Have you ever felt like the plug got pulled on your life in Christ? Like you’re cut off and drifting away, or worse, have taken a big hit and now are in free fall. Doesn’t feel very good does it? The peace of Christ becomes a faded memory, a host of weaknesses sap your strength and temptations you thought you’d finished with are back pounding on your spiritual door.
Disconnected! It’s one of the easiest things to happen to a Christian and fairly easy to remedy, if you understand the game and how it’s played. Like a wonderful piece of technology, you are a new creation, perfectly fashioned to fulfill all of your Designer’s intended purposes. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have made everything about you new in Them. You are an awesome piece of spiritual handiwork!
There is only one problem: You have to stay “plugged in” for the juice to work right! Sure you can manage for a while on battery power, but that’s certain to empty out. You were never created to function without a consistent connection to your Source of never-ending divine power. You are not your source. Jesus is! Staying rightly connected to Him is the only thing that will keep you up and running as the person you’ve been created to become. This is the “secret” of the Spirit filled life. Listen to how He put it:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 ESV
Sadly, the enemy seems to understand this better than many Christians. He has a thousand ploys to secretly slip our plug out of the socket. Things like distraction, deception and discouragement break our focus, disconnecting us from the flow of peace and spiritual empowerment that comes when we’re trusting Jesus with our life and loved ones. Then we wander about feeling deflated, defeated and wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
The Real Problem
This is a strangely difficult lesson to learn, but there’s actually nothing wrong with us—ever—that reconnecting with Jesus won’t remedy. Being disconnected is the only real problem! Problems don’t necessarily go away (though some do), but a fresh surrender enables us to go forward through the problems and despite the problems. Whenever we are in the “sweet spot” of a dynamic connection, nothing else matters except staying by His side. Why? Because now the Holy Spirit is powering us up to flow in the river of peace once again and we are delighted to be back at His side.
Here’s an uncompromising truth: The new creation only comes forth on the basis of our complete surrender to and trust in Jesus. Being under your own leadership—that’s the domain of Self. Self will never be a sufficient savior and life guide for you. Jesus came so that we could be set free to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15). When we trust Him with what He has allowed and are willing to let Him lead the way—when we die to Self—we are already being raised out of our fallen ways into His new life. Beautiful!
Can you see by this that staying well-connected to Jesus is how the game of new life is played? Your enemies (let’s include the world and our flesh, along with the devils) are trying to disconnect you. Your elementary task is to make sure that a) you don’t get disconnected, or b) you get swiftly and sweetly reconnected if you do. That’s where the Connectors come in.
The Big Five
To help us in this the Lord has given us five delightful things to do which He can use to keep us steadily connected to Him. I call them the “Big Five” Connectors and they work like champs. I was so badly broken when I came to faith that I knew I couldn’t possibly survive in the walk unless Jesus could keep me closely connected—and I couldn’t trust myself to guard the plug! As I cried out to the Lord about this, He showed me the Big Five and impressed upon me that He uses them both as connectors and as “safety nets.”
What are they? Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship and service. In this article I will be explaining further how each one connects us to the Lord and also serves as a safety net to draw us back to Him if we start to drift away. For now I want to point out some things about all five. First of all, we don’t do them for Him. He’s going to love us no matter what. We do them because they help us live in the “sweet spot” of surrender and empowerment. Our new life depends upon it. That’s reason enough!
These are sometimes called “disciplines” in the Christian life. I hate that way of describing them because it makes them sound like dead, dull duties. They’re not! They are absolute delights if you are doing them with Jesus. He loved doing all five when He walked the earth. They kept Him well-connected to the Father. Now, He delights in helping us love what He loves doing. He is already in us wanting to do the Big Five for the sake of the joy each contains, for the sake of His own joy of communing with us as we do them, and finally for the sake of our joy in becoming better connected to Him through them.
