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You Should Not Covet

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” – Exodus 20:17

This commandment from Exodus is the final commandment of what are commonly known as the 10 Commandments. It is a familiar commandment. Most people in Christian circles know that to covet is wrong. But what does it really mean to covet something? And why do we hear so much about not coveting someone’s wife, but so little about coveting someone’s house or donkey?

According to Mr. Webster, to covet means to earnestly wish for, or inordinately desire, something that belongs to someone else. More simply, we covet when the yearning for someone else’s stuff replaces contentment and joy with what is already ours. “I want yours more than mine” is the language of coveting. And Christians do it all the time.

Is this a safe place to confess? Of course not, there are millions of people reading this blog (actually the number is much closer to 13 or so). But I’ll confess anyway. My struggle with coveting often revolves around desiring to have the same blessings from God that he has chosen to give prominent pastors around the country. Here’s a sampling of what I covet…

– the leadership and evangelism skills of Bill Hybels
– the passionate preaching style of Steven Furtick
– the pursuit of holiness and joy in God of John Piper
– the insightful and sincere blog content of Ben Arment
– the quotable and insightful writing tone of Mark Batterson
– the depth and relevance in the teaching of Matt Chandler
– the ‘outside-the-box’ style in thinking and teaching of Rob Bell
– the creative and poetic tongue of Ed Young Jr.
– the humor and conviction of Mark Driscoll
– the speaking and writing skill of John Ortberg
– the cultural and futuristic thinking of Erwin McManus
– the confrontational boldness of Perry Noble and Gary Lamb

And it goes on and on. I covet the hand of God on these men’s life when I inordinately wish that my life was theirs. I am blessing jealous. It is wrong. It is sinful.

The truth is that God places his hand in different measures at different times in different ways and it is not my job to lead major global initiatives like Rick Warren. It is my job to be the best Brenton Balvin I can be, and to bring God glory with the blessings he has given specifically to me.

The blessings of another person are their responsibility. I should not seek the blessing reserved for another, but instead I should develop and seek God in my life. Burning for what is not ours is sin. Whether that be another man’s wife, his home, his ministry, his skill set, or his God-ordained blessing. Too often I forget what it really boils down to.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Categories: Ministry, sin

A Few Questions

Life gets really dirty and hard sometimes.

I have a friend who is in some serious trouble. This person is headed down an extremely dangerous road with some pretty major, painful consequences and I don’t really know how to help. There is an addictive, possibly neural chemical element to it all that I don’t know how to deal with.

Knowing my own sins and shortcomings I can sympathize with this person but even so, I can’t fully wrap my head around the situation. I wish I could just smack him/her straight.

What is the best Christian response I can offer my friend and his/her spouse?

What do you do when someone you love is caught in a vicious cycle of sin/ repentance/ re-offense/ and regret?

Categories: Friends, sin

The Mess of the Messenger

April 24, 2007 1 comment

I recently watched a difficult message from a teaching pastor at a church whose senior pastor had, only days before, resigned due to adultery. These kinds of events are tragic in the lives of all people in a church. The coming months will be filled with all kinds of questions, hurts, anger, and pain. Events like these cut people deep and feelings don’t go away quickly.

The reason I bring it up is because the teaching pastor said something that I think everyone should be reminded of, if, God forbid, they find themselves in the same situation as this abused congregation is in. I am paraphrasing but he said, “The mess of the messenger does not deny the truth of the message.”

Which means, just because the pastor of that church committed a great sin, it doesn’t mean that all the truth of the Bible and the things he taught about Christ are now false. The way that the Spirit has worked in the church is not thwarted by the sin of its primary leader. God’s truth will always be truth and no amount of human sin can negate it.

Becoming Clean Inside and Out

Casey Ross recently posted an observation on something he noticed happen in one of the Sunday School classrooms at his church. You’ll have to read his post to get the complete story, but Casey ends with this…

Once again, I’m confused. The unchurched kids are engaged and having meaningful experiences. The churched kids act as if they don’t need it. Somewhere along the way, these churched kids have been programmed to not care or to care about the wrong things. Where and when does this happen?

It seems to me that this same behavior happens with adult Christians. To be honest, I find it happening in myself sometimes as well. My guess is that as time goes by and our relationship with Christ continues, our external behavioral sins decrease. Hence, we feel there is less to confess. And this is good. As Christians we should lie less, drink less, speak unkindly less, etc.

