Connecting with God
It’s another beautiful day in the 80’s here in the sunny northwest. Your Church took a big step forward in the community this week as we signed the paperwork and paid the fees to join the Chamber of Commerce. I have never been a part of a city run organization that is so welcoming as this and with the promise from them to do whatever they can to help advertise and grow our church. I just love it when you can make the right connection!
I think every human in life is in need of two things: love and connections. Everybody needs love and needs to love. I don’t think people were born with a Jesus-size hole in their hearts…heads maybe…but not their hearts! I think people were born with the need to be loved. Inevitably, that’s why people need God because God IS love. Love also needs to be given away. Everyone needs connections; an infant needs connections with the parent or a caregiver in order to live, a person looking for a job needs a connection to get hired, people looking for a mate need a connection, parents continually want the connection with their children, an elderly person needs a connection with a caregiver in order to make it to the bathroom, and so on. Speaking of the elderly, an old man goes in to see his doctor for his regular physical and once again the doctor is impressed with the results; perfect health and a strong heart. So the doctor takes a bold step and asks the man about his spiritual condition, “How’s your connection with God?” The old guy tells the doc that it couldn’t be better. “Doc, God and I are so close that when I get up at night to go to the bathroom He turns the light on for me and when I’m done, God turns it off” In disbelief the doctor picks up the phone and calls the man’s wife, retelling the story to her, seeking it’s validation. The elderly wife responds, “Oh my! That’s why our refrigerator was leaking this morning!” Ha-ha, not quite the connection I’m getting at.
No matter how much we want to admit or deny it, the truth is we all need to be loved and we all need connections. If you haven’t guessed it, I started a message series at the church this past Sunday called Connections. Of all the connections we need, and at the risk of sounding cliché, I believe connecting with God is the single most important connect anyone can make, and probably the easiest.
In the Bible, the Apostle John in chapter 5 records a story of Jesus entering a poolside area at Bethesda where there 5 porches surrounding this pool are full of blind, lame and paralyzed people. Jesus walks by the pool, stops at a paralyzed man laying on his mat and asks him if he wants to be made well. The man responds by telling Jesus that every time he tries to get into the healing waters of the pool, somebody gets there first…so even though as much as he’d like to get healed, he can’t make it in. Jesus simply responds, “Rise, take up your bed and walk’. The guy immediately jumped up, took his bed and took off! It’s a great story and I think it speaks all about connecting with God.
The pool of Bethesda was also known for being the pool of grace, yet it was anything but grace. The story behind the pool having healing properties was a myth and a money maker. It was said that once every so often an angel came down and stirred the pool waters and whoever was first to jump in, got healed. In the original Greek the verses in the Bible explaining this story of the angel is omitted – it was only added to help the reader understand why so many sick people sat by the pool. In reality, the pool was run by businessmen selling mythology to the sick. The water source flowing into the pool was from a spring, and at times when the fresh water would flow into the pool, the pool bubbled. The sell job was if you jumped in during the bubbling of the pool, you would be healed. In order to guarantee your spot at being healed, they charged the people to lay on your mat by the pool. I’m sure they had some sort of tier system that allowed those with annual memberships to lay closer to the pool…thus when Jesus met this guy who had been paying for 37 years, you could imagine the poor guy’s frustration at still not being able to get into the pool fast enough! Interesting that Jesus picked this particular guy isn’t it?
There’s no way you could call this pool a pool of grace. Not because I don’t believe in the miraculous, but because how it came about. In order for a sick person to get their connection in being healed, the person had to perform. The better you performed, the more worthy of healing you were. No performance – no healing. Sorry, that’s not God, and that’s not His grace. That’s why the story was omitted…it’s a farce. Look at the paralytic’s response to Jesus when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well. The guy basically said, “Sir, I’m performing to the best of my ability!” If the pool was how God heals or operates, than Jesus should have encouraged him to work harder. But Jesus revealed something different. Connecting to God is not about our performance.
Jesus approached the man to see if he wanted to connect with God. Excuse me, but take a look at this again. Jesus approached first. I know the importance of seeking God, and there are several scriptures that talk about seeking Him. It’s important that we do. But if the Bible declares, suggests or commands that we seek Him than isn’t that God reaching out to us first? You can’t tell somebody to talk to you without talking to them first. Right? In other words, God has been after us, is after us, and will always be after us to connect with Him. I used to get a kick out of the old bumper sticker that read, “I found Jesus” – no buddy, Jesus found you. Connecting with God begins with the realization that He is trying to connect with you. He did it with Adam in the garden and when Adam didn’t show up one day, God went calling for him. My point is that God wants to connect with you; not because of your performance or lack of it – but because He just wants to. He loves relationship and He loves to talk. Man was created for God’s love and God’s connection. Some think it’s only because God desperately wants to change us and fix us – but if you go back to the story, that’s not what Jesus said to the paralytic.
Jesus told the man to get up, to take up his bed, and walk. If it was me, I would leave the stupid bed, or mat where I lived for 37 years and not care who got it! Why on earth would Jesus want you to take the mat that identified you as a sick person? I believe it’s because if you want to be made well, it starts with you allowing Jesus to see you as you are. Jesus’ goal isn’t to fix or change you. You don’t have to earn anything, perform or make some sort of show to connect with God. You just have to let Him love you. Let Him forgive you, and let Him heal you. When you accept His love, than you will be able to get up and walk away from whatever has held you back and has been ruining your life. But when you get up, take your life with you. You don’t get to leave it behind. You may not be the same person anymore, but take all the smells, the memories, the hurts and the shortfalls with you on your God journey. In time the mat will take on new meaning, serving as a reminder of who you were, how great His grace is, and how He continually reaches out to you…all because you said yes to allowing Him to connect with you.
It’s that easy. The Apostle Paul said if you believe God wants to connect…believe enough that you actually voiced it…you can start connecting with God, and the following part will just come natural.
I’ve got to run to the fridge!