Are you excited about this? I am! Ever since the Lord showed me these truths over 33 years ago, I have been steadily keeping all five of the Big Five in play and He has been using them to a) keep me from falling away (despite the many blows of adversity) and b) to draw me into such a sweet place of surrender in Him that I would never, ever want to go back. Sound like something your heart is yearning for? Good! Then, let’s dig into the Five.
Think of the Bible as Jesus in written form. We call Jesus “the Word made flesh”—not the Word made obvious. Just as people could look at Jesus in the flesh (His physical body) and not see the bright, shining Light of the Word, so too, we can look at the Bible and see only a book. The Bible, however, repeatedly makes the claim that it is much more than a mere book. Through the written Word the living Word can reveal Himself on any page to those who trust that His Word is true. Jesus spoke the words that brought all of creation into being. If His spoken Word can do that, think what His written Word can do for you, to bring you fully to life. Let Him speak to you through it.
1) Connector: The Bible connects us to the Lord in two main ways. First, God uses scripture to reveal truth to us, truths about who we are and who He is, truths about the world we live in and how to live in it with Him—and countless other truths in addition to these. According to Jesus, knowing truth sets us free (John 8:32). The enemy enslaves through twisting truth (deception). So there is a battle going on in which God reveals truth to liberate us. But that is only half the battle. The other thing needed is to be able to fully believe in and bet our lives on the truths that we are being shown. That’s the other way the Bible connects us: It instills faith (Romans 10:17) to believe the very truths that it conveys. You have to work at it of course, but the Lord is at work with you to help you get it.
2) Safety Net: As a safety net the Bible helps us (at the very least) as a road map for things to avoid (sins) and for things to do. Straying outside God’s moral boundaries is certain to disconnect you from the One who drew the lines for us in the first place. Trespassing into sin always separates us from God—not from His love, but from our fellowship with Him, from His strong support, and from the confidence and clear conscience He desires to give us. The second use the Lord makes of this safety net is to draw us back to His side whenever we do start to drift away. For this to work we have to stay in the Word even when we are going through situations that are playing havoc with our attitudes. In this way He can use scripture to help you stay “powered up” for doing the right thing (the connector) and also speak through it to wake you up and steer you clear of wrong turns (the safety net).
Troubleshooting: The obvious problem to avoid is reading the scriptures too little; less obvious is reading them too much. How can you get too much of a good thing? Spiritual knowledge which the Bible delivers in spades is not the same thing as spiritual growth, which always proves itself out amidst the pressures of daily life. Just as children need both food and exercise in order to grow physically, so we ever-growing Christians need to feed on the word of God and then practice what we are learning, or our growth will be stunted.
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The Lord promises us that all who call on His Name will be saved (Romans 10:13). He is not just talking about heaven, but about gaining a more heavenly life in the here and now. Prayer is calling on God for mercy, for help, or for fellowship whenever you may need it or desire it. He loves listening to us and responding. Let your weaknesses and your needs drive you to Him and you will never run out of things to talk about! Best of all, this connector brings us through communication into communion.
1) Connector: Imagine having someone at your side filled with exactly the help, wisdom or encouragement that you need, but never being allowed to speak to them. That would frustrate both of you, wouldn’t it? You don’t have to pray: You get to pray! Not only is the Lord always willing to listen, He can actually do something about our predicaments. That’s reason enough to start talking to Him. But don’t stop there. Learn to connect with faith as you cast your concerns on Him. Persevere in prayer until you really sense He has it in His Hands—and that you are finally and fully letting it go. This reconnects you with His peace.
2) Safety Net: A vigorous prayer life strengthens our relationship with the Lord, especially if we remember that conversation is a two-way street. Give Him opportunities to “speak.” Even if you don’t hear words, you will receive impressions. By these means He communicates understanding, sympathy, and the clear sense that we are not alone. Prayer draws us into intimate fellowship with our best Friend, divine Lover, and majestic Lord. We begin with short-term needs for intercession (the connector), but the long-term goal is an intimacy which knows that we can rest our heart in His (the safety net).