But the hard reality is many times Christians are guilty of trading external sins for internal ones. We get really good at managing our visible behavior, but we struggle to recognize and confess our internal sins. Adding to the difficulty of being honest with ourselves, we are afraid of what other ‘Christians’ will think of us. To borrow a concept from Jesus, since the ‘outside of the cup is relatively clean’ we fear the rejection of others at the ‘dirtiness of the inside of the cup.’

I have been in too many small groups where peoples’ only prayer requests are about their decision to buy a new vehicle or the hope of their kids doing better in school. Ultimately it comes back to a need for people to have a visceral view of the cross and the grace of God. I believe our enemy delights in Christians who think they are basically OK after they come to faith. It is in recognizing, owning, and living in our depravity that we come to know the love and grace of a God who sacrifices his Son for our sins, both pre- and post-conversion.

Categories: Jesus, sin

pray today

November 3, 2006 2 comments

Innocent unitl proven guilty is one of the cornerstones of our legal system. Jesus said, “let him who is innocent of all sin throw the first stone.” Remember this when you read…

(CNN) — The president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned Thursday after denying an accusation by a male prostitute that the pastor paid him for sex over three years.

The Rev. Ted Haggard said he is also temporarily stepping aside from the pulpit of his church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, pending an internal investigation by the church.

I hope to God this is not true. Please pray that the truth would be made clear, that everyone involved would act with integrity, and that somehow Jesus would come out glorified in all this.

Also, act with compassion towards everyone involved and thank God for his protection and hand over your own life.

(HT: Mark Batterson)

Categories: Leadership, Ministry, news, sin

American Idol, self-deception and our depravity

September 9, 2006 1 comment

All the news right now in MN is that American Idol try-outs are happening in our most major metropolitan area. Getting around the city is horrible because they have blocked off sections of road to accommodate all the people who want a chance to sing and be heard. People who want a shot at being famous.

The sad thing is that thousands of these people are completely self-deceived when it comes to their own talents. They think (and probably sincerely believe) that they are better than they really are.

It reminds me a lot of us, people in general and Christians specifically, and our ability to deceive ourselves when it comes to our own righteousness. We actually believe that we are decent humans, mostly good, with maybe a few blemishes. The fact however, as the Bible teaches, is that we are depraved in all areas of life. This means that the stain of sin is on all areas of our lives and that without God we are incapable of acting completely pure, righteous, just, merciful, or good.

We would do well to stop deceiving ourselves about our own goodness and to fall before Jesus and ask for his grace, his forgiveness and his assistance. While very few of the people who audition for American Idol will make it on the show, none of us will make it to eternity with God without a relationship with his Son Jesus as our Lord, Savior and Treasure.

Categories: Life, news, sin, Theology

file this one under: are you freaking kidding me

August 25, 2006 2 comments

Fox news reported a story today about a high school teacher in New York who will be coming back to school this fall dressed and addressed as a woman. The man has apparently been diagnosed with a transsexual disorder – which means he is legally disabled and therefore cannot be discriminated against or fired. He is, however, able to continue influencing and shaping the amiable minds of young people. Oh how Satan must be laughing at this one.

Listen to how deceived and ridiculous the District Superintendent is. He said, “The kids are my biggest concern right now. I want to make sure that we truly address the needs of our students.” What? How about addressing their needs by not having a freak teaching in the classroom? That sounds good to me.

Superintendent Richard Stutzman went on to say Thursday that he hoped the discussions, to be followed by a meeting open to the public, would keep the issue from becoming a distraction in the classroom or at school functions. Yeah right… like having to learn about biology or math from Ms. Whatever, who last year was Mr. Whatever, isn’t going to be a distraction. This Superintendent is as crazy as the teacher.

I wonder how the creator God feels about this. He creates this guy to be a man and now the guy turns around and says, “You know what God, screw you, I’d rather be a girl. You can have you body parts back I’m getting different ones!”

And don’t tell me that this guy is just confused or suffers from a disorder because people with disorders shouldn’t be mkaing these kinds of major medical decisions. If the former dude is sane enough to make the decision and have a doctor perform the surgery than he is sane enough to stand before God and explain why he thinks he knows better than God what is good for him.

Categories: culture, news, sin