Family

Worship as Dialogue

Worship as Dialogue

I begin by simply noting that keeping children in worship is hard work. In fact, virtually all fruit that comes from worship stems from hard work. The word “liturgy” itself means the work of the people. Therefore, a meaningful service will demand much from parents.

There is a principle that we as evangelicals must all understand before we even contemplate the question of children in worship. The principle is that worship is to be a dialogue rather than a monologue. You can apply this principle even to the least liturgical congregation. Once a parent sees that worship is to be engaged, he/she will begin to see the purpose of children in it. Worship is not merely an intellectual exercise, it is an act of communication and communion between God and man. God speaks and we respond. If a parent does not see worship as dialogical, but merely a transmission of ideas from the clergy to the people, then he/she will not see the need to keep children in worship.

Theologizing at Home

Some of the richest theological interactions a man can have happen at home with his children and wife. If he eats with his family a theology of gratitude is heard; if he leads his family in worship a theology of communion is engaged; if he disciplines his children a theology of order is exercised; if he teaches his children the fruit of work a theology of vocation is being conveyed; if he sings and dances with his offspring a theology of joy is manifested; if he kisses his wife in front of his children a theology of love is expressed; and if he reads to them a theology of discipleship is practiced. There is so much more that can be said, but this must be gleaned: a man theologizes at home. May he theologize well and produce young and fruitful theologians in the kingdom.

It’s a boy!

It’s a boy!

We have returned home from the hospital. Our baby boy, Elijah Ambrose, is a healthy mix of Brazilian tenacity and American perseverance.  In all his glory, the “little” fellow is 9.6lbs. Despite complications and some adjustments, mommy is doing well.  She is also a paragon of unending virtue. She has a hard grasp on life and simply won’t let anything affect her pursuit of being a faithful mother.

I was struck as I drove home with my third boy and bride, of the weightiness that rests on me. It is a rather stunning reality that Yahweh (Jah) would grant me such a responsibility. Another boy–an opportunity to claim that God is Yahweh (Eli-Jah) through parenting and life.  May the weightiness of responsibility be light as I rest in Yahweh in the flesh.

 

Father’s Day Exhortation

Father’s Day Exhortation

In his excellent book “Father Hunger,” Douglas Wilson writes:

“What are fathers called to? Fathers give. Fathers protect. Fathers bestow. Fathers yearn and long for the good of their children. Fathers delight. Fathers sacrifice. Fathers are jovial and open-handed. Fathers create abundance, and if lean times come they take the leanest portion themselves and create a sense of gratitude and abundance for the rest.”

These are the types of fathers sons and daughters are craving for. And, of course, these fathers do not come neatly packaged. They usually come with imperfections and without an instruction manual.

But this is all right, because Christian fathers, young and old, carry a great tool with them: the gift of admitting their own sins. Instead of justifying themselves, they seek forgiveness. This ought to be a comforting thought for young fathers here at Providence: you will make mistakes in your parenting, so early on, learn to create an atmosphere in your home where the words “Please forgive me” occur often. Use those words in the living room and in the bedroom. Do not reserve them only for corporate confession. Let your children know that daddy is imperfect, while serving a Perfect Father.

Fathers, you are what you worship, and your children will worship joyfully the God you worship most joyfully. So worship most joyfully the God of your Father Abraham. Do not idolize your children, but teach them to crush idols. Do not serve mammon, but teach them to use mammon wisely.

This is the charge to fathers in this congregation. It is a noble and mighty charge: to love your children and to conquer their hearts, before others conquer them. Learn early and often that you are a servant of your heavenly father. If you do not serve him alone, you will be another absent father in our culture. May it never be! May God grant you strength and wisdom as you lead your families, and may He lead you to your knees, beautify your words with truth and grace, strengthen your faith with biblical conviction, and renew you daily. Amen.

Prayer: O God, our Father, we have at times failed you. We have viewed ourselves as too mighty. We have repented too little, and suffered for it. May we be fathers that delight in You, our great Father. Do not leave us to our own resources, but be our present help in times of trouble. May our hearts be aligned with yours, even as your heart is aligned with your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray. Amen.

A Review of “Unstoppable” with Kirk Cameron

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)

A Father’s Day Exhortation

Happy Father’s Day!

There is a hunger out there. It is not a hunger for food, money, power; it is a hunger for fathers. This is what Douglas Wilson referred to as “Father Hunger.” Sons and daughters are craving for them. And they do not come neatly packaged. They usually come with imperfections and without an instruction manual.

But this is all right. They usually have a pretty good sense of what is right and wrong, and when they make mistakes they don’t justify themselves, but they seek forgiveness.

Where are these fathers today? They are nowhere to be found. We can find their shell in their homes, but we can’t detect their fatherly souls. This is tragic. And we do want to emphasize the important roles that fathers play in the home. But in order to do so, they must be present.

So to fathers who are present, what we want to do is to encourage you to be servants in the home, lovers of truth, carriers of joy, and examples of repentance and faith. Our children will mirror our worst traits, and this is frightening indeed. But God has not left us hopeless. He has provided Himself as an example of true fatherhood. Even those without a father today know that you have a heavenly father; One who does not leave the orphan or widow, but who cares and proves his perfect fatherhood each day.

Fathers, I urge you to take dominion over your role. You only have one shot at it, but remember that no circumstance is too late or too far gone. Every prodigal is within reach. Every prodigal still would prefer dad’s table to the table of doom. Be encouraged and hopeful.

Fathers, you are what you worship, and your children will worship joyfully the God you worship most joyfully. So worship most joyfully the God of your Father Abraham. Do not idolize your children, but teach them to crush idols. Do not serve mammon, but teach them to use mammon wisely.

