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

The Sixth and Seventh Commandments

“You must not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NLT).

Pretty straightforward. Even if I wanted to add to it, I couldn’t.

I’ll explain in case anyone reading this is on the fense about becoming an axe murderer or something of the sort. The greatest gift God gives us other than salvation to save our souls is life itself. The opportunity to experience God and His love, to know people and walk through life with them, to watch sunsets and listen to your favorite song and drink hot chocolate when it’s cold outside, to to see and interact with the rest of God’s creation. Sure, life’s not always good, but it’s a gift even when it doesn’t feel like it. Who are we to decide others aren’t worthy of it when God’s the one who gave it?

If you ask Jesus, though, there’s more to it than that. He says in Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT), “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

In saying this, Jesus identifies the emotions and attitudes that can lead down a road that may result in murder. So maybe it’s not as simple as not taking someone’s life. Maybe it’s also about not taking someone’s enjoyment out of life.

I’ve never slit anyone’s throat, but I’ll cut someone down with such ease that it’s scary. I’ve never suffocated anyone, but I’ve sucked the wind out of many sails. I’d never dream of killing anyone, but I know how to kill a mood, a moment, someone’s confidence, someone’s hope.

We should help the impoverished and oppressed because they are closer to losing their lives than we are, and we are called not only to not harm people but to help them. In another sense, we should do this because these people have a worse quality of life. If we have received life more abundant, we are to pass that along instead of promoting death.

“You must not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, NLT).

Also seemingly simple: Don’t sleep with someone you aren’t married to. It creates pain, distrust, bitterness, and other things that harden hearts and create gaps between each other and between people and God.

Again, Jesus expands upon this and identifies the root of adultery. Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT) reads, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I took a class in college called Philosophy of Love and Sex, and I loved that class (and it wasn’t just because I had/still have a crush on the professor). One thing we discussed was how sexual media and entertainment are. When asked how we felt the first time we saw a pornographic image, we had to think back, and for many of us, it was an advertisement of some sort. Pornographic images aren’t always overtly so and aren’t contained just to actual pornography. We are exposed to it all the time in everyday life.

Lust is the difference between seeing a Hardee’s commercial and committing adultery. It’s also the difference between thinking that one actor from your favorite show is cute and sinning in your heart. A video of someone’s mouth or finding someone other than your spouse attractive are not in and of themselves sinful. The lust that we have for them, which comes from what we lack or are searching for, is sinful.

Lust is what causes people to physically commit adultery. No one randomly sleeps with someone they aren’t married to. We either crave intimacy or want someone else’s body or prefer the way someone treats us or want revenge. We are lusting after something or another when we commit adultery.

What do murder and adultery have to do with each other apart from the fact that both are sins? Jesus answers that for us in Matthew 15:19-20 (NLT) when He says, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you…”

The problem with murder and adultery (as well as a few other sins) is the heart. A heart that wants any of this is not a heart that is pursuing God and His purpose for that individual’s life. And these big sins that come from the heart are a result of smaller, more common emotions that go unchecked and grow. That’s why Jesus said these sins are so much easier to commit than we think. But if we keep our hearts set on God, these sins will not be able to take root.

By Carrie Prevette

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