Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Go Browns! Go Church!

Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about what I learned from a Cleveland Browns preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Browns played their first preseason game of 2016 last Friday night at Lambeau Field versus the Packers. It was what I expected. There were some exciting moments, and some letdowns.

I had the same feelings often during the Cavaliers NBA championship run. With a win came excitement, and with a loss came disappointment. After a win I listened to each postgame interview, and got every tidbit of info from sports radio shows the next day. After a loss, however, I avoided all postgame interviews, and turned the radio off the next day.

Browns coach Hue Jackson was like the Cavs in stating that he is more concerned about the process in how the team got to a win or a loss than he was the win or loss itself. He makes it clear that he wants to win. But he uses the loss as a learning tool to find out what the team can do better.

I was so excited when Robert Griffin III (RG III) threw the first pass down the sideline to the newly transformed quarterback to wideout Terrelle Pryor from Ohio State. But then reality set in a few plays later when RG III threw an interception. Same old Browns…they get you excited then they let you down!

Then I started looking more at the process. I started looking at glimpses of improvement over past years. I jumped with excitement when 6’7” rookie Carl Nassib from Penn State tracked down a much smaller, quicker runner from behind. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State played like a beast. Jamie Meder from little Ashland University, located in the city where I work, broke through to drop the runner for a safety.

Late in the game rookie QB Cody Kessler threw an outside fade route to Hollywood Higgins for a touchdown. He and his teammates jumped for joy! But a few plays later Cody ran back out of the end zone for a safety. He was clearly upset at the bonehead play, but his teammates and coaches came and patted Cody on the helmet and said an encouraging word to the heartbroken QB.

What I like most about games like this was the process of finding out what makes guys tick. It is emphasized time and time again by the coaching staff that they are evaluating the strengths and weaknesses that each player has. They try to accentuate the strengths and minimize the areas of weakness.

What would it be like if in the church we truly thought of ourselves as teammates on a quest to win a championship? We would jump for joy with each other’s successes, and give pats on the back to encourage us when we make bonehead plays.

And what if our pastors and leaders got to know each part of what makes us tick, if they tried to accentuate the positive parts of our personalities to reach people for Christ, and to minimize the parts of us that are not so positive, and if they used us in the most effective way possible?

I would very much welcome such an approach. It follows many themes of the Bible. One is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1Timothy 4:7-8

Go Browns! Go Church!

See you next time,

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Have You Ever Thought About “The Book of Life”?

Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about the “Book of Life”.

I was listening to Revelation in the Bible this morning and a phrase the “Book of Life” impacted me like it hadn’t before. I had heard and read the phrase a number of times in the past, but this time was different.

I researched how many times the phrase is used in the Bible and found five. The first is Psalm 69:28 when King David in his exhaustion from being hunted down by his persecutors cried out to God,
“Erase their names from the Book of Life;”

In Philippians 4:3 Paul talked about
“Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”

In the first case King David wanted his persecutors to be erased from consideration to be included in the Book of Life. In the second case Paul acknowledged some of his trusted partners that were shoe-ins to be included in the Book of Life.

Revelation gives us more insight into the elusive meaning of the Book of Life.

In Revelation 3:5 the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos wrote to the most faithful followers of Jesus in Sardis the following revelation God gave to him:
“All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” There is that word “erase” again, only in a positive context with the word “never”.

Revelation 17:8 talks about the “beast” (antichrist) coming up out of the bottomless pit after everyone thought he was dead, and those persons
“whose names were not written in the Book of Life” were amazed at the antichrist’s seeming resurrection. People whose names were not in the Book of Life were duped into following a failed leader whose eternal destruction was very soon coming.

But Revelation 20:10-15 has the most clear-cut description of the seriousness of whether a person’s name is included, or not, in the Book of Life. It is a little lengthy, but well worth reading:
“Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

So the Bible is very clear that having one’s name in the Book of Life, or not, is a very serious matter…a matter of eternal life, or eternal destruction.

See you next time,