The Root of the Matter (excerpted from God and The Garden)

 

“But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away,” Matthew 13:6 NKJV

No matter how beautiful the plant, no matter what its leaves look like or its fruit that shines, if the roots are rotten it is as good as dead.

The same also holds true for us as well. No matter how we appear to others, it is truly what is unseen that determines our character.

Most people want to look good but fail to nurture what really counts, their roots or the foundation that is vital for growth and sustenance.

Psalms 80: 8-9 states, “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; you have cast out the nations, and planted it. You have prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root and it filled the land.” NKJV

Deep roots are necessary for significant growth. The acorn cannot become a mighty oak with shallow roots at surface level that leave the tree vulnerable to disease, a lack of nutrients, and physical destruction. It is necessary that the roots grow deep if the tree is to grow to up.

Our roots must grow deep if we are to grow up!

“And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward,” 2 Kings 19:30 NKJV.

This theme is found repeatedly in the Bible. Deep roots are crucial. Jesus’ parable as explained in Matthew teaches if we have shallow roots the heat of life will surely scorch us! We won’t survive. We will wither and die. This fate is not what Jesus died for.  He died that we may live and do so abundantly.  So, how do we develop deep roots and thrive as God intended?

In nature a lack of water at the surface forces plant roots downward. Our personal droughts can do the same for us when we don’t give up, but instead dig in. When we are in hot situations we must root ourselves in God’s Word that we may not just survive but thrive in spite of our test. Our trials are to push us closer to God, not drive us away. Plants survive by doing this even though they may look parched at the surface.  Certain trials leave us looking fried as well but digging into the Word strengthens us and leaves us better off long after the test has passed.

Our roots need fertilizer. Nothing will develop you into the person God intended like the real “Miracle Grow” of God’s Word. His Word establishes the righteous. “But the root of the righteous yields fruit,” Proverbs 12:12 NKJV.

Turning to God when the heat is on, establishing yourself in His Word, constantly reading and meditating on it allows your roots to push downward so you can bear fruit upward. The taller the tree, the deeper the roots.

We can’t grow up unless we dig in!

Rooting ourselves in God’s Word provides stability that keeps us from being blown over and plucked up by hard winds (hardships). Sure we may lose a few leaves and have a branch or two broken through our trials but most importantly we can remain rooted where God would have us.

Some plants, once established in the ground are incredibly hard to pull out. Shovels and picks won’t do the job. Their roots expand outward and downward embedding themselves through the earth and around rocks. The longer the plant is established in the ground the stronger it becomes. The more we establish and root ourselves in God’s Word the stronger we too become.

Who we become in life is often dictated by what is unseen by other people. What we do when no one is watching, the thoughts we have toward others, the things we say when no one can hear are extensions of what exists below the surface.  These inner things dictate what is produced outwardly.

“And if the root is holy, so are the branches,” Romans 11:16.  If you want good branches start below the surface. Kill anything below the surface that will hinder your growth. Bad habits, bad thoughts, ill influences and addictions will do nothing but promote root rot. People who are negative influences are often “weeds” that can rob you of nutrients you need to grow.

Replace whatever has the potential to kill you with the Miracle Grow of God’s Word, inspirational influences, positive acquaintances, prayer, devotion and whatever it takes to push you up toward God’s very best for you!

If you feel unproductive or at a loss don’t focus on the surface but instead investigate those deeper things that may hinder your desired outcome.

If there is anything that needs to be gone, toss it! Change habits. Change direction. Make different choices. Think different thoughts. Turn toward God who “establishes” you so that you can thrive, not just survive.

If you want to bloom and be fruitful, living the abundant life Christ died for… tend to your roots!

Thank you Heavenly Father for enabling me to root myself in You. Allow me to take root and grow strong into the person you have ordained me to become. May I focus on what lies beneath the surface and find nourishment in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Clean cuts

“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell,” Matthew 5:30 NKJV

I know a gentleman who suffered over a year with an infection in his lower leg. He was on all kinds of oral medications, IV medications and various wound treatments in an effort to get well. During this treatment, side effects from his medications made him ill. He never felt well and complained often about how his entire body and not just his leg suffered. His blood was monitored often to make sure the medications that were used to treat the infection did not harm his vital organs. His doctors were constantly on alert to make sure his infection had not spread. The entire ordeal left him weak and miserable daily.

Finally, his doctors decided the treatment he was receiving was not enough to kill the infection or keep it from spreading. In fact, his medical team was forced to amputate his lower leg. If his infected leg remained, the bacteria would spread throughout his body and kill him.

About a month after his surgery, I asked him how he was feeling. He declared, “I haven’t felt this good in years.” He was no longer relegated to taking an arsenal of medications that left him feeling poorly. His infected lower leg had been removed but he was now very mobile with his new prosthesis.  He was actually moving around better than he had before the amputation.

He now felt healthy, was happy and had a positive outlook on life.

Likewise, it is necessary that we make certain “cuts” in our own lives that would leave us better. Instead of making a clean break from anger, guilt, regret, disappointment and un-forgiveness we sometimes “nurse” these things instead. We often try to repair our feelings and emotions instead of cutting them off all together. Some people are haunted years later by mistakes God has forgiven decades earlier.  They allow guilt or bitterness to remain, infecting them and robbing them of a better quality of life. There is no freedom in “forgiveness” when you insist on making your offender acknowledge the offense time and time again. An unforgiving spirit does very little to the offending person in comparison to the damage it wrecks on the person who refuses to forgive.

Forgiveness is often hard. However living with unforgiveness is much harder.

