God in Three Persons

Sometimes it is easy to go back to our early days in the Christian faith. Back then everything was so simple. We believed in Jesus, everyone believed in Jesus, and life was simple. Of course, we then grow up and we learn more about the Scriptures, and we discover that Jesus is one with the Father, that He sends the Spirit, and then we hear the language of the Trinity. It’s in our confessions, our creeds, and in every Systematic theology. And then we learn that if we do not embrace the Trinity, we are not true Christians. But why can’t we just believe in Jesus, after all, He is the answer to every question we can’t answer?

It’s good to grow up; it’s hard to grow, but it is ultimately our goal. And part of growing up means we become more mature in the language of the Bible. We come to know that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. The Jews and the Muslims criticize the doctrine of the Trinity by saying that any doctrine that cannot be reconciled logically is not true. How can there be Three Persons and One God? Thomas Jefferson expressed the frustrations of many when he said that the doctrine of the Trinity should be abandoned altogether:

“When we shall have done away with the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one and one is three…when in short, we shall have unlearned everything, which has been taught since His day, and get back to the pure and simple doctrines he inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily his disciples.”[1]

Thomas Jefferson, of course, is part right and part wrong. “He was correct in the sense that Christians needs to focus on Jesus more,” but he was sadly mistaken that this would bring us back to simple doctrines and away from the Trinity. The reality is that at the precise moment we begin to focus on Jesus we are led directly to the doctrine of the Trinity. It was precisely through Jesus that the disciples knew the Trinity; it was precisely through Jesus that they learned that all authority has been given to Him! By Whom? The Father. Through Jesus they learned that the paraclete, the Spirit, would be sent after His ascension, and through Jesus they learned that the baptism of the nations, young and old, must be done not only in Jesus’ name, but into the Name, notice, not NAMES, but into the NAME=One God, Father, the Son, and the Spirit= Three Persons. God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.

[1] Quoted in Darrel Johnson’s Experiencing the Trinity, pg. 12-13

Corporate Charismatics

While we generally associate charismatic with a movement, the word “charisma” simply means “gifts”; something freely given. The Spirit of God gives charismas to us as a church. And the gifts of the Spirit are almost always gifts expressed in the church by the church. In short, if it does not benefit the body, it is of no use.

How strange it is then that some take the gifts of the Spirit and act as if it’s a prized individual possession to be administered like a bank account. No, the gifts are to be given to the church and then outwardly expressed by the church. True charisma, that is, true gifts edify the body and glorify God; they are not spontaneous expressions, they are orderly acts that are embodied by the congregation when she meets each time.

If we individually decide to respond when we feel appropriate, the service would be utter chaos. But where the Spirit’s gifts are given there is unity. The Church ought not to be subject to outward expressions as one sees fit, but as the body sees fit jointly.

In this sense, we are corporate charismatics. We respond, hear, and sing jointly with one voice by the power of One Spirit.

A Letter to a Friend who is Warned about the Danger of Children

Dear Friend,

People keep warning you about children. You are not even expecting but they, “the mature ones,” already are throwing out their apocalyptic warnings about the “terrible twos” and “terrible teens.” “You have no idea what’s waiting for you!” they warn us, like prophets in the streets of Jerusalem. “Doom!” “Doom!” Here is my humble advice: Smile, and move on!

There will be sleepless nights, difficult conversations, and sometimes C H A O S all around. The volume level will be between a 4 and a 9 in the Richter Scale. But you want to know the reality? The reality is that for every sleepless night, you will get a hundred smiles; for every difficult conversation, you will hear 100 beautiful ones; for every chaos, there are 100 peaceful moments; for every high volume request, there will be 100 sweet snuggles.

I have often said that those who are anxious bring people into their anxieties. People who warn you of such things may be well-intentioned in their warnings, but they are setting a horrible precedent for future parents. They’re “terrible teachers.” They are not instructing accurately, nor giving you a full picture.

Parenting is such a joy and every phase provides new challenges undoubtedly, but overwhelming joy. You should look forward to the birth/adoption of your first child. There is nothing apocalyptic about child-rearing; but rather, there are millions of awe moments. I can’t wait for you to see, experience, and enjoy these little gifts.

Pastor Brito

Letter to Someone Concerned about Empty Ritualism

Dear friend,

In light of my recent C.S. Lewis quote I posted, you asked how we can “dance” while avoiding “going through the motions.” The question stems from the fact that in a liturgical environment, words, phrases, and paragraphs carry enormous meaning. The fear is that this repetitive feast turns into a requiem for the dead; what some would call “empty ritualism.”

