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.

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 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

Keep Your Heart

I have the most trouble explaining to people that I like being single.

I like being able to go see whatever movie I want and sit where I want in the theater. I enjoy driving alone, singing loudly to the music that I get to pick and turn the heat or air conditioning up as I please. I love being able to wear whatever clothes and make up I want without worrying about if anyone else likes it. I like cooking for one. I love being able to go to concerts, hang out and take selfies with cute band members afterwards without anyone getting clingy or jealous. I enjoy my space and freedom and being able to do what I like with the energy and time both of those allow me.

Until a guy comes along who compensates for all of that and truly adds even more joy to my life and feels the same about me, I’m not giving up the freedom I get from being single.

The problem with all of this is that we’re taught from a very early age by people – be it society or the media or even family members – that our happiness cannot begin until we’re in a romantic relationship that’s headed for marriage. So when I tell people that I’m happy being single, a lot of them either think I’m crazy or don’t believe me.

Listening to someone talk about a breakup they’re going through always seems to validate my singleness. If I’m not terribly close to the person or the situation, I sometimes internally smirk and pat myself on the back for not putting myself in a position to maybe end up a ball of emotion or a bitter wreck. I’ve done well to guard myself and my heart.

And to demonstrate just how much emphasis our society places on romance, we take spiritual advice and turn it into romantic advice.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NRSV)

Pretty, isn’t it? Not terrible dating advice either. Guard your heart because it’s valuable and important and bad people will corrupt it in some form. Wise. Practical.

And not at all what the author’s getting at.

Let’s read around it. “My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:20-27, NRSV).

The author, presumably Solomon, is telling his kid to listen to him and remember his words because they are helpful, healing words. He says to keep them in the heart and then to guard the heart because it gives life.

Then Solomon says to get rid of “crooked speech” and “devious talk,” and this is incredible spiritual advice. I’m not going to get into what qualifies as bad language or lecture you on what words you should or shouldn’t say, and I don’t fully believe that’s what Solomon means here either. I believe that Solomon is referencing the power of our words and what our words say of us as people. It’s less about the actual words we speak and more about how we mean them. Do I mean to insult someone? Am I speaking kindness into someone’s life? Am I talking about someone, and if so, am I being hurtful?

I believe Solomon is addressing two problems with communication here that affect us spiritually. One is gossip and lies. Gossip and lies profit no one. Spreading things, churning speculation and rumor so much that people believe them as fact just hurt people. It makes them feel judged and devalued, and anyone who generates that isn’t being very loving and peaceful. Two is using language with intent to hurt people. Do we insult people or put them down all the time? Do we say things that drain their self-confidence or dull their self-view? Are we giving them life to give to others or taking what they have of it? Doing such things doesn’t point back to the God of love.

Solomon tells us to keep our eyes looking forward and to keep on the path. But what do the two have to do with each other?

In basketball, it’s easy to fall victim to a trick play. A lot of times defenders look silly because someone will give a no-look pass and that team will score. If you watch, this is because the offensive player is looking one way and is passing another. Usually the body goes where the eyes go. If a player is looking at a teammate, it’s a safe bet he or she will pass to said teammate. If the player looks at the basket, the player will likely shoot. So the defensive player prepares for the ordinary, the way the eyes are looking, and is tricked when the body doesn’t go where the eyes go.

The same applies to our spiritual lives. If our eyes linger on sin, our hearts will take interest in it and we will turn to it. By looking forward on our straight path, we see only the beauty and promise of our straight path. Not looking around us and focusing on where all the sin and masquerading pain exist. Not looking behind us and focusing on our dark and rocky past where we see imperfections or maybe even fun times. Looking forward to hope and countless blessings and focusing on God.

Our focus is what it all comes down to. Are we focused on God, on serving Him, on loving others like He does, on keeping our hearts and lives on the path He has us on? Or are we letting corruption enter our hearts and exit our mouths through a turnstile while looking for something we think will be better but will leave us empty?

Look at your heart. Where is its guard? Where are your eyes looking, and where are your feet turned to? I encourage you to remove anything that’s causing your heart to harden or turn from God. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding. And fill those empty spaces by letting God in. It’ll make your heart feel so full that you won’t hesitate to guard it anymore.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. – I wrote another blog post that heavily involved Proverbs 4:23 earlier this year. At the risk of sounding super conceited, I’ve got to say that I really like that post. It’s probably one of my favorites that I’ve ever written, and I think it’s a more in depth post about the function of the verse in our lives than this post. You can read it here if you’re interested.

