the show. It is about going about the life quietly, simply, and without drawing attention to what you do. It is not necessary to announce, “Hey everyone I’m about to do something that looks like Jesus. Watch me!” Just be like Jesus. Let the show end.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 04 Jan 2016, 11:09 pm

A Norvell Note 

Vol. 18 No. 01 | January 4, 2016 

Things Above

Early in the chapter Paul wrote, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV) 
At the end of the chapter he writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17, NIV)
These thoughts surface from this text.
There is an appropriate posture we take once Jesus Christ raises us from death. Our hearts and minds are set (corrected, fine-tuned) to focus on things above. We stop giving so much of our attention to the things of this world and the things of the earth. We look up toward Jesus. We “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV) 
Once the position of heart and mind is adjusted we, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” Peace rules your heart. Peace controls your heart. Peace. Real lasting and often peace that passes understanding leads us wherever we go. Peace — a peace that changes lives and goes against the grain. What an opportunity we have to go into the world and be messengers of peace. Because we have been raised with Christ, we have that opportunity. 
We “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” When the message of Christ dwells in us can we help but share it, teach it, sing with gratitude? The answer is no we cannot. 
Since we have been raised by Christ with Christ we do,“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Imagine living in a way where you are thrilled about your life. Because of our relationship with Christ we have the opportunity to live with energy. Because of our relationship with Christ we have the opportunity to live with gratitude. Because of our relationship with Christ we have the opportunity to live robustly. 
Today you have an opportunity to make a difference in the world around you. That opportunity exists because you have been brought from death to lift by Jesus Christ. Let this be the beginning of not just a new year but a new way of living. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 29 Dec 2015, 8:02 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 51 December 21, 2015

The Perfect Gift

As the clock continues to tick toward Christmas Eve and Christmas Day you may be feeling the pressure of finding that perfect gift that special person in your life. You have been thinking about it all year. You've checked websites. You’ve looked catalogs. You’ve walked malls and shopping centers and department stores. You’ve dropped hint and you’ve asked friends and family members and people close to them to keep their ears open in case she casually mentions something she wants. Nothing!
You want it to be something special. You want it to be something that she will remember. You want it to be something meaningful. You want it be something she will really appreciate. You want it be something that will last. “What can I give?” 
Finally someone suggests, “Maybe what you need to give her is not something you will find in a store. Maybe what she wants the most is not something you can buy. Maybe what she wants and long for from you is not a thing. Maybe the best thing you can give her is you.”
“That’s it!” 
Your mind goes into high gear. “Why didn’t I think of this?” Now your options seem limitless. You can make something with your hands. You can write something. You can paint something. You take her on a trip. You can go out for an especially nice restaurant. You can write her a romantic letter. The common thread in all these is you. The best gift you can give her and the gift she desires most is you. 
For centuries God expressed is love to His people. Time after time the people He loved rejected His attempts to love them. One by one His people rejected His messengers and His message. When He had exhausted every other means to demonstrate His love He sent His Son. He sent His one and only Son into the world. As in previous attempts His own people did not accept His love. His effort did not end there. He was determined to a gift to His  people would be remember, a gift that would last, a gift that was meaningful, and gift that would be remembered. So, He gave Himself to die on a cross.
God’s attempt to give the perfect gift was successful…at least for some. For two centuries some of those for whom He died have responded with love, appreciation, gratitude, and have lived and died to demonstrate their love for Him. Some have rejected His love. Some have ignored His gift. He gave the perfect gift.  
Once you determine the perfect gift for your loved one all you can do is give it. Whether or not they accept it or appreciate it is up to them. You have done your part. 
God knew long beforehand that some would received His perfect gift with gratitude and He knew that some would reject it. That did not deter Him. He gave the perfect gift. You do the same. Give the gift. Give it freely. Give it graciously. Give it lovingly. And enjoy watching them receive it. You gave the perfect gift. 

Tom

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A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 52 December 28, 2015

Your Last Words

Within a few days we will say farewell and goodby to another year. As we end a year and welcome a new one many will spend at least some time developing plans and making resolutions for the coming year. There will be news stories about the first baby born in the hospitals. There will likely be stories about to the first couples to be married. And sadly some news programs will report the first death of the new year. Over the next week we will be experiencing and talking about all kinds of firsts that occur as the first days of the new year pass. 
Instead of focusing on the first things, I would like to spend the space of this last A Norvell Note of 2015 to think about the last thing. What is the last thing you will talk about this year? It is a fairly common tendency among families and friends to share some of the most important and meaningful information during the last few minutes of our time together. We may chit chat throughout the visit. We may spend much of our time on trivialities until we are ready to walk out the door. 
Parents will often end their visit with their children with words like, “Be careful.” “Call us when you get home.” “Do you have enough cash?” In our family we have always tried to say, “I love you” before we leave, even if it is for a trip to the grocery store.
So, these are the words I want to leave you with as the year comes to an end. 
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, NIV)
This is my desire for you. That you know the only true God, and Jesus Christ. My goal for A Norvell Note is to help you know Jesus. It is not my desire to tell you about heaven or how wonderful it will be. It is not my desire to tell you about how important it is for you go to and be involved in a church or spiritual community. It is not my goal to help you get it right with how you worship. It is my desire to help you know Jesus. 
I know of no more important question that I can ask you than these: Do you know Jesus? Do you understand that Jesus came to earth, lived on earth, died, and rose again so that you could be forgiven of all your sins? Do you know that if you know Jesus, you have eternal life, because He is eternal life. 
My last words to you in 2015: Do you know Jesus? What are your last words? 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 07 Dec 2015, 10:11 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 49 December 7, 2015

