Losing and Finding

“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39, NLT).

Jesus was not playing in Matthew 10. The chapter is filled with some truths that are hard to hear, and honestly, verses 38 and 39 aren’t even the most uncomfortable. In fact, I find verse 39 to be rather poetic.

This scripture goes back to being both alive and dead at once, like zombies. If we choose to keep our lives, we die. If we give up our lives, we live.

So what is Jesus talking about? And why did I include verse 38 if our main point is in verse 39?

Paul used the same symbolism in Galatians 2:20, which we discussed last week, and what he said there is not altogether different from what Jesus is saying here. Paul said he was crucified with Christ, and Jesus is telling us that to be His, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him. Paul meant that when he accepted that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the sinful man Paul was died. Jesus means that if we’re not willing to let go of the people we were before Him and if we’re not willing to shoulder any of the changes and shifts in our lives that come from following Him, we don’t deserve to belong to Him.

We’re not used to hearing Jesus talk this way. I’d even take it a step further and say that we don’t like to hear Him talk like this. We view Jesus as a great guy who understands us, who loves us, who will forgive us. All of that is absolutely true, so please don’t think for a second that I’m trying to tell you otherwise. But He is so much more than that. He loves us, yes, enough to be honest with us. He’ll forgive us, of course, but He knows the difference between a genuine and an insincere heart, and He knows that if there’s no correction or consequences, we’ll just run out and hurt Him again. He understands us, sure, and He understands how difficult it is to carry a cross, which is why He instructs us to follow Him so He can help us.

This is where the next verse comes in because it’s an expansion of what He was saying before. If we cling to our own lives– what we want, our priorities, how we see things– we will die. Eternally. If our lives remain centered on us and sin and ways that don’t align with God’s, we will ultimately and truly die. We’ll live and then die like typical humans.

To die and then live, however, is the way of the zombie. To lose our lives– accept Jesus as our Savior, seek God’s will instead of our own, be directed by the Holy Spirit– gives us eternal life. Our entire existence becomes centered around God, and when that happens, we find His gifts all around us and in us. We’ll die a mortal death, but then we’ll spend forever in light and love.

I’ll reiterate for any newcomers or for anyone who hasn’t read last week’s post: Losing your life does not mean losing who you are. You are still you, still the person God designed you to be, still capable of doing things in the kingdom of God that not just anyone can do. You’ll have your convictions– places you can’t go anymore or people you have to set up boundaries with or things you used to do that you shouldn’t. And that’ll change parts of your life, but it won’t take it away. God may reign in your life, but that doesn’t mean you no longer get to enjoy it.

I’m a zombie. Are you a zombie too?

Have you given up your life only to find a new one? If you have, you know that it’s filled with hope, joy, mercy, provision, and love unconditional. If you haven’t, would you like to? You can trade in your sorrows, burdens, and bitterness when you die to yourself. And you’ll come back to life forever.

By Carrie Prevette

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Nevertheless I Live

I once taught a lesson on how those who’ve been reborn are zombies based off of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I use the KJV translation because that’s the version I have memorized. (I’d like to note here that this is one of very few scriptures I know by heart.)

Additionally, I watch The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. I even watch Talking Dead, which is an hour long show that comes on after both of those shows where Chris Hardwick and his guests discuss the episode that just aired. I’ve seen Zombieland more than once and enjoy it, and I’ve seen World War Z. I can appreciate a storyline involving zombies.

Yet I can’t say that I’m fascinated by zombies as a creature any more than other monsters. And I’ve watched Supernatural since I was 14, so I’ve had decent exposure to a range of monsters. However, I do understand the interest in zombies. As humans, we are either alive or dead, and we are in awe or terror of something that is both. They are barely alive, yet they feed off of what is fully alive. I get it.

Obviously, there are negatives to being a zombie, many of which depend on what your point of reference is, and those aspects can be used as spiritual metaphors. I reserve the right to switch gears with this series and discuss any and all of those, but for now, I want to run with this idea of being both dead and alive all at once.

Let’s revisit Galatians 2:20. Paul says that he’s crucified with Christ and that he is alive because Christ lives in him. We know this not to be literal, so what is Paul getting at?

Paul means that the person he was died when he accepted the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. When we accept the crucifixion as God’s greatest gift to us and accept Jesus as Savior, what happened on the cross becomes active and real in us, and so we die with Jesus and arise new and different.

