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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Football anyone?

We sometimes get into a pickle and then wonder how on earth we got ourselves where we stand at the moment, right?  What we do in those moments is "look back".  We are trying to figure out what brought us to this point - because we really don't know where we "slipped up".  Truth be told, we do this more often than we'd like to admit - finding ourselves "looking back" for that moment in time when we made the choice to go one way when we were being beckoned another.  Probably one of the most telling things we will discover is not some "point" where we slipped up, but in what it was we allowed "into" our lives at that point.  We allowed something to invade our lives which actually "ran interference" with the truths we knew to be true, or the choices we knew to be right.  When a football team assigns someone to "run interference" they are asking that individual or group of individuals to divert the attention of the other players on the field so they can sneak past them with the ball.  It is a ploy to divert attention.  That is one of the oldest tricks in the books - yet, we fall for it hook, line, and sinker over and over again!

Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.  (Jude 3-4 MSG)

It is football season in the United States again, so pardon me for a few moments if I use a few illustrations from this great pastime.  Running interference is made possible because you get to a place where you are so distracted you NEGLECT to notice the activities going on anywhere other than the one place you have your attention directed.  This is not a bad thing when you don't take your eye off the ball in the first place, but when you allow yourself to be distracted by what you believe the play will be, neglecting to see those activities as ploys to misdirect your attention, you will likely let one by you in the process.  In a spiritual sense, neglect is not usually a lack of information - for we have studied the play book.  It is not usually a lack of revelation - for we can see the movement all around us.  It is not usually a lack of motivation - for we are IN the game.  We just neglect to notice what is right in front of us because we get so easily distracted by what appears to be "real".  

Teams have to work together - some play offense, while others play defense. Both know the work of the other and know when it is time for each to do their part in the game.  Together, they are building the best strategy to get to the goal.  The offense works to actually move the ball toward the goal.  The defense works to keep the other guys from scoring.  Together, they build a strong team.  If one doesn't work with the other, they are letting down the other parts of the team.  A team with a good defense is nothing without also having those who know how to run offense - we have to actually move the ball toward the goal post if we want to ever score!  

Another thing you might just notice is how much the team members depend on the communication which takes place on the field.  They need clear direction from the quarterback and then they have to be keenly aware of the movement of others.  Whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication, they need to be paying attention.  A failure to communicate will lead to chaos in running the play.  Some will be trying to protect the ball, but the ball is far down field already.  Some will be looking to receive a pass, but the plan was to run the ball, not throw it down field.  Paying attention to the "game plan" is important - and each player takes their lead from the quarterback.  It is kind of like us needing to listen intently to the instruction (game plan) God has for us before we just go charging down field in our lives!

Each player kind of has a "grid" of sorts they are responsible for in the game. For example, the center snaps the ball, then goes to work blocking the defensive players from the other team trying to "upset" the quarterback before the ball can make its way into play.  The offensive guards are right next to the center and work very hard to create an impenetrable line so the quarterback has time to get the ball into play - either running it or throwing it so as to move it down field.  The "grid" we play within is important - it is our position and we must operate well within that position.  We have to "guard our grid" - making sure we pay attention to block those who would want to upset the "play".

I don't think we could do this talk about football justice without spending just a little time focusing on the priorities of the players.  Each player has a priority which sort of aligns with their position and whether they are playing offense or defense.  If they have any other priority at the moment other than the priority of either defending the quarterback so the ball can get into play, or squelching the attempts of the other team to get their ball into play, there will be a runaway with the points scored by the other guys!  When we get "idle" on our thoughts, we have a tendency to allow our focus to drift.  When focus drifts, we begin to lose sight of our priorities.  Nothing will do more to make a muddle out of things than misdirected priorities other than perhaps neglected priorities.

Lots of kids will toss a football around with the gang of neighborhood kids - but their game isn't as "tailored" as the game run on professional football fields.  It is kind of like they can be more "creative" in how they call the plays and what plays they will run.  Why?  They don't adhere to the rules quite as strictly.  They can get "creative" with the plays because this isn't the "real deal".  In much of life, we try to "run plays" which are really not intended for the "real deal" thing we call life.  God doesn't so much look for our creativity as he looks for our consistency.  What sets the professional teams apart from the backyard players is the consistency of performance which comes from practicing over and over the same plays.  They become consistent through practice.  This isn't too different from what God asks of us - consistency in our walk because we put into practice over and over again the things he sets in motion in order to grow us, protect us, and get us closer to the goal.  Just sayin!