Troubleshooting: Don’t make the mistake of thinking you shouldn’t be troubling the Lord with a small request. No concern is too small! God may not answer your prayer in the way that you’ve made it, but He will always listen to your heart and treat you right. So, don’t let false humility hold you back, or shame silence your tongue. I have given the Lord tears, fears, even my pain and anger. He seems to welcome the kind of trust that lets us expose our heart to Him. What doesn’t work is becoming strident and stubborn, insisting on our own solution to the problem we are praying about. That’s when the heavens can go strangely silent. Finally, watch out for falling into routine and ritualized prayers. Would you like someone to talk to you by memorized lines, saying the same thing over and over? Neither does Jesus! Let your conversation be natural, free and wide ranging—just as it would be with a good friend whose affections you cherish and whose wisdom you trust.
Worship is that higher form of our conversation with the Lord where we are no longer talking over our needs and making requests, but thanking and praising Him for who He is and what He has already done. This brings us speedily into close communion with Jesus—a fast track to enhanced connection with His peace and presence. We can worship in many ways: with others in church, in our quiet times, or simply by doing all that we do as a love gift to Him.
1) Connector: Worship actually means “to ascribe worth to.” Since it is so easy during the week for our focus to shift to lesser things, Sunday worship provides an opportunity for all of us to ascribe a greater worth to the Lord. In public services of worship (and private moments of intentionally drawing close to God), we can experience the returning wonder of who He is and of all that He means to us. Corporate worship, especially, creates a spiritual “atmosphere” which seems to draw heaven closer to the earth, making it easier for everyone present to become worship-full. This becomes a powerful point of re-connection or improved connection for all of us as Jesus “inhabits” the worship of His people.
2) The Safety Net: There is a difference between church and worship. Anyone can go to church and participate in the worship service. Entering into worship is a different thing entirely. For that to happen we will have to clear away any impediments. Sin needs repenting and confessing. Also, hard feelings towards self or others must be released and anxious cares turned into trust for the desired encounter with the Lord and His grace to take place. I have long seen worship services as a kind of diagnostic: Is my heart as right with God as I think it is? If so, the heavenly gates swing open (the connector); if not, I’ll start seeking God to help me clear the way for Him to draw near (the safety net).
Troubleshooting: We are told that Lucifer once led worship in heaven. He fell due to pride. That should give us all pause. The Pharisees also loved to be honored, to be seen as holier than others, and to draw praise to themselves. Be careful about this: Spiritual pride is a terrible pitfall! So is false humility. Don’t hold back due to any feelings of unworthiness. Jesus has made you worthy to enter God’s presence and to stand before Him as a much-loved child. We are actually invited to come “boldly” to God’s throne of grace anytime we need mercy or help of any kind. Don’t let the sight of your sinful side keep you pinned to the mat—the Blood really is covering you! That’s why it’s there. Thank God for that and you will be praising Him in no time.
Our amazing God(s)—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are always in perfect love and fellowship with One Another. They are now working through the gospel to draw us out of our self-focus into genuine fellowship with each other and with Them. Fellowship is much more than friendly conversations around a pot luck supper or over coffee after church. The New Testament says that we have fellowship “in the Spirit” and “in truth.” By intentionally seeking out friends in the Lord who desire to grow in Spirit and in His truth, we stay refreshed and strengthened.
1) Connector: Now that we have been born again by Word and Spirit, we are not only free to worship God in Spirit and in truth, we can find common ground with anyone if the spirit between us is love and we can find some truths to agree upon. This is only hard if you expect perfect love and perfect agreement from everyone you meet. Once you grasp this simple principle you can become well-connected to Jesus practically anytime with practically anyone, especially if they are also seeking fellowship with both you and Jesus. Any bridge of fellowship becomes a pathway for re-connecting with the Lord, if need be, through their words and prayers and for enhanced connection when you share praise reports about the good things God has done.
