Tag Archives: Weeds

Good Roots

Before last week’s 50th reunion reflections I considered “Those Never-Ending Weeds” and “More About Those Weeds.”

I wrote that there was one more weeds blog to come. This is it. The question that crossed my mind in identifying and uprooting those weeds was “How do I identify and uproot the weeds in my life?”

The answer is “Develop a good root system.” A strong root system crowds out unwanted growth. The prophets repeatedly told the Israelites how to do so. When they spoke to the nation about sin their most frequent opening statement was something akin to “The Lord spoke to me” or “The Lord our God says.” It was their way of reminding God’s people that the only way to identify the sinful weeds was to look at our lives from the eyes and heart of God. Jesus demonstrated this principle during His temptation in the wilderness. Each time Satan tempted Him Jesus responded “It is written…” (Matthew 4:1-11). He evaluated the tempter’s offers through the lens of God’s words. That’s why the Psalmist wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) He understood that we identify the weeds only when the Word of God has taken root in our hearts. A strong root system crowds out unwanted growth.

When we look at our lives from the perspective of God’s Word we see more clearly that the foundation of most every sin is pride. In my book “7 Habits of Highly Healthy People – Antidotes for the 7 Deadly Sins” I pointed out, “As William Barkley wrote, ‘Pride is the ground in which all other sins grow.’ Think about it. Pride grows:

Envy – we are unable to permit the success or excellence of another
Anger – we cannot tolerate those who frustrate our plans, purposes, and desires
Greed – we need to possess more to be worth more and impress more;
Lust and Gluttony – we need to satisfy ourselves (or escape from ourselves)
Sloth – we lack love for ourselves and others

Pride is at the root of all of these sins. Pride is a powerful sin… “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.””(Proverbs 16:18)

Only when we have a good root system deep within our hearts can we spot our pride that leads to other sins. So with the Psalmist we need to hide the word within our hearts. The author of Hebrews described the dynamic vividly when he wrote “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

I’m learning how to identify and somewhat control the weeds in our yard and garden. In doing so I’m also re-learning how to do the same in my life. I’m recommitting myself to hiding the Word in my heart that I might not sin. A good root system will do the job.                           As Psalm 1:1-3 paints the picture: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Good roots – blessed life. Sounds like a plan.



More About Those Weeds

As I mentioned last week, yard work led me to think about weeds. I’m still thinking about them – because I now realize I missed some. The problem is I didn’t know, at first sight, that they were weeds. They looked like flowers – pretty, colorful flowers.

I asked my wife (the real gardener in the family) – and even she couldn’t always tell if something was a flower or weed. It left me wondering “How can something so pretty be a weed? How can something so attractive be bad? Why can’t we just leave them there – they’re so pretty!”

Let’s face it, weeds can be deceptive.

Then it struck me. Weeds are just like the devil. He, too, is deceptive. He is, in fact, a master of deceit.  “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9 RSV) To be deceptive is to intentionally misrepresent reality in order to gain an dishonest advantage over others. It’s like the national or international company that wants our opinion or money but knows many of us won’t answer an 800 or 888 number. So it uses a local phone number to trick us into answering. It’s deception.

We first see this deceptiveness in the Garden of Eden. Satan made sin look appealing by saying to Eve, ““You will not certainly die…For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:4-5) Such knowledge sounded wonderful. But it was masterful deception. Eve would not die – physically – and she would know good and evil – in ways she had not imagined possible. But such knowledge was not good; it was destructive. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) Deception.

Satan tried it again when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He told Jesus that He would have all the glory and splendor of the kingdoms of the world if He would simply worship Satan. Deception. Jesus could gain the glory and splendor, but He would only gain authority over the kingdoms of the world through obedience to His Father.

Another deceptive tactic the devil uses is to encourage the use of synonyms for sin. People do not ‘sin.’ Rather, someone makes a ‘mistake’, a ‘blunder’ or a ‘bad decision.’ A person has ‘shortcomings,’ a ‘weakness’ or an ‘infirmity.’ Someone makes an ‘error in judgment.’ And so it goes. You can change the label on a bottle of poison to read ‘Fruit Punch,’ but it it doesn’t change the poison. Deception.