We’re new and different because we are alive in Jesus, not ourselves. He’s running the show. He changes our hearts, minds, and outlooks. The way we live and walk in this world has changed because our internal wiring isn’t the same. Our life source isn’t the same.

In The Walking Dead universe, you can only kill a zombie by destroying its brain. This is because what reanimates it is very minimal brain activity right around the core and stem. There’s very little left of what once was. When we enter our new lives in Christ, there should be less of our old lives as well. Our reanimation doesn’t mean our personalities or tastes or hobbies change, but we have different motives and priorities, and we see our actions and consequences in a new light– the Light.

In season two, our group of survivors encounter another group that has kept alive their loved ones who’ve turned. They do so because they see them as the very same people they were when they were humans. In a universe where zombies are tangible and want to eat you, this is dangerous. In our spiritual lives in this universe, it’s simply inaccurate. We may look the same, sound the same, or act the same, but the fact remains that we aren’t the same as we once were.

I’m a zombie. Are you a zombie too?

Would you like to be one? Would you care for a new, eternal life source? How about a restart? A different way of existing? Christ offers all of this. (Bonus: He does not come with the cannibalism and disease of actual zombies!) He can turn you into something new and whole and bound for heaven. So what do you say?

By Carrie Prevette 

P.S.: Here’s the link to a song I like that accompanies this post perfectly, “Zombie” by Family Force 5.

Daniel the Faithful

I was led to believe that Sunday’s sermon was going to be on Jeremiah, and I was really looking forward to it because of all the sermon’s I’ve ever heard, I’ve never heard one on Jeremiah. Then Dave preached on Daniel, who I have no animosity towards but was really miffed at on Sunday simply because he isn’t Jeremiah.

As Dave introduced Daniel, I realized that Daniel was an uber human, which is not very relatable to me. And as I listened to how smart and wise Daniel was, how attractive he was, and how heroic he was, I found myself thinking very loudly, “Daniel, Daniel, Daniel!” in the style of Jan on The Brady Bunch.

Daniel may seem like a topdog, but his underdog story involves some very big cats.

In Daniel 6, we find that he is one of three presidents over leaders in the kingdom. Verse 3 (NRSV) says, “Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom.” It’s not surprising or hard to believe that the other presidents and leaders were unhappy about this and pretty much planned a political coup.

They tried to find some sort of fault with Daniel. “But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him” (v. 4).

There it was. They had their answer. Faithful. Faithful almost to a fault. I imagine a guy just leaning back in his chair and letting his hands fall on the table in exasperation as he says, “There’s nothing. We can’t touch him. What are we going to say? ‘Oh, he’s too reliable.’ ‘Oh, he’s too faithful.'” Then someone else says, “That’s it! What if we show the king that he’s more faithful to someone else than he is to him?” Verse 5 says, “The men said,’We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.'” They go to King Darius with their plan in hand and convince him to sign an ordinance saying that, for 30 days, anyone who prays to anyone or anything but him would be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel knew about this, but it didn’t stop him from kneeling in front of his windows that faced Jerusalem and praying three times a day. So he was found and brought before the king, who did not want to condemn Daniel to the den but eventually had to.

The king went to the lions’ den first thing the next day. “When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Daniel then said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’ Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (v. 20-23). The king had those who accused Daniel thrown into the den along with their families. All of their bones were broken in pieces before they reached the bottom.

The takeaway here is not to have friends in high places but to have the best possible friend in the highest place.

Daniel was so close to God that I can’t help but think of them as friends. Friends are faithful to each other. Daniel didn’t ditch God because of a new ordinance just as God had never left Daniel before and certainly didn’t leave him in the lions’ den. Daniel shouldn’t have walked out of that den, but God rewarded Daniel’s faithfulness by showing His own.

My sincerest hope is that you don’t feel like you’re in the lions’ den, but if you do, please remember that God is faithful even when we’re not. He’s working on you and for you, and if you put your faith in Him as Daniel did, you’ll make it out alive and well.

By Carrie Prevette

David the Patient

I don’t even dare to think of all the sermons, lessons, and words that have been spoken and written about David. David the shepherd. David the king. David, the giant slayer. David, the man after God’s own heart. David the underdog. There’s so much we can say about David because we know so much about him. As readers of the Bible, we have the privilege of seeing David at his best and worst and knowing that God loved him just as much at his lowest as He did at his highest. David’s life was filled with many mountains and valleys, and his relationship with God was remarkable.

