All Posts By

Worship Daily

To Be or Not to Be an Evangelical

Do Christians need a term or label to identify ourselves? A friend wrote, “I no longer call myself an Evangelical.” He is thoughtful and well informed, but now I suspect he is feeling a bit embarrassed as he has chosen to avoid a term used globally by hundreds of millions of Christians. For many within shouting distance of U.S. media circles and party politics, the world has become a banner of disrepute. Evangelical is now a word disfigured by political pundits, muddied by protestors from the left and right, and brought into dishonor by self-proclaimed spokespeople who excuse inappropriate behavior and language as the necessary price for political power. The center has shifted, and many Evangelicals now wonder where they fit. I come to this subject as a Canadian not caught in the political wars of our great neighbor to the south, and with no need to offer opinions on their issues. I am also part of a world association which came into existence in 1846 and is today a global body that numbers some 600 million Christians. Obviously, I have reason to be concerned over the use of the term Evangelical and its meaning to the world. This is…

Continue Reading

Good Friday, Billy Graham, and the Transcendent Gospel

The truth presented to us in scripture should tell us something about not only who we are but who our neighbors are: image bearers of the Father in heaven. Today is Good Friday; the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross. This sacrifice—the greatest outpouring of love this world will ever know—earned us our freedom from the bondage of sin. Without the pain, loss, and sorrow of Good Friday, we could never know the intense joy of Easter morning. Rev. Billy Graham knew this himself: “Yes, it was a tragedy Jesus had to die—and the reason He had to die was because of us. There was no other way for our sins to be forgiven, and no other way for heaven’s door to be opened to us. He was willing to do this because He loves us, and He doesn’t want us to spend eternity apart from Him.” Rev. Graham dedicated his life to the importance of this day: an encounter with the crucified Christ changes everything. When Jesus bore the burden of our sins on the cross he paved the way for us to accept his free gift of forgiveness and ultimately be reunited with him. Like a…

Continue Reading

When Life Burst Out of Death

A theological imagining of how the Big Bang echoes Easter. Ironically, in defense of biblical faith, some Christians denounce the Big Bang—a theory originally rejected by many in the scientific community on the grounds that it smuggled a biblical view into science. Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître first proposed the theory in 1927 and called it the “cosmic egg” or the “primordial atom.” “Big bang” was a later phrase suggested by British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who opposed the theory. The Vatican, for its part, was so thrilled by Lemaître’s theory and its progressive verification in the scientific community that Lemaître himself had to contact the Vatican to plead that it desist from making scientific proclamations, a domain beyond its magisterium. The Vatican complied, and the attitude of global Christendom toward the Big Bang has been largely ambivalent ever since. So, if the notion that the universe exploded from a single point was first conceived by a Christian and considered by the Catholic Church to align beautifully with the message of the Bible (primarily with the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, “creation out of nothing”), how might this scientific idea continue to contribute to theology? Well, I believe the…

Continue Reading

Easter Fool’s Day

The real divine “prank” is not the Resurrection. This Holy Week, hundreds of frazzled preachers around the world have undoubtedly heaved a sigh of relief. Instead of having to fret over what illustration to use on Easter Sunday morning to capture their listeners’ attention, they can simply seize the opportunity the calendar has handed them. This year, Easter falls on April Fools’ Day, which means that countless sermons will be able to employ some version of the following introduction: “On Easter Sunday, we Christians celebrate the fact that a dead man came back to life. This might seem like the ultimate prank—dead people just don’t climb out of their graves, period—but this year, it turns out, God’s April Fools’ joke is actually true!” (More adventurous preachers might even try reviving the old “fish hook” theory of the atonement. According to that ancient model, in the ultimate April Fools’-style prank, God dupes Satan by enticing him to kill Jesus—only thereby to ensnare the devil and win a victory at his expense.) Were I to occupy a pulpit this year, I too would happily take advantage of this fortuitous convergence of holidays. But I’m not sure the real divine April Fools’ prank…

Continue Reading

The Incredible Hospitality of Good Friday

Jesus’ death demonstrates God’s love for outsiders, enemies, and strangers. It can travel anywhere in time and space, and it looks much bigger on the inside (or smaller on the outside, depending on where you’re standing). In 1963, it blended in perfectly as a British police box. But now, the intergalactic space cruiser stands out like a sore thumb, whether it’s landed in contemporary London or in the ancient Egyptian Sahara. It is strange, a foreign object that turns up in random places. And despite it being so alien—literally—nobody seems to bat an eyelid at the presence of the TARDIS from the global hit television show Doctor Who. The cross of Christ is a similar anomaly. Turning up in fashion era after fashion era, displayed in churches and schools and graveyards across the world, and gracing the lyrics of our worship songs and the walls of our art galleries—this ancient instrument of Roman execution has become one of the most recognizable symbols on the planet. And yet it often escapes people’s notice. Like the TARDIS, the cross is a strange entry point to something much greater than its humble appearance would suggest. Something that seemed so small and insignificant—such as…

