Friday, September 12, 2008

Feeling a Connection with God

We've all been there, if we're honest with ourselves and each other: times when we just don't feel a connection with God. The lack of a connection can be discouraging and most certainly leads to a lapse in our prayer life, our church attendance, our Bible reading, and most things that are spiritual. It opens us up to temptation, wrong priorities, shortsightedness, and emptiness.

When you feel no connection with God, what to do?

1) Admit it to yourself. The most important step in solving any problem is to fully recognize it. King David certainly struggled with his connection with God from time to time. One thing that David had going for him is this: he valued his relationship with God and when he felt disconnected, he urgently pursued God until he felt connected again.

Here is some encouragement for you: David was a man who committed every sin that a person could commit, including murder! Yet, he was described as a "man after [God's] own heart!" (Acts 13:22). David could admit his faults, express sorrow for them, and turn to God for healing. David was able to say, "The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want..." Connection re-established!!

2) Admit it to a friend(s). Fortunately, I have numbers of spiritual friends that I can turn to when I feel disconnected from God. I will tell them how I'm feeling, what's lacking, and what's hurting, and often admit that I really don't know how to express my emptiness. Having a real close friend that will hold me accountable and will allow me to hold him accountable is a difference maker. Many times, during these talks, I will feel the need to pray, but not feel the ability or worthiness to pray. My friend will pray for me. A man named Simon, formerly a magician, found himself in this predicament. He requested that Peter pray for him to help re-establish a connection with God (Acts 8).

Find a friend that you can talk to and admit your broken connection with God. Let him help.

3) Admit your disconnect to God Himself. This is often the most difficult part, but not because God wants it that way! For most of us, it is difficult to admit our faults, our weaknesses and our relationship difficulties to anyone, much less a Divine being that we can't see. Yet, despite His majesty, His sovereignty, and His position as the Supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe, God wants very much to have a relationship with us. He has taken it upon Himself to reach out to us and make Himself known to us through nature, through science, and through the Bible.

Our struggle with a relationship with God is often the same as our struggles with any other broken relationship - we just don't know what to say!

Why not simply say to God something along these lines:

"God, I don't know what to say to you. So let me just be direct. Please bear with me and be merciful to me. I want to improve my relationship with you. I want to feel a connection. I want to get to know you. I don't know where to start. But, since you've gone to all the trouble to try and communicate with me, I'll make a feeble attempt at a response. Be patient with me as I get better at talking with you. I recognize you for what You are and for what I am. I will become a better listener. I will try this again soon. I'm reaching out to you because of the door opened by Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen."

We all need that connection with God. It's the only guarantee for improving our immediate spiritual health and ensuring our eternal well being.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sentencing

They say you might have to die, Oscar.

It won’t be much longer now. Then we’ll know. You seem pretty calm considering the stakes, I’ve got to say. Maintaining such an unruffled demeanor is no small achievement, what with all those eyes, 12 pair to be exact, taking turns zeroing in on you from across the room, trying to read your mind from your manner. But nothing seems to phase you.

There’s something about your eyes, though. They look almost lidless. They stick out like billiard balls, as if maybe your tie is too tight. I guess maybe they’ve seen more than eyes were ever meant to see. And what they saw, no mind was ever meant to replay – but yours has, over and over again.

Conscience bites hard and it doesn’t let go, just like those pit bulls you spent your spare time raising and fighting. What did you say to it after that first time to get it to heel? Did you tell it not to worry, that it wasn’t that big a deal? It wasn’t like she was your real daughter after all. She was your stepdaughter. No flesh, no blood, no relation. Did it help to tell yourself that? But then she said she was going to tell on you and you had to keep that from happening. And you did. So here we are.

They say you might have to die, Oscar. It’ll make for good copy, you know. That’s why I’m here. This is a story people will want to read about.

But it’s not the one I want to tell. Telling your story has been humbling and has reminded me of things; it has reminded me that while the choices I’ve made in life have been different from yours and in most cases better, the net effect has been the same: alienation from God and a sentence of death. That’s what I need to tell: how I’d be sitting right where you are, condemned for crimes too numerous to recount, against Creator and creation alike, if not for a curious fact -- that my judge and my advocate are one and the same. And if not for an even stranger fact -- that my judge, the dignity of his position notwithstanding, gave it all up and took my punishment upon himself -- my eternal prospects would be worth even less than your temporal ones are now.

Watching our justice system at work has a way of reminding me of this story. But unfortunately it’s not the story they pay me to tell. I’ll have to tell it on my time. In the meantime, it looks like they are filing back in. All rise. Their eyes are avoiding you now.

It’s time, Oscar. It’s time.