David was merely a shepherd. He was a son of Jesse and had brothers who looked far more kingly than he did, but David was the one God told Samuel to anoint as future king. This did not inherently upset the reigning king, Saul. Saul loved David like a son until David defeated Goliath when Saul would not, and the people of the kingdom loved David and hated Saul. When we join them in 1 Samuel 24, we see that Saul wants David dead. He’s hunting him. Well, Saul and 3,000 of his men.

But David has men of his own, and when they’re surrounding the cave that Saul is in at that very moment using the bathroom, they tell David to go for it. God has promised David that He would deliver his enemy into his hands for him to do to his enemy as he sees fit.

David has Saul in the most vulnerable waking position, and no guard is in there to protect him. Now, I don’t know about you, but I never get this sort of golden opportunity, so had I been among David’s men, I would’ve told him the exact same thing.

So what does David do? He cuts a piece off of Saul’s robe instead of killing him. And get this: David feels bad about doing even that much.

This speaks not only to the patience of David – being willing to wait for the right time to become king and be avenged – but also to how wise David was – knowing the way in which God would fulfill His promise and how to handle it. When most people would’ve killed Saul for vengeance alone and then even moreso with an impending kingship with the support of the people, David showed Saul mercy.

David explains himself to his men and asks them not to attack Saul. Saul leaves the cave, and David yells after him. He bows before Saul, says that he doesn’t want to hurt him, despite what people say, because Saul is anointed by God. He shows Saul the bit of robe he cut off to show that he could’ve killed him but didn’t. David tells him that God will judge between the two of them and will avenge David, but it won’t be by David’s hand. All the while, David refers to him as “lord” and “father.”

And when David is finished, Saul calls him “son.” In 1 Samuel 24:17-20 (KJV), Saul says, “Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shown this day that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.” Then Saul asks that David not cut off his lineage, which David obliges, and they go their separate ways.

David could’ve killed Saul and rushed God’s promise that he would be king, but he knew it was better to wait on God’s timing for David’s reign. He knew it was better to wait for Saul’s death to occur as it would have than for him to end his life. This patience proved David’s trust in God and his love for Saul. And it made Saul realize how foolish he’d been and how incredible of a king David would be.

David was quite an underdog. He was on the run from a jealous king who couldn’t face his own faults and wanted David dead. And when the door was open to take matters into his own hands, he decided to wait on God. When he was telling Saul how he’d spared his life, David didn’t smirk and turn the bit of Saul’s robe over in his fingers, saying, “You really should thank me for not killing you.” He bowed and spoke humbly, only wanting Saul to know that he didn’t kill him because that wasn’t in any way his desire.

It’s hard not to take matters into our own hands, especially if you’re an underdog who feels like you’ve just been thrown a bone. But know that if God has promised, He’ll come through because He is faithful. Don’t give up. Don’t mess it up by taking it into your own hands. Be like David, and let God work.

By Carrie Prevette

Joseph the Dreamer

Let’s talk about underdogs. Not the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl. Not the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Not even Floyd Mayweather or Conor McGregor, each somehow an underdog depending on who you ask since Vegas’ odds heavily favored Mayweather but many people thought him too old and out of practice to win. We’re not even going to discuss the greatest underdog story of my generation– the Tune Squad from Space Jam. There’ll be no long post about how they prevailed with Michael Jordan’s leadership and Lola Bunny’s skills. We’ll not dwell on how the Monstars were ruthlessly beating them until they drank water at halftime when Bugs Bunny made them believe it was Jordan’s secret stuff or how Bill Murray came into the game in the final seconds and devised an effective defensive play despite him saying they’d have to look to Jordan for a plan because Bill “[doesn’t] play defense.” No, we’ll not focus on that game right now. Let’s talk about biblical underdogs over the next few weeks, and we’ll start by talking about Joseph.

I am thrilled that I get to talk about Joseph. He’s my favorite person in the Old Testament, and he has an incredible story. In my notes for the sermon that accompanies this post, you’ll find that I drew little hearts by Joseph’s name at the top of the page. Seriously, I have a lot of feelings about Joseph.

Jacob loved Rachel and worked for her family to earn her hand in marriage for seven years. The family tricked him into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, first. Jacob worked an additional seven years to marry Rachel. Jacob has kids by Leah and kids by Rachel, one of which was Joseph. Because of this and because he was the child Jacob fathered in his old age, Joseph was Jacob’s favorite, which Jacob didn’t even try to hide. He gave Joseph a coat of many colors and gave all his other sons nothing.

