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Sermon quotes on Philippians

Sermon quotes on Philippians

Jesus and Paul are not criticizing the Pharisees because they kept Moses’ law so perfectly. No, they were criticizing them because they perverted the law of Moses so violently. a

  1. Sermon Notes on Philippians 3  (back)
How to Treat Abusers

How to Treat Abusers

Jeff Crippen over at a Cry for Justice  does good work in reminding pastors and counselors once again how not to treat abused victims. In elaborating on I Samuel 17, Jeff uses the illustration of David and Goliath to make a crucial point:

My point is that this far too common business of Christians telling abuse victims that they must not ever raise their voices to their abuser, that they must speak kindly to them always, that they must endure suffering and patiently await that big day when Goliath gets born again — this business has to stop. Stern stuff is quite appropriate: calling the police, leaving, divorcing, drawing firm boundaries, getting restraining orders, exposing the abuser for what he is to his church.

Pastors have for far too long offered a haven for abusers while leaving the victim exposed, terrified, and hopeless.

Another Review of The Trinitarian Father by Kevin Johnson

Another Review of The Trinitarian Father by Kevin Johnson

Uri Brito establishes his point at the outset and drives it home throughout the book: Earthly fathers are to imitate God the Father. And this only makes sense because the God of heaven and earth is Triune. He doesn’t exercise his will and display his attributes in a vacuum. He is a culture. He is a civilization. He is a family. He is a Father to an actual Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are made in that image.

Every chapter is anchored by and revolves around Scripture. Uri takes us from the Garden to the Gospel – the Gospel that turns the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. We see in Genesis that God is a benevolent Father, preparing Adam for blessing and life. Isaiah reminds us that we are worshipers and imitators at our core. We will become what we worship. Solomon reminds us of our royalty. Every father will equip his son to rule – to be a dawning sun on a cloudless morning or to be smoke in the eyes. Luke gives us Wisdom made flesh. The Son of man increasing in wisdom and stature. Our sons, if we are like The Father, will be like The Son.

The Trinitarian Father is a great introduction to the topic of fatherhood. It teases the appetite. While it is a short work, the author has managed to cover a lot of ground. Uri’s brevity is adorned with great depth. Almost every sentence could be (and should be!) put on an index card for routine reflection. The book sets forth both a theological framework for fatherhood and practical hooks upon which every father would do well to hang his cap.

The Trinitarian Father makes you think; it brings you back to Scripture; it convicts you; it will make you shift in your chair. Ultimately, the book calls you to look into the heavens, see your Father, and remember that he’s done for you all that He requires of you. I heartily recommend this book. –Kevin Johnson

Purchase a copy by e-mailing the author at uriesou@gmail.com.

Shortest Service Ever? Not really.

Shortest Service Ever? Not really.

When I was a kid–in the early 90’s–I remember Brazil going to the volleyball Olympics Finals against Holland. We had a dream team. In those days Brazil was not known as the volleyball powerhouse it is today. My father, a Baptist minister, had to make a decision. In some parts of Brazil, churches meet in the morning for Sunday School and re-gather at evening for the main service. Such was our situation. The problem was Sunday School started precisely at the start of the final match. My father cancelled Sunday School. Fortunately, Brazil won, otherwise his parishioners would have attributed our defeat to God’s curse on the minister. I never forgot that Sunday. Of course, we gathered as usual in the evening and the worship was grand.

The corporate gathering is far more significant to a Sunday School class, though SS is an important learning time for the body. My father later regretted his decision.

In the years following I have seen churches cancel Sunday Worship for all sorts of reasons: Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. There are legitimate reasons to do so, especially if you live in Florida as I do during hurricane season.

Almost twenty years later, I am following in my father’s footsteps as a minister. I could not imagine a Sunday without worship. I even edited a book entitled The Church Friendly Family encouraging individual families to see the primacy of worship and the church in their lives.

And then I heard of this.

My first reaction was one of frustration. “Here I am trying to establish a grand vision of worship to my people and this Lutheran–of all people–decides to allow his football passion to trivialize the worship of the most high God.” Anyone who knows me knows that I have a special affection for Lutherans. One of my best friends is a Lutheran minister. So when this Lutheran fellow summarized the entire divine liturgy into a minute I felt betrayed. The dilemma was described this way:

“Pastor Tim Christensen, of Butte, Mont., found himself with that dilemma during his 11am service on Sunday. With just minutes before kickoff between his 49ers and the Panthers, he decided to condense his service.”a

The video got a tremendous amount of publicity nation-wide. But this fine good-humored pastor did not betray the congregation. When discovering the tremendous publicity the video received he said humorously remarked:

“The one thing about the video I hate is I look incredibly fat, but I’m wearing a large double-pocketed hoodie underneath.” b

The 53-year-old acted honorably as a Lutheran minister and returned to the sanctuary after his trick play and conducted the standard hour-long service. “He said some members offered to give him updates, but the pastor had the game set on his DVR and he watched it in its entirety – including pregame – when he got home. He was rewarded with a 23-10 victory.” c

Though I find the excessive use of sports’ references on Sunday morning disturbing, I give this fellow minister a standard Christian greeting: the Lord bless you.

  1. http://www.dailydot.com/lol/football-shortest-service-49ers-pastor-playoff/  (back)
  2. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/video-pastor-conducts-quick-service-catch-49ers-game-article-1.1579092#ixzz2qmBpt2xt  (back)
  3. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/video-pastor-conducts-quick-service-catch-49ers-game-article-1.1579092#ixzz2qmC2c5xD  (back)
Weekly Summary, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian

Weekly Summary, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian

It was a long, but profitable past week. On the 6th of January, I made my annual pilgrimage to Auburn Avenue Presbyterian in Monroe, LA for their pastor’s conference. The conference was terrific. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones at the conference. The conference, known in some circles for its controversial topics and speakers, really has become a bunch of friends who enjoy getting together to talk theology.

My little book, The Trinitarian Father, made its public debut at the conference. I think it sold quite well as my smile indicates.

To me, as I have mentioned to many, the best part of the conference is truly the singing and the profound community life you experience when you join those brothers and sisters. It is hard to stress how gracious and hospitable these folks are. The beer flows, the conversations abound, and the joy is full.

You can download the conference talks here.

I flew from there to Tampa Bay, Fl where I had the opportunity to visit my friends at Clearwater Christian College. I graduated from CCC in 2003, but still have maintained some good contacts with the school. I met with their new president, Jack Klem. Jack is a terrifically bright fellow with a robust vision of the Christian faith. CCC is in good hands.

Photo: Wonderful to see these brothers and minister to the saints in word and sacrament at Christ Church, LakelandI then went to Lakeland where I ministered to the saints of Christ Church. Christ Church is a mission church of the CREC and under the care of Providence Church in Pensacola, FL. It is a joyful little church. I encourage you to stop by if you are in the Orlando/Lakeland area. I spoke on the subject of biblical hospitality and answered some questions after the service on how more specifically to implement this Christian duty. We then feasted, drank wine, and sang together.

I lost my wallet the first day I arrived. My luggage was one day delayed. Two of my flights were delayed, which incidentally led me to miss the following flight. But overall, a fruitful trip. Shalom.

 

Three Reasons Why We Gather for Worship

Three Reasons Why We Gather for Worship

Why do we gather on the Lord’s Day?

First, we gather because forsaking this gathering is not an option (Heb. 10:25). We are very familiar with the exhortation not to forsake the assembly, but we often overlook why forsaking Sunday worship is so detrimental. According to Hebrews 10:24 when we miss worship we miss God’s appointed place to stir one another up to love and good works and offer mutual encouragement.

