Theological Thoughts

Arguing for the Glory of God

Arguing for the Glory of God

When a married couple says to me “Pastor, we have a good marriage. We never argue,” I have three reactions to this: a) “You are absolutely lying,” b) “Surely the Adamic curse has made you one cosmic exception,” or c) “You all need to be in counseling immediately.” Even the most placid, introverted couples I’ve met argue with one another.

I am not talking about the shouting, throwing vases, or the verbal insults arguing. These are sinful and require immediate accountability and measures. I am referring to the differences of opinion form of arguing. These are necessary and expected in any happy marriage.

If a husband cannot accept the fact that his wife has a difference of opinion on some issue that does not violate biblical morality, that husband is likely making the house a difficult place to live. Husbands and wives ought to thrive in the honest conversations of life.

A spouse must not make arguing a habit or a daily routine of marriage. This can be a sign of deeper problems. But life is too complex, children too unique, and circumstances too unpredictable to avoid ordinary arguing.

Happy marriages are not made of avoiding differences, hiding feelings, playing make-believe, but embracing the necessary disagreements with mutual respect and love for one another. So, when differences arise, argue for the glory of God and the good of your marriage.

Ten Years of Pastorate

Ten Years of Pastorate

Ten years ago we arrived in Pensacola! I was an eager seminary grad about to assume the pastorate of my first church. We arrived on a U-Haul truck and Providence folks were there to unload us into our new life.

In previous months, I remember applying for all sorts of churches only to hear 2-3 months later: “Thanks for applying but we are looking for a pastor with ten years of experience.” Well, here’s your ten years! I am grateful that Al Stoutand the Providence tribe decided to hire a 29-year-old to lead a small, loving church into the future. It’s been better than I imagined.

In our day, pastors stay in a local church for an average of 3.6 years. In God’s grace, Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola,FL has loved me into a decade of service. I cannot begin to express my gratitude and the overwhelming hospitality of these saints to the Brito clan. It’s the only community my children have ever known and the most loving community I have ever served and learned from in my life. The challenges of the last ten years are easily overwhelmed by the immense blessings I’ve received and am continually receiving. Thanks be to God!

Prayer for a Wine Tasting Party

Prayer for a Wine Tasting Party

O blessed Lord, your riches abound far higher than the fortunes of Abraham and Solomon for you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Your majesty is adored by every square inch of creation for even the invisible things bow down before you. As we gather this evening to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation, we are celebrating the bond of peace you established when you entered the world.

We give thanks that we are not bound by Nazarite vows, nor the impositions of men that bind our conscience. We drink wine tonight for you are a God of absolute freedom and where there is liberty there is love and peace and truth and righteousness. Guard us against abusing your gifts, especially the gift of gratitude. May we see your gifts, enjoy them and give thanks to the giver of all good things. Far be it from us to turn our backs to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose name is blessed and worthy to be praised. So we pray, give us hearts that abound with thanksgiving.

May we drink believing that our very bodies and souls are in communion with you. We drink in the name of your covenant promises which are yes and amen. As we sing cheers with every glass of wine may our fortunes be passed down to our children and our children’s children, may gratitude overflow, may the laughter of the saints outlast and outlive the laughter of the oppressors and persecutors, may your church sing as choirs of angels in exaltation, may wine gladden our hearts, food fill our bodies, and carols fill this house with your presence.

We pray these things in the name of the Lord of glory, the Savior of Israel, the prince of Salem, the Lion of Judah and the One who exults over us with singing, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Planning for 2019

Planning for 2019

It’s the third day of Christmas and I am finishing up some work before some hard deadlines. But I am already looking to next year. I journal at least three times a week–try Penzu.com this new year– and it helps me keep track of my progress.

As I read through my accomplishments this morning I looked back at some my goals at the beginning of 2018. In short, I essentially failed to accomplish all of them as intended. I did not read as much as I wanted, I did not write as much as I wanted, I did not pray as much as I wanted; in sum, I probably accomplished 30% of my goals for 2018. I confess my goals were fairly noble like reading 45 books (including some novels and poetry).

Though I failed to achieve my noble goals, I view it as a success. After all, I accomplished 30% of them. I could have lived all of 2018 aimlessly and purposelessly. But God wants your plans to succeed (Ps. 20:4), which implies there are plans made. It’s true that I set a fairly high standard and fell short, but I knew I was going to fall short at some level. But the planning ahead was fundamental to achieving the 30%. Had I not stopped to think late 2017 about how 2018 would unfold I would have entered the year without goals and agendas.

It’s quite easy to mock resolutions, but resolutions mean you have certain goals in mind; a healthy story you are trying to experience which will better your life and your family’s. This is why the Puritans journaled vociferously and wrote remarkably lengthy resolutions (see Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions).

So it is entirely true that God has a habit of shattering our well-laid out plans, but he also has a habit of honoring well-laid out plans. Therefore, plan. Plan for the coming year. Plan to love God, your family and your church and fill those days with ardent productivity.