Joseph’s brothers were understandably not cool with Joseph’s preferencial treatment. Joseph had two dreams that these same brothers would bow to him, and they were upset to the point that they talked about killing him and throwing him in a pit. They decided that was a little rough, so they just threw him in a pit until they eventually sold him into slavery.

A man by the name of Potiphar bought Joseph. Joseph eventually made Potiphar and his estate so prosperous that he was appointed over everything so that all Potiphar had to really think about is what he ate. One day, Potiphar’s wife tried to take Joseph to bed with her. Joseph declined, but Mrs. Potiphar kept pushing until one day when Joseph ran out of the house to escape her and, in doing so, left his coat behind. The wife told the other servants and her husband that it was Joseph who pursued her. Potiphar believed her and had Joseph sent to prison.

In prison, which Joseph pretty much ran despite being an inmate, Joseph interpreted the dreams of a man who worked for Pharaoh. So when Pharaoh had a dream that needed interpreting, Joseph was the man. He told Pharaoh that his dream meant there was going to be seven years of abundance and prosperity followed by seven years of famine and advised that they should store the excess. So Pharaoh put Joseph over that, and Joseph became the second most powerful man in the land. And when the famine came, Joseph’s brothers came asking for food, which was the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams.

I really hope you’ll take the time to read Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-47 because it’s as colorful and exciting in its entirety as Joseph’s coat.

The reasons I love Joseph so much play a hand in why he’s considered an underdog. Joseph found himself in terrible circumstances, and those circumstances were usually through no fault of his own. Joseph could’ve easily gotten discouraged, but he didn’t let it all get to him. He held on to God’s promise for him and never lost his faith. He trusted God and prospered wherever he was at. Joseph beat impossible odds and never once gave a hint of doubt.

It took years for Joseph’s promise to come true, but he held on to it. We don’t read in any place where he was mad at God or questioned God. Even at his lowest, Joseph remained confident and hopeful.

I don’t know what point you’re at or what your lowest point looks like. I don’t know what people have said to you or how they’ve treated you. And I have no clue what your comeback will look like, but I do know that if you hang on, if you hold on to God’s promises and have faith, you’ll rise to your highest points. But you won’t see those promises fulfilled if you give up.

Look at Joseph as an example. Keep your eyes on God and trust in Him. Don’t cling to the words of people who aim to discourage you. Believe God, who works for your good. As the poem “LISTEN TO THE MUSTN’TS” by Shel Sileverstein says:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS,

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me–

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be

By Carrie Prevette

Abiding in the Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NRSV).

When Alan started reading this scripture on the Sunday he announced our name change, I thought he was going to say that we were becoming Abide Church (which I personally like better than Vine Church, but oh well).

There’s a lot of abiding going on here, and there are layers to the word “abide” that I think help us go deeper with how we, the branches, connect to Jesus, the vine, and God, the vinegrower. I’m going to discuss two of the definitions of “abide” and how they play into the branch/vine/grower relationships.

The first definition of abide, and the most obvious one, is: to continue in a place, to endure without yielding. This sounds really easy. We say we live in Jesus and He in us, and it sounds pleasant. A beautiful, bountiful grape vine being kissed by the sun.

Conditions aren’t always ideal, though. There are droughts and storms. We might wither or get blown away. Branches could detach from the vine. Much like when cold bitterness sets into our hearts and turns us from God or when we doubt God in the conditions we find ourselves in and seek nourishment elsewhere.

It’s not always easy to stay connected to the vine, to endure spiritual hardships without wavering, which is why Jesus emphasizes the benefits of it in John 15. We don’t have to worry about the vine clinging to the branches. God is faithful and loves us; He won’t let go of us. The vine is much stronger than the flimsy, brittle branches. Our hearts are the ones that are prone to love and leave. Our minds are the ones that forget. So Jesus reminds us of the fruit– the luscious, tastey fruit– that comes from us abiding in Him, of life and fruit abundant.

The second definition is: to accept without objection. This speaks to the pruning. We sprout in certain areas when and where we shouldn’t. Not that we necessarily mean to; more often than not, we don’t even realize that growth has happened or is bad until God comes to prune it.

And our first reaction is to object.

“I can quit anytime, so it’s not a problem,” or “I don’t see why this is an issue,” or “Wait, God. Let’s talk about this.”

It’s difficult for us branches to abide whatever the vinegrower wants. We want to stretch and grow wild, filling in the spaces we think we’re meant to take up. If we could only see past the pain of the pruning and trust the vinegrower, we’d find out that we can stretch even farther and take on a bigger, more productive shape through His guidance. We would find that we have more space to bear our fruits.