Jesus Is Enough

Louie Giglio says, “Jesus has enough, is enough, and will be enough.” At first glance will probably say, “Amen. I agree with that.” But, back up and read it again. Do you really agree with that? 
“Jesus has enough.” Sure He does. He’s the Son of God. He was with God in the beginning. He has all power. He has all wisdom. He has all knowledge. There are several places where in His own world He claimed to be the Son of God. Some of the religious people of His day had trouble with that claim, but their disbelief did not distract Him from His mission. There is even one place in the Bible where He is described as “…being in very nature God…” (Philippians 2) So, sure I agree that Jesus has enough. 
“Jesus is enough.” Hmmm. That may be a little more difficult. Can you really say that Jesus is enough? Do you trust Him enough to not need anything or anyone else? 
Maybe you can relate to these words from Larry Crab. 
"God, I don't know how to come to you. I need to know you, to sense your presence, to feel your love, more than anything else. But, I don't know what to do. Every path I follow leads back to me. I must find the way to you! I know you're all I have. But I don't know you well enough for you to be all I need. Please let me find you." [Larry Crabb, The Importance of Finding God, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1993, p. 25.]
On one occasion Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14) Of course you know Jesus should be enough, and you wish He was, but sometimes you find it difficult to say that He is. 
“Jesus will be enough.” It’s not a huge leap of understanding to realize that if it is sometimes difficult to consistently believe that Jesus is enough now, it may also be difficult to stay convinced that He will be enough in the future. It may be difficult to believe that He will be all I need. But you keep telling yourself that He is enough and that He will be all you need. Deep down you know it. There are no doubts, but then life turns against you, the breaks go to the other guy, or the other lady gets the job, or the other couple’s kid gets the scholarship. When then? Will Jesus be enough then?
“Jesus has enough, is enough, and will be enough.” That is true for Louie Giglio. It can be true for you. It won’t always be easy. There will be times when your confidence will waver, when your faith will grow weak, and when your trust will fail. 
Confidence like that of Louie Giglio is the result of being challenged and overcoming the challenge. It comes by learning from you failures. It comes by taking note of the doors that God opens, the strength He provides, the wisdom you gain. It comes as a result of seeing God work in your friends, in your family, and even in the lives of those dislike and may disagree with. You can have a faith like that. You can believe that, “Jesus has enough, is enough, and will be enough.” Then, you will be able to help others believe that, “Jesus has enough, is enough, and will be enough.” 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 01 Dec 2015, 3:03 pm

Vol. 17 No. 48 | November 30, 2015

Go and Make What? 

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make church goers...people attend church on a semi-regular basis…do not expect too much of them. Just be nice to them when y see them on Sunday morning. 
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make nice people...people who are sweet and kind and...people who leave nice tips when they get good service in restaurants...they vote in every election and keep their homes and lawns neat and clean. 
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make church members...they participate in everything that is scheduled at the church building, give their ten percent consistently, and even take notes when on the preacher's sermons.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make good parents...the world needs more good parents.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make politically correct and socially conscious citizens...people who care about abused cats, dogs, horses, world peace, the environment and taking care the homeless.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make people who are not afraid to offend their neighbors, quotes the Bible verse that says, "God helps those who help themselves," and would prefer most of the refugees stayed out of our country. 
No, wait. I think we may have missed something. I think we may have read that passage wrong. This is what Jesus really said.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples (a follower of Jesus) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20, NIV)
We may have missed it, but we can still get it right. Let's try. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 09 Nov 2015, 10:02 pm

