Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Close, But Not Connected - Lenten Journey Day 23 Devotional - March 31, 2014

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

“Low battery,” my phone alerted me.  Hurriedly, I plugged it in and continued with my conversation.  A few minutes passed, when my phone interrupted me again with another message; “Goodbye” and went dead!  I was completely confused.  What just happened?!  I looked down at the charger.  It had fallen out and was lying NEXT to the electrical outlet.

Close.  But close doesn’t cut it when it comes to power.

As a follower of Christ, I can look back and recall a lot of “close” times.  I was going to church, serving, etc. You know, checking off all the boxes, but still feeling a little….powerless.  Even now, I can get so caught up in being the dutiful believer that I lose sight of what matters the most.  That’s about as useful as me laying my plug next to the outlet.  I know I’m not the only one, and as I held my powerless phone in my hand, I began to reflect on some of the things that tend to cut off my charge.

Busyness – I can easily get short-circuited by my To Do list.  If I focus too much on doing, life becomes a treadmill.  That may feel good for a while, but I end up going nowhere fast and exhausted.  The only “doing” I need to be focused on is “doing” God’s will; that’s it.  “Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19).

Legalism – Going to church? Check.  Giving? Check.  Cross Necklace? Got it! Listening to God? Uhhhhhdon't you want to see my cool cross necklace?  This is what I call “Pharisees-syndrome” and these are the moments when I become preoccupied with following the doctrines of being a “good Christian”.  I swing my spiritual cane, crossing every “T” and dotting every “I” as a means of getting God, and others’, approval.   Outside of being obnoxious, my pursuit of gold stars on my report card severs my connection to a God that is LIVING and wants an intimate relationship with me.  “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But, after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24-25). 

Say it with me class, “relationship over rules.”
Got it?  Class dismissed.

Now what are some of the signs that usually indicate my battery is running low?

Low energy – This is probably the most obvious one for me; just plain tired!  There is something rejuvenating about being connected to God’s will.  His promise is that He “will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint” (Jeremiah 31:25).  So when my energy is feeling low, I need to get plugged back into the source.

Low joy – This is when “Ms. Attitude” comes out.  It takes a few different forms: low patience, high frustration, low gratitude, high complaining.  Whatever the form, I usually feel like I should walk around with caution tape wrapped around me.  The scripture tells me to “Let [my] conversation be gracious and attractive so that [I] will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6).  Much easier when I’m connected to God.  When I’m not?  Not so much.  In order for me to walk in love the way that God desires, I NEED His power.

Low obedience – Remember that zero tolerance policy I mentioned before?  Well, when I don’t connect to the light, then I become “hard of hearing”.  When I can’t hear the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, exceptions and compromises run rampant.  That’s one of the consequences of a poor connection.  But the Word calls those “who hear the word of God and keep it,” BLESSED (Luke 11:28).  I want to be blessed!  Don’t you?

So what do I do to stay connected?

Prayer and devotional time – It should go without saying, but the best way to stay connected is to spend time with God.  It’s so obvious and simplistic that the busybody in me can miss it!  But, there is incredible power when we do two things:

Spend time in His word.For the word of God is alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12).
Spend time in prayer. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).

Accountability – Sometimes I have days like today, where the battery is dying out and I’m ignoring it.  That’s when it is helpful to have those around me to help check my connection.  In Hebrews 3:13, Paul encourages us to “warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” In Hebrews 10:24 he goes on to say, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” I have built accountability partners in my life.  Sometimes a simple “is everything ok?” or “what’s your problem?” is enough to plug me back in.
It’s no coincidence that the key to a successful connection is our relationship with God and with other believers.  We were built for relationship and it’s from those relationships, or connections, that we draw the greatest power.

So how’s your connection today?
Is that little indicator buzzing away telling you, low battery?
How can you strengthen your connection?
Who can strengthen your connection?
You’ve got the power!

Let’s pray: Dear Father, You are Elohim, the all-powerful and omnipotent God.  According to Jeremiah 32:17, “You have made the heavens and the earth by Your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”  Although, at times, I try I can do nothing without You.  Increase my faith to trust in Your ability, and not my own.  Surround me with brothers and sisters that will keep me connected.   When I am tempted to follow my own ways, convict me and allow me to quickly turn to You, my source. Give me the courage and wisdom to seek restoration and power in Your presence.  In Your mighty name, I pray.  Amen.

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