“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Lately, I’ve been having trouble with my cell phone. It’s a simple, basic flip style phone, nothing “smart” about it, it. But that’s one of the reasons I like it; I don’t want a phone that’s smarter than I am. Recently, though, whenever I’ve tried to use a new charger, it beeps and displays the following message: “Warning! Bad contact–charger!” For some reason, the phone isn’t correctly connecting to the charger, so its battery can’t be charged properly. If I can’t solve the problem, I may have to buy a new phone, one I might not like as well.
My experience with my phone and its charger reminded me of the way things are sometimes with us and God. We’re not “connected” so we can’t “charge our batteries.” We end up having a spiritual “dead battery.” Of course, we can connect with God through prayer, Bible reading, devotion times, worship, and Christian service but I wondered what others thought, if there were things I might have missed.
I found some suggestions that I think are particularly helpful. They come from a Jewish web site but I believe the ideas are valid for Christians as well. You can find them at http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/7-Ways-to-Connect-to-God.html. The first suggestion is to find God’s guiding hand in your life. Look for examples of God’s presence. Second, pray, honestly and sincerely. Don’t just recite words, have an intimate conversation. Third, find God’s beauty in the world around you; in creation, in art or music, in other people. Fourth, “Find Torah wisdom.” Since “Torah” is Hebrew Scripture, we can amplify that to say “Find wisdom in Scripture.” For Christians, that means both the Old and New Testaments. Spend some time reading the Bible and see how it speaks to you. Fifth, appreciate God’s gifts. Be thankful for all of God’s gifts; your food, your senses, every good gift. Sixth, trust God. Cast your cares and fears on God and trust that God is there for you. Finally, “Do a Mitzvah.” A “mitzvah” is a commandment or a good deed performed out of religious duty. In other words, do something obedient, something that reveals God’s presence. The word “mitzvah” comes from the Hebrew word “tzavta,” which means to connect, so obedience connects us to God. These recommendations conclude by saying, “The more we resemble Him by aligning our will to His will, the closer we become to Him.”
This last is especially good advice. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2 NRSV). Further, if we neglect any of these practices, we run the risk of what might be called “spiritual malnutrition.” Jesus said “‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’” (Matt. 5:6 NRSV). God will nourish us too if we seek God.
But as I read these steps I realized that they all largely depend on us, on you and me reaching toward God. The heart of the Christian message, though, is that God reached out—and continues to reach out—to us. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8 NRSV). In John’s gospel, Jesus describes his relationship with his disciples like this: “‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’” (John 15:5 NRSV). The individual branches don’t nourish the main vine, it nourishes them. In the same way, God sustains us. The branches don’t reach out to the vine, they grow outward from it, just as we grow from Christ. Writing to the Philippians, Paul expressed his desire to
Jesus told the people,
“‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.’” (John 15:8-10 NRSV.)
Copyright © 2016 by David Phelps