8/31/07 Harry Potter Remix
Had a couple of comments on the Harry Potter teaching at TruLife last night so I thought I would give a quick synposis of my main points:
1. Why do some Christians dislike Harry Potter?
They see HP as a portrayal of witchcraft that is specifically condemned in Deuteronomy 18:9-12. If we dig deeper in the passage we see that God is refering the idea that magic is a third force. Because the ancient world was polytheistic (many gods), the power of the gods would have limited. So ancient world religions believed that a third force existed which could be manipulated – magic. All the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) hold that there is one God and any idea of a third, neutral force that can be controled by humans is false. This is what is condemned in Deuteronomy (and elsewhere in the Bible).
2. Is witchcraft real?
1 Samuel 28 gives us a story about Saul’s encounter with the witch of Endor and his effort to communicate with Samuel, who was deceased. There are three possibilities to understand this passage: Saul was experiencing a mental projection – which would have been possible, given his unbalanced mental state; God used Saul’s request and used a medium to communicate His message – which seems unlikely because God does not typically use messengers of evil for His purposes (but being God, God does what He wants – see Pharoah in Exodus); or Satan is behind this, allowing Saul to hear what is true, but not pointing him at all toward God. My hunch is the best understanding is the first or the last option.
I think what is interpreted as ghosts, magic, witchcraft in our time is in fact from Satan and is used to confuse and divert people from God’s truth.
3. Does Harry Potter lead people to the occult?
The magic potrayed in Harry Potter is incantional with an ocassional blurring toward spiritist. Rowling uses magic as a way of creating an alternate world, much as Tollkien and Lewis do in their works. My own feeling about this is Harry Potter is fantasy literature and the magic portrayed in it does not lead people away from God or toward Satan.
4. Should I let my kids read Harry Potter?
Depends on your child! Can your child understand some things are pretend and Harry Potter falls into that category? I do think parents need to know what their kids are reading and they need to take time to read it themselves. Talk with your children about the messages they are getting in books, TV, video games, and movies. Children need help in interpreting what they see and how it makes them feel. It is a great help to talk with them about how your own Christian faith help you interpret all that culture throws at them. I think our kids (mine included) are far more at risk from the seduction of sexuality and materialism than witchcraft.
Next week, the final installment of the Gospel according to HP.
8/30/07 The Gospel According to Harry Potter
This Wednesday at TruLife (Our mid-week teaching time), I’m going to begin a two part (at least – may keep this open ended) series on Harry Potter and Christian Faith. Why?
There seems to be some interest – seven block buster books have sold about 325 million copies. Six movies have all been hits. This is most successful media franchise since James Bond!
This phenomenah has attracted comments from all corners, but especially from a segement of Christians. They feel like Harry Potter leads people toward the occult. Are they right?
To be honest, the last time I spoke about this – about 7 years ago – I made some people mad. One family eventually left the church. But, still I think Christians need to take a hard look the Harry Potter series and ask hard questions.
So I will be asking questions and giving answers starting Wednesday, August 29 at 6:00 pm. On the question list:
Why do some Christians dislike Harry Potter? Is witchcraft real? Does Harry Potter lead people toward the occult? Are there any Christian themes in Harry Potter? Can I learn anything about Jesus from Harry Potter? Should I let me kids read HP?
If you can think of some other questions, let me know – I may not be able to get to all of them, but I will do my best. See you are TruLife!
8/30/07 Wednesday Wow
Great crowd as we kicked off Wednesday night for the fall season. BUT the best part was I walked over to THE STUDIO (Youth Building) and one of the adult leaders told me she had the priviledge of leading a young man to Christ tonight! This is what we’re all about at ADBC – helping people take their next step. It is a thrill that one of our lay leaders got the joy of doing this!! Go Student ministry! Thank you God!
8/26/07 Sunday Download
Cool things I’m downloading from Sunday:
- In the 11:00 service a neat scene. One choir member stumbles. Another choir member catches her, and holds through the song. One is from Europe. One is from India. Both are in Christ. Cool.
- Incredible attendance in Student ministry. Not sure of the final number but teachers tell me that around 90 to 100. Wow. Need more space.
- One four year old class at 9:45 had 17 children. Need more workers!!
- Many of you did park in the back of the building. Thanks! Please keep this up!
- I had a major “duh” moment in the 9:45 service – got up at the wrong time. Threw off the choir. Sorry guys – my bad.
