All posts by Uri Brito

How Thanksgiving and Happiness are Linked

The results are in! Gratitude wins the day by a landslide. In fact, as a result of this monumental victory, psychology departments are developing entirely new areas of study on the little known fact of gratitude. According to Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.” a There are measurable benefits. Did you hear that?

Linked to this discovery is the helpful suggestion made by Michael Hyatt that keeping a gratitude journal can be immensely beneficial as we build an arsenal of gratitude pages. Ending the day by listing the reasons for thanksgiving, however small, can actually serve as a rich spiritual exercise.

Of course, we are aware that psychological journals are behind the times. Gratitude has always been a Christian virtue. St. Paul had already broken the news. Later, in the 20th century, Bonhoeffer alluded to this in his remarkable little book Life Together. There, he takes us back to the glories of gratitude in community life. For Bonhoeffer, if you don’t know where to start in the gratitude journey, start with thanking God for your community. He writes:

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

The Christian faith is a food religion. The heart of it is found in the death/resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. He became for the world the bread of life. This bread then becomes the food for hungry souls to feed. In the Christian tradition, it is articulated most clearly in the table of the Lord. The table is a table of joy and gratitude; so much gratitude that it is usually referred to as the Eucharistisc Table. The word eucharistia means “thanksgiving.” Emmons says that “when we feel grateful, we are moved to share the goodness we have received with others.” b It is this sharing of food that forms this table of thanksgiving.

Gratitude builds us in love and compels us share in the shalom of God with others. To whom much is given much is required. To those of us who partake of God’s goodness often and daily, we are called then to compel others with our own lives and words to share in this community of gratitude formed by the God who gave us His own life.

  1. Thanks! page 2  (back)
  2. Ibid. 4  (back)

Trinitarian Basics

It matters what you believe. Sometimes we need to get back to basics to get a good grasp of Christian thinking. After all, thinking Christianly is a real challenge to the modern evangelical population. So, where do we start? What should a new Christian learn about? I propose a simple overview of Trinitarian theology. My own pastoral labors have been immensely helped by seeing the world and my parish through Trinitarian eyes. A result of this interest, is my little booklet The Trinitarian Father soon to be published by Covenant Media. Also, my podcast Trinity Talk.

Here is a simple definition from James Jordan to get the ball rolling:

God’s Oneness is not the same as His Threeness, but God is every bit as much One as He is Three, and every bit as much Three as He is One. Consistent Christians, therefore, are not Tri-theists (three gods), nor are they pure Mono-theists (one God); rather, they are Trinitarian.

This remarkable God insists in relating to his people through His Son, by the power of His Spirit. He is Personal and Transcendent. His acts are known in all the earth; His glory among all nations. This God is Triune.

Recommended Books for new Christians on the Trinity:

Trinity and Reality: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Ralph Smith

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves

The Forgotten Trinity by James White

The One and the Many by R.J. Rushdoony

 

 

Protecting your Family from Pornography

I grew up in one of the most sexualized societies in the world. Brazil is known for its Carnival. And Carnival is synonymous with nudity. My evangelical family would usually take a three-day vacation with the Church to a camp near by. The majority of TV stations would air live Carnival coverage 24 hours a day. I am glad that as a little boy I was “sheltered” from such images on my screen.

But as I grew I quickly realized that escaping from those images are not as simple. A three-day vacation is only three days. Unless you were willing to do away with your television and other means of communication, you would be confronted with some level of nudity. This is not an option for the 21st century Christian. So what must a Christian do?

This is where blogger, Tim Challies, offers a tentative helpful plan of action for defending your family from pornography. But before he does this, he begins with a few acknowledgements.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

There are several things I should acknowledge.

Acknowledgement #1. I cannot completely protect my children. It is very nearly inevitable that at some point they will encounter dangerous or pornographic material online. This may be as a result of an unintentional click, it may be curiosity or deliberate desire, or it may be someone showing them something they do not want to see. Though I want to prevent them from ever seeing this material, realistically I also need to teach them how to act when they do.

Acknowledgement #2. Neither Aileen nor I struggle with a desire to look at pornography or to participate in dangerous or perverse online activities, so while many people wisely put measures in place to guard themselves from such sin, this is not an urgent concern for us. However, I will still attempt to address it as I go.