I understand your fear which is why the things we do in the church needs to be done in a highly intentional fashion. What I mean is that we need to shout our worship (Ps. 100:1) rather than whisper it. The liturgy of the Psalter, for example, was always exuberant. God speaks in a still small voice, but we are called to shout unto the Lord. We must sing vigorously, recite faithfully, and hear with great attention. When we mumble our way through the liturgy, we are saying that the “dance” is uninteresting, lacking intrigue, and a necessary check mark on a list of tedious weekly activities. But you don’t just come to church, you have the privilege of coming to church. Therefore, know the liturgy and because of that knowledge, do the act of worship with knowledge and insight and strength.

Yours truly,
Pastor Brito

Paul and Self-Control?

In a piece by Matthew Boulton in The Journal for Preachers, Boulton argues that the translation “self-control” requires a new orientation in Paul’s fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). He notes that egkrateia is poorly translated “self-control.” The idea of self-control entails ” a mode of ongoing human achievement.” Rather, the word is formed from two Greek words: eg which is “in” or “in the realm of” and kratos which is, “strength or dominion.”

Boulton notes that something like “inner strength” or “inner dominion” fits better with Paul’s list. Further, it also serves as a culminating point in Paul’s list of virtues. He argues that the idea is that Christians are called to be “in the realm of strength dominion.” Such gifts can only come from a pneumatological anthropology and thus, concludes rightly Paul’s list. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness only make sense when they are expressed in the realm of the Spirit’s strength.

A short letter to a Husband With a Lonely Wife

Dear husband,

I am afraid your wife feels lonely. In fact, the way you described it to me requires you to heed my words. Now, I don’t think you intend her to be lonely or wish her loneliness, but you are responsible, in part, for her loneliness. Sometimes our failure as men does not stem from lack of care, but from ignorance. For most of us men, finding friendship at work and church is a relatively easy task. But for many moms who find delight in the nurturing of little souls each and every day, loneliness is a real struggle.

What you can do, first and foremost, is to be aware that this may be happening. Further, you ought to know that in some cases your wife may be going through her days fighting her loneliness without telling you about it. So, I urge you to have this conversation with her. This talk may open up some new opportunities to discuss schedules and how you can provide room for wives to flourish in their calling and find opportunities for communion with other ladies.

Yours truly, 
Pastor Brito

A Letter to Someone on Hospitality

Dear friend,

You told me that you would love to host people in your home this summer, but you feel you don’t have the cooking skills to have people in your abode. That’s too bad because I was expecting some gourmet sushi made with precise Japanese ingredients like home-made wasabi and escolar fish when I visit your home next week.

Seriously, if the Apostle Paul had said: “Practice hospitality but only if you are qualified to make my favorite Roman dish,” I suspect hospitality would be a quasi lost art. But Paul simply states the imperative, “Practice hospitality.” No qualification. No culinary skills. You don’t even have to read Robert Capon (though I strongly encourage you to do so).

I treasure my wife’s cooking, but when we have people over and I notice she is not fully prepared or energetic to make a difficult dish, we order some pizza and have as many people as we can fit in our place. At other times, we have people over at night at that magical time when the kids go to bed and we open up a bottle of wine and some store-bought dessert. Laughter. Jokes. And even music proceeds from these occasions.

Practice hospitality. Start simple. You want a trial family? Just have me and my tribe over. I guarantee you we will have a blast, but more than that, have people over. Don’t wait to manifest this wonderful gift that unites, creates healthy communities, and fills children’s bellies.

Pastor Uriesou Brito

Eve’s Parenting Manual

When Eve had Cain and Abel after the Fall, she had no parenting manual, no audiobooks on sleeping habits for babies, no other mothers to confide on the struggles of parenting. All she had was one (perhaps two) days of memories living in a perfect Garden with a perfect Father and savory fruits and vegetables, and unrelenting bliss. Can you form a motherhood curriculum from 48 hours of life experience?

Just as the honeymoon began, she was tempted by a crafty serpent, was deceived by the devil, and at the end was unprotected by her husband. What a way to begin marriage and life! Eve knew life in its most glorious and most miserable.

The lessons of the garden and post-garden are the lessons for all mothers on this day. Eve needed to learn how to bring beauty to a fallen world in a post-Genesis 3 world by taking the lessons of Genesis 1 and 2. She had seen the way things ought to be and now the way things can become.

Mothers continue that mission to carry redemptive beauty to a fallen world by learning from our first mother. To be a faithful mother does not require a perfect garden, but trust in a perfect God in a fallen garden. Our first mother understood, through her own experience, that the seduction of evil comes in subtle and tricky ways; even in the form of questions that seek to take away your love of the true, good and beautiful.

Mothers must see that their home is another Edenic experimentation, their children are their opportunity to avoid the fratricide of the first children, and their God is the faithful father from Genesis 1 and Genesis 3.

Catholicity, Orthodoxy, and Lordship