Secondly, we gather because we war against the forces of evil. “What are those Christians doing in that little building on Sunday morning? What a waste!” the opponents of the Triune God say. But little do they know that we gather to conspire against them! We are gathered this morning to be cleansed and to be instructed in God’s authoritative war manual, the holy Bible. And unlike those who are blinded to God’s plans in the world, we have our eyes opened by the Spirit.

Finally, we are here because the Spirit of God gathered us together. Just as he hovered over creation, he hovers over us creating in us a vision for worship and dominion. But we are not sufficient in and of ourselves. We cannot change the world apart from the Spirit, and for this reason the Spirit puts us here, so the Father can bless us and the Son feed us.

The Optimism of Christmas Carols

The Optimism of Christmas Carols

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

You may have noticed this point, but if not, I’d be glad to make it known this morning. Have you noticed the optimistic nature of Christmas hymns? A few examples will suffice:[1]

The very famous Isaac Watts Joy to the World! which says:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove,
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

R.J. Rushdoony commented on this hymn when he wrote:

“The Christian religion is a faith of ultimate victory, where the very gates of hell cannot prevail against Christ and His chosen people (Matt. 16:18).”

Another great optimistic hymn is: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which says:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace On Earth, Good Will To Man.

Or the language of Isaiah 11 is made clear in that famous hymn: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, where the final verse boldly rejoices:

For lo, the days are hast’ning on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of Gold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendor fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

“Hark! the Harold Angels Sing”, also joins in with the testimony of carols to the Kingship of Christ:

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

The tidings of great joy are not good feelings during the Christmas Season; the tidings of great joy are comfort and joy to the world. This is what animated these hymn writers as they echoed the biblical message. And this is what exhorts us to sing loudly and confidently the words of the incarnation. “Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today…calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall.”



[1] Mainly taken from Rushdoony’s piece found here: http://bluebannermedia.com/the-postmillennial-character-of-christmas-carols/

Praise for “TheTrinitarian Father”

Praise for “TheTrinitarian Father”

The Trinitarian Father is not another work by an expert father to the rest of us — no, it’s better than that. Rather than offering his own wisdom, Uri Brito guides fathers through the whole biblical sweep of our Heavenly Father’s redemptive wisdom in his Son in order to unfold to us what true fatherhood is. In this work, we learn that the future of the church and of the culture is fathers — fathers who instruct their children from the the wisdom, example, and self-sacrifice of their Trinitarian Father.

John Fraiser, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in La Grange, Kentucky

Review of the “The Trinitarian Father” by Joshua Torrey

Review of the “The Trinitarian Father” by Joshua Torrey

May God bless Uri Brito for this small book. The Trinitarian Father is another stepping stone in a growing “tradition” of recent literature seeking out a genuine Trinitarian Christianity. How we have arrived at a Trinitarian-less Church is beyond the scope of this book. But the fundamental fact that such a church exists provides the basis of the book’s principal and pastoral concerns. With the light of Scripture and an intense focus on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Uri Brito mercifully exposes the faults, failures and, hopefully, growing convictions of Christian fathers pursuing a robust Trinitarianism.

The Thesis

At first glance it may seem convoluted to attribute so much to the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But as Pastor Brito shows, the history of Christianity is rooted and grounded in a Trinitarian God. This Trinitarian God is a God of Persons and thus the originator and sustainer of community. At this point, the Biblical revelation of the Father should indicate that within the community the role of father is essential. Thus, if Christian fathers seek to mimic their maker (Eph 5:1) it makes sense to model a Trinitarian fellowship. In his introduction, Pastor Brito states his case,

“The Trinity is not some obscure and irrelevant doctrine put in systematic theologies to confuse us. We know that our entire lives depend on the true God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

On the surface, there is a risk of internalizing the need to resolve the obscurity and irrelevance of the Trinity. But this is not the point of living out Trinitarian theology. Far from telling people that they can understand or mimic the Trinity fully, The Trinitarian Father seeks to amplify the glorious revelatory light of the Trinity onto crucial aspects of Christian, and thus Trinitarian, fatherhood. Instead of being a personal and internal event, Trinitarian theology should take fathers outside themselves and focus their attention on God as they apply it to their lives.