James: Fire and Water

Up until adulthood, I’ve been good at every stage of my life. Although I don’t recall, evidence suggests that I was good at being a baby because I’m good at whining, crying, fussing, eating, and sleeping. I was good at being a kid because I loved to play and watch TV, and in retrospect, I was pretty selfish and ungrateful as most kids are. When I got to college, I was good at being a college student.  I’d go just about anywhere for free food, and I would prepare myself for studying by napping and procrastinating. Out of everything, I was probably best at being a college student.

But I was also really good at being a teenager. I was awkward and obsessive about certain things. And I could get smart and backtalk with the best of them.

I’ve since honed the qualities that created that in me to now make myself sassy, sarcastic, and funny. Back then, I thought I was funny and so did some of my friends, but mostly, I was sort of mean. The way I talked, I sometimes hurt people, and I could even do so without realizing it. The sad thing is, though, that when I did realize it or had it pointed out to me, I was either apathetic or defensive.

I had a huge problem with my tongue, so you can imagine how much reading James during that time hit home with me.

James 3:2, 5-12 (NRSV) says, “For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle….How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 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. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.”

The book of James has a very special place in my heart because it incorporates many things I appreciate – imagery, bluntness, and good content. Not only does James have all of this, but it’s all wove together.

If you’ve never had a big tongue issue, you may think James is being dramatic about the fire and the poison. If you’re like me (and maybe James as well since he’s so familiar with this), you know he’s right.

Even if you haven’t burned others with your tongue, you’ve been burnt. I’m sure that somewhere down the line, someone has been rude or spiteful or unkind to you with his or her words. You may or may not have let on, but it hurt. Whether you are starting fires or trying to put them out, we can all see the tongue’s flame well.

If you know your Bible well or if you’ve really kept up with this blog recently, you’ll know that what James defines as a tongue problem, Jesus defines as a heart problem. In Matthew 15:18 (NLT), Jesus says, “But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you.”

That isn’t the only thing about what James is saying that relates back to what Jesus said in the book of Matthew. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:24 (NLT), Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other…”

Two things trying to live in one heart like two things coming out of the same mouth. That we speak praises then curses is a sign that our hearts have some bad stuff in them or that our hearts don’t completely belong to God.

I mentioned this in passing last week, but I’d like to speak more on it here – God is always after our hearts. He wants to be the one that holds them, but He also wants them to be in good shape for our own sakes and the sakes of the people around us. He wants to be our source of life and for us to share that life with others. He wants us to be springs of fresh, flowing water that will reach people who desperately need a drink. And that can only happen when our hearts are found in Him.

When James talks about the tongue and how powerful and destructive it is, he is identifying a very real issue. It’s a result of a much larger issue, though, and that issue is the state of the heart.

I challenge you to analyze three things. First is your heart. Who is its master and what is its condition? Is it God’s? Is it joyful or bitter? Second, listen to your words. Are they refreshing or harsh? How would you feel constantly taking them in? And third, look at your actions. Our actions say the most about us, so if they are faulty, it is the ultimate tell that something isn’t right. If one was to watch you, would he or she see a life and love that only come from faith and joy in God? Be honest with yourself. What are you like?

What we are by nature is fire. If left to our own preferences and devices, we want to burn and hurt. What God wants to turn us into is water that will give life to those around us. In a world of salt water, He wants us to be the fresh that quenches everyone’s thirst. That transition can only happen if we give our hearts completely to God and let that heart come through in our words and actions.

By Carrie Prevette

Call in the Guards

Sunday’s great speaker, Dave, is not the first person to be surprised that I know who “Pistol” Pete Maravich was. I’m also fairly certain that he won’t be the last. I do want to say, to Dave’s credit, that he was surprised I know who Pistol Pete was because I’m young, which is completely understandable. What isn’t understandable is when people, unlike Dave, are surprised when I know such tidbits of information about sports because I’m a woman.

Believe me, it happens.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had something about a game or player mansplained to me like I’m clueless. Then there are conversations that turn to debates and even arguments because a guy won’t hear me out due to the fact that I’m a woman and surely don’t know as much as him about something stereotypically masculine. And if I had a dollar for every time it’s been implied or stated that I only like a player because he’s attractive, I could probably afford lower level tickets to watch the Hornets play instead of my familiar nosebleed seats.

For fear that people will read this and misunderstand me, I want to clarify: most men that I talk sports with, including all the ones I talk sports with on a regular basis, don’t treat me this way. Most men will discuss sports with me like I’m a person who shares a common interest. (Imagine that!) But I’ve had enough men speak down to me when speaking about such things that when yet another one does, it’s met with the all-but-patented Carrie Prevette anger and eye roll.

Yes, I know all about the heart trouble Dave spoke of on Sunday, and my heart’s biggest trouble is anger.