Vol. 17 No. 45 November 9, 2015

A Steadfast Heart

Psalm 108 begins with, “My heart is steadfast, O God;” My response: “No. It is not!” 
How can I say my heart is steadfast? Steadfast means, “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” That is not my heart. 
My heart is far from “resolutely firm.” My heart wavers constantly. Oh, sure there is a part of my heart that constantly longs to know God and express my love for Him. But, that longing is easily distracted by life’s demands, life’s problems, life’s temptations, life’s struggles, and life’s pleasures. How easy it is to say “I love You, Lord” one moment and in the next moment express something completely different. 
The heart regarded as the center of a person's thoughts and emotions, especially love or compassion. How can I say my heart is steadfast? Oh sure, my heart’s desire is to love people, all people and help them know and understand the love the Father has for them, but how quickly I forget to, or choose not to, express that love to the person who has annoyed me, interrupted me, criticized me, betrayed me, or simply ignored me. How quickly I fail to show compassion to the  person who disagrees with my point of view or disappoints me. 
My heart is far from dutifully firm. Oh, I dutifully obey the rules.  I dutifully fulfill my expected role(s). I dutifully perform my assigned tasks. I dutifully keep my commitments. But my heart seems far from dutifully firm. Another person's actions or lack of action can result in a heart that easily gets discouraged. 
My heart is far from unwavering. Oh, I have my moments or seasons when my heart stays constantly focused where it should be…seeking the Lord. And there are times when though my heart suddenly veers off track due to some unexpected interruption or some intentional departure of my own. But, to be unwavering consistently enough where I could say, “My heart is unwavering” is a stretch. 
When I read the words of the Psalmist I am a bit envious and at times disappointed in my resolve because must admit that I do not always “sing and make music with all my soul.” I do not always “praise you, Lord, among the nations.” Or “sing of you among the peoples.” 
But then I read verse 4: “For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” And verse 11: “Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us.”And verse 13: “With God we will gain the victory.” 
After the complete reading I understand better than even though my heart is not always “steadfast,” the Lord is steady. When I am wavering He is fighting with me and for me. When I am not dutifully firm, God is solid and standing with me and for me and will help me stand firm. 
The only excuse I have for not having a steadfast heart is my weakness as a human being. The only hope I have for ever having a steadfast heart is You, O God, who will “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” And who will ‘“Save us and help us with your right hand.”
I long for my heart to be steadfast, O God. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Nov 2015, 11:41 am

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 44 November 2, 2015

Control? What Control? 

As I write this I am sitting in a coffee shop while outside the areas around me are being flooded by downpours of rain and heavy storms are pounding the region. There are reports of streets flooding, intersections closed, and wind damage. Parents are concerned about their children and their schools. Commuters are looking for alternate routes to get home and to work. Flood and tornado victims are evaluating the damages and dealing the with the shock of yet another unexpected weather system. As I sit here I am reminded of the reality that there is absolutely nothing I can do about any of it. 
Around the world today, and on any given day, the threat of terrorism creates fear and paralyzes communities. Even in areas that would normally be considered low risk for terrorists attacks are reminded daily that nobody is safe. Major power brokers keep other major power brokers constantly on alert with threats of the use of nuclear weapons. As I listen to the warnings I am reminded of the reality that there is very little, if anything, that I can do about any of it. 
Our cities are filled with growing homeless populations, deteriorating neighborhoods, and staggering numbers of children left to manage life for themselves. Statical studies on the rate of marriages that end in divorce seems to be growing with little indication of slowing down. Families are in crisis. Husbands and wives often work at least one job, sometimes two or more doing all they can to get their bills paid and reduce their level of debt. I read and hear those stats and realize how limited I am at making even a small dent in the trends. 
People get sick. I can do nothing about it. People die. I can do nothing about it. People are abused, violated and murdered. I can do nothing about it. Churches split. I co do nothing about it. Children go to bed hungry and alone tonight. I can do nothing to alleviate that massive numbers. Families will lose their retirement because of unwise investments or gambling addictions. I can do nothing to prevent it. Women and children will fill shelters tonight because of abusive husbands and fathers. I feel helpless. 
When I see more things that I cannot control than things that I can control, I reflect on portions of Psalm 31 (especially verse 14-15) where David reminds us of his desperate situation and where he turned for comfort.
Psalm 31 (NIV)
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God….
9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak….
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery….
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me….
19 How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
    from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
    from accusing tongues….
23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
    but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

Those words remind me that it is not necessary for me to be in control, because God is in control. He may or may not do things the way or as quickly as I might prefer, but that is His choice. It is His world. He did create it. We are His people. He did create us. He can do as He chooses. My life reflects that His default choice is for my good, not for my harm. Most of the time I can rest easy with that thought. 
A second thought that comes to mind in times when it seems I have no control, is that the only thing I really need to control is me. My thoughts. My words. My actions. My life. My attitude. And of those things the only one that I ultimately can actually is my attitude. Other people or things might alter my thinking. My words can be misinterpreted. My actions can be limited or mis understood. My life can be altered or taken from me. But my attitude is mine to choose regardless of my circumstances and the world around me. My attitude can and does determine how I perceive the thoughts, words, actions and life of those around me.

Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 4: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (4-9, NIV) 
I cannot control everything, but I can control my attitude. That’s where I’ll start. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 26 Oct 2015, 11:37 am

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 43 October 26, 2015

My Big Sister

Eugenia LaVern Gilbert (July 8, 1943 - October 19, 2015)

Ten years older she was always there. When a bigger kid on the school bus did what today would be considered bullying, she came to my rescue. When our mother died as a young woman she accepted the role as the matriarch of our family at a very early age. Although physical stature would provide no evidence to prove it, Genia was my big sister.

