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

Advertisements

The Fifth Commandment

I’m well aware that I won the parental lottery. If you’ve ever met my mom, you know that she’s the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. She’d give you the world if she could. Everything I know of kindness, I’ve learned from her. My dad was the one who disciplined me when I misbehaved, and in this regard, I’d say that he was more stern than strict as he was unwavering but not unfair. He taught me life lessons. All of that said, he wasn’t a particularly serious man because I inherited my sense of humor from him.

My parents were (and are) supportive of me. They encouraged me to be smart, to be myself, and to do what made me happy. They always worked hard to provide for their children. They raised their daughters and their son the same way, showing preference for no one and no gender. There has never been a time that I doubted that they loved me. And when my dad died, I was upset, but I was also very grateful for having such an incredible dad.

Every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I think of those who don’t have such excellent parents. To see everyone else celebrating theirs must be difficult. It wasn’t hard for me to honor my parents, which isn’t to say that I always did. But I can see how the fifth commandment would be difficult for those whose parents weren’t so great.

God commands us in Exodus 20:12 (NLT), “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

This is the first commandment God gives us that regards how we treat other people and how we interact with them. This makes sense since our parents are the first people we know. They provide for us. They shape us. They train us for and teach us about the world. It makes sense that we would honor them because they’re the reason we’re alive and one of the main reasons why we are how we are. This also expands out to how we interact with other people and how we treat God.

My mom is so good at sending me on a guilt trip that she once did it without actually doing it. She scolded me in a dream I once had. I’d been pretty rude to my sister for a couple of weeks. We’d been getting on each other’s nerves and bickering. In my dream, my mom called me out on it, saying I’d just been so mean to my sister lately. I felt so guilty when I woke up that I started being nicer to her that very day.

My dad told me to look at things from other people’s perspectives. I (mostly) remember waking up in the middle of the night once when I was quite little and asking my dad if I could sleep in the bed with him and my mom. I’ve been told that there was more than one occasion when my brother and I both did this, and although I don’t remember that part, it must’ve happened that night because I vividly remember talking to my dad about my brother when we got up. In the living room, which was lit only by the television screen, my dad told me to think about what it must’ve been like for my brother, how he must’ve woke up in the middle of the night and found my bed empty (we’ve been roommates since the day I was born), and how scared he must have been. So (I’m assuming) he made the same pilgrimage to my parents’ room that I’d made earlier that night, and my dad made me consider why that was.

From listening to my parents and obeying them in both of these instances and many others, it was engrained into me to be nice to others and to try to understand why they’re doing certain things or behaving certain ways. Honoring them taught me how to honor others.

And because I know how to honor my earthly parents, I also know how to honor my Heavenly Father.

I know from listening to my parents how to honor them. In college, I learned that they like to hear from me if I’m not physically with them. I called home about once a week and tried to come home once a month. When I was a child, I learned they wanted honesty and truth. I learned how to make them feel loved, what they expected of me, and how much it hurt them when I disappointed them.

My relationship with God is the same way. I read the Bible and see what He wants from and for all of His children, and through prayer and guidance, I can learn what His tailored desires for me and expectations of me are. I know to express my love to Him through true worship, obedience, and sacrifice. And the biggest way to honor Him, which is actually the limb that all of the afore mentioned branches extend from, is to spend time with Him.

We look at this verse as a commandment for children, but the truth is that’s only where it starts. As long as we have a mother and/or father, we are to honor them. By doing that, we also honor our Heavenly Father, who is most worthy of it. If we’ve been made new in Christ, that should be our main goal.
By Carrie Prevette

The Third Commandment

I remember Duke’s exit from the NCAA Tournament this past March relatively well. Mostly, I remember my anger towards South Carolina and the game in general. I remember terrible calls and time ticking off the clock at what felt like an alarming rate. I also remember thinking that those guys, some of whom I knew would be gone to the pros next season, deserved a longer song at the Big Dance and a better ending than what they got.

