Friday, October 22, 2010

Pass Interference

In the NFL, pass interference occurs when a defender makes contact with the receiver that prevents his opportunity to receive the ball. Some examples of pass interference include tripping, pushing, pulling or cutting in front of the receiver. Pass interference also includes pulling on the receiver's arms.

The penalty for pass interference is either an automatic first down for the opposing team, or it moves them ten yards closer to the end zone. As a Christian it’s possible to have pass interference affecting our lives. The Ten Commandments tell us to have no other gods, and to keep the Lord our top priority. Exodus 20:4 tells us that we shouldn’t have any idols. Whether they represent something on earth or some angelic being, they interfere with our worship of the Lord God Almighty. An example of this can be taken from the Apostle John.

Near the end of his life, John was sentenced to spend the rest of his days in exile. Refusing to call the emperor a god, John was sent to the island of Patmos. It’s during this time that he made five contributions to the bible. The Gospel of John; First, Second, and Third John; and the book of revelation all carry his name. After being shown all the events regarding the end of days, in the book of revelation John writes:

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!”

Here we see that John wants to worship the one responsible for showing him this great revelation. As he starts to do so, the angel advises him not too. The angel deems himself unworthy of worship. In this admission, the angel shares his equality with John; a mere servant of God. He then reminds John of the decree in Exodus: the Lord shall be the sole proprietor of worship. If he continues with his worship of the angel, John will be running pass interference and subject to penalty.

These days, not too many people come into contact with angelic beings. So when we come across something like this in scripture it can be tough to relate to what John was going through. But there are many things that interfere with our worship of God. Money, fame, fortune, family, pride, anger, lust, trust (or lack of it), hate. These are just a few of the things that can make God a secondary priority in our lives; the list is endless. But as you look at your life, what are some things that could be interfering with your relationship to God? What could be preventing you from one hundred percent commitment to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Some don’t read their bible everyday. This is something I personally struggle with. Reading my bible everyday is sometimes exhausting. I try to read a chapter a day, but some chapters are incredibly long. In those cases I break it down to five or 10 verses a day. You can also listen to the bible online. So sometimes I listen to it. A friend of mine doesn’t have the discipline to read chapters of his bible each day. Instead he will come across a passage quoted by authors or pastors; then spend some time reading and reflecting how it relates to his own life.

Maybe the struggle is with finances and giving. Every time they pass the plate around at church, you refuse. You know the bible talks about giving and that you should give financially to the church, but you live paycheck to paycheck sometimes using the local food bank to fill your cupboards. Did you also know that God wants you to test Him with your giving? Malachi 3:10 says:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10 NLT

I have a friend who traveled the world on a year long mission trip. Before she left, I told her I would support her with my monthly tithe. It wasn’t always easy giving up ten percent of my income. There were times that I considered using that money on other things like birthday gifts or putting it toward my debts. I was hesitant but I still gave.

During those times, I held God to the promise that if I gave He would look after me. Sometimes I would even quote the words from Malachi and wait to see how He would provide for groceries or my debts. God came through with that promise. My neighbors would stop by offering me food they didn’t want or couldn’t have due to dietary restrictions. Other times my fridge would be empty, yet my freezer was so full I was able to give food to those in need.

At the end of the month my bank account had a little bit of money left over. Sometimes it would be three dollars and other times fifteen. Regardless of the amount in the bank, at the end of the month I had a little left to spare. If this is one area you find yourself lacking, I urge you to test God as Malachi encourages us too.

Pass interference can also interrupt our worship of God through a lack of prayer. James 4:2 says: “…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” The unique thing about our God is that He can do the impossible. He is the one giving us the strength to face our problems and help us as we go through trials. He is the one guiding us in all that we do. But the help and guidance He offers is pointless if we don’t spend time in prayer. Prayer is how God knows about our needs and problems.

I don’t know what interferes with your relationship with God, but we all have things that prevent our opportunities to worship God. Going back to our example of a football player being called for pass interference, I turn it over to you. Think of some ways God is being tripped, pushed, pulled or cut from the worship you ought to give Him. Once you’ve done that begin working with someone to eliminate those things from your life. The person you work with could be anyone. It could be a pastor, close friend, or even a family member.

