Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sorry for the lack of post for the last couple of months. I've had a bit of a busy summer. I was working two jobs for quite some time, along with other church responsbilites. I had the opportunity to preach several times which I always love to do.

I also am now engaged to be married to a beautiful girl by the name of Beth. We have started a simple blog on wordpress which you can visit: kyleandbethsmith.worpress.com

As well as the launch of a whole new blog. This one I am doing in conjunction with a very good friend of mine named Seth. I promise to post much more regularly on it, and hope you will join me in having a cup aroundthecoffeeshop.com

Monday, March 26, 2007

My brief thoughts on deism.

As I see it deism has left an indelible twofold mark on our culture. First in the secular realm in which scientism reigns. It has affected how perceptions are made through the labels of science and spirituality. When something is labeled “scientific” the thought is that the idea is based on natural reason void of faith. Whereas “spirituality” is seen based on nothing but faith, absent of natural reason. Thus scientific beliefs are viewed as the foundation of thought and spirituality is seen as blind. A disconnect has been formed between spirituality and reason. The second mark on our culture is in the spiritual realm. Because of the apparent gap between spirituality and reason, religion (Christianity) has almost turned anti-intellectual. To me it appears that instead of embracing science and reason in the light of Jesus, Christianity unfortunately tends to shun it away.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Here is a short essay I wrote for The Trilogy Project, I cannot remember the exact question we were to answer, but I believe the essay can stand alone without that context.

Missions and Experiential Christianity
Two of the biggest influences on North American Christianity were the Pietists and Methodists. The leaders of these movements shaped much of how we live out our Christian lives today. Equally shared, and emphasized, by the Pietists and Methodists was the experiential nature of salvation, which in turn fueled missions.

Pietism is generally understood as Christianity based on experience. Olson in The Story of Christian Theology quotes Ted A. Campbell as saying, “Pietism stressed personal religious experience, especially repentance (the experience of one’s own unworthiness before God and of one’s own need for grace) and sanctification (the experience of personal growth in holiness, involving progress towards complete or perfect fulfillment of God’s intention).” (Olson pg 474) It was an encounter with God that brought someone salvation, along with an ongoing process of personal reflection in comparison to God’s will. In fact there was such a strong belief in an encounter with God that, “Personal experience of God, then, was the Pietist’ focus and emphasis…A change of life called conversion must take place at some point at or after an age of awakening of conscience, and it must be accompanied by a transformed heart—a new set of affections for godly things—or else it is not genuine and authentic Christianity does not exist in that person.” (Olson pg 475) Through these new feelings and life one would begin to believe the right things.

The man who started Methodism, John Wesley, had a profound experience of God, which led him to propagate experiential Christianity. After having been formally trained for ministry he still knew there was a lack of spiritual fervor in himself. It was not until his personal experience that he went onto found Methodism. As he recorded, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” (Olson pg 511) Here Wesley’s experiential Christianity and a zeal for the lost was born.

Through these personal experiences of the Pietists and Wesley a great push for missions was born. No longer was the status quo of basic orthodoxy used as the measuring stick for a Christian, instead how one lived out their life was emphasized. Previously many people had been left in the ditches along side the road of Christianity because of the orthodoxy practiced by the church. Olson says, “Wesley preached conversion and holiness to the masses who felt excluded from the formal atmosphere of the state church.” (Olson pg 511) The grip legalism had/has on the church began to loosen. While people in the Pietists, movement such as August Hermann Francke, made great strides in helping the poor, “He moved easily among both the rich and powerful and poor and downtrodden and had a heart for the latter even though he curried the favor of the former in order to gain their financial and political support.” (Olson pg 482)

It was through the emphasis on experiencing God and having him change one’s life that led to missions. No longer was just having the head knowledge enough, action was to be taken, and the heart must be affected. Christianity has the Methodists and Pietists to thank for taking Jesus out from just the schoolrooms and into the streets.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

This quote has just been rocking me today so I figure others might enjoy it.

J.I. Packer wrote, "It is often said, quite fairly, that any Christian who seriously thinks that without Christ men are lost, and who seriously loves his neighbor, will not be able to rest for the thought that all around him people are going to hell, but will lay himself out unstintingly to convert others as his prime task in life; and any Christian who fails so to live undermines the credibility of his faith, for if he cannot himself take it seriously as a guide for living, why should any one else?"