Here’s what I remember most: In the final moments of the game, there was a foul involving Luke Kennard. Despite the fact that Luke was the one who somehow ended up on the ground, the officials called a foul on him. If my memory serves me well, this call caused him to foul out of the game. They showed the replay of it a few times, and when the call was made, you could read Luke’s lips as clearly as if you’d been standing right beside of him. In a moment when many would’ve excused a profanity or two and when God’s name could’ve been said in vain without most people giving it a second thought, Luke exclaimed, “What in the world?!”

Duke fans present at my house were either stunned by the call to the point of silence or were indignant. My brother, who’s a UNC fan, simply read Luke’s lips aloud and said, “What an innocent man.”

Luke is a devout follower of Christ and is very open about his faith. Whether by habit or from conscious effort, Luke did not disappoint in the heat of the moment on college basketball’s biggest stage. When just about anyone watching the game wouldn’t have thrown stones had he broken it, Luke kept the third commandment.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7, ESV).

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20:7, NLT).

Of all the commandments, I looked forward to discussing this one the least. It’s the one I’m most conscious of frequently breaking. Idols can sort of sneak up on you or blind you, but it’s much more difficult to be unaware of what you’re saying.

As Alan said Sunday, the Hebrew word for “vain” means “to make empty.” I also like the NLT version of this verse because I think the word “misuse” fits well here too. To throw around God’s name so casually, it becomes meaningless. If we profess to love, worship, and serve God, it also becomes misused.

The third commandment doesn’t exist because God’s a stickler for diction nor is it born out of our concept of conceit or vanity. It was given because taking God’s name in vain demonstrates that God doesn’t mean that much to us after all, and if we claim otherwise, that makes us hypocrites.

That’s a hard thing to hear, isn’t it?

The world doesn’t have a reverence for God and His name, but we should if we call Him Lord. There should be a difference in us that manifests itself in many ways in our lives, including our speech.

James writes, “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so” (James 3:7-10, NRSV).

James understood the hypocrisy of the tongue extremely well. He addresses the issue of our words in a much broader sense than God does in Exodus, but the point is the same: It isn’t right that we say one thing and turn around only to demonstrate another with the very same mouth.

Paul also writes about the difference that should be evident in us and how that should be reflected in our words. In Ephesians 4:21-24, 29-30 (NLT), Paul writes, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God– truly righteous and holy… Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

Taking God’s name in vain and misusing it hurts God because it shows we don’t care, which also causes sorrow to Him and the Holy Spirit, who’s the mediator in all of this.

Paul identifies bad language as part of our sinful nature and part of our old life, who we were before we came to believe in God. Not that God’s name is bad or foul but that to use it in an everyday way or to use it in regards to anything that isn’t good and holy is a bad thing directly connected to our language. So if we are new creatures living new lives in Christ, this sort of language shouldn’t be in our mouths.

All of this scripture portrays the power of our words. James calls out the difficulty with our tongues. Paul says any language that isn’t good and encouraging is of our sinful ways. And God tells us all the way back in Exodus that misusing His name will not go unpunished, which draws attention to how serious this is. This is because what we say can hurt others, hurt God, and hurt ourselves. God doesn’t want to be hurt, and He doesn’t want us to hurt anyone. To avoid this, we need to recognize the power of our language and be conscious of what we say.

By Carrie Prevette

The Fourth Commandment

I love not having anything to do on Sundays. Resting on the Sabbath is no problem for me. I ordinarily just go to church, eat, sleep, and watch T.V. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly lazy person, so this isn’t hard for me.

If you’re an active person, resting on Sunday may not come as easily to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. Because ultimately, the whole point is that what you do on your Sabbath isn’t labor.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT).

So no labor. But what about those who have to work on Sundays?

The most important part of the Sabbath is not the day of the week that we observe it. The seventh day is important because that was the day God rested after creating everything and because the number seven is symbolic of completion and wholeness (i.e., the seventh day of the week is the last day of the week, signaling its completion). If we have the option to observe the Sabbath on Sunday, we should because it is the seventh day. Life doesn’t always fall neatly into seven-day increments, though. The most important part of the Sabbath, whenever one can observe it, is that it is a day dedicated to God. This follows with the theme of the commands that precede it.

