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 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

Our Sacrifices

My dad always told me that life was full of doing things that I didn’t want to do. There was never any hope, really, that he’d be wrong so much as a slow, sad realization of just how right he was.

Every morning when I wake up, my heart’s sincerest desire is to go back to sleep. That’s what I want to do, but what I have to do is get up and go to work. I have to go to work to pay for things I need, like a car, or for benefits that I have to have, like health insurance. I sacrifice what I want for what’s best for me. They are sacrifices I make as a commitment to my survival. (Note: This commitment is also why I am working on a zombie apocalypse plan.)

When I think of people who’ve sacrificed what they wanted for their commitments, no one stands out more to me than Jesus. After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples “…left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, ‘Pray that you will not give in to temptation.’ He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Luke 22:39-42, NLT).

We often talk about the physical sacrifice Jesus made for us, but we never talk about what He gave up mentally and emotionally in His commitment to us. We don’t talk about this part enough.

This is one of Jesus’ most human moments. We see where His desire and God’s desire do not match. Jesus knew what was coming – Roman soldiers beating Him, His dying body being tortured while on display for others. He also knew He was leaving the disciples, whom He loved very much. Think about it: Jesus was fully human; yes, He was also God, but He was human. He attached to people the same way we do. He had memories and feelings. He knew what was coming, but that doesn’t mean He wasn’t scared or upset about it. His time on this Earth with His loved ones was ending, and since that’s not easy for any other human, it wouldn’t have been easy for Him. As much as He loved everyone, as much as He wanted to be our salvation, and as committed as He was to us and our eternities, we can see how difficult it was for Him. Jesus had to make sacrifices, and some of them were incredibly superhuman, but others were as human as possible, as human as not wanting to leave His friends, as human as not wanting to die.

So what’s the point in me writing all of this or you reading it?

If you remember nothing else I write in this post, remember this: Everyone must make sacrifices for their commitments, and nothing is wrong with you for not wanting to sacrifice something.

Sacrifice, by definition, is the opposite of fun. We lose or destroy something we like for something else. You’re not giving up something you don’t like or don’t want because that wouldn’t mean anything.

What are we sacrificing for? Because that’s where our commitment is.

When I was younger, I wanted to be really good at playing basketball. So I played it every afternoon after school at my grandma’s house with my brother. I listened to him tell me what I needed to get better at. We stayed outside until it was too dark to see the goal or until my mom came to pick us up. I watched it on television. I was committed to basketball, so I spent my time and energy on it.

One of things I do in my free time is go to concerts. I spend money on tickets and save up money to spend on merchandise. I’ve probably already spent time with the songs of the performers and memorized the lyrics or the sounds at that point. I talk about my attendance on social media and watch and share YouTube videos of the groups. I’ll work my schedule around the show. I lose sleep to go to concerts. (One time, I went to a show that started – yes, began – at 10:00 pm because it was a small band I like that’s based out of Chicago, and I didn’t know when or if they’d ever come to North Carolina again.) I sacrifice a lot to do this, and in doing so, I am committed to this.

Do we do that for God? Do we give up money in pursuit of Him? Do we sacrifice our time and energy for Him? Do we do what He tells us, even when it’s the last thing we want to do?

It starts with realizing that God wouldn’t ask anything of us without reason or without helping us through it. That in combination with the fact that there is no greater pursuit or reward that a relationship with our Creator who is faithful and loving beyond measure. He’s worthy of our commitment, of course, but the rewards we receive for our sacrifices to Him are unreal. If you don’t believe me, try it. Put forth the extra steps and the effort to invest more in your relationship with God. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

By Carrie Prevette

Come, Follow

The most difficult thing about life after earning my degree in English with one minor being in Literature has been reading.

Well, the difficulty is really in dealing with the first couple of days after I finish a book I enjoy. I realize now that a lot of what I loved about my classes as an English student were the discussions, whether they were about books already in existence or stories that were being written. And at the time, everyone in the class was reading the same material, so we were all literally (or at least we were supposed to be) on the same page. And we would talk about themes and what scenes we thought were important or what our feelings or thoughts about certain parts were. It was very nice to have an outlet like that for all of the emotions I felt when I finished reading a book or story or poem. And now that I’m not surrounded by people who read the same books as me, that outlet is gone, and I miss book discussions more than any normal person could understand.