Acknowledgement #3. Aileen and I do not believe that, at least for now, our children have the right to privacy on their devices. We believe it is well within our rights as parents to inspect our children’s devices, to monitor the way they use them, and to take their devices away if they misuse them.

THE LAY OF THE LAND

Like so many families, we have accumulated an embarrassing number of Internet-enabled devices, some by purchase and some as gifts. None of them are the latest and greatest models, but none of them is quite obsolete either. As we build a solution to monitor and protect the family, we need it to account for a PC with Windows and both an iMac and MacBooks running OSX. Some of these are personal devices (e.g. my laptop) while some are shared by all the family members (e.g. the iMac and the PC). We also need a solution to account for smartphones, tablets and iPod Touches.

ACTION

Here are the initial actions I have taken.

Software
My plan is to rely, as much as possible, on Covenant Eyes. I will use it first, and if I find it disappointing, look elsewhere. I have installed it on all of our computers. I created an account for each of us with myself as the one who will receive weekly accountability reports. I set both the accountability and the filtering to the Teen (T) setting for each of the children. Aileen and I will have accountability but no filtering. As part of this plan, I had to make sure each computer was set to go to sleep quickly following use (since this will force the next person to log in to their own account).

Computers
I have created an account for each of us on the PC and for any of us who uses one of the Macs. Each account has a password known only to the account holder and to Aileen and me.

Tablets
I have an iPad I use primarily for preaching and speaking; it has a password known only to Aileen and me. We also have an old, first generation iPad (left over from my contractor days) which has only very old games and apps. We disabled the browser and the ability to install new software without a password.

iPods & Cell Phones
The children’s iPods Touches (which they bought with paper route money) have a password known to that child and to mom and dad. Mom and dad maintain the “system” password which controls the security settings. We disabled the browser, the YouTube app, and the ability to install new software without a password.

I considered disabling the camera, but have not yet done that. I also considered using the Covenant Eyes web browser which would then apply filtering and accountability, but I see no reason (at least for now) that the kids need to browse the Web through their devices.

TV
We do not have cable TV, so do not need to account for that.

COST

Covenant Eyes is not free software, so there is some cost involved. This plan, as it stands, costs $22.99 per month which seems reasonable enough. a

Obviously these may not be the perfect strategy, but it is a strategy nevertheless, and most parents don’t have any. Pornography is a violent cancer that brings about a slow and terrifying death to the addict and to those around them. Pornography is an enemy and to attack it you need a plan. Behold, a plan!

  1. Tim is in Canada, but in the U.S., Covenant Eyes is cheaper  (back)

Finding God in the Wilderness Places: An Interview with Chuck DeGroat

The Christian walk is a journey. Biblically, it is a journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. This is what Chuck DeGroat elaborates beautifully in his book, “Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places.” But in between, the wilderness is a place of testing, and paradoxically, the place where God matures and conforms us to Himself. But as fallen people, we fail to see just how sanctifying the wilderness can be. We fail to see that it is there where life actually begins and where our affections are re-edenized. In this wonderful interview, DeGroat uses his training as a theologian and counselor to show us the better way; the way of life through death.

Length: 30 Minutes – Price: $.059

The Stupidity of Sin

I have been meditating lately on the stupidity of sin. We all sin, which means we all share in the great succession of stupidity. But what is at stake here is what Moses refers to as, “high-handed sins.” There are sins that deserve the title of stupidity in capital letters. The public sins are those that are blatant. But then, there are private sins that take a little longer to be exposed, but they too are forms of public sins since all sin is public.

These private sins begin in the tombs of secrecy. They hide in motel rooms and other dirty places. But in the end, they will all be brought to light. After all, God hates the darkness. And the Spirit’s role is to shine in all those dirty, secret places. After all, you cannot hide from the Creator of secret places.

But sin is deceiving. When a man cherishes his sin for too long he gets careless. He begins to publicize more and more his privatized escapades. The more he cherishes his private sins the more careless he becomes in hiding them. One day that perfume scent is tattooed on his shirt or the computer is left on just for a minute or two, but enough for another witness to see. Stupidity increases as the love of sin is magnified.

The heart of the godly man knows that God is not hidden from us. We cannot hide from Him. In fact, if we decide to live in his presence, then we will not be tempted to allow stupidity to make a home in us. The Spirit of God desires to make our bodies a living temple, a re-edenizing of our affections need to take place daily. Sin separates us from the love of God. When sin is prevalent in private it will eventually become public. Kill the private sins early and kill the speed of stupidity before it crashes and your world collapses.