To her husband for over fifty years she was his wife. Devoted to him and his family she stood by him, with him and times when it was necessary she stood for him. She loved him, honored him, served him, and was loved, honored and served by him. Together they provided assurance that marriages can last, that faithfulness is not old fashioned, and genuine servanthood is possible. 

To her two children she was their mother. She loved them unconditionally, taught them, talked to them, guided them, comforted them, cared for them, showed them how to live and helped them understand what it means to be a parent. They loved her, listened to her, followed her guidance, appreciated her comfort and care, and learned about life from her. 

To three she was their grandmother. She loved them with an everlasting love. She praised them. As she did with her two children she talked when she need to talk and listened when she needed to listen, prayed constantly, and reminded them often how proud she was of them.  

To a seemingly endless number of people she was their Bible teacher. Through Sunday School classes, private conversations, cards and letters, email and even texting she shared the Word and messages of hope and encouragement. Along with being a Bible teacher she was a faithful and passionate prayer warrior. It would interesting to know how many times in her seven-two years she promised someone, “Well, I will be praying for you.” When she promised it, she would do it. 

To some she was a writer. She published a few articles and poems and I suspect wrote much more that none of us have ever read. She did not make a big deal out of and she preferred that others not make a big deal about it either. Not surprising! 

To those who worked with her she was known as a hard worker, a reliable worker, and a trusted employee. If she said she would do it, she did it, or explained why she could not. If she accepted the job the work got done. 

To more people than can be counted she was known as friend. She had life-long friends. Not just acquaintances! New friends became real friends. She was genuine. She was authentic. She was open. She was honest. She was real. She was spiritual. She was fun. 

To some she was a cousin, or a niece, or a sister-in-law, or a mother-in-law, or a neighbor, or a church member. The list of descriptive words that could be attached to all those titles would include all those already used plus: devoted, intelligent, responsible, and caring. She was known for her deep and passionate love for the people she called family. 

To my own children, and the children of my two brothers, she was a substitute grandmother. We celebrated many Christmas in her home. When my two children were born she was the first person I called. When she could she attended their graduations and weddings. Most of us celebrated very few birthdays without receiving a card from her. At Christmas time she would ship us a package containing her sweet treat specialties: fudge, peanut butter fudge, and divinity. Sometimes I shared it with my children and few special friends. 

Genia was all these things to all these people. Genia was known for her laughter, for her generosity, for her kindness, for her wisdom, for her faith and her faithfulness, for her loving nature, and for her passion to know God. As I grew up I watched her as she matured as a wife and mother, then a grandmother. I listened as she talked about our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors and friends of our family. I was the recipient of her prayers and encouraging words. 

In some ways, I suppose some would say she stepped in as a substitute mother for me during my teenage years, but mostly she was my big sister. My big sister who has always been there. My big sister who has always assured me that I am loved. My big sister who I could call, or write, or text, or email anytime I needed and share whatever was in my heart. My big sister who often, more often than seems possible, who understood my frustrations with life and people and church because she shared those same frustrations with life and people and church. 

Genia was many things to many people, but she was my big sister. In the quiet of the funeral home chapel I stood by her casket shortly before her memorial service and told her, “I know you are now in a much better place and I am glad for you, but I sure am going to miss you.” I do. And I will. She was my big sister. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 19 Oct 2015, 3:44 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 42 October 19, 2015

The Spirit Helps Us

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26–27, NIV84)
Aren’t you glad that you have the Spirit to help you in your weakness? On those days when fatigue has robbed you of the strength to function the Spirit helps you do what needs to be done. During those nights when your mind is so active that sleep escapes you the Spirit calms your spirit and allows you to rest. During those seasons of life when confusion and frustration characterize you more than any other words the Spirit helps function in ways you cannot understand, and often do not realize. 
Aren’t you glad that when you don’t know what to pray that you have the Spirit to intercede for us? When your marriage is facing a crisis unlike any you have ever imagined the Spirit intercedes for you with groans that you cannot express with words. When your child is hurting and you are completely helpless to relieve their pain the Spirit intercedes for you with groans that expresses your feelings that your words are incapable of doing. When the members of your medical team explain that there is nothing more they can do the Spirit intercedes for you to express the agony that words are incapable of expressing. 
Aren’t you glad that when you are having trouble understanding the will of God the Spirit intercedes for you to help you understand His will? When you are years into your profession but unclear if this is what you were placed here on earth to do, the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. When life changes faster than we can comprehend the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. When we search the Word for answers, constantly approach God’s throne seeking wisdom, and wait in patient expectation for God to reveal His plan the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. 
There are times in life when search for answers and find none. There are times in life when decisions confound us. There are times in life when people frustrate us. There are times in life when the future frightens us. There are times in life when the past haunts us. There are times when we simple do not know what direction to turn. There are times in life when we want to quit. There are times in life when nothing makes sense. There are times in life when we realize we are blessed beyond anything we could have ever imagined and cannot understand. 
During all those times take comfort in knowing that, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 12 Oct 2015, 10:26 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 41 October 12, 2015

God's Love For Differences

You wake up one morning and step outside and realize it is Spring. 
The air is clear.
The temperature is warmer.
There is a sweet fragrance in the air. 
The birds are letting you know they have a new song to sing. 