This may surprise people because I don’t come off as a particularly angry person, or at least I don’t think I do. With my friendly disposition and humor, I think I usually strike people somewhere along the lines of “happy” or “sassy.” I don’t say anger is my problem because I’m inherently mad or displeased or anything of the sort. I say it’s my problem because it gets me in trouble and leads to bitterness really easily.

I don’t always handle my anger well. I take things to the extreme at times. I yell. I act in a way that will make me sad or maybe even miserable later just to make someone else feel bad in that moment, which is exactly as stupid and childish as it sounds.

I’ll give you an example. As I write this, my car is at a garage getting fixed by a mechanic, and I haven’t had it for two days now. (The guy fixing my car already had a busy schedule when I dropped it off.) My mom didn’t think it would take as long as it has to get my car back, so she made other plans during my lunch hour today, meaning she couldn’t come pick me up. I was mad because I like leaving for lunch every day. It gets me out of a building I already have to spend eight hours in. My mom offered to move things around so she could get me, and I honestly don’t think she would’ve minded doing so. But because I was mad, I wanted her to feel bad like I did, so I insisted in a voice that didn’t exactly hide my feelings that it was okay (because it technically was) and that I’d just bring my own lunch to work.

Yes. I ate lunch today in the last place I wanted to because I was too petty to let my mom make amends for something that wasn’t even that big of a deal in the first place. Do you see where anger gets me?

Anger also leads to bitterness. If I let my anger sit instead of letting it go or letting it out, that’s what it turns to. My bitterness comes with snarky comments and few to no apologies. I become self-centered and mean and hurtful all because I wanted to spend more time with my anger. As I said, it’s my heart’s biggest issue.

Maybe your heart trouble is different. You could be a slave to lust or old pals with conceit. You might have history with being judgmental or feeling righteous. Whatever your heart trouble is, know that we all suffer from it in one way or another.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) reads, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Matthew 15:19 (NLT) reads, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”

If you read each of those verses individually, they seem very different. The first makes the heart sound precious, and the second makes it sound vile. But if you read and apply them together, like a set, you find something deeper.

Since the Bible’s most infamous couple ate the forbidden fruit, effectively leaving paradise to enter sin, all human hearts are susceptible to sin and destruction. We still choose what to do just as they chose, but their actions reconditioned the human heart and changed the human experience. But as difficult as it may be, the choices are still ours to make.

The point of guarding something is to protect it from both inside and outside forces. Think of a medieval setting. The king’s guards stand at the door to make sure no one can get in and harm the king, but they also escort out anyone who is already inside and who is being harmful. Or think of the guard position in basketball. They’re the first line of defense when the opposing team has the ball. On offense, they’re supposed to be good at ball handling and passing and have a high level of awareness to be able to make plays. They have to orchestrate as much as they can to be sure that the ball gets to the basket without being swatted away or stolen along the way.

We’re naturally protective of our hearts against outside sources. We don’t want it to get broken or stolen. But we’re much less critical of what’s already in our hearts, what naturally grows there. We write those dangers off. We use them to define ourselves (“It’s what gives me my rebellious spirit!”) or our views of the world and people around us (“Yeah, I get that from my mom.”).

So if we take the truth we find in Matthew and pair it with the advice we get in Proverbs, we’re left with a difficult task. It’s easier to stop things from entering our hearts than it is to rip away what’s already there. It leads to change, and even if we’re comfortable with that, do we have what it takes to reach that end?

Probably not on our own.

But aren’t you glad we don’t have to face life and its challenges on our own?

As with all things, God’s eager to help. He can move and remove. He can strengthen and assure. He can provide accountability. He can be what we need to get through our change. All we have to do is ask Him and rely on Him.

By Carrie Prevette

Undead

I’ve mentioned this before in a very early blog post, but I love The Walking Dead.

I was reluctant to start watching because I discovered Norman Reedus in The Boondock Saints as Murphy MacManus, and it honestly made me, the hipster that I am, a little upset that everyone knew him and knew him for a role other than Murphy. (And while I’m talking about Norman, I’d like to wish him a belated happy birthday since it was yesterday.)

I entered the world of The Walking Dead about two years ago, right before season four started if I’m not mistaken. I took my brother’s DVDs of the first three seasons back to college with me and finished them all in about two or three weeks. It was my motivation to do homework; if I finished my homework sooner, I could watch more episodes before going to bed. I quickly saw the fascination with the show and with Daryl Dixon. (I do love Daryl and his character development throughout the show, but my hipster heart is still sad over Norman’s fame despite being glad that everyone is finally recognizing his acting abilities. Ah, the fangirl paradox!)

