Jun 10th 2011

Friday Five: Colin Smith

If you listen to Christian radio, you’ve likely heard the distinct Scottish accent and solid Bible teaching of Colin Smith, Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Colin was raised in a Christian family and felt the call of God to pastoral ministry from an early age, training at the London School of Theology.

Prior to his ministry at The Orchard, Colin served as Senior Pastor of Enfield Evangelical Church in Enfield, UK. He also served as President of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. He is the author of several books, including, 10 Keys for Unlocking the Bible and The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life. Colin is also a council member of the Gospel Coalition

Colin’s teaching can be heard through his radio ministry, Unlocking the Bible. Colin was kind enough to take time to chat with me for today’s Friday Five:

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Jun 9th 2011

Faith at the Field Museum

This past Monday my wife convinced me that it was important to take our kids to the Field Museum in Chicago. Monday is typically my day off and this week the museum was free. So we packed the kids in the van and drove downtown. We live in the suburbs and like it that way, but we thoroughly enjoy visiting the city. Chicago is rich with first-class museums, beautiful parks, and much to do.

I hadn’t been to the Field Museum in about 20 years. I had remembered it as a big place with a lot of dry artifacts and dinosaur bones. Never one for geology, I envisioned this trip being a boring tour of various rock exhibits. I was wrong. The Field Museum is a wonderful place for learning and exploration, with exhibits and hands-on stuff for kids of all ages to enjoy. We only toured a fraction of it, bowing to the reality of three kids under six who don’t do well in big museums without taking naps.

But we saw enough to wow us about the incredible, complex world in which we live. We saw the different species of plants and animals, we toured the Egyptian exhibit and were amazed at the ingenuity of people who lived thousands of years ago. And the replicas of big animals always stirs in us excitement and wonder at the creativity of our Creator.

Except there was no mention of the Creator at the Field Museum. And this is where our trip ended (for me) with profound sadness. Now I didn’t expect the secular Field Museum to be a cathedral. Of course not. But it’s quite odd to marvel at the incredible design of a creation and see no mention of the Creator.

The Bible tells us that the Heavens declare the glory of God. They are a testament to the world that there is something bigger out there than us. And the unique design of, for instance, the human cell screams of a transcendant Being whose wisdom and ingenuity created it in the first place. And yet we’re subjected to theories of how things just happened, collided, exploded, and evolved.

This is absurd. Imagine touring the Museum of Air and Space at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C and seeing no mention of the Wright Brothers. Imagine behold the incredible development of the airplane, but reading nothing about the designers who crafted these flying machines? It would not only be absurd, it would be scandalous and an offense to the people who diligently spent their life on these inventions. It would say something about us, that we were almost ashamed of them and tried hard to edit them out of the story.

This is what is happening with evolution. Christians can debate the facts all they want. They can point to the lack of clear scientific data proving the theory of evolution. They can get their brightest minds to push back against the culture.

But the Creation and Evolution is not a debate of facts. It’s the wrestling of the culture against the inborn knowledge of a transcendant God. We come up with novel theories of our existence only because we want to ignore the signs of nature that point to a glorious God. We do this because as sinners, we are ashamed. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we hide. We want to convince ourselves that there is no God so that we don’t have to face up to who we really are.

As Christians, it is our job, not just to apologetically present the truth of Creation, but more importantly to fill the vacuum with the Gospel. To lovingly share that, yes there is a God, but no you don’t have to hide. Because the sin that has made you ashamed has been covered for you by Another, Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection reconcile you to the One who created you.

So next time you visit the Field Museum or some other place that edits out God, don’t react with anger and facts, but let it stir in your heart a longing to share with people the good news of the gospel. So people will no longer hide from the God who loves them.

Jun 8th 2011

Forgetting the Past – Of Others

I had a conversation the other day with someone about a guy we both grew up with. This guy was considered a “bad kid”, always getting in trouble, kicked out of school, and proudly wearing the reputation as “no-good.” So when he came up in this conversation, the person I was talking to sort of picked up where he had left off with this bad dude.

But his information on him was dated. I happened to know that God had done a work of grace in this former bad kid’s life, not only helping him overcome a serious addiction, but also moving him into a beautiful marriage and a terrific ministry. But in certain circles, he’s only known as bad news. As much as I tried to convince, this other person couldn’t believe in the new “bad guy.”

Part of me was upset, but then I was reminded by the Lord of my own attitude toward people of my past. We have a habit of remembering the pasts of others, even if God has forgiven them. We like to hold on to the 1996 version of this person instead of the 2011 version, which could be two completely different people.

It’s funny because we don’t want to be remembered by who we were in 1996. I certainly don’t. I’d hope folks would understand that God has really worked in my life. But I don’t have the grace to do that with others.

We hear a lot of preaching in church about forgetting the past–our own pasts. This is vitally important, because the enemy wants us to dredge up our sins as if to make us think Christ’s forgiveness on the cross was incomplete. But perhaps it’s time for us to start talking about forgetting the past of others. It’s time to realize that God just might have done a work in them since the last time you saw them. I imagine how this might restore and renew relationships. The parents who only know their troubled kid as being a troubled kid might actually take a second look and see how God is moving in her heart. The kid who carries wounds from childhood might realize that God has changed the hearts of his parents. The pastor who saw little potential in the scoundrel who messed up Sunday School might be surprised to find that guy graduating from seminary. The teacher who had to repeatedly discipline the unruly 8th grader might be overjoyed to know that her pupil is now the mother of three and leading a family.