You wake up one morning and step outside and realize it is Summer.
The air is thick.
The temperature is hot.
The humidity is high.
The grass has a crunch, you begin to sweat and think, “This is a bummer.”

You wake up one morning and step outside and realize it is Fall.
The air is fresh.
The temperature is cool.
The humidity is low.
The breeze stirs the leaves that are turning colors and it is time for football.

You wake up one morning and step outside and realize it is Winter. 
The air is cold.
The temperature is low.
There is ice in the forecast.
You bundle up snug, rush to your car, and think about chili for dinner. 

God woke up the mornings, the seasons, and days.
The days are all different.
The mornings are all new. 
The seasons are all unique. 
He designed each to be special and cause us to marvel His ways. 

With the world in full motion, in the fullness of time He came here to dwell.
To bring us new life.
To bring us new truth.
To bring us a new way. 
So His Kingdom has come to bring us hope, and life, and show all is well.

His Kingdom is as diverse as the seasons, all colors, all races, all ages, all people, is inclusive, is welcoming, is open to all. 

With God’s love for differences in all He has created being so obvious, maybe we would do well to develop a love for differences as well. That just makes good sense.

Tom
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Post  Admin on Mon 21 Sep 2015, 8:32 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 38 September 21, 2015

A Quiet Departure

Even though at one point he had a huge following it was not because he asked for it, it was not because he demanded it, and it was not because he made any effort to get noticed. He just went about doing good. He healed some people. He comforted some people. He even bought a few people who had died back to life. He did not boast about it. He did not do any of the things there were normal for a rising start. 
He perplexed some of his followers by staying in the shadows. They encouraged him to develop a better public relations plan. They chastised him for not making more public appearances. They assured him that if he was to have the impact they wanted him to have he would need to improve his street credibility. He ignored their suggestions and went about doing good.
He refused to make himself a bit deal. Once when he healed a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), then told him not to tell anyone. 
When he healed the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13) he did not need to go to make a scene of it. He simply said the word and the servant was healed. 
When he healed Peter’s mother-in-law he did not make a big deal of it. “He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.” (Matthew 8:14-15)
When he did something big he did it in such a way that, except for the people involved, it did not seem like it was a big thing. When he did go out into the light he did it quietly. 
In John 9 when he healed the blind man he did not call attention to what he did. A little spit. A little mud. The man goes on his way. When later asked who it was that healed him, the man said he did not know. He could have announced what he was doing, but he did not. He could have followed the once blind man around giving interviews and signing autographs, but he did not. 
When he died he did not, although some who were close to him, and some who had followed him, were sad. But for the most part his death attracted very little attention and required no fanfare. Between two thieves he bowed his head and said, “It is finished.”
He did not need the attention. He avoided it. He did not to be recognized. He seemed to enjoy being unrecognized. His life modeled and his teachings encourage a life lived in quietness, simplicity, and obscurity. Live the life. Take care of people. Love one another. Be quiet about it. Let the Father receive the glory.  When it is all over make it a quiet departure. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 14 Sep 2015, 9:57 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 37 September 14, 2015

That Awkward Moment

You have probably been in one of those situations with a group of friends, family, or co-workers when the conversation shifts from the usual surface talk to something more serious. There may be a pause, or one of those awkward silences when people begin to look at the clock to see if it is twenty minutes past or twenty minutes before the hour. 
It is awkward because you know it is the perfect time to raise the conversation from the ordinary to the extraordinary. You can go back to “Did you see that game?” or you can say something like “Hey, can I share something I read in the Gospel of John the other day?” If you choose the first you will get more of the same. If you choose the latter you may get that  uncomfortable silent reaction which might be translated, “Did he really just say that?” 
These awkward uncomfortable moments probably come and go more often than we realize because we are so accustomed to allowing the opportunities to pass. It is so easy to keep the conversation light and fluffy so that no one feels judged, is put on the spot, or made to feel the slightest bit uneasy. So, we talk about the weather. We talk about sports. We talk about work. We talk about the children. We may even talk about our church, what is good, what is bad, what we like, and especially we do not like.  
We justify and rationalize our action or lack of action by saying we do not want to be seen as too serious or too religious or too rigid or too holy or to this or too that. We justify and rationalize by quoting the one passage we remember from Ecclesiastes: “Do not be over righteous, neither be over-wise — why destroy yourself?” (7:16). We justify and rationalize then we beat ourselves up for missing the opportunity.  
Maybe there is a better way. Peter said this, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15,19, NIV)
“Always be prepared.” Maybe we shy away from this passage because we assume to always be prepared to give an answer means we have all the answers. That is not the point of the passage. We are to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have. There is an assumption: we have hope. Since we have hope, be ready to tell people. Since we have hope, and since we have a reason for our hope, why not break the silence sometimes by sharing the hope that we have. Since we have hope, and since we have a reason for our hope, why not transform the conversation from the mundane to the spiritual. 
Will it be awkward? Yes, at times. Will be strange? Yes, at times. Will some people wish you would have let conversation stay on the surface? Yes, some will. Will it be worth the awkwardness? Yes. Will it change the dynamic of your group? Yes. Will it make the conversation be more memorable and meaningful. Absolutely!
When you find yourself squirming in your seat because you sense that awkward moment is approaching, be ready. Think about something you have been reading (something worth sharing). Be ready to share it. Then, share it. The awkwardness will pass.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Tue 08 Sep 2015, 8:30 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 36 September 7, 2015

