Don’t give power to powerless things

We have a little garden plot here are Safe Haven Farm. It isn’t much, and it’s actually much less now than it used to be. But we get some fresh veggies out of it.

When I was younger, we’d eat out of the garden. We had potatoes and carrots and onions. We had everything to make salsa, except the tortilla chips. I loved the results of gardening. What I didn’t like was the work behind getting those results.

In this part of Kansas, our soil is fertile, but it’s filled with clay, which makes digging difficult. And then there are the weeds.

Weeds, weeds, everywhere, from dandelions to cheat grass and everything in between. Weeds make gardening difficult. They sap the nutrients from the fruit-bearing plants, and sometimes they’re difficult to distinguish too.

And even if you can tell the difference between a weed and a real plant, usually their roots are woven together, so you can’t pull one up without killing the other.

I hate weeds. Everyone does. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re part of the original curse (Genesis 3:17). But weeds don’t just affect our gardens. Weeds can affect our lives too. Weeds can be spiritual.

Idolatry is a spiritual weed. Ever thought about that?

When I think about idols and idolatry, I envision mass groups of people in robes bowing down to bronze statues or singing in foreign languages. Like some twisted church service thousands of years in the past when people didn’t know any better.

Maybe in some cases that’s true. Historically some cultures did bow down before forged statues, but you won’t see that kind of idolatry happening in the United States. American idolatry is much more subversive.

Sports. Artists. Politicians. Performers. Your job. Your friends. Your family. Idols can take the shape of even the most innocent relationships. It’s the power you give them over your life that makes them idols.

Those bronze statues people worshiped in ancient times had no power at all, except what the people who bowed down surrendered (Jeremiah 10:5).

We all have idols. Let’s just admit that right now, because it’s true. We all have something or someone in our lives that is fighting to take precedence over God and His plans. The question is who you’re willing to surrender your life to.

An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. So to figure out what idols are in your life, you have to ask yourself what role God should be filling.

God is our comforter. He should be the one who helps us manage our stress. Are you turning to something else other than His Word or His promises to calm you down? That’s an idol.

God is our sufficiency. He should be the one who makes us whole. Are you looking to another relationship to complete you? Are you looking to something you can achieve to make you feel worthwhile? That’s an idol.

God is our security. He should be the one who makes us feel safe, who makes us feel loved. Are you looking to what another person makes you feel to sooth your insecurity? Are you looking to your success personally to make you feel safe? That’s an idol.

Your sports team may be a community, but it shouldn’t be the root of your community. Your job may be how God provides for you, but never forget that it is still God who provides. And you may never be happy with the way you look, but you should always remember that God made you the way you are. And God doesn’t make mistakes.

But identifying idols is only one part of this. And it’s the easiest part. Removing idols from your life is difficult, painful work. Not only does it hurt you, but it hurts the people around you.

You have to dig up your life to expose the roots of the problem. So do the people who care about you.

If you’re blessed (like I am), you have people in your life who love you so deeply that they’re willing to experience the pain of uprooting your idols alongside you. No matter how much it hurts them or inconveniences them, they’ll hang in there right beside you. They’ll walk you through the pain and the heartache of realizing how flawed you actually are, and they’ll love you throughout it all.

But how much better would it be if we didn’t let idols put down roots in our lives? Remember, idols only have the power we give them (Jeremiah 10:5). So wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we didn’t give our idols any power at all?

That job you think matters so much? Instead of trusting your finances, how about you try trusting your faith?

That person whose opinion will make or break you? How about you care less about what they think and more about what God says?

That relationship you think you can’t lose? Ask God what He thinks about you and then reevaluate how the people in your life treat you.

Identify what could become an idol before it puts down roots. It’s like pre-treating your garden plot for weeds before you plant. That way you can pull it out before it damages your life and the lives of those around you. (Matthew 13:24-30)

God has give you the power to choose who will control your life. You can either hand that power over to powerless things, or you can give it back to God, who can actually do something with it.

Which do you think is a better idea?

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Epic tree in Se'Tul - Peten, Guatemala

What’s the big deal with strong roots?

Some days I wonder what takes God so long to work. Does anyone else catch themselves thinking that? It’s like you’ve done everything you need to do and you just have to sit tight and wait for God to keep up his end of the bargain. And He doesn’t. Or if He does, He doesn’t do it in a way you expect. But either way, it always takes much longer than you think it will. Either that or it happens much sooner than you expect and you end up scrambling.

