I’m up to my elbows in busyness this week, so I’m posting a few chapters from my new book, Deep Roots, which I’ll publish later this year. I’m in the middle of the final rewrite, so please give me any feedback which can make these chapters better.
Root Down (Psalm 1)
Everyone has a “guilty pleasure” song. You know what I’m talking about. A guilty pleasure song is that tune you crank up in the car when you’re driving alone. It’s the song you sing in the shower when no one else is home. Some people don’t have just one guilty pleasure song. It may be a particular band or an entire genre. My guilty pleasure music encompasses an entire album.
Ill Communication by the legendary rap group Beastie Boys.
Released in 1994, Ill Communication was a critical and popular success. The first single, “Sabotage”, spawned a wildly popular music video in which the band spoofed a ‘70’s cop show. In all, the band released four singles from the album, the last of which was “Root Down,” which sampled a song by jazz artist Jimmy Smith. In the song, the Beastie Boys rap about their musical roots. In fact, one of the meanings of the phrase “kick it root down” is to get back to the roots—to the basics —of something.
Something weird happens to people when they submerge themselves in American Christian culture. Most become complacent—they show up to church, sit through the service, throw some spare change in the offering, and go home. Others get so involved with “church work” (Sunday ser-vices, Sunday School, small group, ministry teams, volunteering) they lose focus as to what their faith is really about. Spiritually speaking, we need to kick it root down.
We need to get back to the basics.
Psalm 1 identifies the root of our interaction with God—faithful obedience. The author says a righteous person does not live like a wicked person. The righteous person pursues God by conforming his life to God’s standards. The results of his pursuit of God?
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Most trees must have deep roots to survive. A tree firmly rooted on the river’s edge receives constant nourishment and hydration. Such trees sustain their vigor and produce abundant fruit, even in times of drought. Similarly, God strengthens people who strive to live out His commands. Are their times of struggle, doubt, and suffering? Yes, but their whole life reflects consistent dependence on Jesus. Their words reflect Jesus. Their attitudes reflect Jesus. Their actions reflect Jesus. Even their repentance reflects Jesus. They thrive during life’s droughts when others struggle to survive.
My mother-in-law is a classic southern lady. Dignified and softly spoken with a slight southern draw, she enjoys good novels, her grandchildren, and an ice-cold glass of sweet tea on a warm summer evening out on the deck overlooking her rose bushes. She has also suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for most of her life. She’s had both of her knees replaced. She’s had knuckle replacement surgery to straighten the fingers on her right hand. There are days she cannot get out of bed. And yet, I’ve never heard her complain. I’ve only seen her tear up from pain a handful of times. Her faith in Jesus has never wavered. She has suffered well because her spiritual roots run deep. Those roots have produced the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentle-ness, faithfulness, and self-control.
If we’re honest, we would admit there are areas in our lives that have shallow spiritual roots. In many ways, our lives are no different than people who don’t know Jesus. Christians struggle with divorce, adultery, pornography, greed, envy, jealousy, and anger as much as those who do not follow Jesus. Is it any wonder many look at us and say, “I’m just as good as that Christian. Why do I need the church?” They look at us and see themselves when they should see Jesus.
Something needs to change.
According to Psalm 1, the righteous person “delights in the law of the Lord” and “meditates on it day and night.” I once had a conversation with a guy who told me he was more interested in doing what the Bible said than reading it. My response: “How can you do what the Bible says if you never read it?”
The only way we can delight in God’s word and meditate on it is to dig deep into the Bible regularly and read, study, meditate, and apply it practically to our lives. As we make the Bible part of our life’s rhythm, our spiritual roots dig deeper, gaining much-needed nourishment and sustenance. As we integrate the Bible into our lives, we’ll start reflecting Jesus to the world around us.
And when the river rises, we’ll be able to weather the storm.
 Psalm 1:3.