We do not get gold stars for not working on Sundays nor do we get gold stars for simply going to church. If the Sabbath is to be dedicated to God then we have to engage with God and the conversation about Him.

When the worship band plays, don’t just think about whether or not you like the songs. Think about what the lyrics are saying, and if a song resonates with you, express that to God, whether it’s by singing or dancing or raising your hands or meditating quietly. There’s no one way to worship, but we do need to worship.

When they’re taking up tithes and you are able to give, give. Whether you view it as a form of worship or sacrifice, do it for God by giving to God.

When someone prays aloud, don’t just stand there and listen to them. Talk to God by praying.

During the sermon, interact with the message. Personally, I take notes, and if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I’d ever look back at most of them. I write down the points the speaker is making, but I also write down scripture that fits the message that wasn’t used and my own perspective on the scripture and points being made if they differ from the speaker’s.

An example of this is my post on the woman at the well. The way I see her and her story is different from how Alan views it all. We read the same scripture, but our life experiences (specifically, his as a man and mine as a woman) create different lenses through which we see and analyze the text. Thinking about these different perspectives and writing about my own was a way for me to interact with the message and the scripture.

This interaction with God and His word is what He wants from us and, I believe, what He ultimately commands us in Exodus 20. Not time when we’re with Him and ignoring Him, but time when we engage with Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the advice I’ve given here. (I believe it’s Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who says, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”) I don’t always do or want to do these things, but if I want to observe the Sabbath and dedicate my time to God, I need to focus on Him, be mindful of Him, and interact with Him.

This is the importance of the Sabbath, whenever that may be for you if not on Sundays: dedicate your time to God. Not that we always want to or that we always find it easy but that God is always deserving of our best efforts and our affections.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- For more on resting and spending time with God, check out this post of mine from quite a while back. I hope you find it useful.

The Second Commandment

If you’re a longtime follower of this blog, you know I address idolatry quite a bit. If you’re new, you don’t have to take my word for it; you can look through the Idolatry tag and see for yourself. I’ll try to be succinct here not because the material is unimportant but because I don’t really want to repeat myself to the point that you, dear reader, are bored with me.

So let’s talk about idols. Not tall statues cast in metal that are believed to be inhabited by a god. Not something we sacrifice for and offer to because we consciously think it’ll serve us better than God does. No, let’s talk about modern idolatry.

I’ll go first, in honesty and full disclosure. I spent almost two hours watching the NBA Awards on Monday night and have looked up prices on Finals gear and for jerseys and shirts of two different NBA players earlier this week. I have spent no time reading my Bible. When I was bored Tuesday night, I thought about watching an episode of The Joy of Painting or starting a painting of my own, but it never occurred to me to spend time in prayer. And just the other day, I was lamenting that there isn’t a Bruno Mars greatest hits album I can buy instead of having to hunt down all of the individual songs I like, yet I don’t listen to worship music outside of church when I’m picking the tunes.

I know it’s not exactly the same as physically bowing down before something, but I am mentally because they’re people and things that occupy my mind to the point that God is crammed in the back and wedged in a corner somewhere. I’m not sacrificing food or drink, but I’m sacrificing my time and money, both of which are limited for me. I’d never claim any of these idols to be what I worship, but my actions prove it even if my mouth won’t speak it.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generation of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands” (Exodus 20:4-6, NLT).

God tells us not to make idols because that’s exactly what we do. The commandments were spoken at a time when people made statues that were then turned into idols through rituals. The statues themselves weren’t bad, but people made them into a spiritual problem. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with liking a certain sports team or band or with loving your spouse or with earning a lot of money. There is a problem with loving these things and people more than we love God, with focusing on them and pursuing them to the point that we worship them and reject God.

I think we romanticize jealousy. And I get it. If someone is jealous, they have to at least care, if not love. There are many other ways to demonstrate that care or that love, but jealousy is a definite way to get the message across. We all want to be cared for and to be loved, so many times we interpret jealousy as a positive thing. We forget about the anger or hurt that fuels it. We don’t think of how the one who’s jealous feels neglected. We don’t consider the consequences that come with jealousy.