The Trinitarian Father UPDATE

Many of you had a chance to download The Trinitarian Father in kindle format. My small booklet has been updated and will soon be published by Covenant Media Foundation. It will provide a greater platform for the book. The kindle edition will be removed from Amazon as soon as CMF publishes it. Currently, it is still on sale at Amazon for $1.99.

The new edition will have two additional chapters and a nice cover with it. It will be more readable since it has gone through multiple editing processes. Stay tuned for updates, including a new FACEBOOK page.

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A Review of “Unstoppable” with Kirk Cameron

The thought of spending $12.50 on a movie frightens me. I am perfectly content watching my favorite latest series on Netflix. The thought of going to a movie theater no longer appeals to me as it did ten years ago. So what would compel me to visit the theater this time? I confess, I was intrigued. I have been following Kirk Cameron for some time now. Kirk’s rise to stardom occurred in the late 80’s with Growing Pains. Since then, Cameron has come to Jesus and turned his career toward the Christian movie industry. His official entrance into the evangelical scene came in the 2000 movie, Left Behind. In those days, Cameron had drunk deeply of Tim Lahaye’s best sellers. The Left Behind series became a sensation. The 16-part novels emphasized the rapture, a popular evangelical doctrine of the end-times. The “Rapture” occurs when Jesus calls His Church home. The vision of falling airplanes, tightly folded clothes, and millions of people disappearing has become more than fiction; to many, it is Christianity in its purest form. And Cameron’s movies became the face of it.

Fast forward several years. Cameron’s involvement in broad apologetic and evangelistic work with Ray Comfort has given him some notoriety. He has spoken courageously on a host of moral issues and has received the type of media persecution expected from those who are antagonistic to the exclusivity of Jesus.

Cameron’s personal journey led him to some interesting theological figures. His youthful appeal can be deceiving. Kirk has actually become a fine thinker. And the greatest proof of his ability to engage the world of the Bible intelligently is his latest movie entitled “Unstoppable.” Originally presented to an audience of 10,000 people at Liberty University, Cameron explores the traditional question of theodicy: “If God is sovereign, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?” a

A Case for Christian Activism

The theme song summarizes the basic thrust of the movie. There is a time to speak and that time is now. Cameron’s investigation provides an apologetic for Christian activism. The former Growing Pains star is now calling Christians everywhere to grow up. Speak for Christ. Defend Christ. The whole world has become a platform for the Christian vision.

This journey seeks to offer some answers to the broad questions of good and evil. Instead of entering into the philosophical arena, Kirk enters into the narrative of redemptive history. The drama of life is being enacted in this great stage. Unstoppable presents a narrative theology that is often unheard of in the evangelical pulpit. This narrative is both compelling and rich. It is a story that starts in the beginning.

Narratival Theology

Through very rich imagery, Cameron takes us through the formation of man. Man is created with authority and that is most clearly seen in his ability to name animals. In doing so, Adam mimics His Creator. God gives man a mission to heavenize earth.  The heavenification project began in the Garden. Adam then is put to sleep and, from his side, God forms woman, who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. This beautiful, poetic, creative act, now puts man and woman at the center of God’s great plans for history.

Man was to have dominion over all things. And the first great test they faced came in the form of a beast. Adam should have smelt it a mile away. He should have crushed it. But the compelling drama goes from the safety of the garden into the danger of the forbidden fruit. Adam’s sin plunges humanity into chaos. But in the middle of this cosmic betrayal, God does not betray His creation. He makes a promise (Gen. 3:15). Even after Adam and Eve leave the garden He continues to provide for them.

But the narrative continues in bloody fashion. Humanity experiences its first death: the death of a son, the death of a brother. God then places on Cain the first true mark of the beast.

At this point, Kirk Cameron explores the persuasiveness of this narrative. This is a narrative, he argues, that would not sell. In Genesis, the Creator of the world destroys His own creation when He sent a great deluge to drown humanity in their sin. Why would the Protagonist do this? It is here when Cameron shines in his narration. He argues that God packs the whole world in a wooden box and then re-opens the box (the ark) to a new and better world. The new world is born through tragedy. The story is persuasive because it does not hide the consequences of sin.