Part of fathers being removed from this internal thinking is the focus on relationships with sons. Though the book offers good advice for both daughters and sons, the model of Trinitarian fellowship is a Father-Son relationship. And it is this relationship that invigorates father-son relationships here and now. In the opening pages of this book, fathers are presented with an important look at the source of their namesake: the Father of everything (Eph 3:14-15). Pastor Brito highlights the Father as history Maker, cultivating Creator and ultimately image Producer. Each of these things is seen in the first and second Adam with a stronger emphasis on the Father-Son relationship with Jesus Christ the eternal Son.

Each of these is a responsibility to fathers because “You cannot claim to be a biblical father without first understanding what our Father in heaven has taught us” (pg. 11). Thus, in all practical matters, fathers are reassured that there is no step taken in the father-son relationship that was not taken by the Trinity first. By taking these truths seriously, The Trinitarian Father reassures fathers of their calling and ability to accomplish their task.

The Practice

The Trinitarian Father makes good on its promise to look at the practical functions of fatherly life. From wisdom to discipline and life to redemption, the example of the Father is made real in examples found in the Scriptures. In the chapters on wisdom, fathers are instructed on how to train their sons to be wise. Far from being an idealistic schoolroom, fathers mimic God as He taught in a fallen world. Fathers are shown the benefits of a long term perspective, a heart prepared for gladness
in sorrow and the ultimate value of true wisdom. Denying fatherly perfection, Pastor Brito supplies the
balm of grace as he describes the natural ways in which this should occur and confidently affirms fathers
who make mistakes.

Though saturated with good words, The Trinitarian Father keeps some of its most penetrating
exposures and personal convictions for its closing chapters. Concerning the liturgy of living, Pastor Brito
drives home the clearest of Biblical instruction (Deut 6:4-9) for fathers: fatherhood is not another “9 to
5.” Liturgy should continue and stretch to cover every moment within a covenant home. This, of
course, requires a discipline unnatural to fathers. Here again, Pastor Brito provides a balm of practical
application in the categories of “cleansed, consecrated and commissioned” (pg. 30) for covenant
renewal within the family. Understanding the state of humanity, a proper liturgy within the home
restores fallen fathers, prepares growing children and structures whole houses towards obedience to
God.

The final chapter on discipline is in fact a bridge between the health of families and the health of
the church. There is a direct correlation and it was surprising to see it laid out in such a simple manner.
The faithfulness of fathers to respond in humility and submission to their church leadership is brought to
the forefront in the battle for children in the church. In the evangelical community this is a battle the
church is losing and the pastoral insight in this chapter provides profound and simple reasons for why.
Building off of the example of a rebellious Israel, Pastor Brito masterly twists the pointing finger
of guilt back on modern fathers. For some time this finger has been pointed at the emphasis and
structure of the church. But in looking at Israel, it is more clear who demonstrated the rebellious
attitudes within the congregations: parents, and more specifically fathers. Far from demonstrating an
example of the Son’s submission to the Father, Israel as God’s “son” rejected obedience. Likewise,
Christian fathers, in their race to find leadership that doesn’t impose upon them, have pronounced to
their households that they are “masters of their own souls” (pg. 42). This behavior denigrates any
chance of children, and especially sons, seeing the church as a greater family with a greater submission
to a greater head. Eventually this Christ-less attitude is “a threat to themselves and to their own
families” (pg. 42).

Conclusion

Before one knows it, The Trinitarian Father has run out of words and passages to highlight with
notes. One may appreciate the blank space at the end for extra note taking but the length of the book
may leave people feeling hungrier than when they started. But this is not a pitfall of the author or book.
In fact it can be regarded as an indication that the book truly has reflected upon the inconsumable
depths of Trinitarian theology and the endless practical insight that it can provide.