When God says He’s jealous, He means the good and the bad aspects of it. We sing about Him being jealous for us with smiles on our faces, but there are no odes to the consequences of God’s jealousy. It’s very intense and almost scary, and it definitely makes me feel even more justified in not wanting to have kids lest they have to feel the weight of my sins.

This is a perfect picture of God: so filled with love for us (us!) that He’s jealous when He’s not on the receiving end of our affection. He asks us not to make idols because it hurts Him when we do. But we aren’t always aware of what we’re doing, and perhaps that’s the first step in the remedy – mindful worship, being aware we’re worshipping God and putting him first. Our hearts were made to love on thing the most, and if that’s God, everything else with fall into its rightful place.

By Carrie Prevette

The First Commandment

When Alan started talking about toasters on Sunday, I thought he was going to talk about the toaster– the Golden State Warriors toaster.

Back in March, a fan brought a toaster with the Warriors’ logo on it to shooting guard Klay Thompson for him to sign. Although a couple of other players signed the toaster as well, all that really matters is that Thompson signed it because his reaction to being asked to sign a toaster was priceless, as seen below.



Signing a toaster is weird and funny, right? But since signing the toaster, Thompson and the Warriors have an overall record of 30-something and 2 and a perfect record at home, and this run includes the 2017 NBA championship. The toaster has become a legend, and since it’s sort of taken on a life of its own, Thompson invited the toaster guy to the Warriors’ championship parade, and yes, he brought the toaster.

So as Alan spoke of his own normal, non-mystical toaster, he said that he didn’t always need it, that he used it and then put it away. But the Warriors toaster has been at work, in a sense, for about three months now, so some toasters are more important than others.

Alan did have an excellent point, though, as far as every other toaster in the world is concerned. We use the toaster when we need it and put it aside until we need it again. And that’s often how we treat God.

“Then God gave the people all these instructions: I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other God but me” (Exodus 20:1-3, NLT).

This commandment seems simple enough. God is the one our hearts should turn to and who should receive our praise.

Then we move past the surface of this commandment. Do we look to God in our times of trouble? More importantly, do we look to Him when everything is fine? Do we seek Him for answers? Do we praise Him even when we think He hasn’t done anything for us lately? Is He always on our minds? Is He the reason for our pursuits because He is our ultimate pursuit?

Our biggest struggles with the first commandment are with consistency and exclusivity, and those two connect in a big way.

God is consistent. He is reliable and constant. He hasn’t lost any capabilities. He hasn’t changed who He is. He’s the exact same as He was when He spoke the commandments. He is steadfast.

I am not. I may seek His counsel on one issue in my life and not consult Him on a different one. I’ll believe Him to work miracles one day and take matters into my own hands the next. I’m not as faithful as God is, and I take comfort in knowing He loves me anyway, but the reality is that my heart wanders.

When it wanders, it wanders into the arms of another god, even if it doesn’t mean to. The other god wines and dines me, whispers sweet nothings in my ear. It looks longingly into my eyes as it brushes a strand of hair behind my ears. It gives me presents and compliments me while I’m ignoring God, who’s trying His hardest to reach me and show His affection for me. The other god leads me to believe that it’ll always be there for me and makes me forget that God always has been.

What God knows and what I find out is that something isn’t right. Conversations with the other god are dull as it only sometimes listens and never speaks to me. It attempts to show it cares but in shallow ways. It offers feeble solutions to my problems and doesn’t try very hard to comfort and console me when something’s wrong.

God always accepts me back when I wise up and return to Him.

God gave us this commandment because He loves us and wants a relationship with each of us. God created humans because He wanted companions. Not that He needed us but that He wanted us. He likes us and likes having personal relationships with us. And because our hearts are prone to wandering and loving one more than another, this works only when we have no other gods.

God also gave this commandment so we could avoid getting hurt. No other god can love us or do for us like God can, and it’s only after we try loving them the way we should love God that we learn this. Our hearts wander, but they hurt until we come home.