2) Safety Net: Our word intimacy sounds like what it means: “in-to-me-see.” Through fellowship we “see into” each other and therefore can foresee problems or have insight to things the other person may be facing. In this way fellowship becomes an avenue for wisdom, guidance, correction and confirmation coming to us from the Lord, keeping us on track in our walk with Him. Your spiritually minded friend may actually see you drifting off into a poor attitude or dangerous direction before you do. The strength of this safety net is almost entirely dependent upon how well we build those bridges of genuine fellowship (made of honesty, openness, and transparency) during our times of connection.
Troubleshooting: There is a thief who will try to steal the greatest of God’s gifts from you. Love is the greatest gift, the one thing that we know we are required to grow. Our hearts should be much bigger by the end of the journey than at the beginning. Fellowship will help you grow love, but here’s the catch: You cannot grow love without trust opening and upholding your heart. Your enemy will do his level best to see that you are wounded by your fellow Christians in order to break your trust and cause you to withdraw from close fellowship. Don’t let that happen! Being hurt and offended is practically unavoidable. Jesus even said that it was “necessary” that offense come. The great thing isn’t if you’ve been hurt, but if you’ve gotten over it.
Serving others leads us out of ourselves into living more like Jesus does—selflessly. Almost everyone has work that they need to do for their own survival, which, nevertheless, benefits other people (if it is honest work!). Service takes us into the realm where we learn to give ourselves, expecting nothing in return, simply because it is the right and loving thing to do. God always rewards those who follow Jesus in laying down their lives for others.
1) The Connector: Desiring to be a servant leads us into the good things our loving Father has planned for us, connecting us more closely with His will and with our destined purpose. Seeking ways to serve the Almighty God, rather than just the “almighty dollar,” helps us learn to do all things “as unto the Lord.” This makes us far more aware, not only of what we are doing, but how we are doing it. Are we serving others in a way that reflects Jesus’ loving kindness? A servant’s heart will open us to compassion for others and transforms us into becoming more like Jesus, if we do as Mother Teresa said: “We serve for Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus and to Jesus. What a connection point that is!
2) Safety Net: Giving your time away in today’s material culture only makes sense if you are doing it because you believe the Lord is asking it of you. This is how the call of service—in any moment—works as a safety net. If I am not willing to lay my life down or set my agenda aside to be of service to the Lord, or if my attitude proves to be a stinker, then the call to service is showing me I need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting. I may never get that kind of feedback working on my paying job. Service, therefore, “works” to transform us. If we cooperate, the Lord uses it to draw us into splendid moments abounding with His love and life (the connector); if we encounter internal resistance to His call, the Holy Spirit is showing us our need to repent and return (the safety net).
Troubleshooting: The main problem to avoid is thinking that God needs your talent. Skills and abilities that you have cultivated, especially in the working world, are indeed God’s gifts to you and can be of great benefit in service to Him. But that is not why He called you. It is your heart He wants. The Lord needs us teachable and loving, period. He needs our availability far more than our abilities. The opposite problem is holding back. Don’t let the sight of other people’s gifts and abilities make you feel inadequate. You have a heart. You’re available. That’s all that is really needed! Let God worry about how to put you to good use and how to get the results He wants. Step out in faith and the Lord will meet you every time.
The Danger of Not Doing the Big Five
The important thing to keep in mind is that we are not given these connectors for God’s benefit, but for our own. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by ignoring your five big lifelines to the Lord. They won’t always be in the best of repair. Sometimes you may neglect one or more of them for solid reasons or shabby ones. When that happens, always be quick to mend them before any sizable holes develop. You don’t want to fall past the “do’s” into the “don’ts”!
I have worked with men with addictions for years and have never yet seen someone fall back into the addiction who was faithfully working these five do’s. They do fall back whenever they stop working them. The men, however, almost universally think that the problem was doing the don’ts. Yes, of course we don’t want to do the don’ts, but the do’s keep us from the don’ts! So whatever you do, keep your safety nets in good repair and keep re-connecting with the Lord’s power, peace and presence. Live plugged in to the Spirit filled life!
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