Get down and dirty

Down and dirty aren’t usually things people like to be. As humans, we tend to want to place ourselves on high ground. That didn’t turn out to well for the inhabitants of Babel. Most of us appreciate cleanliness. After all, we’ve been told it’s next to godliness. But what if I told you that our aim should be the opposite of up and clean? What if you’re more useful down and dirty?

When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.

James 4:10 (NLT)

In this verse, the act of bowing down is not meant to be when we feel like it. The original text indicates that bowing down before the Lord is a conclusive decision. It is not a daily choice, but an eternal one.

Like the roots of a tree, we must first go downward where we will find our sustenance before we can be brought up. No one sees the roots or the struggles they encounter as they wend their way through hard soil, yet we all enjoy the fruits of the tree that has a strong foundation.

Our foundation must begin where no one else can see it. Our roots gain more strength the deeper they go. The deeper the roots, the higher the heights a tree can reach. Trouble only comes when a tree grows up faster than it grows down.

When we try to exalt ourselves and show everyone the glory of our foliage before the time is right, we run the risk of toppling over at the slightest breeze because our roots are not strong or deep enough to support the weight of our own ideas about ourselves.

But when we dig deep, even if the struggle is unseen from the surface, we put ourselves in a position for God to use us and bring us honour. The deeper we root ourselves in Him—the more we can get down and humble ourselves all the while lifting Him up, the greater our potential for reward.

Leaves are not so nearly as important as roots. For without roots, nothing can grow at all. So let’s not be afraid to get down and dirty. God can work with dirt.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 27-28, James 4

Let it grow

If you’ve never heard the song Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few years. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you can probably belt out a line or two of the chorus. And anything that sounds remotely like “let it go” can (and probably has been) turned into a parody. Our verse today lands us in this boat.

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

James 1:2-4 (NLT)
emphasis added

Immediately, images of the blonde princess blasting ice everywhere came to mind and I wondered how this could possibly apply to the Bible. But if you think hard enough, you can apply just about anything—even a cartoon.

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

In the film, Else—a princess with magical wintery powers, runs away and embraces her struggle. She no longer has to hide her abilities and, once she accepts that, she becomes stronger for it.

Now, we don’t have the ability to make an ice castle from nothing or bring on an eternal winter in the middle of a beautiful summer, but we do encounter struggles. Inside us all is a strong, confident person trying to get out and prove something. But the storms life throws at us push that confidence deep down inside. We get down, maybe depressed, because the storms never seem to end.

But what if, like the princess, we embraced the storm? Instead of seeing a setback, we saw opportunity? Naturally speaking, storms can be beneficial. They bring rain to promote plant growth. They bring cool air to moderate the climate. Lightening actually improves soil quality by converting nitrogen gas into nitrogen compounds which help soil fertility. Storms also help diminish pollution.

If natural storms can do all this, don’t you think that spiritual storms can do the same? Sometimes we need a little rain to stir us up. If we never struggled at all, how would we ever become stronger? What if your current struggle is meant to take some pollution—some unnecessary and poisonous things—out of your life?

Don’t fight the storm. Allow your faith to be tested, tried, and strengthened. Then let it grow.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 20-21, James 1

Control freak

Nobody likes to hear the S word. Sin isn’t something anyone wants to or enjoys talking about. Even sinners don’t like their actions to be referred to as sin. It’s a dirty word. And so it should be. But just because sin is dirty, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it or even talk about it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. So how do we deal with it?

We don’t.

He [Jesus] died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God.

Romans 6:10 (NLT)

Jesus already dealt with sin. He defeated it. There is no maybe about it. There were no little stragglers that escaped. Jesus got it all. He didn’t just win the battle, he won the war.

What does this mean for us?

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Romans 6:6 (NLT)

There are days where sin feels mighty powerful in my life. I struggle with the temptation to give in—and often do. But if it’s lost its power, why is the struggle still there?

Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

Perhaps our struggle isn’t so much with sin as it is with control. Until the day we leave this earth, sin will always be an option. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to allow it to control us. We should aim for the exact opposite.

So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11 (NLT)

Romans 6 goes on to talk about how we should be using our bodies as tools to bring glory to God. A tool is something to be used, controlled by the one using it. Our bodies should not control us, but we rather, should control our bodies. When we give ourselves over to sin, we give up control. Likewise, when we give ourselves over to God, we give Him control. The less control we hold for ourselves—the more we give to God, the less likely we are to give it up to sin. In a culture where control is everything, this is a difficult thing to comprehend or even accept. Yet the benefits in giving all control to God far outweigh the disadvantages (because there are no disadvantages).

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:7 (NLT)

Sin doesn’t have to control us. We don’t have to try to control sin. We must simply give all control over to God. Easy in words, not so much in action. But I believe that the more we strive to give God complete control and ask for His grace in doing so, the more freedom we will find.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77, Romans 6

Trust issues

TRUST: Confidence; a reliance, or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person.

In today’s world, who doesn’t have trust issues? Some of us trust too much and some of us trust too little.

For some of us our lack of trust has more to do with control than anything else. To trust someone means to give up control in a particular area. This becomes a big issue when we project our own insecurities regarding other people on God. We humanize Him to the point that we have a difficult time even trusting in the One who keeps the entire universe together.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.

Psalm 37:5 (NLT)

Everything. Yikes. I like to be in control. I like to know what’s happening and how it’s going to happen. The more I can control in a situation, the better. I don’t like unknowns. And then I put all of that insecurity on God. But here’s the thing, God isn’t an unknown. He gave us His Word to make Himself known to us.

Perhaps our greatest struggle in trusting God stems less from trust issues and more from relationship issues. When you really know someone, trusting them becomes easier. You know how they will react and respond and can predict a likely outcome for many situations. That is how it should be with God. The more we know Him, the more likely we will be able to anticipate the outcome. We have a giant book full of promises. How is it that all of that escapes our memory as soon as we’re asked to put our trust in the Lord?

Can we predict the future down to the tiniest detail? No, of course not. Only God knows all of that—and that is exactly why we should trust Him!

The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.
He delights in every detail of their lives.

Psalm 37:23 (NLT)

How many friends do you have that delight in every detail of your life? None, right? Thought so.

For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Psalm 37:9 (NLT)

Life isn’t without its struggles, but if we can put our issues aside, get to know God better and learn to put our trust in Him, He’ll fight our battles for us.

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act!
Travel steadily along his path.

Psalm 37:34a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 36-37, Acts 23:1-11

Every Day

I’m not good at talking to people. Socialising is about the last thing on my list of things I enjoy doing. When it comes to sharing the Gospel, I’m usually at a complete loss as where to start.

And I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this struggle.

But I wonder what would happen if we all worked on it? How many people could we reach if we just started talking about Jesus. Not as some far off being we sort of believe in, but as a real person whom we have a real relationship with.

In the book of Acts, the apostles were imprisoned because they spoke of Jesus. When an angel came to let them out, he said:

Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.

Acts 5:20 (ESV)

Of course, we know that this Life is Jesus. They weren’t commissioned to speak some of Jesus’ words or just the ones that they liked, but all of his words.

By the end of the chapter, the apostles had been called before the council, beaten and let go, and told not to talk about Jesus. So what did they do?

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 5:42 (ESV)

Do you think that maybe we could work on talking about Jesus? And not just about him, but speaking his words. His words of Truth and Life. It’s going to be a challenge for most of us.

But if we don’t speak all the words of this Life, who will?