Idolatry is a hard habit to break and we can be sure that we’ll never be as faithful to God as He is to us. The good news is that He loves us and wants us anyway. Were salvation based solely on our abilities to keep this commandment, everyone’s afterlife would look grim. So I’m thankful that God looks at me, at all of His children, with love despite our faults, and perhaps He says about us what Atticus says about Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, “… she knows I know she tries. That’s what makes the difference.”

By Carrie Prevette

Persecution and Growth

While the opening chapters of Acts empower and equip the apostles and other believers, the following chapters demonstrate why that was necessary.

The first recognizable theme of chapters 5-8 is suffering. At every turn, it seems, the apostles are told to stop preaching the Gospel, to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. These weren’t idle irritations as they were arrested and stood before councils. They were flogged, which served as a consolation for the elders and authorities who wanted to kill them.

The authorities’ irritation at the apostles was due to how much they disliked Jesus, but their persecution was justified under Roman rule not because of their beliefs but because they didn’t want an uprising from the believers.

Because despite the public pursuit and persecution of the apostles, the Church was growing rapidly.

This is the context in which we are introduced to Stephen. There is an ongoing paradox here of persecution and growth, and Stephen proves to be the highest point of tension within that paradox.

Stephen was wonderful. He was full of grace and power. He was eager to do for God. He had charisma and his face was like an angel’s.

Not everyone was smitten with Stephen, though. Some people plotted against him and said he was speaking blasphemy. Stephen faced a council, and his case was damaged by false witnesses. They asked Stephen what he had to say for himself, and he went into what can be considered both a defense of the faith and a history of it. He ends by calling the council “stiff-necked” and “uncircumcised in hearts and ears,” and he said they “received the law as ordained by angels, and yet [they had] not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53, NRSV).

You would think that Stephen would take this time to make himself a more sympathetic, non-threatening character. Instead, Stephen uses this time to insult the people who are already wanting loud-mouth Christ-followers dead. Stephen believed what he said to be true, and we have no proof in scripture that the last minutes of his life were plagued with regret for what he said. The fact remains, though, that this did lead to the end of Stephen’s life because they stoned him.

While Stephen was being stoned to death, an ambitious and devoted man called Saul stood by monitoring the situation as everyone’s coats laid at his feet. Saul approved of them killing Stephen.

Then the floodgates opened.

The first three verses of Acts 8 are chaotic and disheartening. The persecution spread from the apostles to all believers, and people were dragged out of their homes to be thrown in prison.

But the story doesn’t stop there.

The rest of Acts 8 shows the growth and preserverance of the Church despite the danger of proclaiming the faith. Believers preached everywhere they went. Word of mouth was incredible. People came to listen and believe in groups. And believers were eager enough to share that they would go out of their way to witness to even one person, as Philip did when he left thriving Samaria to meet who turned out to be the treasurer of Ethiopia.

The point of all this summarizing and what we learn from this chunk of scripture is that God is always at work. Even in our suffering. Even when the world around us is crumbling and makes no sense. When we’re scattered. When we’re hurting. God is always working for our good.

It doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t make our issues or troubles go away. It doesn’t even increase our understanding. But I refuse to believe that I’m the only one comforted by this.

The God who made you is pulling for you. He loves you. He believes in you. And He’s doing everything He can for you. All we have to do is ask and believe. I know that’s not always easy, but God will never leave us disappointed if we keep our eyes on Him.

The early Church was not perfect. It experienced new ground, new people, and a new era, and they had to learn how to navigate all that. As relentless as the persecution was, had the Church not been focused on God and the message of Jesus, they would have been easily snuffed out. But because they focused on God, they survived and prospered.

If you’re in a difficult season or if you’re spiritually weak or frustrated or confused, I hope you can find the same hope that I find in Acts 8. The Church’s story wasn’t over, and neither is yours.

By Carrie Prevette

Annoyance and Boldness

When Alan asked the congregation on Sunday if we (as individuals) were ever annoying, I leaned over to my brother and whispered, “Literally every day of my life.”

Sometimes I actually try to annoy people, mostly my brother because that’s just how we are, but I often feel like I’m being annoying even if I’m not doing anything. Which is why I’m very glad that I can’t be arrested for being annoying like Peter and John pretty much were in Acts 4.