Doing Away with Sentimentalism during Christmas

Steve Wilkins writes in his helpful article:

Observing Christmas as a season helps us to move beyond the sentimentalism that has become so much a part of “Christmas” and commemorate the true significance of Jesus’ birth. It enables us to see that Jesus’ coming truly transforms all things. It marked the end of the old world (under the dominion of sin and death) and the beginning of the new. And it reminds us of our new identity and purpose. We are now children of the King and are called to rejoice and give thanks and show the world the new destiny that now has come in Him. To celebrate for twelve days (as opposed to one) enables us to realize afresh the significance of what happened in Bethlehem and it declares to the world the remarkable reality that Jesus has destroyed the works of the devil and established a kingdom that shall have no end.

The Gnostic Advent

The Gnostic Advent

Christmas begins on Tuesday and it lasts for 12 days. Some criticize Advent as gnostic. “Advent is too immaterial and Christians want nothing with immateriality. We want the physical things like eggnog and gifts under the tree. So, why wait? Some would say? “Why not start celebrating Christmas early and get rid of this mysticism of Advent?”

Every year I hear this type of argument the more committed I am to the blessings of Advent. Call me stubborn, but I think Advent is as material as John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb, as material as tears of those waiting for Messiah to come, as material as getting together for dessert and singing of Advent hymns. Let’s be honest: Advent is only gnostic to those who want it to be gnostic.

I pray this season with all its rich texts about judgment and grace, waiting and deliverance, hope and joy was everything it was meant to be for you and your loved ones. I pray Advent prepared you to embrace these twelve days of Christmas with great rejoicing.

Kevin Hart’s Desecration of the gods

Kevin Hart’s Desecration of the gods

To step outside of the politically correct sphere is becoming a gigantic threat to anyone who dares touch on the ideological latitudinous of celebrity culture. Whether one uses humor or shares his convictions about a topic, if he touches on the sacrament of ungodly sexuality, his career suffers a thousand deaths.

Actor and comedian Kevin Hart, who was invited to host the Oscars, and who considered this “the opportunity of a lifetime” suffered such death when a decade ago he tweeted:

“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my
daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head &
say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’”

He dared, as a comedian in his late 20’s, to desecrate the holy of holies of the gods of diversity. Hart has since declared he has evolved on the issue and no longer holds to such declarations. Still, the gods show no mercy; even though Hart has achieved the apex of financial success; even though he has already shown on many occasions his ability to play within the temple with other toleration citizens. But the celebrity culture knows no grace; their gods demand perfection ten years ago and ten years henceforth. R.I.P. Hart.

Don’t Jump into the Darkness

Don’t Jump into the Darkness

Many of us grew up in environments where extra-biblical requirements were given as a way to please God. Now, no one in their right minds would assert that these were meritorious, but the end result of not doing x, y, or z inevitably led to guilt and fear. “Did I read my Bible this morning? “Did I forget to pray?” “Is God angry with me?”

The long-term effect of this thinking has led many to abandon the faith. I don’t want to condemn the legalistic heritage that some of us grew up with (though it is worthy of criticism), but I do want to assert that there are alternative ways of contemplating Christian piety that does not leave you dry.

We don’t want piety that abandons traditional habits of grace; we want a piety that learns to cultivate these habits in a grace-saturated world. We want a piety that is rich, diverse, and capable of drawing from God’s vast resources of strength and encouragement. We need to forsake legalism, but not to the wells of liberalism or atheism, but to the fountain of grace where the Gospel is given through an encouraging word, a phone call, a note of thanks, a text that edifies, a book that moves us, a story that awakens us, a community that bears with our weaknesses and a Christ that communes with us. If you find yourself in that guilt-ridden Christianity, don’t jump into the darkness, seek the light in traditions and people that are immersed in a life of freedom and thanksgiving.

Parental Repetition

Parental Repetition

Christians, of whatever persuasion, ought to bring their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All parents should have a covenant awareness of their tasks. They need to remember the promises of God to their children each day. They need to whisper those promises when they rise up and when they lie down to sleep. The covenant demands the art of repetition. We kiss only to be reminded that we will kiss again. We say, “I love you,” as a way of practicing for the next “I love you.” These affirmations serve to remind us of the persuasive nature of our God who throughout Scriptures repeated the same message through patriarchs, prophets, and priests. We need the covenant promises made known afresh. Admonishment and nurture must be grounded in solemn joys–a firm, but tender methodology. We exasperate children when we stop reminding them of these promises. The more repetitive you are the more covenantal you become. So repeat yourself. Give hugs again and again. Repeat God’s promises again and again. And when your child complains of your incessant loving, hugging, and story-telling, then know that you have done your job well.

Death and Resurrection

Psalm 16 adds this unique messianic prophecy: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” The Father loves this theme of “death and resurrection.” What we experience as saints are little episodes of death and resurrection. Every act of repentance is an act of death on your part, and every act of forgiveness by God or someone else is an act of resurrection in your life. God promises in this psalm to raise Jesus from the dead; the Father will not allow the death of Jesus to be a source of mockery but of triumph. So also, every act of suffering we undergo is God’s display of his commitment to being with you always.