Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Team??

I have been a Patriot’s fan my whole life. I even had a shirt as a kid with “Boston Patriots” on it. I played linebacker and guard in high school cheering for my heroes, 3 time Pro-Bowler Steve Nelson and Hall-of-Famer John Hannah.

I have celebrated all the recent success along with so many other Pats fans - three Superbowls, a team famous for teamwork more than individual stardom, the amazing comeback of Tedy Bruschi and one of the best coached teams ever.

I think it is entirely appropriate for us to enjoy sports and celebrate God's common grace on display through athletics. As part of this reality, I believe we love to cheer for teams not merely because they are athletically gifted but because they represent something greater than just raw talent. We love to cheer for teams because they represent God-given virtue. We love teams that represent honest hard work, selflessness, teamwork, tenacity, innovation and success. Take away these virtues and there is less to cheer about. I have particularly enjoyed the Patriots because until recently they seemed to embody the best of these qualities in professional sports.

The recent “Videogate” scandal along with Rodney Harrison’s suspension for HGH use puts a serious damper on my enthusiasm for the team. Owner Bob Kraft has stated, “We have spent 14 years developing and building a franchise that people could embrace and support. The loyalty of our fans has been the most rewarding aspect of owning the team. I am deeply disappointed that the embarrassing events of this past week may cause some people to see our team in a different light.” This has certainly been true for me.

Let’s hope that the organization will recommit themselves to something even more important than winning games. Let’s hope they recommit themselves to being a team that through integrity and virtue wins our loyalty, respect and enthusiasm once again.

Photo courtesy

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Flaw of the Excluded Middle

    I have been recently reading a book given to me by a friend on evangelism. In it the author points to an article by the late missiologist Paul Hiebert entitled “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle”. The article is about how people live life at three levels.

    The bottom level involves those aspects of life directly encountered with the senses. At this level we plant and harvest crops, build homes, take out the garbage, fix broken stuff and other seemingly simple things.

    The top level deals with those things which are beyond what the mere senses can grasp, the things that are transcendant such as the meaning of life, destiny, true beauty and the infinite nature of God.

    The middle level is that between the bottom and the top where we deal with more immediate yet still profound questions to do with the past, the present and the near future. Things like accidents, tragedies, serendipitous discoveries and unexpected turns of events occupy the middle and it is here that much of life is interpreted and experienced.

    Many people experience their Christianity in the top level but not in the middle or bottom level. Heibert himself found this to be a challenge in his work in missions in India. He found that professing believers would often turn to shamans and luck charms when it came to dealing with life in "the excluded middle." I have found it a challenge at times in my own life to experience God in "the excluded middle." "Can I really trust God to provide for my children's college education?" "Will I be able to perform well in my vocation over the long haul?" "Will I have to endure this arthritic knee and locking shoulder for the rest of my life?" "Why do I feel depressed in the morning so often and how can I change?" Do you identify? I don't think I'm alone.

    Yet, the testimony of scripture is that God is present in the bottom, the top and the middle and calls us to invite him to bring the experience of salvation and the truth of the gospel into every level of life. His word is replete with this invitation both implicitly and explicitly.

Psalm 139 says,
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”

And Mt. 28:20 - “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age!” .

And the cry of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 -
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

(note - the whole earth, not just the transcendent!)

    So much of the exhortations in scripture that flow from the context of the grace of God have all three tiers in mind. Take a look at Ephesians and watch how Paul masterfully blends the transcendent with the seemingly mundane and everything in between. The celebration of the glorious grace of God, his eternal decree in election and the revealing of his great mystery in Christ flows into the call to practically love and enjoy our church, our families, our spouse, our employees in every aspect of life. All of life is to be worship and the experience of God.

    I have found two things to be very helpful in this – remembering the gospel & prayer. In every situation and challenge I am learning to ask “What does the gospel say about this?” "Do I need to apply the forgiveness purchased by Christ's atonement?" "Is their a promise inherent in the gospel that I must cling to?" "Is their a truth about God and myself from the gospel which I must understand?" There are a number of these sort of “gospel questions” we can ask. I recommend Mike Bullmore’s article and teaching entitled, “Applying the Gospel to All of Life” to get a more complete picture of this.

    And the other thing is prayer – learning to take all things – whether issues at the bottom, middle or top of life and bringing them before our ever near God in prayer, crying out to him and depending on him, seeking his presence. As I have been able to do these two practices, with the help of the Holy Spirit and those around me, I have been able to avoid living life without God in the normally, “excluded middle.”

Hope this helps!

God Bless,

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Summer Has Ended (more or less)

Hey everyone,

Haven't posted in a while - sorry. But, you can catch some of our Sunday messages at . I am very excited about our current series in James. Thank God for this wonderful book!

I hope to post some more soon. For now, here are some pictures of our summer - we had a very full summer. But, we are looking forward to starting our year and enjoying early fall here!

God Bless!

We had a wonderful summer of ministry including a great VBS in early July!

And a youth outreach team visit in early June! (also two youth conferences in Aug!!)

Enjoyed lots of times with friends - here with the Rosses in the mountains, Mid July 07

Caleb went to Worldview Academy July 07
some crazy cliff jumping near Mt. Washington, NH - mid July 07

The biggest pickerel I've ever caught! mid July 07

Celebrating Mary's birthday at Canoby Lake Park, late Jul 07

And a new member of the family, Lilly the kitten - late Jul 07

As always, lots of time at the beach 20 minutes away - mid Aug 07

Hanging out in Plymouth with our long-time friends, the Gordons. Aug 07

Tubing on the Merrimack with the Benvenutis - late Aug 07

The end of a wonderful afternoon on the Merrimack with the Benvenutis late Aug 07

And now for September with all its blessings!