Continue Reading

6 Ways to Survive the Grief of Childlessness

In a time of loss and lament, here’s how I found spiritual solace. When I was 19, a doctor said words I hoped never to hear: “You won’t ever be able to carry your own child.” I was too stunned to cry; all I felt was numbness. It took a few days for the shock to turn into myriad emotions—sadness, frustration grief, shame, anger, and loneliness. As I processed my diagnosis, my mind was assaulted by self-doubt and lies from the enemy. I thought, “If I can’t even fulfill the basic duties of a woman, what good am I?” Childlessness touches the lives of many women and the precious people who love them. Infertility alone affects approximately 12 percent of the US population—that’s over one in ten couples. According to estimates, roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the US will end in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies under 12 weeks is one in five. This data doesn’t encompass couples who have lost children to illness or accidents, nor does it take into consideration single women who desire to be mothers. Even though I have experienced only one of the forms that childlessness can take,…

Continue Reading

NBC Resurrects ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

How will Christians respond to the live production? The show’s history offers some clues. “Jesus Christ, Superstar, do you think you’re what they say you are?” This question—sung by Judas Iscariot and a backup chorus—has reverberated across popular culture for almost half a century now. With it, there has been another, second question: How should Christians respond to a catchy musical that casts a skeptical, and at times flamboyantly irreverent, light on the story of Jesus? These questions will get new life on Easter Sunday when NBC broadcasts Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Preview copies were, of course, unavailable because the show will be airing live. However, behind-the-scenes featurettes and publicity materials have indicated that it will follow a live concert format, with minimalistic sets and an on-camera audience watching the singers and contributing to the aura of rock-star celebrity that is one of the musical’s subtexts. The show will star Oscar-winning singer John Legend as Jesus, Hamilton’s Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene. Born from Unrest The musical got its start in the late 1960s, at a time when the same youthful idealism and anti-establishment sentiment that led to so much social…

Continue Reading

Is the Wrath of God Really Satisfying?

God’s anger against sin is real on Good Friday, but he doesn’t “turn his face away” from the Cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words come from the lips of Jesus as he hangs on the cross (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). They are powerful and haunting, and they are surely very important. But what do they mean—how are we to understand them? Here is one line of thinking that has recently become very popular in some circles. According to C. J. Mahaney, this cry from the lips of Jesus is the “scream of the damned.” He takes this line from R. C. Sproul who exclaims that when Jesus is crucified it is “as if a voice from heaven said, ‘Damn you, Jesus.’” This is because Jesus becomes the “virtual incarnation of evil” and even “the very embodiment of all that sin is.” Thus God abandons Jesus, turns his back on him, “curses him to the pit of hell” and “damns” him. For many who hold this view, the Trinity is somehow “broken” as the communion between the Father and the Son is ruptured in the darkness of that Friday afternoon. And this is said to…

Continue Reading

One-on-One with Pastor Colin Smith on “Heaven, So Near – So Far: The Story of Judas Iscariot”

If a person really belongs to Jesus, he or she will persevere in faith I am happy to welcome Colin Smith to The Exchange today. Colin is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard, a multi-campus church in the Chicago suburbs, and the teaching pastor for the daily radio program called Unlocking the Bible. We also have an academic partnership with Colin and The Orchard, offering master’s degrees through a partnership with Wheaton College. Colin recently wrote Heaven, So Near – So Far: The Story of Judas Iscariot. Ed: Colin, why did you write a book about Judas? Colin: I wrote the book because there are a growing number of people who are abandoning the faith that they once professed. I’m not just thinking about people in general, but specific people. Like, for example, a guy who was brought up in a Christian home, but no longer has an interest in the faith. Or a person who really extended herself in Christian ministry, but got disappointed and now no longer wants anything to do with Christianity. Or a couple who have experienced great difficulties in their lives, and they’ve moved away from a faith that they once professed so brightly. I…

Continue Reading

Billy Graham and the Presidents: Lessons in Spiritual Counsel and Friendship

One evangelist's influence on our nation's leaders The Billy Graham Center Archives has just recently announced the opening of two new collections on the ministry of Billy Graham and the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). This opening comes at Graham’s wishes after his recent passing on February 21st. The first collection, #580, was released on March 19th and contains records taken from the BGEA’s Montreat office from 1940 to 1948 and 1950 to 2012. It is comprised of letters, sermons, reports, memoranda, transcripts, clippings, and manuscripts and contains details regarding everything from the activities of the BGEA to the planning of evangelistic campaigns. The second collection, #685, features more records from the BGEA’s Montreat office. Amongst these items are the VIP Notebooks, most of which document Graham’s personal relationship with every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. This collection’s opening has been postponed until November 7th to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Graham. Up until now, discussions surrounding Graham’s involvement with the U.S. Presidents has been of interest to many people. Over the span of decades, this one man’s counsel of our nation’s leaders was highly influential. Most notable was…

Continue Reading