Anger, bitterness, guilt, and spite can be deadly. They often cause both mental anguish and physical decay. Worse of all is those suffering under these afflictions don’t recognize the toil these toxic characteristics take on themselves and the people around them!

Bitterness drains. Peace sustains.

Is there anything you need to cut away today?

 

Pruning

B Is for Blessed!

“I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:1-2 NKJV

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is one of the most readily quoted. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5 NKJV

Without Him we can do nothing. However, the scripture prior to that, John 15:2 is often skimmed over. It is easy to realize how dependent we are on Christ, yet most of us are remiss and become ill at the notion that to become fruitful we must be pruned.

Without pruning, even the best specimens in any garden will eventually lose the ability to…

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B is for Bent not Broken

B Is for Blessed!

 

Everyone in life is guaranteed some form of hardship, storm or distress/duress that is necessary to forge us into the people God would have us to be. Though not pleasurable experiences, our problems are necessary for our promotion from one stage in life to another. The way we deal with these experiences really determines how we will come out of them. Some people seem to make it through, scraped up a bit but they come out in one piece. Others, instead, succumb to situations and trials never to come out and are overcome and swallowed up by their circumstances. So what is the difference between making it through a bad situation and getting stuck in a particular circumstance? The answer is simple.

Bent not broken.

We all at some point have the best laid plans. However, the plans for our life and God’s plans are not necessarily one and the same. Our expectations don’t always transform into…

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P is for Protection

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shieldPsalm 5:11-12 NIV

 

There are times in life when we all are in need of protection. Little kids tend to run to their parents when they are afraid, confident that a parent can spare them from harm. We too, should have this same attitude even as adults, running to our Father who is a refuge from what at times can be a cold and cruel world.

Instead, we often try to solve problems ourselves. When a situation is more than we can bear, we shrink back in fear. God does not want us to fearful. If there is anything we can’t bear or undertake He is willing to offer His shelter. The psalmist wrote that God spreads His protection over those who love Him. He surrounds the righteous with His favor as a shield.

Thankfully, by grace, we are made righteous through the sacrifice of  Jesus Christ and not by our own works. We are provided the luxury that we may run to our Father when we are in need of protection with the same confidence of a young child. God’s favor isn’t “fair,” thankfully. He grants His grace and mercy in spite of our flaws and failures. He sheds His mercy even though we do not deserve it because we love Him and have faith enough to run to Him and lean not on our own understanding.

Bankruptcy is an example of a process that protects the debtor from his creditors. It is a lawful process that grants the debtor protection against harassment when the debtor has fallen short, unable to repay the debt. God is also a refuge for His children when we make mistakes and are subject to persecution. We can run to God for a similar kind of protection. God’s favor protects us even though we don’t deserve it. God protects us from complete downfall even as we suffer the consequences of our actions. The legal system affords the debtor relief from creditors but consequently the debtor will face limited financial opportunities. God’s protection prevents us from becoming completely broken even though we may suffer a few bumps and bruises along the way.

God, our Father, is the ultimate source of protection. We can ask for it before we need it. Our faith in God’s ability to protect us (even from ourselves) can keep us on the path He would have for us.

God’s protection doesn’t save us from every hardship, lest we learn nothing from life’s journey. But God is faithful to those who seek Him, have faith in His ability and know that He is in control. God can allow the winds of life to merely bend you instead of break you!

P is for Protection.

Thank you, God, for your faithfulness and your protection.

Heavenly Father, thank you for grace and unmerited protection. Thank you for Your future favor and protection, saving me from dangers seen and unseen. I know it only through You that I have made it thus far. I ask Your protection through my life’s journey. Please cover me and those with whom I have covenant relationships. In Jesus’ name we have confidence in your protection.  Amen.

Pruning

“I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:1-2 NKJV

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is one of the most readily quoted. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5 NKJV

Without Him we can do nothing. However, the scripture prior to that, John 15:2 is often skimmed over. It is easy to realize how dependent we are on Christ, yet most of us are remiss and become ill at the notion that to become fruitful we must be pruned.

Without pruning, even the best specimens in any garden will eventually lose the ability to bear fruit. At the very least, the output will greatly diminish. The limbs will become weak and unable to support what little fruit that is produced. Comparatively, the same tree that has been pruned will be shorter but stronger. 

Trees and shrubs that have been freshly pruned usually look awful. Where I live Crepe Myrtles trees are blooming now. However, for them to bloom to the fullest, dead limbs are cut away in winter. The trees look so bad after their winter pruning the process is jokingly called “Crepe Murder.

We often look bad and feel bad when our Father takes to pruning us as well. Sometimes it may be a stray branch here or there that is removed. But then there are times in our lives when we may feel like we’ve been taken all the way down to the roots!

Pruning is painful.

We may even feel like we’re dying all the while God is preparing us to produce more! We don’t often see it at the time or understand. We can feel bad and look worse.  Yet, Jesus promises that every branch that does bear fruit God prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

Sometimes the removal of things in our lives, though devastating at the moment, eventually make us stronger. Sometimes there is a reason so-called “friends” leave. It may be a job. Or even a relationship.

God cuts off what is not good for us. God often removes those things or people we would in no way leave on our own.

We can have faith knowing that He is our life source and through Him we will be fine no matter how deep the cut. Our progression in life requires some pruning.  Thankfully, the potential fruit is well worth the temporary pain.

The next time you experience a hardship, disappointment or painful experience; don’t assume it is an attack from the enemy. It might be time for God’s hand on you.

It may just be time for you to produce more fruit than you thought possible!

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8 NKJV