But for me, it always seems to take forever. Forever and a day. At least it does for the really important things I want. There’s rarely an immediate answer. And the longer I wait, the more impatient I get. But recently I had something of a revelation. What if it’s me God is waiting on?

Epic tree in Se'Tul - Peten, Guatemala

Epic tree in Se’Tul – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Ephesians 3:17.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

There are many times in the Christian life where we have to wait. Waiting is part of faith. And I hate waiting, but it’s good for me because I’m such a control freak that I will rush into any situation and try to control the outcome whether I truly understand what’s going on or not.

But sometimes waiting isn’t the answer. Sometimes taking the initiative is right, and God is waiting for us to step up and accomplish certain things in our own life and in our own Christian walk before He lets us take the next step. Because if I haven’t done everything I’m supposed to, if I haven’t taken all the steps I need to, I’m not ready for what God has for me.

The Bible talks about trees a lot in Scripture. Christians are compared to trees that grow by rivers, with deep roots that reach into the waters and are always nourished even in droughts. Even today’s verse says that we need to be deeply rooted in God’s love so that we will be strong.

What’s the big deal with roots?

Well, a tree is only as strong and as healthy as its root system. Trees with weak, shallow roots are easy to tip over. Trees with unhealthy roots are easy to break. But a tree with strong, healthy roots isn’t moving. It might lose some branches in a storm, but its trunk will remain strong even in the worst winds.

And it’s the same with Christians.

Our effectiveness as Christians is directly proportional to how deep we allow Christ into our lives. Have you ever thought about that? Many times we allow Christ into our hearts and into our lives but we put up barricades and tell Him that certain areas are off limits. We block off and compartmentalize certain aspects of our lives and tell Jesus to keep His distance from those, either because we’re not willing to give them up or because we don’t think He can actually help. Or in some cases, we don’t think we’re worthy of being healed.

But if you want to be a strong Christian, you have to let God heal your roots all the way. You can only grow as tall as your roots can grow deep.

I have realized that there are areas in my own heart that I have blocked Christ from healing, many of them dealing with fear and major insecurity issues. And I can rationalize and hypothesize those issues away, but that won’t heal them. That will just allow me to hide them like I always have. But opening that part of my heart to Christ and allowing Him to fix what’s wrong will not only result in peace but will also allow me to take the next steps in my walk with God. But until I let Him fix me, I won’t be ready to do what He’s planned for me to do.

Oh, yes, I can continue to bump along the bottom, still doing good things for Him and helping others. But God has a dream for me that’s bigger than I can wrap my head around. And I’m not living that dream right now. For so long, I thought I was waiting on Him. But now I’m beginning to realize that He’s waiting on me.

If there’s a part of your heart that you’ve closed off to God for any reason, consider opening it up. It hurts, but every wound has to hurt before it can heal. And the stronger your roots grow, the more effective you will be and the more storms you can weather and the more you can accomplish for God.

Putting down roots

Where are your roots? Isn’t it interesting how many times the Bible uses trees as an illustration of the Christian life? The Psalms compare people to trust God to trees planted by a river. In desert communities like what many of the writers of the Bible grew up in, planting a tree by a river was a great idea. It never ran out of water, even during the worst weather.

It’s just intersting to me that God uses trees so often to paint a picture of what following Him is like, even down to bearing fruit and being pruned.

The verse this morning doesn’t exactly mention a tree, but it does talk about roots:

Ephesians 3:17-19

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

When a person decides to follow Christ, He comes to live in that person’s heart. The more we trust Him, the deeper our roots will grow into God’s love, providing a safe place where we can find refuge, a best friend who will never forsake us, and a confident hope that everything in life will turn out the way it’s supposed to in the end.

But I saw something in this verse that I have missed on previous readings: Before we can begin to understand God’s love, we have to be rooted in it.

If we are rooted in God’s love, that’s where our confidence will come from. That’s where our feeling of safety will come from. That’s where our faith will come from. If we can grab hold of God’s love and build our life on it, knowing that He loves us and that He did the unthinkable to save us, we can begin to understand that love. Obviously we can’t understand it fully. It’s too big for us. But we can begin to grasp how much He loves us.

So many times we try to love other people before we really comprehend what it is for God to love us. Human love is such a fragile thing, and most of the time we end up making a mess out of our good intentions.

So before we even try to spread God’s love to other people, we’d better make sure that we are deeply rooted in it. Because how can we share something we have never experienced?