The Walking Dead adds a complexity to the zombie apocalypse that other shows and movies in my experience, limited as it is, do not because there is so much more to it than people versus zombies. Some people are terrible. Zombies can be weaponized or made harmless. Is everyone who is living just prolonging the inevitable of becoming a zombie? Should they be more hopeful than that, believing that they can beat the apocalypse? Being dead isn’t fun, but what’s so great about living when it’s primarily distrust, desolation, and desperation?

Is that what people think when they see us? “What’s so great about being a Christian if that’s what it’s like?”

Galatians 2:20 says that if we’re believers in Christ that the life we live is no longer for ourselves, but it’s Christ living in us and through us. We were dead and brought back to life by Christ. We aren’t the same. We aren’t who we were. We know the difference, but do onlookers know? And if they do see a change, is it a good one? Does it accurately represent Christ?

I’m not saying that you should care what other people think of you. I wholeheartedly believe you shouldn’t. I’m simply asking if our lives show the Jesus we say is inside of us. Does the world see a love, peace, hope, and joy that can’t be found anywhere else? Do we look refreshed or rotten? We know the world should want what we have, but do they?

When someone looks at my life, do they see a revived, redeemed person living in love or do they see a dried up soul going through the motions and calling that living?

I know this week’s post is a lot of questions and not a ton of answers, but I think these questions are vital. Growth requires some reevaluation, and these questions seem like just as good a place to start as any.

Believers are the undead. We’re spiritual zombies so to speak. But instead of looking like corpses, true followers of Christ look livelier than anyone else. As well we should if the only One to ever defeat death is our power source. He came that we would have life more abundantly (John 10:10), and when He shines through us, that becomes very apparent.

By Carrie Prevette

Our Journeys

There’s something about a trip that really excites me. Whether I’ve been to the destination before or not, whether it’ll only last a few hours or whether I stay for days. I just like going places and seeing things and meeting people or meeting up with people. And I love the ride there. Listening to music in a car and shouting the words or having conversations with someone and seeing all of these people who are on the road with you, who are on their own journeys. Scenic views and snack decisions at gas stations and maybe kicking your shoes off in the car. I find it all very exciting.

Jesus’s entire ministry is one big journey, but in Luke 7:11-17, Jesus and His crew go to a town called Nain, where they happen upon a funeral procession. The funeral is for a young man. Jesus approaches his mother, who’s a widow, and tells her not to weep. Then he tells the dead man to rise, and he does. He starts speaking, and everyone in the crowd is scared. Then they glorify God.

Dramatic and impressive, right?

We have a woman who is looking at the beginning of a lonely road. She’s lost her husband and now her only son. In terms of hope, she’s dead. She probably feels like her world’s ending.

Then we have a guy whose world has literally ended. We don’t know much about this man – not his name, his age, or his cause of death. What we do know is that he must have been loved because there was a crowd traveling with his body to its grave.

It’s fairly safe to say that this journey, this trip to this man’s final resting place, started off badly. But then Jesus steps in, and everything changes.

The guy wakes up like he was only asleep. He starts talking like it’s an everyday thing. (Personally, I would love to know what he said. Did he say he was thirsty? Did he ask where he was? Did he comment on whether or not he saw heaven? I’ll file it under “Things to Ask When I Get to Heaven.”) As much as this man’s journey began badly, it ended happily.

If you ask me, this is classic Jesus. I see this as something that could happen any and every day. Not necessarily someone having breath put back into their lungs and sitting up in their casket, but certainly changing from death to life on their journey.

Alan said on Sunday that it’s about our ending, not our beginning, and he’s absolutely right because we all start at the same place. We all start with a life of sin destined for death. It doesn’t matter what your poison is because we’re all poisoned. And it doesn’t matter how much poison you have in your system because even one drop of it is enough. All of our journeys start off badly.

And if we stay where we are, if we don’t move forward, that’s where it’ll end. If you are in a bad place and never do anything to change it, you’ll stay there.

In the words of Relient K, “We all struggle with forward motion.” It’s easy to get stuck in a certain mindset, a routine, an emotion, or a season of life. But if we don’t make any sort of move to get out of whatever ruts we find ourselves in, our journey will be a circle and we’ll end where we began. Circles don’t move you forward, they only move you around.

Jesus can change your journey in an instant. He can take you from death to life so simply and beautifully that you’ll never be the same.

Maybe your journey has already taken a turn for the best. Maybe it hasn’t. If it hasn’t, I hope and pray that it does. Because journeys are beautiful and fun, and I think you would really like the change of scenery at your new destination.

By Carrie Prevette

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