The Theology of Unstoppable

Unstoppable is a short commentary on Genesis, which is consequently a commentary on the whole Bible. The great rainbow (bow) serves as an instrument of war. God took that instrument and directed it to His only begotten Son at the cross. At the cross, Christ was brutally murdered by His own creation. But it is precisely at the cross, argues Cameron, that “Jesus flips death on its head by dying for His enemies.” After death came life. Life burst from the grave. In fact, every graveyard is a garden. And one day, “each seed will burst into a new world.”

It is in this resurrection theme that Cameron transforms the question of evil into a case for the God who redeems humanity and will bring humanity from the dust of the earth into a new creation. Cameron takes the death of his young friend and uses it as an example for how grieving is not the end of the story. God’s purposes are unstoppable.

This is not your typical Bible story telling. Cameron weaved into his narrative a robust view of creation. Creation is not something to be despised or rejected. Creation was not left behind by its God. Creation is being redeemed by its Maker. Redeemed humanity united to the Final Adam, Jesus Christ, is now commissioned to disciple the nations and make the glory of God known.

Evangelicals will be deeply shocked by its overwhelming optimism. Cameron does not end in lament, but in triumph. The Christian vision is not an escapist one. It is a mission grounded in resurrection joy. And because of this, evil does not have the final word. God cannot be stopped. His purposes will be accomplished in history. His glory will be known from sea to sea.

DVD AVAILABLE
JANUARY 28, 2014

CHURCH SHOWINGS BEGIN NOVEMBER 15!

  1. Inherent in the question, is “How can He allow bad things to happen to Christians?  (back)

Working Out Your Own Salvation

All theology is public. Privatized theology is for pagans. Pagans like to do theology in the dark. Christians do theology in the light. We are all light theologians. The principle of working out your salvation with fear and trembling is the principle of living out your salvation before the face of God. God is always present. His Spirit is the One who guides us into truthful living in this world. He is always with us shaping, re-shaping His new creation. The Christian faith is a call to consistency; consistency in repentance; consistency in reconciliation; consistency in living the life of faith.

In this sense, there are two temptations we face: the temptation for self-justification and the temptation to isolation.

The temptation for self-justification is a common one in our day. Those who seek self-justification are always seeking for ways to earn God’s salvation. Now, please understand: these people have tasted of the goodness of God in baptism, Eucharist, communion, and worship. But the problem is that is never enough. They are always trying to justify themselves before God. They never think they have done enough. They believe they are in Christ, but they can never wrap themselves around their Christ-likeness. And so they despair. They doubt. And they find some security in doing one more thing for Jesus, but when it is over they begin to ask again: “Have I done enough?” They are always very introspective. They are always looking within and never finding assurance and pleasure in life. If you fall under that description I say “Rest!” Christ has already redeemed you. Work out your own salvation in the fear of God; and by fear Paul means in the presence of God; knowing that God is everywhere. And also tremble in His presence because He is everywhere. You cannot hide from the Creator of secret places.

The other danger is that of isolation. “I can work out my own salvation as long as I am alone.” “Don’t call me. Don’t counsel me. I am ok and I will continue to be ok if I am left alone.” Have you ever met someone like that? This is the exact opposite of how Paul wanted us to work out our own salvation. Paul envisioned a community working together; striving after holiness as one. Lone ranger Christianity was never an implication of the Gospel.

One of the great problems with the modern evangelical church is that we have created a culture of secrecy; a culture that wants to portray only the good, but never the bad or the ugly. The Church is here for confession. She is here for grief. Work out your own salvation with repentance and with godly sorrow. God is asking you to look to the future with confidence, because in whatever conceivable scenario you may imagine He is there.

But here you must also remember that God is not watching you because He longs to catch you. He is not watching you because He longs to punish you. No. This is not the God we worship. God watches over you, so He can guide you into green pastures. He is not a cosmic kill-joy, He is a cosmic joy-giver. He will work in you perfecting you to become the image-bearer you were called to be. And He does this for His pleasure.

Self-Giving God at the Self-Giving Table

What does this table represent? It represents the blamelessness and innocence of Jesus Christ. To whom is this table given? It is given to the blameless and innocent community of Jesus Christ. In Christ, our lives are rescued and our lights shine brightly in a crooked and twisted generation. This is why the Supper is for us a renewal of our races. It is here where Christ reminds us that our race is not in vain and here where He reminds us that it took the pouring out of body and blood to get us in the race to begin with. It is this self-giving theme that dominates this table and it is this self-giving theme that unites us as a people.