I remember when I was a senior in high school, my AP English teacher, Mrs. Taylor, told the class that if we could find proof in the text of whatever we were reading, we could argue that point. And that was when I first began to love book discussions.

What makes the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10 so fascinating is that we don’t have a lot to go on in terms of how he actually was, so we have to go by his actions, which can be interpreted differently. I’ve read this story before and totally disliked this guy. I’ve also read this story before and felt sympathetic towards him. I want to do something a little crazy here and look at this scripture while assuming the best of him. This is in part because I think it’s too easy to see him as a bad guy when evidence may suggest he’s not all bad and because it almost makes the end result a little sadder.

Mark 10:17-18 (NLT) reads, “As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked. ‘Only God is truly good.’”
Each of the four Gospels has a different theme, or rather, they each provide a different lens through which to see Jesus. In Mark, which is also the oldest of the Gospels, Jesus is a mysterious figure who doesn’t broadcast his status as the Son of God.

One could argue that the young man had heard of Jesus and how He did all these crazy, miraculous things and thought, “Hey, I’ll it a shot. He seems like he knows some stuff,” and Jesus called him out on it. But the fact that the guy knelt after he ran to Jesus shows that he needs answers and that he’s serious. Since crowds seem to have been common back in those days and Jesus wasn’t exactly shouting, “I’m the Messiah!” through a megaphone, there’s a possibility that the man could’ve discerned who Jesus was or at least believed whatever he had heard about Him.

Mark continues to write and Jesus continues to speak in verse 19, “’But to answer your question, you know the commandments: “You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.”’
‘Teacher,’ the man replied, ‘I’ve obeyed all of these commandments since I was young.’”

This is where we start to dislike the guy, right? We call him arrogant or a liar. We think he’s too proud. Maybe he’s all or none of these things, but since I’m assuming the best of this guy right now, let’s say he was being honest. Maybe a little hurried or even rude to move the conversation along by declaring such a thing, but still.

Of course, that’s not the real point here. It’s what we get caught up on, but what this implies combined with how he feels is what’s really important. There’s nothing in the scripture that specifically says that the young man felt validated by Jesus telling him to follow the commandments. He doesn’t start to walk off, shouting over his shoulder a thanks to Jesus for proving him right or anything. If the ruler had thought that his mission was complete, he would’ve been happy and left. I would say that him sticking around was because he knew there was more to it. From a religious standpoint, the Mosaic Law was king in Jerusalem at this point in time. It was taught, preached, and attempted to be followed. So by searching Jesus for eternal life even after claiming he followed the commandments, the young ruler was saying that there was more to salvation than a religious checklist or rule book.

Verses 21-22 read, “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done,’ he told him. ‘Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

It all dwindles down to this one point. Regardless of how moral, desperate, or proud this guy may or may not have been, whether he was awful like we often think or a pretty decent person like we’ve tried to see him as throughout this post, this moment is important and final. Jesus tells him to sell his stuff, donate the money to the poor, and follow him.

And this man, who not one minute earlier was in hot pursuit of eternal life, walks away from it.

It’s not about the man’s ability to follow commandments or how much stuff he has to sell. If so, Jesus would require these things of all His followers, and problem children like myself would never get the chance to enter heaven. It was about the young ruler’s heart and how committed he was.

The young ruler was more committed to his possessions and money than he was to God and eternal life. And he was honest about it. He didn’t hide behind a smile or say, ”You got it, Jesus,” and then never follow through with it. He left Jesus knowing that this commitment would never happen.

We’re always quick to judge the rich, young ruler, to chuckle or scoff at him as he walks off with his head hung low, but this scripture acts like a mirror for me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve ran to God in desperation only to not commit to Him in the end. He’ll tell me to pray more or be more kind to others or to invest more time and energy into my relationship with Him, and I might do it for a few days, but then I’ll stop. I’m more committed to sleeping or my bitterness or some other small thing that simply does not compare to God.

And Jesus looks at me, at all of us, with the same genuine love He looked at that rich, young ruler with.

Unlike the young ruler, I don’t want to just give up on God. I know that all the actual work for my salvation was done by the Godhead, but maintaining a relationship with God falls fully on me. It’s a matter of how committed I am because God is faithful even when I’m not, and He is good and loving to me even when I’m not to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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