A Good Root System

Bolthouse Mum

Last year, we had some friends over for dinner and they brought me this very lovely mum.  After the fall season was over, I planted the mum.  The mum grew throughout this summer and this fall it did not fail in providing some vivid yellow color to the flower bed.  I saw the givers of this beautiful mum a few weeks ago and thanked them again for this lovely mum and told them how beautiful it was this fall.  The givers replied, “It must have a good root system.”  I have pondered this comment and was brought to Psalm 1.

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  5Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalms 1).

 

So the question before us is “How does a Christian develop a good root system?”

  1. Where do you walk, stand, or sit? Who do you keep close company with?  The people we are with influence our thoughts and actions.
  2. A person with a deep root system delights in the law of the Lord day and night. Delight means to desire.  It can also be looked at as to what brings us pleasure.  What is it we long for?  What satisfies us?  As I think about this concept a few math terms come to mind…mean, median, and mode.  As we lay out our life, what we spend our time doing, what we spend our time thinking about, who we spend our time with, what is the average?  What is seen the most (Mode)? Does spending time with the Lord cause the most pleasure in your life?  When we spend time with the Lord are we easily distracted by other things?
  3. A person with a deep root system not only delights in the Law of the LORD, they also meditate on it. What do we go to when we are not thinking about work or what we will fix for dinner?  Is it God’s Word?  What do we go to when we have a problem that needs to be solved?  Is it God’s Word?
  4. Trees need water. The metaphor here in this passage is the stream of water is the law of the Lord-God’s Word.  We need God’s Word to be our source of life giving wisdom. A stream that trickles or dries up will cause the tree to not flourish or even die.  So is our life with God.  If our time with the Word is only meant to check the box and not satisfy the deep longing of thirst in our souls to meet daily with our Creator, we will dry up, our fruit will be small or even non-existent.
  5. A tree planted by streams of water does not think about its fruit, rather it is a natural by-product of the water it is next to. As we diligently seek God and His Word, the fruit will come.  As I consider the yellow mum and other things that have grown in our yard and the garden this year, none of these things concentrate their efforts on the fruit.  Deep roots will produce good fruit.  Shallow roots produce little fruit.
  6. The Lord knows our ways. He knows our hearts.  He knows what we meditate on.  He sees what we delight in.  We may put on a show like the religious leaders did in Jesus’ day, but He saw their hearts. When He saw their hearts, He saw whitewashed tombs that were pretty on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones.  Tombs produce no fruit.  A lack of a strong and healthy root system produces no fruit.

God sees my heart.  He knows my fruit.  He knows what I delight in and how that is worked out in my everyday life.  What fruit does God see from your life?

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Choice or Tarnished Silver

Sticks and stones may break my bones…As a young child, my mom sent me to the convenient store to buy her a newspaper.  She could see me walk the alley way to the store out the window.  She had visual sight on me until I rounded the corner to the store.  My sister and brother were very young and probably taking a nap when she decided to send me to the store.  I walked confidently down the alley way with my newspaper change in my hand…so many years ago it was probably only a dime maybe a quarter.  As I got closer to the store a group of big kids stood in my path and demanded my money.  I was scared so I turned around and ran towards home.  Those big kids picked up rocks from the alley and started throwing them at me.  Trying to get them to stop, I threw my money down and ran as fast as my young legs could carry me. Luckily, I was not harmed and my mom never sent me to the convenient store again.

Grand Rapids has an annual event called “Art Prize.”  The winning art piece receives a prize.  It is a great draw for the city and a wonderful cultural event for all who come.  One of the pieces are my pictures for this blog this week.  It reminded me of conversations I have had with people…sometimes I am the aggressor and other times I am on the other side being pushed verbally to the point of destroyed communication.

Proverbs speaks often about our tongues.  Our tongues are an indicator of our hearts.  Have you had those moments when you said something and as it was coming out your brain said to stop, but your tongue kept on wagging.  Maybe your words came out and only later as you evaluated your day, did the conviction of the Holy Spirit bring to your mind the unworthiness of your words.