Delighted To Share Our Lives

In a section of teaching to the Thessalonian Christians (1 Thessalonians) Paul is describes his ministry. Typical in his writing he begins by expressing his love for them and offering his encouraging praise of their faithfulness to the Lord’s teaching and for the lives that have been formed from that relationship. In chapter two he share some of his personality as he describes the way he ministered to this “chosen” group. 
In chapter 2, verse 8 he says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you were so dear to us.” This passage and a sequence of recent reminders bring to mind those God has placed in my life who loved me so much, that they shared not only the gospel of God with me but were delighted to share their lives with me as well. 
There are those people in my family who prayed for me in my early years, before I even knew them, that God would “deliver me from evil” and lead me in the ways of righteousness. When I was way to young and uninformed to grasp or appreciate it they were committed to pour into me words of life and hope and love and peace. As I grew they began to share their lives with me as well.
I see the faces of men and women who took the time to listen to my struggles, understand my fears and doubts, and tolerate my shortcomings. They apparently saw something in me they thought was worth nurturing. They shared with me the Truth, but they also were delighted to share their lives. 
I hear the voices of men and women who cared enough about me that they talked with me honestly and at time brutally words that kept me on the right path and seeking things deeper than the things on the service. They were not afraid to confront me, nor were they hesitant to accept me.    
I remember conversations where men and women shared wisdom gained through facing challenges, overcoming obstacles and holding true to their promises. They generously shared their life experiences and offered assurance hope for moving forward. 
I feel the hands that were placed on my shoulder by men and women expressing their concern for me, comforting me, and reminding me that I am never alone. They shared their lives with me because I was so dear to them. 
Now, it is my turn. What I have received needs to be passed on to those who are following in my footsteps. The words that encouraged me and helped shape my life need to be shared with those who need encouragement and are trying to find their place in the Kingdom. 
Because I was so dear to them they were delighted to share their lives with me. Because there were people who considered me so dear to them they were delighted to share ideas, experiences, wisdom and understanding from their lives that have proven to be invaluable to me. Now, because there are people who are so dear to me, I am delighted to share my life, ideas, experiences, wisdom and understanding that hopefully will prove invaluable to other. 
I am thankful for those who considered me dear to them, and I am thankful that the Lord has placed people in my life who are very dear to me and that causes me to be delighted to share my life.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 31 Aug 2015, 8:47 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 35 August 31, 2015

Consumed By Weeds

Near the end of the story of the Sower (Matthew 7; Mark 4; Luke 8) Jesus makes this statement in verse 14, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:1-15, NIV)
Those words surfaced in my memory recently when I was on a late afternoon walk along the Greenway in what was once a golf course. It’s the same golf course I’ve written about before. (See: It Doesn’t Take Long and Caring For Your Soul) It was a beautiful afternoon as I enjoyed the walk with a nice breeze, the setting sun and listening to a favorite music playlist when I realized I was consumed by weeds. When I say weeds I actually mean thistles (see: Thistles). 
When I say overcome by weeds I actually mean engulfed by thistles. They have grown tall, almost as tall as me, and have almost completely covered the golf course. As I began to take in the view along the paved path I realized that at eye level and in certain directions all I could see was tall prickly weeds. 
That’s when I thought of the words of Jesus, “…they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” Those who heard the word were choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 
“I know those people,” I thought. Then, I thought at times I am one of those people. I am one of hear the Word. It makes sense. It is planted into my heart. It begins to grow. Then, the weeds appear. They grow. They grow strong and tall and block my vision of the things that are real and true and clear gets choked out by life’s worries, riches, pleasures and they do not mature. I have been there. Maybe you have too. Maybe you are there now. You are consumed by weeds. 
I looked up. Above the weeds. Above the thistles. Further up the path. At the top of the hill. There was a grove of trees. Strong healthy trees. Green lush trees. The weeds had no affect on these trees. They stood firm as if to say, “You can do this. You and survive this. The Word can and will thrive in you.” 
It was at that moment when I was consumed by the weeds that I realized it was not the trees speaking to me, but the Lord, and I remembered the next verse in Luke 8: “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Consumed by weeds but refreshed by the Word.
Are you consumed by the weeds of life. Look up. Find a tree. Study it.  Hear the Lord as He speaks to you and raises you above the weeds.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 17 Aug 2015, 7:34 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 33 August 17, 2015