I love a good image, and I appreciate a good metaphor, and Jesus gives us both of those in John 15:1-5. He teaches us to be steadfast and to endure, to trust in God. There may be pain in the pruning, and we may struggle to stay connected to the vine, but if we abide in Him and He in us, our fruits will grow plentifully and strong.

By Carrie Prevette

What’s in a Name

I’ve talked before of why I love Abstract Church, but I’ve never discussed why I love the name.

It may surprise you, and I hope it does, if I’m being honest, that my biggest insecurity is my intelligence. I keep company that is usually smarter than me. When I was in college, if I felt like I was the dumbest person in the class, I wouldn’t answer questions or speak up. Even when a professor encouraged me to talk more, I wouldn’t because I didn’t want people to think I was as stupid as I thought I was. When I was a kid, I worried that I wasn’t going to be smart enough when I got older to be funny in a clever way.

I’m an art enthusiast. I took seven art classes in high school. I paint. I have a poster of a Picasso painting on the door to my bedroom. I have a shirt that is an Alice in Wonderland version of Starry Night and another shirt that depicts smiley faces in the styles of various artists.

And as I’m often told by my brother, and I’m sure several other people would agree, I’m weird. It’s something I embrace and wear as a badge of honor.

These three elements combined are why I love the name Abstract Church. It was different and artsy, and I knew exactly what it meant without having to ask. Really, I was shocked to find out how many people didn’t get what our name was about given how much of scripture tells us we’re called to be different from the world, set apart, peculiar. I’ve always felt really cool saying that I attend Abstract Church.

Pastor Alan announced Sunday that when our church moves to its new location, we will be changing our name to Vine Church.

In complete transparency, I’ll admit that I don’t really care for the new name. I do like the scripture the name comes from, which is where Jesus tells the disciples (and us) that He is the vine and His followers are the branches that bear fruit through Him in John 15. The ironic thing is that I feel a disconnect with this new name. I get the scripture reference (although I’m not sure newcomers to the faith will), but the name by itself does not resonate with me, doesn’t make me feel at home. And I want it to, which is why I prayed during the final prayer on Sunday that God would open up my heart to this.

The beautiful thing in all of this is that God’s plan doesn’t need my approval, and I’m very glad for that. God’s plans for this church are far grander than I could imagine, and changing the name of the church is a step in that plan. I may not understand why it has to be this way, and I may not like it at this moment, but that doesn’t deter from how much I believe in God and this church and His plan for this church.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother saying all of this, but I wanted to use this as an example of trusting in God’s plan even if one doesn’t find the plan appealing at first. I also needed to post something here for our readers who don’t attend Abstract because, at some point, the blog will transition with the rest of the church to Vine Church. I don’t want anyone to be confused about the name change when the blog officially joins the transition.

Thank you for your continued support of this blog and this church. We look forward to the plans that God has for us.

By Carrie Prevette

The Tenth Commandment

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, NLT).

This is the tenth and final commandment, and it’s difficult to keep. The old adage goes, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and I think the spirit of that is true. The issue is really a matter of who rules the heart.

Let’s take the issue of a man desiring his neighbor’s wife. We’ll call this guy George. His neighbor will be Connor, and Mrs. Neighbor will be referred to as Marla.

George is at a point where he’s ready to settle down. He wants to find a woman he truly loves and marry her, maybe have a couple of kids with her. George has been dating, but he hasn’t found the woman he can see himself developing laugh lines with and sitting in rocking chairs with in their sunset years.

Truth be told, he really wants to be married to Marla. She’s friendly, always says hello to him when she sees him and laughs at his corny jokes. She’s easygoing. She’s quirky; she likes sci-fi movies and has a cactus garden. She likes to bake, especially pies. She baked a lemon pie for George when his dog died. If George was married to Marla, he thinks, he’d shower her with attention and kisses and wouldn’t care who noticed.

And Connor? George doesn’t feel very strongly about him. He seems like a recovering snob, like he’s trying not to be the jerk he probably was as a younger man. He doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he drinks red wine, which he told George the only time he’d ever seen Connor drink, at a Christmas party a few years ago. And he’s never really seen Connor be overly affectionate towards Marla except for a kiss or two on the cheek and an arm wrapped around her every now and then.