- “Evermore I will love you, evermore I will serve you…” Old song, but still made me ask – Is this just a song, or something I really feel.
- Comments on the sermon – did I really miss the tennis balls twice in row – yes. Why do I use stories that portray me in a bad light – because they are accurate. Don’t you get tired of preachers who are always the heroes of their stories?
- Deacons meeting was this afternoon. Lots of churches doing away with deacons. I love ours. They get it – they care, serve, and reach out. Isn’t that Acts 6?
Heard from a few people they have checked out the blog! Great. Let me know what you think!
8/27/07 Why Unlikely Clay?
The time came last week for me to name my new blog. A quick scan of the internet presented me with lots of options:
- I could name it after my self: claysmith.com. This is the most popluar option out there on the web. I googled claysmith.com and was directed to Access Hollywood. Was this a sign that I was to be a movie star? After thinking about life as a movie star, I started to have second thoughts. After all, my name is not unique. We already have more than one Clay Smith in our church. No need to add to the confusion.
- There were lots of cool names for blogs: frontporchchurch.com, countrypreacher.com, and so on. But it seemed like all the good names were taken and smartaleckpreacher.com didn’t seem to carry the right message.
- I checked out a web site that offered suggestions for blog names. They said the most popular words on the web were “life,” as in getalife.com and “girls” – and I don’t think I need to give any examples there.
One of my favorite themes in the Bible is how God picks the last people we would pick. God wants to start a whole new people group: let’s start with two people old enough to draw Social Security – Abraham and Sarah! God wants to deliver His people from slavery: let’s get the guy whose face is on post office walls in Egypt – Moses! God wants to get a new king: let’s pick the guy whose father forgot he was around – David!
It doesn’t get any better in the New Testament. Jesus wants twelve men to change the world: let’s pick a loud-mouth, show off fisherman as their leader, make sure we have a couple of hot-heads, and throw someone who will betray Jesus at the end – the twelve disciples! God needs to spread the news of Jesus to the whole world: get the guy who is fired up against Christians, killing them and putting them in jail – Paul!
I don’t know why I am surprised.. I still can’t believe what God has done in my life. I’ve had major mess ups. Sometimes the quick reach of my mind to evil scares me. All too well I know my own greed and ambition. A thousand times, God should have withdrawn His blessing and grace, but He never has.
When I was a child I would always giggle at the line in the old hymn: “Thou art the potter, I am the clay.” What I didn’t know at the time was we were really singing about what God would do in my life. God would take the person who was nothing special and say, “I want to use that unlikely lump of Clay.”
unlikelyclay.com – it has a ring of truth to it.
8/24/07 Why Groups Matter
True confession – like many senior pastors, for a long time I didn’t care about groups. I knew we needed them, but I didn’t really think through whether they should be Sunday morning on campus groups or home based groups. This lack of clarity really hurt ADBC. We had too many competing philosophies about groups and a lack of focus.
I started to get my head straight about this two years ago. I became convinced that in our culture – Sumter, SC – it made the most sense to have Sunday morning, campus groups. That’s the strategy we’ve made a commitment to.
But all along, I’ve had a second hang up I didn’t talk about – I found it hard to Biblically justify groups the way many group gurus wanted to. There is lots of Biblical support for worship, for preaching, for service, for prayer, giving, Bible Study – but not a lot for being in a group.
It has only been in the last two years that I have awakened to the blindly obvious – Jesus did his ministry in a group! I can be so slow! But to be honest, this is not an area Christian scholars do well with – we tend to be looking at other issues. I have skimmed through Matthew and have identified some significant moments where Jesus and his group teach us about groups!
1. He invited people into his group – and he started this way with the call of James, John, Peter, and Andew. Matthew 4:18ff.
2. He taught his group – the greatest sermon every given was intended for the circle of disciples. Matthew 5:1-2. This should be a corrrective for every group that meets in the name of Jesus – there should be some component of learning that focused toward God. Maybe it is as simple as saying, “What did Jesus teach us today as we served?”
3. He gave care to his group members when a crisis hit them. He healed Peter’s mother in law – Matthew 8:14-15. Groups give care!
4. He enlarged their faith by letting experience God’s power in miracle form – like the calming of the storm – Matthew 8:23-27
5. He gave his group a test mission -Matthew 10:1-2. Every group needs to know its mission – and have some place, some way they are serving in the name of Christ.