No matter how pretty they may be, the deceptive weeds must be identified and uprooted – lest they take over and destroy the good flowers or the lawn. And now with each ‘beautiful weed’ I see I’m reminded there are many beautiful weeds all around my life that also need to be identified and uprooted. How we do so – that’s for next week’s blog. In the meantime, let’s not despair. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Those Never-ending Weeds

Every year it’s the same routine. In the spring my wife and I get busy digging up the weeds – roots and all. We even make sure there’s adequate mulch to help choke out future weeds. After many hours and the accompanying aches and pains, we rejoice in looking at mostly weed-free gardens, trees and shrubs. It’s a scene of beauty and a sense of accomplishment.

But the positive emotions are guarded and restrained – because we know what’s coming. We’ll wake up some future morning and see more weeds – seemingly popping up out of nowhere overnight. Then, after grumbling for days – and sometimes weeks – about how quickly weeds appear and grow and how slowly trees, plants and shrubs grow, and about how no matter what we do we can never completely eliminate the weeds, we get back to digging up the weeds.

It’s amazing – no garden or lawn is exempt. Over the years we’ve learned that wherever there is dirt, there will be weeds. And as I was digging up weeds again this past week it hit me – the reoccurring weeds are a parable of my life. Unwanted weeds keep popping up not only in the dirt, but also in my life. The weeds are the unwanted habits, thoughts and tendencies – the sins – that I try so hard to root out of my life only to have them reoccur on their own schedule. This, too, leads me to grumble about why I can’t keep these weeds down and eliminate them completely.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the apostle Paul. Addressing the Roman Church centuries ago, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote about these weeds: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” (Romans 7:18-21 NLT) Every time I read those words I wonder if Paul has read my diary! And none of us is exempt.

It would be easy to give up and be miserable. As Paul laments “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24) But he continues: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:26)

I am still frustrated that these sinful weeds keep reoccurring but my guilt is relieved. Jesus has taken care of the power of the weeds. They will always be short-lived. And He supplies me with the only weed killer I need: “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you…And Christ lives within you …the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” (Romans 8:8-11)

I’ll never look at weeds the same again. Oh, I’ll still grumble and complain about them. But I will also thank God who through Jesus has given me all I need to fight the weeds in my life.

The Red Army Attack

It was such a beautiful spring day. Warm temperature and bright sunshine. I was doing some of the outdoor spring stuff – mowing and trimming, and pulling weeds that had powered their way up though the mulch around the trees. I was weeding by our little maple tree when it happened. I felt something on my arm.

So I raised my arm and immediately saw a multitude of red ants on my sleeves and jeans – and simultaneously discovered they were also under my sleeves and jeans. And they were biting. I was literally under attack from this red army for invading their territory.

Believe me, I did a lot off brushing off along with arm and leg flailing. (Quite a sight I’m sure!) Once I was confident I had repelled them all I got some spray and doused the mulch. The next day they were dead and gone. But a week later I still have bodily evidence of the bites – the effect lingers for a while.

While reflecting upon this red army attack I was reminded that a similar attack is pictured in the Bible. Jesus warned “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves… Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” (Matthew 7:15 & 24:4-12)

The Apostle Paul experienced it and so warned his followers. As he was leaving Ephesus he said to the Elders “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31) He also wrote to warn Timothy. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron…For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 & 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Here’s my summary of these warnings: Those who dig into the soil of the Word, who spend time pulling up the weeds that have powered up into their lives, will be attacked. Like the army of red ants the army of those opposed to Jesus and His message attack and bite. I realized again that my task – the task of all Christians – is to consistently brush off the attackers and keep actively flailing the Word.
Perhaps Paul said it best in one of his letters to Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) As the New Living Translation states it “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” Eugene Peterson in The Message hits puts it most forcefully: “Proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.”

So even as I still itch I’m grateful to the red army for their attack. The reminder of my purpose and mission has been helpful and encouraging. Lord, help me persevere in digging and pulling up in enemy territory and grant me strength and courage to keep challenging, warning, and urging. And fill me with the wisdom to keep it simple.