This is the charge to fathers in this congregation. It is a noble and mighty charge: to love your children and to conquer their hearts, before others conquer them. Learn early and often that you are a servant of your heavenly father. If you do not serve him alone, you will be another absent father in our culture. May it never be! May God grant you strength and wisdom as you lead your families, and may He lead you to your knees, beautify your words with truth and grace, strengthen your faith with biblical conviction, and renew you daily. Amen.

Prayer: O God, our Father, we have at times failed you. We have viewed ourselves as too mighty. We have repented too little, and suffered for it. May we be fathers that delight in You, our great Father. Do not leave us to our own resources, but be our present help in times of trouble. May our hearts be aligned with yours, even as your heart is aligned with your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray. Amen.

2012 in Review!

And so we reach the end of the year! The seventh day of Christmas is upon us, and the promise of Epiphany is near.

The year of our Lord 2012 has been filled with new life in the Brito household. But it began near death. After attending a Pastor’s Conference in Louisiana and visiting family in Mississippi in January, our family upon returning to Florida was met by an unobservant elderly couple from Oregon who crossed the road without considering the incoming traffic. Fearful—after finally glancing at the gigantic Black Dodge Ram—they stopped in the middle of the road. Melinda did a masterful job at remaining controlled throughout the ordeal. We hit the vehicle head-on, but our titanic truck– though damaged–slowly stopped on the side of the road after hitting the tiny iceberg. In God’s good grace, though our vehicle was totaled, there were no fatalities, and just a few aches and pains which were dealt with in ensuing months at the chiropractic clinic.

Uri is now in his fifth year of his pastorate at Providence Church. He continues to take great pleasure in serving the saints and ministering weekly in Word and Sacrament. The congregation has grown both in numbers and in unity. We are averaging about 100 attendants per Sunday. God has richly filled our once small congregation, and has provided a healthy, godly, and vibrant body of covenant members.

On September 26th, Uri’s first labor in the publishing business was made public. He was the editor and contributor to a book entitled The Church-Friendly Family, which speaks of the centrality of the Church and the role of the individual family in the mission of the Church. 500 copies were printed, and over 350 have been sold in three months.

Uri was also invited to be one of three speakers (together with Gregg Strawbridge and Rich Lusk) at the 22nd Family Advance Conference in Sandestin, Fl. His two talks The Trinitarian Father and The Church as the Apologetic of God were very well received.

In late December, Uri had the unique opportunity to visit his family in Brazil for two weeks. Though filled with several problems regarding his passport, he managed to make the trip. His fourteen days were filled with excitement as he was able to see his large family of 39 cousins and 13 aunts and uncles, and his grandmother. His mother was delighted by his presence, and he and his brother formed quite a musical dual.

Melinda continues to labor in the home. She cherishes her responsibilities as wife and mother. She continues to beautify the home with her joy and love. And speaking of beautifying, on August 30th we welcomed our third child, Ephraim Augustine. Instead of driving 45 minutes to a well-known hospital, we chose a local one (only three minutes away) for this delivery. The experience was terrific! The nurses were outstanding and we found a great pediatrician also only minutes away. She couldn’t be happier.

We were graced with some wonderful friends who helped us to adjust caring for three little ones while daddy is at the office. We could not have done it without the help of our wonderful friend, Misty Heifner. She has been more than a friend, and more like a second mother to our little ones.

Melinda continues to take good care of our budget, updating it often, and saving us hundreds of dollars whenever possible through couponing.

She has also begun to home-school Abigail (who is now four) through the local Classical School community. She continues to instruct Abigail during the week, and then join the other CC moms on Tuesdays where Abigail has an opportunity to make a presentation. And as expected, our first child, never the timid one, excels in them.

Melinda has also begun preparing to run a half-marathon at Disney in February, 2013. She has been faithful in her preparation and has shown remarkable perseverance.

Our children, Abigail (4), Ezekiel (2), and Ephraim (4 months) continue to fill our house with laughter, noise, and more laughter and noise. They are joyful and love to sing new songs. God has filled our dinner table with sharp arrows.

We are extremely blessed to have our Church family who has helped us in so many ways, to our friends and neighbors, who have been more than we ever expected, and to our Triune God who has spared us from death and who has given us life abundantly in the year 2012.

Thanks be to God, and a continual Merry Christmas!

Uri, Melinda, Abigail, Ezekiel, and Ephraim

December 31st, 2012

Father Hunger

Doug Wilson in his marvelously challenging and insightful work Father Hunger observes:

Father Hunger is one of the chief symptoms of our idolatry. It is the basis for our political follies, our cultural follies, our technological follies, and so on. But the solution is not to schedule numerous family retreats. The solution is to announce, preach, and declare that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of God, and of His Christ.

In order to overcome this American idolatry, men must first need to act as Christians. It is the first principle of kingdom living.

{This is developed in a couple of chapters of The Church-Friendly Family}

The Conscience of a Society

James Davison Hunter appears to be setting the environment to destroy the argument made by culture-warriors like the late Chuck Colson. But in the process (beginning in chapter two) he is explaining the rationale of world-view thinkers and their desire to redeem the culture. Colson argues that there are four ways. The fourth is particularly striking:

Fourth, the church must act as the conscience of society, as a restraint against the misuse of governing authority.

This sums up the case for The Church-Friendly Family, where I argue in my editor’s introduction that unless the biological family joins the mission of the Church as the conscience of a society, the family itself will lose her own conscience and submit to another institution or to no institution at all.

My first dip into the book seems like a good dose of Dutch Calvinism, but from conversation I see a “but” coming in the next few pages.

Delighting Over our Children

My friend, Tim Gallant, has a fine post on internalizing a right portrait of God:

God does not correct everything at once. If He did, we would melt with fervent heat, and have no time to enjoy life with Him. {read this great post}