6. He defended the members of his group – when the Pharisees criticized them, He was not intimidated. Matthew 12:1-8
7. He involved them in his miracles – like the feeding of the 5,000 – Matthew 14:13-21. They found the resources, they pickup the leftovers. Pray that your group will be involved in a miracle of God.
8. They saw what no one else saw; they heard what no one else heard. Matthew 14:22-26 – Jesus walking on the water – this is a moment when He reveals that He is the Lord of the wind and the sea. There are moments when a group needs to experience God as a group – and everyone who misses it that day, misses the miracle. It does remind us to be there!
9. He gave his group a safe place to ask; “What does this mean? We don’t get it.” Matthew 15:12ff. Groups need to be safe places where we can say, “I don’t understand everything.”
10. He taught lessons twice – Matthew 15:32-28. Have you ever wondered why there are two miracles of feeding -one of 5,000 and one of 4,000? The disciples play a similar role in both stories – they see a problem, they don’t see a solution, Jesus asks them to identify resources they have, they share with the crowd and pick up the leftovers. Why didn’t they learn this the first time? Because some things we need to learn twice.
11. He warned them about danger and dangerous people – Matthew 16:5-12. Groups are safer environments to talk about dangerous situations and people. But MATURITY ALERT – never never never never let a group degenerate into a gossip circle. Sincere inquirers and seekers will smell out the unhealth and leave. Frankly, that why many groups quit reaching people.
12. He spelled out spiritual realities – Matthew 16:24ff. Everyone needs some iron in their lives – someone or a group of people who will tell you the truth.
13. He made up for their lack of faith – Matthew 17:14ff – when the group couldn’t do the work required, Jesus made up the difference.
14. He re-defined the values of the group – Matthe 18:1-5. Success would not be defined by greatness, but by humility. It is only as you relate to others within in a group – whether a BCG group or a family – that you learn humility.
15. He corrected their good intentions – Matthew 19:13-15. Churches are notorious for doing the wrong thing with the right spirit. Groups help us be accountable for the right thing with the right spirit, especially as we listen to the Spirit.
16. He reminded them – be impressed with God’s movement, not buildings – Matthew 24:1-2. Ever hear of a church that needs to be reminded of that?
17. He shared sacred moments – Matthew 26:26ff – the Last Supper. The next time we do the Lord’s Supper at First Sunday, sit with your BCG group.
18. He asked them to share a burden – to pray with him – Matthew 26:36ff. Important note – they didn’t do this well, but even though they let him down, he didn’t give up on them.
19. He trusted them with the most important message ever – Matthew 28:16ff.
Bottom line – groups were important enough to Jesus that He did the three most important years of his life with one. If a group was that important to Jesus, should a group be that important to you?
8/24/07 How to Study the Bible
These questions are modified from some resources offered from Campus Crusade for Christ. We talked about them in TruLife yesterday:
HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE Questions to Help Understand the Passage 1. Who is speaking? Are they trustworthy? 2. Who is hearing? What’s their situation? 3. What is the Big Idea in the passage? 4. When does this take place? 5. Where does this take place? 6. Why is this passage important?
QUESTIONS TO HELP APPLY THE TEACHINGS OF THE PASSAGE 1. What does God command us to do? 2. What promises do we claim? 3. What are the cause and effect dynamics? 4. What are the recurring words and ideas? 5. Why did God want to communicate this to me? 6. What does this teach me about me? 7. What does this teach me about God? 8. What is my next step after reading this passage?
8/24/07 It’s a Start!
Only a few months ago, I would have been one of those people who said, “Who in the world has time to read blogs?” Then I read an article about blogs as a new way to build on line community. Then I read a book about The Blogging Church (excellent read!). Then, for the first time I read a blog.
I started by tuning to Perry Noble’s blog from New Spring in Anderson (PerryNoble.com). I was impressed by his realness and boldness for God. SO… having seen it done and truly sensing from God a leading in this direction, I decided to join the blogosphere.
What can you expect? Probably lots of stuff about the church I pastor, Alice Drive Baptist Church, in Sumter, SC. Simply observations about life with a great wife and three teenagers. An ocassional theological observation. A comment or two about American Church life (I used to teach “Religion in America” for the University of South Carolina, Sumter). And the rest, we’ll see as we go –