All The Days

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts
(Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me), God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:13-18, NIV)

This phrase stands out, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
God knew me before I was born. He knew you before you were born. He was aware of and involved in the process of our formation. He knew the exact date of our birth before we did, before our parents did, before our doctors did. For Him there was no wondering and there were no anxious days of waiting.
He watched our little bodies were taking shape. He needed no ultrasound or special equipment see us as our fingers and toes were forming. He was there when our hearts beat for the very first time, and before the first beat. He was there as our lungs were being inhaling and exhaling for the first time. He was there and He knew exactly how long we would reside in the warmth and safety of our mother’s womb.
He was there when our eyes reacted to the first ray of sunlight. He was there when our mother and father held us in their arms for the first time. He knew the exact moment when our mother and father saw us for the first time, and He knew how they would respond at that moment. He knew the number of tears that would leave their eyes at that miraculous moment. He was there when our grandparents nearly burst with joy as they watched their children experience the joy of being a parent.
He knew the exact moment when we would take our first step. He knew the exact moment when we would skin our knee for the first time. He knew the exact moment when feel the ocean breeze on our face and sand between our toes for the first time. He knew when we would jump off the side of the pools for the first time. He knew when we would take the first swing at a baseball for the first time. He knew the first time when we would feel our heart flutter at the sight of cute little girl when she walked into our classroom. He knew the exact moment when you would propose and that she would say yes.
He knew the exact moment when you would walk across the stage to receive your diploma and degree. He knew the exact moment when you would go to your job on the first day. He knew ahead of times you would change jobs and why. He knew the exact moment when you would move into your first house, and your second, and your third and all the other times.
He knew the exact moment when you would say, “Yes, I believe He is the Son of the living God and I want Him to be the Lord of my life.” He knew the exact moment when you would face your first big challenge to that commitment, and that you would stay the course.
He knew the exact moment when I would decide to camp on the 139th Psalm for a few weeks, and He knew which sentences would catch my eye and prompt my thoughts. He knew the exact moment when I will finish this article and push the send button. He knew the exact moment when you will open your meal and choose to read or not read.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” I am thankful that He knew, and that He knows. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”

Tom

Oh, by the way He knew that our third granddaughter — Hadassah Tate Norvell — would be born at 8:05 PM on August 16, 2015 and that she would weight 7 pound and 13 ounces. Mom, Dad, and big sister are all doing very well. His works are truly wonderful.

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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Aug 2015, 5:13 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 32 August 10, 2015

You Are Always There

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12, NIV)

There are times, Lord, when You seem to be far away. There are times with our communication seems muffled and erratic. There are times when it feels like I cannot find You. There are times when the darkness seems to overpower me and my ability to see you. There are those times.
Although those times are difficult and lonely and disturbing, those times never last for long. Those times never last because You are there…You are always there. No matter where I go You are there. Even when I try to flee from You so that I can pursue my ways, You are there. I cannot flee from You, because You are there…You are always there. 
If I look up into the heavens, You are there. I see You in the clouds. I see you in the blueness of the sky. I see you in the light of the sun. I see you in the stars. I see you in the moon beams. 
If I go to the sea, You are always there. I see You in sand on the shore. I see You and hear You in the crashing waves. I hear you in the laughter of the children playing in the surf. I feel you in the ocean breezes. You are there…You are always there. 
You are there, but You are not just there. You are there to guide me and to hold me. You are there to comfort me, protect me, calm me, and nudge me. You are always there. 
When the darkness overtakes me, You provide a light for my path. When the darkness seems to provide a cover for my sinfulness, Your light shines on me to reveal my sinfulness and remind me that You rescue me from my sinfulness. Your light overpowers the darkness and brings me hope of a new day. You are always there. Thank You.

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 03 Aug 2015, 9:50 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 31 August 3, 2015

You Lay Your Hand Upon Me

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:4-6 NIV)
You lay your hand upon me and I feel Your presence. Your hand resting on me reminds me that I am not alone. Not only does your hand remind me that I not alone, but I am comforted by the fact that it is Your hand that is upon me…not the hand of a stranger. Because it is Your hand I know that no harm will come to me. 
You lay your hand upon me and I cannot move far from me. I am hemmed in from behind and before. I do not feel trapped. I do not feel confined. I feel protected. I feel secure within the boundaries of your love. 
You lay your hand upon me before some words are on my tongue to remind me not to speak them and sometimes to remind me to say the words that You have placed on my lips. Your hand prompts me that it is time to speak and that it is time to be silent. 
You lay your hand upon me and my soul that had become restless, becomes calm. There is a soothing that comes over me with the touch of Your hand upon me. 
You lay your hand upon me when my spirit is troubled and agitated and I am assured that You have everything under control. You ask me to remember that it is not my responsibility to fix all the problems of the world, and that You do not need me to defend your actions or lack of action. 
You lay your hand upon me to tell me it is okay for me to sleep. In the morning Your hand is upon me to awaken me to the blessings and mercies of a new day.
You lay your hand upon me when my patience grows thin as a cautionary reminder of times when You and others have been patient with me. 
You lay your hand upon me when I have been injured by words or acts of unkindness and begin to plot my revenge to remind me of those times when I have injured others and they have overlooked my unkind words or actions of unkindness. 
You lay your hand upon me when the Enemy entices me to dwell on all my failures and shortcomings and offer a reminder of how you have long ago forgiven and forgotten all of them. 
  You lay your hand upon me sometimes it seems just so I will not forget that You are always with me and that You have promised that You will never leave me.
You lay your hand upon me. Thank You. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Jul 2015, 6:08 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 30 July 28, 2015

