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The Vacant LotThe Vacant Lot
by Tom Norvell

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    There is a piece of commercial property in a very busy section of our town that has been left vacant for several months. The weeds have grown up around the building and parking lot. Trash has not been removed. A “For Sale” sign sits out front. It is becoming a very unattractive site. If something is not done, I suspect vandals will eventually leave their marks on the once attractive building, or that it will otherwise be damaged by time and lack of attention.

    This property has not always been in such disrepair. It was once a busy and attractive restaurant. I was disappointed when it closed, but assumed someone would remodel and reopen or that another restaurant would open in the same location. Not so! It appears that no one has done anything since the day the door was locked and the building closed. When I drive by and see the vacant lot and how empty and abandoned it appears, I cannot help but have a slight sense of sadness. What a shame! What a waste of good space!

    This vacant lot reminds me of how we sometimes live our lives. For whatever reasons we decide that it is time for a change. We realize things are not working like they should or could. So, we close the doors. We shut everything down. We plan to reopen under new management. Our intentions are good, but nothing happens. Maybe our change for the new happened through our baptism when we celebrated that “the old has gone and the new has come!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:17) Maybe it happens later on our spiritual journey when we realize that we have drifted off God’s path. Maybe it is when a loving friend points out the error of our ways and we finally acknowledge that our way is not working and we need a new direction.

By not allowing the new way to shape our lives, we revert to our old ways...
    No matter what the motivation, we close the doors of our old life and commit to starting over. But, something happens along the way. The old stuff is gone, but our heart remains empty. Trying to live up to Galatians 5, we have tried to clean out the “acts of the sinful nature,” but we fail to see them replaced with the “fruit of the Spirit.” Our spiritual lot becomes cluttered. Weeds take over. No activity is occurring. No life is being lived. By default, the “old ways” begin to return. Our spiritual vitality begins to deteriorate from lack of care. By not allowing the new way to shape our lives, we revert to our old ways and we fail to reach the quality of life that God has planned for us. What a shame! What a tragedy!

    In Mark 5, there is a story of a demon-possessed man who was healed by Jesus. After his healing he “begged” to go with Jesus, but Jesus did not let him. Instead, He told him, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” (vs. 19). “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (vs. 20) I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had not given those instructions. Would the man have returned to his old ways? Would other demons come to take up residence in his heart? I can only speculate. But, it seems consistent with Galatians 5 that when the old is removed, the new must come in and take residence. The Spirit will see to it that those qualities will be developed in us if we will “make every effort to add” true spiritual character. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

    Obviously I do not know the intentions of the people who owned the restaurant. I can only speculate. Perhaps they never considered reopening. Perhaps they never thought about remodeling. Maybe they grew weary of serving food, or perhaps they made their million and now are relaxing on some beach of the South Seas. But, the building remains in disrepair. Unless something is done soon, it will become a ugly blight in an otherwise attractive part of our town. What a shame! What a waste!

    I don’t want that to happen with my life or yours. I don’t want you to clean out the old only to have it replaced with something worse that what was there before. I want real life. Lasting life. Everlasting life. I want you to have that as well. I don’t want those who view my life as they pass to comment, “What a shame!” “What a waste!” Jesus can prevent that. Let Him fill your life with His Spirit and His character.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m cleaning up my vacant lot and making it fit for my Father’s business.

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      © 2002, Tom Norvell. Used by permission. A Norvell Note is a weekly email message from Tom Norvell. Check it out!

      Title: "The Vacant Lot"
      Author: Tom Norvell
      Publication Date: November 13, 2002


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Tom NorvellTom Norvell is the author of "A Norvell Note." He ministers at the East Brainerd Church of Christ in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


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