What George doesn’t know is that Marla is uncomfortable with PDA, so Connor isn’t overly affectionate because she doesn’t like it. Marla may bake, but Connor cooks. He makes her favorite meal when she has a rough day at work. He was a little bit of a jerk growing up, but it’s because he was socially awkward and, for many years, didn’t have close friends. Marla helps him with that. And Marla may be polite to George and think his jokes are funny, but she doesn’t really like him because she thinks he’s conceited due to the fact that whenever they do chat, he only talks about himself.

George is idolizing marriage, especially marriage with Marla. George wants what Connor has with her, but George isn’t Connor. His relationship with Marla wouldn’t be the same. God brought Connor and Marla together because they love each other and work well together. The same could not be said for her and George.

Or let’s say George and Connor are neighbors and both are single, but George has a really nice car as a result of his really nice job. Connor sees the level of respect and adoration people look at George with, and he’s jealous. He wants that sort of approval from others. Then Connor is only serving himself, and his heart belongs to the god of appearances.

Or maybe one wants the other’s house or style or cheerful disposition or functioning relationship with his parents. We all want many things others have that we don’t.

We want because we aren’t content with what God has given us.

God gives to each of us as He sees fit. We’re different people with different relationships with God and different problems. God provides for all of His children, but because of our personalities and vices, that provision doesn’t look the same to everyone.

We shouldn’t covet what God has given our neighbor because God’s gifts for each person are tailored to each individual, and God wants that person to have what is best for that person, not what’s best for his or her neighbor. Making peace with that comes from knowing God, trusting God, and being thankful for what God has provided for you. Just as God has given to your neighbor, He has given to you your own unique gifts of provision. That is not only worth contentment, it’s worth celebrating.

By Carrie Prevette

The Eighth and Ninth Commandments

“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” Shakespeare wrote these words to come from the mouth of Hamlet sometime between 1599 and 1601. While Hamlet meant it as a personal dig towards someone else, it was also a generally true statement (and an ironic one coming from Hamlet) that is just as true around 417 years later.

I’ve lumped the eighth and ninth commandments together not because I’m lazy but because they can be traced back to the same theme and virtue: honesty.

Exodus 20:15-16 contains these two commandments, and it reads, “You must not steal. You must not testify falsely against your neighbor” (NLT).

Stealing involves honesty in the obvious sense that when we steal, we do not obtain the object by honest means. We take it even though it was not given to us and we did not earn it or buy it.

In a much more subtle way, stealing is a product of dishonesty because it means we are not being honest with ourselves or with others. It can stem from an insecurity we don’t (or don’t want to) deal with, like jealousy or dissatisfaction. In not being honest about it and dealing with it, even on our own, we decide we’ll just take what we want or don’t have. We think it’ll take care of our problem, but stealing isn’t a true remedy for the issue.

Or we steal just because we don’t want other people to have something. This comes from bitterness or anger. And I believe that in this sense, we steal things that aren’t tangible. We steal hope, joy, peace because we don’t have them, and we don’t want others to have them either. Misery does love company, so much so that it’ll create more of it if it has to.

Testifying falsely, or lying, is probably the purest form of dishonesty because it means we know the truth and are purposefully disregarding it. And while people should not value the opinions other people hold of them, lying about someone creates a false persona of that person that can directly affect his or her life.

I work at a bank. I used to work at a clothing distribution center during the summers between spring and fall semesters in college, and this was the only work history I had on my resume when I applied for the job at the bank. Let’s say my co-workers had talked junk about me and circulated rumors, essentially creating and spreading lies. Let’s say they did it so much that my previous boss heard this stuff and believed it. Now, suppose whoever was in charge of hiring someone to fill the position at the bank called my previous boss and asked about me and all he or she heard is that I’m a greedy cheat who isn’t very nice. What kind of recommendation does the former boss give? Do I get the job where I have to be friendly to everyone and be honest?

What we say about other people can have real implications, some serious and some not. Regardless of the consequences, we aren’t called to tear people down or hurt them. We are called to love them, and in doing so, lift them up.

Honesty and truth are very important to God, so much so that Jesus identifies Himself as the truth (John 14:6). Being honest affects us because it’s the difference between dealing with our issues and making them worse. It affects others in that it can afford them opportunites and encouragement or it can harm them. And it can affect our relationship with God because He deeply values truth and authenticity (i.e., John 4:24), and He knows the truth even if we aren’t comfortable with telling it. These two commandments go back to honesty and truth because those qualities make our lives and the lives of those we interact with better.

By Carrie Prevette

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