Fathers seeking to better understand their role and pastors seeking to move their congregations
forward in faithfulness will benefit from the time spent by Pastor Brito in his “brief labor of love” (pg.
vii). Churches desiring to grow up Godly fathers, deacons, teachers and elders should instruct their fathers in these practical things and watch the abundance of blessing from Trinitarian thinking flow.

How Can Christmas Be Merry When I Am Grieving?

How Can Christmas Be Merry When I Am Grieving?

My three-year old son and I have a wonderful little work we do on Mondays and Thursday evenings. Our neighbor, who is a widow, no longer possesses the balance and strength to take her garbage can out. We head to her back yard and my son’s little hands grasp the garbage handle and out we go to drop it off at the curb. It is great training in service. And he is a true little gentleman already.

But something different happened this past Thursday. Our neighbor asked us to go inside and plug something in she was not able to do, which we did promptly. On our way out my boy looked at her and said “Merry Christmas.” She smiled at him, but as he rushed to get on his bike, our 86 year old neighbor looked at me and started to cry. Her husband, a dear man, and a grandfatherly figure to my children, died last year. “Don’t ask me to have a merry Christmas. I don’t know if I can,” she said. Her words were piercing. Her grief evident. Her husband of 60 years was no longer here with her. Her comfort and joy had departed.

And then last night we were struck again. In the middle of a cheery evening, my cell phone rang. The number was foreign to me, but I decided to pick it up anyway. It was my old college professor. She and her husband both taught my wife and I in a small Christian College in Central Florida. Since retiring, they both moved to beloved Pensacola, Fl. Once in a while we see each other and exchange greetings and memories. Last week, while visiting my chiropractor, she was there. It was a delight to see her again. She told me about her husband and how it would be lovely if we met for lunch one of these days. Then last night, that foreign number was hers. She called me to let me know that her husband of more than 50 years past away two days earlier.

My sister-in-law told us it was a difficult day for her and close friends who lost a loved one of 19 years of age. Death’s sting lost much of its potency, but its affects are very present.

How can Christmas be merry for those who are grieving? We often overlook those grieving this time of the year. In the midst of the grand narrative of the nativity, the incarnation of joy is reason for sorrow.

No more let sins and sorrows grow…

There is a paradoxical dimension to Christmas. In one sense, the “hopes and fears of all the years” are met in the God-man. But sorrows are still here. Incarnation theology always needs to be connected to a healthy psalmic lament. Our lives provide plenty of moments of disorientation. A loved one who dies days before one of the most festive days in the Christian calendar offers a lesson to all of us. The light of the world is here. The life of the world is here, but still death is not fully destroyed. The “tidings of comfort and joy” may be for some of us an exhortation to become comfort and joy to those who are comfortless and filled with grief this time of the year. Who are these people? Who are they in our own congregations? That mother who lost a son and whose memories are still freshly imprinted? That widow or widower who lost a lover and comforter? Who are they? Let us seek them out. Do not let their grief be a lonely grief. Only grieving together makes grieving a profoundly biblical emotion.

I weep for those whose loved ones are not here to share in the feast of the Christmas season. But Christmas is not just a message for the jolly; it is a message for the grieving also. Christmas means that grieving is not meaningless. In fact, grieving only makes sense in a world incarnated by God. Christ came for those who grieve. As the Psalmist cries out:

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief;

my soul and my body also (Psalm 31:9).

The incarnation answers the Psalmists’ petition.

Frederick Buechner once wrote that “The incarnation is a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.” Those who are scandalized rightly by this profound event are those who can grieve rightly.

As I look across the street I notice that my neighbor’s sons have arrived. They will help her in her grief. The merriness of Christmas is not dependent on whether we are ready to receive it or not, Christmas is merry because the Rod of Jesse is here. But still our hearts ache and we are called to grieve with those who grieve. We grieve, however, with hope because our hope is here. And so we pray:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!