Acts 4:1-3 (NLT) reads, “While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning.”

Imagine: a night in the slammer just because someone didn’t like what you were saying.

This scripture reminds us of two things. First, the apostles may have started the Church, but they practiced Judaism. The only difference between them and conventional Jews was that they believed the Messiah had already come. Jewish believers, especially those higher up or who had prestige in the faith, probably thought the apostles were pretty strange. Second, it reminds us that the opposition that Jesus faced did not die with Him. He said this would happen in scriptures such as John 15:18 and 16:33. Religious sects and individuals still very much disliked Jesus and what He said and did and, by extension, disliked His followers as well.

“But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand” (Acts 4:4, NRSV).

Other translations say it was five thousand men, which wouldn’t include the number of women and children. Regardless, we know at least five thousand people believed because of Peter and John. As annoying as religious leaders found them, others were touched and changed by the message they spoke.

The next day, Peter and John were standing in front of leaders and elders and pretty much everyone. When questioned about how they were doing what they were doing, they responded by proclaiming the power of Jesus.

Peter had a history of hiding and denying, and it would have been easy to back down in this situation. Easy, but devasting. He shows a lot of growth here because he holds onto his boldness and stands his ground. The consequences be what they may, Peter wasn’t going to say anything but the truth.

What you say and do, how you think and feel won’t please everyone, and that’s okay. Some people won’t like you and some will find you annoying. But someone can reach the people you can’t, and you can reach the people I can’t. All we need is to embrace who we are in Christ and take hold of the boldness He offers us. Not everyone will think you’re annoying. Many will be thankful for the impact you make.

By Carrie Prevette

Giving and Receiving

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8, NRSV).

There’s a lot to unpack here. It’s a short story, and the actual story itself is pretty simple, but what this scripture means in its context for us has a lot of parts to it.

Peter and John were disciples, apostles, and Church leaders, but on this afternoon, they were no more spectacular than you or me. They were simply believers who were filled and led by the Spirit on their way to pray. When they got to the temple, they saw a man asking for help, and they had something to give him. It wasn’t what he asked for, but it was what he needed.

Peter and John gave because they had received. They’d never been healed from being lame, but they had received powers and gifts through the Spirit, and they received blessings to pass on to others. Peter said he was giving what he had, and Peter didn’t have because he was set apart from everyone else; he had because God gave to him.

This is what we are to do too. Jesus came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10) so that we can give to others out of that abundance. We are filled so that others won’t remain empty. We aren’t dragons hoarding the gold that is God’s goodness. We have so that we may gladly give (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

And this is a Jesus level miracle. It’s no small feat. Acts 3:10 (NRSV) says that the people who recognized the formerly lame man “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” And this is Peter we’re talking about. Peter, who only had a problem with boldness when he denied Jesus three times and had to face him again. Peter, who was on fire for God and had a fiery temper. Peter, who was just as flawed as he was magnificent.

That’s why I am so encouraged by this scripture. If someone like Peter can so positively impact the world around him for kingdom of God then there’s no reason you or I can’t as well. It wasn’t about Peter; it was about him allowing God to use him.

There’s a lot to learn from the man at the Beautiful Gate as well. He could’ve taken his blessing and left. He wouldn’t have been the only person in scripture to do so. But he chose to rejoice and praise God, to go into the temple and praise and pray. This should be our reactions to God’s blessings as well.

God is constantly exceeding our expectations. He certainly did for the man at the temple gate. The man was expecting money, not a miracle. Lack of money was a problem, but it was a result of the main problem: his physical condition. So instead of solving one problem, God solved them all. I think this man would agree with the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find / You get what you need.”

It’s a lot for such a small piece of scripture, but I think it’s what we all need to take to heart from time to time. Each of us, as imperfect as we are, can do astounding things through God. When God exceeds our expectations and when He blesses us, we should thank Him and pass on our blessings to others. In doing so, it strengthens our relationship with God and helps us and those around us.

By Carrie Prevette

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