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Secret: Demon Possession

If you haven't heard about the cultural phenomenon that is The Secret simply walk into the nearest bookstore and get assaulted by the first display case. It will contain many copies of the book, unless of course it is sold out. The Secret is on the top of basically all the bestseller lists and has even been recommended by the great Oprah. Which of course means millions of fleeced housewives will run out and purchase this book in hopes of finding purpose and meaning in life.

What I originally thought was a great marketing ploy to make millions of dollars, which it has, now appears to be much more frightening. On Sunday the New York Times ran an article about the origins of the DVD, which the book was based off of, and the demon possessed woman behind much of this New Age cult.

Apparently the "original" version of the DVD was to star Esther Hicks being the, "most prominent interpreter of the law of attraction." However, after a falling out a second version was made in which she was cut out. One of the biggest rifts came when the original version lacked any face time for Hicks, instead the DVD just used the demon that possesses her to narrate much of the DVD.

Hicks it seems travels around with her husband putting on conferences for people to spend $195 a pop to have her "...summon otherworldy spirits she says speaks through her." These spirits, that use the name Abraham, then answers questions from the audience. Esther and her husband have also written a book, The Law of Attraction: The Basic Teachings of Abraham and constantly release CDs and DVDs dispelling the "wisdom" of Abraham.

It reminds me a lot of Acts 16, where Paul encountered a possessed slave girl, who made a lot of money for her masters through fortune-telling. This possessed slave girl follows Paul and his companions proclaiming, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." After many days of annoying Paul, he gets fed up and casts out the demon in Jesus' name. This of course leads to a small uproar in which Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail.

The questions is if you met Esther Hicks would Abraham proclaim that you were a "Servant of the Most High God?"

For those of you who find this all to fantastic and don't know that a spiritual realm truly does exist should be at the very least able to label this woman a lunatic. Multiple personalities are generally not seen as a positive, unless of course it is netting you millions of dollars.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Who's Right?

In the New York Times yesterday they had a very interesting piece on the "Christian Right" and their efforts to find a 2008 presidential candidate. Apparently there is a secret organization of influential conservative Christians who gather to talk and strategize about the evangelical influence on politics. Although it doesn't seem to be quite as secretive now.

I found several things very interesting about this whole thing. First was where it was held: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida which seems to be quite an exclusive and expensive hotel. With rooms ranging any where from $250 - $1800 a night, not to mention the cost just to get to the island.

Second, was how secretive this group is. They decline to talk about what was discussed and appear to want anonymity, yet the premise of the get together was to find some one that they all could support in their moral war on America.

Third, is the fact that they in large represent Christianity to most of America. This last one is what hurts the most. While they wage a moral war and look to establish a political kingdom here on Earth they seem to leave The King out of it. It is almost if they are the Zealots of today. Unfortunately issues of abortion, same sex marriage, and taxes are the most important to them, not God's glory. Don't think I am say those issues aren't important, but truly they pale in comparison to Jesus. As one of my friends explored in his blog: Obedience = Moralism? We need to come to Jesus not a moral code.

A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to preach at the local church I am apart of and hit on this point a bit. If you wish you can hear the message here or get our podcast through our rss feed: http://hccmessages.podomatic.com/rss2.xml

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion
Some of you may have already seen this, but it is absolutely hilarious. I wish I was as witty as these guys.
Child Soldiers

I was able to read the book: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier a week before it is due to be released. I guess it is one benefit of working for a giant corporation that is very much into social issues. I was again stirred on behalf of all the child soldiers and modern day slaves across the globe. I have had several unique opportunites over the past two years to hear first hand accounts of people in slavery all over the world.

One that I think about often was told to me by a woman named Faye McDonald. She spent several years in Nepal working with slave people, even partnering with a company in New Hampshire to buy entire slave families their freedom, eventually slavery in Nepal became illegal in 2000. That was about two years ago that I heard that story and it was the first time I had realized that slavery is still happening. Now it seems more and more awareness is being brought to these situations, but still much has to be done.

  • I would encourage everyone to check out my friends organization that is working with child soldiers in Uganda. Child Voice International

  • Also see this movie put out by Invisible Children

  • Finally read this book, it is a heart wrenching account of what it is like to be a child soldier