Familiar With All My Ways

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-4, NIV)

Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know that I was rude to the lady that answered the phone and did not provide me with the information I wanted. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how irritated I was when I was sitting in that line of traffic that was not moving, and there was no apparent reason for the stoppage. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how sad I was to read about another senseless shooting in movie theater. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how hard it was to tell my family good-bye when the family reunion ended last week. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know that I was rude to the man trying as hard as he could to fix our air conditioning. And You know that when he called me on my sarcasm, I felt awful and apologized profusely, and thanked him for accepting my apology and for working to help me.
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know when I woke up Monday morning I was expecting to a quiet and normal week. You also know how quickly that changed when I was asked to accompany our youth group on a mission trip to the City of Children in Mexico…LEAVING SATURDAY MORNING. You also know how much trouble I had shifting my thinking to accept this is obviously Your good plan for me. You also know that once I adjusted my heart to be in tune with Yours how much I am looking forward to the trip. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know all the ways I have fallen short this week in living to bring glory to Your name. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know thankful I am to be able to sit in an air conditioned coffee shop with a very light weight computer write this article. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know that even when it is a good Friday afternoon it can be a very lonely time. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how much I miss my children and my grandchildren when I cannot be with them as often as I would like. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how amazed and thankful I am that my wife and I are approaching our 40th anniversary. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know how appreciative I am that You trust me to speak for You and lead Your people on a regular basis even though You are familiar with all my ways. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know, and I hope understand, how extremely disappointed I am and how discouraged I become when we, Your people, allow ourselves to be distracted from the building of the Kingdom by focusing on the trivial and mundane.
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know that I know that there is nothing about me that is deserving of Your love, and how that is beyond my comprehension. 
Since You are familiar with all my ways, then You know that I cannot adequately express how grateful I am to be called one of Your children…especially since You are familiar with all my ways. 
You, Lord, are familiar with all my ways, and yet you love me. Thank You. 

Tom

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Post  Admin on Mon 20 Jul 2015, 11:01 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 17 No. 29 July 20, 2015

Reunion In Hope

The 9th annual Mangum Family Reunion (my mother’s side of our family) drew forty-two of us from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee to my hometown of Hope, Arkansas. What was designed for and intended to be a family reunion turned out to be much more for this dependent of Floyd and Agnes Mangum. 
Going back to Hope is always a nostalgic experience. There are certain sites that are always a part of visits to Hope. Visits to Hope always include a drive through Fair Park, a drive by Hope High School, a journey through downtown (what’s left of it), and of course a passing look at the old home place. The family has finally all moved away, so these days overnight visits require a stay at one of the hotels. That in itself is difficult to grasp. Staying in a really nice hotel only a mile from where I grew up is strange. 
Thought different from past visits this reunion in Hope provide several familiar reminders of days gone by and days ahead. 
First, I was reminded that there is no place like home and there is nothing like family. Though I have occupied several houses and claimed to be at home in many other places since I left in 1970, Hope is always a trip home. 
Second, no matter what is going on in the world or how much it appears (as Willie Nelson sings) “the world is spinning hopelessly out of control,” or what is going on in my little part of the world I am grateful that I have Hope to remind me that running the world is not my responsibility. This weekend I remembered that though at times I try to make everything that happens in the world my fault, my responsibility, or to somehow revolve around me, it does not. It is not my purpose to keep the world spinning. It does not spin around me. I am on board for the ride. 

Third, no matter how tired I become from trying to make sure the world keeps spinning, or just how weary I become from trying to deal with life at it comes at me, there is a place of rest and renewal. That place involves being with family and being home. Mostly it involves remembering that the Lord has always and will always be in control.  
Fourth, our reunion in Hope forced me to accept that some have grown tired, weary, and some are wearing out. Some have stumbled and fallen. Some are no longer with us. This reunion in Hope also reminded me that as some grow weary and pass on new life continues to renew us, refresh us, and restore our souls and give us hope. Because our hope is in the Lord our strength is renewed and that like others who have gone on before us we will soar on wings like eagles…we will run and not grow weary. 
The reunion in Hope was designed to reunite our family. It did. But for me, possibly equally important was my reunion with Hope Thank You, Father for the reunion in Hope.  

Isaiah 40 (NIV)
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25  “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2015. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

A NORVELL NOTE by Tom Norvell
  - http://www.anorvellnote.com
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