Maybe you have been on the receiving end of these words and you feel like the sculpture at Art Prize, falling apart by the words that have been spoken to you.  Once words are said they can never be taken back, and those hurtful and aggressive words remain seared on our brain with the pain etched in our hearts.

Proverbs has much to say about our tongues.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.  Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4, 5).

Often, someone has something negative to say to us and we try to retaliate with words of hurt.  They hurt me, so I will hurt them.  How does this usually turn out?  Nothing is resolved and our words come back to haunt us.  We all know people who try to control others with their words or actions.  “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2).  So when someone is being foolish with their words, we should “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7).  Have nothing to do with those that are foolish.  Sometimes this is impossible. These people are in our families or we work with them. We are forced to deal with them.  So what do we do…

First of all, remember that they are fools.  Seek the Lord about how to deal with them and then put into practice other biblical principles. Seek to be wise.

“A soft answer turns away wrath…” (Proverbs 15:1)

“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23)

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27)

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

“…a soft tongue will break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)

When you go back and replay conversations in your head, what is it you wish you would have said?  I always wish I had been more uplifting and encouraging.  Proverbs 31 has always been a challenge to me.  The impression of this woman is not a mousy doormat, but rather a savvy business woman and home maker.  Yet, what is said about her tongue? “…and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26).

My goal is not to allow communication to be destroyed by another’s aggressiveness, but rather to keep communication healthy because the “teaching of kindness” is so much a part of my nature and heart there is nothing else that comes from my tongue.

Stick and stones do break bones and names and ugly conversation does cause permanent harm.  But “the tongue of the righteous is choice silver…and the lips of the righteous feed many.” (Proverbs 10:20, 21).

Holy Change

fall 025

Change…we all seem to run from it hoping it will never touch us and yet it does.  When our girls were younger, much younger, we decided to paint the family room.  As we began to paint, our oldest daughter, Danielle, ran upstairs crying.  I followed her trying to understand why she was crying.  She didn’t like change.  She wanted the living room to stay the same color that it had always been for as long as she could remember.  For children, change is unsettling.  They feel like their world is not a safe place or it gives them a feeling of insecurity.  In the midst of these little changes, like painting a room, we must teach our children that some change is not bad and how to cope with change that inevitably does take place.

We each go through different changes in our lives.  Some we see as contributing nothing but pain in our lives and other change we see as a positive change.  A new and better job, a new car, new clothes, new friends…some changes brings us happiness while other changes bring us turmoil.  The loss of a friendship, a move, the loss of a job, children growing and moving away….

As I look back and consider the move we made over a year ago and the change that it brought in our lives, I will admit it was not easy for us to leave behind what we knew and the church family that had become our family.  I knew it was where the Lord would have us and I knew that God’s ways and the change He brings in our lives is always for our good, but sometimes it takes time to see all the good, even though by faith I knew it would be good.

As I realized the good God is doing though change in our lives, I see others that struggle with change.  They resist it.  They do not want to see the good that change can bring.  They want everything to stay the same.

This process of change is one of the ways that God brings about growth in our lives.  It reminds me of the process of progressive sanctification in the life of a believer.  As a believer we begin with positional sanctification at the moment of salvation.  We believe Christ paid the penalty for our sins and enter into a relationship with Christ, we are in the position of sanctification, set apart and holy unto God.  The remainder of our lives is the process of progressive sanctification which takes us from where we are positionally and progresses us to what we will be ultimately in heaven, progressing us to be “holy as Christ is holy.” (I Peter 1: 15, 16).  The process of progressive sanctification many times happens through the medium of change.

I am not advocating change for change sake, but I do believe as believers we should be pliable in the hand of our Creator as He brings challenges through change into our lives to bring about greater levels of holiness in our lives.

The striking contrast to this change in our lives that needs to be continually taking place is the changelessness of our Creator God.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).  God does not change.  Nothing in His character ever needs to change because He is the perfectly holy God.  Modeling our character after the character of God is our goal.

As we face changes in our lives, rather than dig in our heels resisting the change, we must view it as a stepping stone in the process of our progressing sanctification.

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (I Peter 1:15, 16)