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

Friday, January 26, 2007

Kingdom Come

For those of you who don't know Jay-Z came out of retirement late last year with a brand new album titled "Kingdom Come." In the title track he claims:

When kingdom come, you ready?
When kingdom come, uh huh
Not only N.Y.C. I'm hip hop's savior
So after this flow you might owe me a favor.

Just when they thought it was all over
I put the whole world on my back and broad shoulders...

The parallels to Jesus are very eerie; here a man is claiming that he not only came to save a certain select group (N.Y.C.) but all of hip hop. While we see that Jesus came not only to save Israel, but for the redemption of the entire world. Paul wrote in Romans 15:8-13:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised [Israel] to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

"Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name."

And again it is said,

"Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people."

And again,

"Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him."

And again Isaiah says,

"The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope."
May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

For those that are celebrating Jay-Z's return and apparent saving of hip hop, look to the original savior. Look to the one that Jay-Z ripped off and came not only for Jews, but also gentiles. Celebrate the One that didn't merely save hip-hop but the entire the world. Look to the savior - Jesus.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

In all honesty I thought this book was going to be cheesy. I had judged this book long before I had even thought about reading it. Then one day I noticed that Ravi Zacharias recommend the book so I decided to read it.
And now I would recommend this book to any and everyone. Lee Strobel travels around interviewing leading scholars, doctors, and psychologists to present the facts of Jesus from Nazareth. At parts I was so stunned at the knowledge and certainty of facts that words cannot even express what joy it brought. After a presentation of all the facts he ended the book with this quote from C.S. Lewis:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Friday, January 19, 2007

This book gives a great overview and Biblical grounding for being missional. For those who are new to this concept of living missionally I encourage you to pick this book up and read it. Phil Strout has a great way of comunicating Biblical principles intermixed with his own stories. I loved how he grounded all missions in the local church, and showed that Paul operated in that way as well. I would recommend that 90% of American Christians read this book, here is a great quote from Phil:
God is the hero of this story-not people, not churches, not missionaries, not mission agencies. Since the beginning of time, God has been the one involved in making this mission a reality, not us. As God wins each of our hearts back and we discover the portion of community and intimacy that He has for us today, we become His people. However, when we become His people, we are invited to participate in His mission, His pursuit of the hearts of humanity. When God grips our hearts with His love and compassion, it is unavoidable-and we, too, become missional people.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Harbor Church 2006
Here is a video put together to highlight some of the things that we as Harbor Church have been apart of:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Have An Extra 2 1/2 Hours?

After reading Mitch Albom's For One More Day I realized that practically nothing was gained. Basically if you want to read a book instead of watching a movie you can pick this book up. For some I could see it pulling heart strings, because of the mother-son relationship explored, however it was a bit predictable and basic. Maybe some of Albom's other works are more captivating, but I found this one quite lacking. My general aversion to a lot of fiction probably didn't add any thing either. So, if you are looking for a quick read without much thought this is the book, for more meat try something else.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An Addiction?

For those of you who don't know I am a reader...I actually might read too much, if that's possible. While the average American spends over FOUR HOURS a day watching TV I find myself reading, probably because I don't own one. (Actually that isn't true; I do own a television that is about 3600 miles away from me.) One of my goals this year is to read fifty-two books by December 31st, of course that has been a goal mine for several years running.

As you may have noticed I have put several lists on the right hand side of the blog that have links to various books. They are categorized under: "Currently Reading," "Books On the Horizon," and "Books I've Read This Year." As some may have noticed the "Currently Reading" section is quite long. You might ask, "How can anyone be reading that many books at once?" And the answer is, I don't know. Some of the books I only read once a week: The Passion of Jesus Christ or Systematic Theology while others I am reading for my church leadership training program called Trilogy. However, I do try to keep the top of the list the books I am actively trying to finish.

I will always try to have a post about each book I read or possibly a brief synopsis. My hope is that some of you will see a book I am currently reading or one on the horizion and pick it up to read with me. With that we could enter into a dialouge about the book, and learn from one another.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

James Joyce and Jesus
This morning as I was reading James Joyce's book, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I came across a very interesting passage. Joyce wrote, "He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. He did not know where to seek it or how: but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his encounter him."

Reading that in conjunction with Colossians 1:15 "He is the image of the invisible God..." We get an awesome picture of the inner yearnings of man and the answer in Jesus. We all long for some thing greater then ourselves, the "unsubstantial image" and here we find that Jesus is the image, the image of the invisible God.

I pray that God will allow me to meet people who are in the same mindset of Joyce's character. People who are deeply longing for and expecting to meet Jesus.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Street Preacher

Today as I was walking to the local library so that I might get online I was handed a tract by one lady and then a football fields length down a man was declaring Jesus as Lord very openly and loudly. Unfortunately, no one crowded around him, nor did I see any one stop to ask questions or listen.

I felt a bond between him and I, yet I didn't know what to do. He boldly spoke truth and nothing that I heard was condemning. In fact he quoted John 3:17, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Still I questioned his methods. The tract was all right a generic one that a local church had bought then stamped their name and address on the back. It was a bit archaic, King James Version of the Bible and showed kids turning down cigarettes. As a tangent, smoking is not good, but as one guy I know said, "I am not interested in their cigarettes, but their souls." Unfortunately the entire process was very impersonal and no one even sought a conversation with me.

The question then is how do we do what this guy was doing, preach the gospel, but in a way that is effective? I am a VERY big proponent of preaching/speaking/sharing the gospel in more then just actions; words must be used to tell of Jesus. Yet, I can't quite see myself doing what he was doing. I want people to listen instead of just ignore me, some how we have to earn the right to be heard. How that is done I don't quite know, but I know that it is possible.