Share with them how you’re on a journey to better your relationship with God and need to work on some things that have been getting in the way. Ask them to keep you accountable by checking in once in a while to see what progress you’re making. Over time things will get better. As they do, be sure to share the success you’re having and throw a little celebration after each success. This will make it more fun and seem less daunting. Be blessed my friend. As you begin the journey remember these words from Jesus:

Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matt 6:31-34 NLT

Friday, October 15, 2010

Abundant Freedom

Empty abandoned and alone. Gripped with shame you cry out to God seeking answers. How could someone rob you of your innocence then disregard you so easily? Angry and rebellious you lash out turning to fear. By instilling fear into people’s lives, you discover you can control the chaos around you. manipulation and deceit become your drug. Armed with half truths and unfulfilled promises, you greet people with a smile and sophistication; knowing deep down those little white lies bring you comfort. They feed your need for pain and disappointment, the only two things you’ve ever known.

You cry out but you’re hesitant. The only reference you have of God is one Sunday School class you attended as a cild. From that you learn that God is a loving father and he cares about those he loves. For an understanding of a loving father, you consider your own dad. Drunk and full of rage, he’s the reason you spent your childhood cowering in fear. Failing grades, fights and expulsions from school happened regularly and without consequence.

This gave birth to trouble as a teen and ultimately led you down the path your currently on. Because of a difficult past, the idea of appealing to a God with the likeness of your own father is extremely intimidating. But that doesn’t matter anymore; the weight of your shame is just too much. In a desperate plea you cry out to this loving God expecting to cower in fear once again.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson writes: “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Eph. 1:7) Free! Did you hear that!?!? Jesus doesn’t just give us access to the heavenly father, He makes us free, and not just barely free – abundantly free!!! Free from the hurt and pain brought on by our drunk and enraged parents. Emptiness and abandonment disappear.

Instead of feeling lonely, we are welcomed into a community where we don’t need to hide behind our fake smiles and white lies. Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that God is not far away in another universe minding his own business, as we conduct life on earth. Instead he sympathizes with our weaknesses. *In addition to creating the heavens and the earth, He was tempted with sin just like the rest of us. Because of this we can approach God with boldness and confidence.

The bible tells us that God isn’t concerned about a person’s outward appearance. He cares more about the condition of a person’s heart. So let me ask you how is your heart today? If you had a face to face encounter with God tonight, would you meet him with a smile on your face, knowing you have nothing to hide? Or would you find the nearest crawl space then respond to the Lord’s requests? If you find yourself playing hide and seek with the Lord, then I would encourage you to spend sometime in prayer asking the Lord to give you a good cleaning. If you want to talk to God about setting some things straight but find prayer intimidating, just use the words to the song below as a guide.

Create in me a Clean Heart

Create in me a clean heart oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away
From your presence oh Lord
Take not your Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Parable of the Sower: A Response

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Matt 13:1-8

Closing my eyes I envision myself as one of the crowd. While on the riverbank your robe grazes me as you walk past. I look up trying to see your face, but you were ahead of me by the time my gaze meets the height of your face. I heard what you said. I really like the last part about the seed growing to way more then I’d expected. I don’t know who I am in the story yet, but if I’m the seed, I hope to be the one that grows and multiplies 100 fold. I wonder; will I be able to look out and see my crop or vineyard one day?

“Well done!” “Good and faithful!” “Blessed!” that’s all I want to hear. If I’m the farmer, I hope when I see you we will sit, and you’ll listen as I tell you about how good a farmer I’ve been, scattering seed as I trod through this life. But I’m a city boy. I don’t know the first thing about farming. Except that to get milk I got to fiddle with the cows udders. And that chickens give you eggs, so if I do it write I won’t starve.

I’m also not perfect. I make mistakes and I don’t always get it right. That’s what I appreciate about some of the songs we sing... “I came here broken yet you made me whole.” “I came here mourning but you give me joy.” “Hearts returning to you, broken lives are made new.”… It gives me hope. I’m my worst critic. As your farmer, I will probably be shocked at how big my crop is. I may even be curled up in a ball, soaking the ground with tears of joy or amazement. This will happen after I beat you in a thousand meter dash of course ;)