Christians ought to lead the way in forgiveness and grace. How do we do this? I’m thinking we go back to where we started in our faith: the radical gospel which liberates us from the power of sin and promises us a new life in Christ. At the cross we were all hopeless and helpless. I was and so was the bad dude from high-school. And just as I like to claim God’s work in the deep and sinful recesses of my own heart, I must be faithful to see that in the hearts of others.

Jun 7th 2011

Mini Book Reviews #2

I’ve slimmed down the stack of books on my nightstand lately. This is, of course, to make room for more books, right? Here are reviews of three excellent books I have recently finished:

Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore. We did this book as part of our Sunday Morning Men’s Bible Study at Gages Lake Bible Church and it provoked great discussion. Russell Moore gets behind temptation and testing, offering the devil’s work against Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness as the hope for Christians today. This book will get you thinking beyond the moralistic way we approach sin and instead offers a robust theology and gospel-soaked hope in living the cross-centered life. You can read my interview with Russell Moore here.

The Next Story by Tim Challies. This is a needed book for the digital age. Tim gives a thorough history and theology of the digital revolution. He presents life as it is without alarmism and without legalism. He also asks probing questions about what our technology says to us as a people. I highly recommend this book for those who live and work in the digital world. I suspect it will be a texbook in Christian colleges. You can read my interview with Tim Challies here.

The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson. Carson is a world-reknowned scholar from Trinity International University. He’s a scholar’s scholar. So you might suspect this to be a tough-to-read treatise from an academic mind. Instead, Carson writes with heart and thoughtfulness, tracing the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This is a great book for those who wonder how the Old Testament fits into the New. Carson clearly presents the “one big storyline” of the Bible. This would be a great book both for new believers and those who have known Jesus for a long time.

 

Jun 6th 2011

Sideways Spirituality

Around our house, we’re starting to call my youngest daughter, Emma, the “Me-Too” girl. This is because, at 1, she has practiced and perfected the fine art of envy. Everything her brother and sister have, Emma wants. And she demands it by pointing vigorously at it. And if Mom or Dad get some food or snack, even if Emma isn’t hungry, she’s pointing it and wanting it. She’ll even do this at dinner, pointing to Mommy or Daddy’s plate and we remind her that she has the same stuff on her own plate, if only she’d look down.

It’s kind of funny on a 1-year old. But it’s all too common among grown-ups, especially Christians.

 

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Jun 3rd 2011

Friday Five Interview: Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff is the founder of one of the most widely read Christian blogs, Stuff Christians Like. He’s also the author of the book, Stuff Christians Like and a new book, Quitter. His writing and work has been featured by CNN and other media outlets. He’s been interviewed on national and international radio and TV. He’s a sought-after conference speaker and now works with the Dave Ramsey team.

Today he was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five.

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Jun 2nd 2011

Christians and the National Debt

I thought Chuck Colsen’s perspective on the national debt was really good. For some reason, it wouldn’t embed here on the blog, so here is the link. I highly recommend it.

 

Jun 1st 2011

Oh, Canada!

I’m sitting in the Buffalo airport, waiting to board a plane to Baltimore, where I will board a plane to Milwaukee, where I will drive back to the Chicago area where we live. It’s been a wonderful, whirlwind couple of days. I had a few passport issues, but thankfully the border guards on both sides of the U.S. Canadian border were full of grace and allowed me passage.

The purpose for my trip was to appear on the longest running television show in Canada, 100 Huntley Street. This show has been on the air for over thirty years. When you walk into the wonderful studios in Burlington, Ontario (near Toronto), you’re overwhelmed with the pictures of the many famous folks they have interviewed, including Billy Graham, Dr. Bill Bright, Josh McDowell, Chuck Colsen, and others. Crossroads Communications. The show is an interview format, airing live between 9-10 on both secular and Christian stations across North America. I was treated wonderfully, both by the behind-the-scenes producers and staff as well as the on-air talent, Jim Cantelon and Moira Brown.

Jim Cantelon did the interview with me and asked terrific questions about my iFaith. You could tell that he actually read the book, despite just getting back into Canada from Africa on Saturday. I also had the opportunity to visit with two blogging/pastor friends who live in the area. Darryl Dash is the pastor of Richview Baptist Church on the west side of Toronto. He was kind enough to meet me for dinner in Burlington. I knew Darryl from email correspondence and following his blog, but nothing beats face-to-face communication. We chatted about ministry, church life, theology, writing and a ton of other stuff. I was struck by his authenticity and pastor’s heart and soul. Then after my interview on 100 Huntley Street, my friend, Aaron Armstrong picked me up at the airport and we had lunch. I’ve gotten to know Aaron via email and blogging this past year and have come to enjoy his friendship. We also connected at The Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. Besides being a terrific blogger, Aaron works with Compassion International and is a leader at the Harvest Bible Church in London, Ontario. We had a great discussion on all kinds of topics.

Overall it was a successful trip to Canada and I’m looking forward to arriving home tonight. I’ve included the clips from my interview below: