Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, July 17 2018 @ 11:36 AM UTC

Keeping Your Religion And Your Guns

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Gun control has become a hot topic again because of recent tragedies. Politically, both sides of the American political spectrum are making their cases for and against tighter gun control. Some politicians are now beginning to openly call for the repeal of the Second Amendment.
My essay on this topic is not to address the political or social ramifications of the Second Amendment, U.S. political rights, or gun control. My first response to issues like these is to go directly to the scripture to see what principles we can appropriate to guide us in our views and actions. Yes, the Bible speaks to issues of weapons ownership, use, and misuse. The scriptures are sufficient for everything that we need for life and godliness.
So what ideas does the scripture put forth to help us navigate controversial waters such as these? 

The Irony Of Free Will

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The irony of the free will position is prayer. Every time you pray for the salvation of another you are praying against that person’s will.
When you pray for the salvation of someone you are essentially asking God to intervene in that person’s heart and mind, to have them change their decision and feelings about Christ. Think about how you pray for the salvation of another. “Lord, open their eyes. Make them understand. Please save them. Make them part of your people.” When we do this we essentially ask God to change that person’s mind about Jesus against their natural sinful state of rebellion against God. So what of free will?

What Christmas Means To Me

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What does Christmas mean to you? For me, by itself, Christmas means little. This is because Christmas, as a holy day, does not stand on its own merits. Christmas is validated by an even more important day in history.
Easter.
Easter stands on its own because it is the celebration of the most important day in history—the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, never to die again. Consider that if Jesus had not died on the cross and rose from the dead, then Christmas would not be a day of significance. The birth of Jesus may be surrounded with unusual circumstances and claims, but what would they amount to if not for the cross and the resurrection?
Scholars say that during Jesus' day there were as many as 30 men making claims to messiahship in Israel. If not for the cross and the resurrection, Jesus would be just another unknown teacher making grandiose, but ultimately disappointing claims. The cross and the resurrection are the ultimate proof of Jesus' significance.
What is the proof of your significance?

Hey, I Got A Medal

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Why do you serve God, if you serve him at all?
Many times I've found myself saying that I want to serve Jesus by bringing others to him. I want to serve him in my ministry career. But then I realize that since my regular job is ministry, and I get paid for it, I wonder if I would "serve" God as much if I had a non-ministry job like most people.
In the last few weeks I've been working on developing new financial support for our ministry. In many of my meetings I hear from the people I am meeting with about how they are serving Christ in addition to working a full time job. I look at them and see faithful people making significant sacrifices of time, energy, and money to further God's kingdom.
And they don't get paid for it.
In the book of Malachi, God says through the prophet, "You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge?'" When I was in Mongolia I could see this attitude in some people. I watched as some believers served God for the power or prestige it could bring them with other people. Some people worked to expand their ministries and it would give them the same result. Then I wonder if I did the same.
Recently, I've begun to take a new attitude in my prayers. "Lord," I ask, "Let me be forgotten. Let anything I did of value be attributable only to you, but let me be forgotten. I must decrease, but you must increase."
What is the profit in serving God? That's the wrong question because it places the value of serving Jesus squarely in the "what do I get out of it" column. Instead, I want to have a heart that desires to serve God simply out of the truth of who he is and what he commands. Of course, I know that there is eternal profit in serving Jesus. God gives that to us and his promise doesn't fade away. But that should never be our motive for serving God.
When God made his covenant with Abraham, to give him offspring and a nation of promise, Abraham asked God, "What will you give me?" (Genesis 15:2). Just before that God said to Abraham, "I am your great an exceeding reward" (Genesis 15:1). At first, Abraham didn't get it. Like most people of his day, having sons was considered prestigious. That is still true in many cultures today. Then there are people like us, Americans. We look at the material things of life and success, or a long retirement as our reward. But God's perspective is different. He is our great reward. He is our reward, a person, not a thing, not an accumulation of things or status or entertainments. Jesus is our great and exceeding reward.
Last year I was awarded by the president of Mongolia with the Medal of Friendship for my work in helping establish free media in Mongolia. I have to admit, it's kind of cool. It's nice to be recognized. But in the eternal scheme of things what does it really get me? Am I seeking earthly reward for heavenly gains?
 

The Growing Pains of Discomforting the Rational Response Squad

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My interest was piqued when I read more than a week ago that former child star Kirk Cameron and his ministry partner Ray Comfort were going to debate two atheists on ABC’s Nightline and through ABC’s Internet site. What piqued my interest is what Cameron and Comfort claimed they could do—prove scientifically the existence of God without the Bible and without faith.
I have to confess that when I say my interest was piqued what I mean is that I was kind of shaking my head back and forth saying, “Uh oh, we may be in trouble.”
No offense to Cameron and Comfort; they have a thriving ministry and are reaching a lot of people for Christ. I’m not faulting them in that sense. But there are three things that, personally, I think they should not have engaged in:
  • ”Scientific proof,”
  • Proof “without faith,” and
  • Debating the Rational Response Squad in the first place.

Christians and Politics: How Far?

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Recently I’ve been asked why so many evangelicals are so supportive of a Mormon candidate for president. Theology Professor Wayne Grudem has written about this very subject in his book, “Politics According To The Bible.” I won’t replicate what Grudem says in this article. However, it did get me thinking about Christians and politics and asking the question, “How far in the political arena should a Christian be involved?” I’d like to answer that question with a look at a guiding principle of scripture that helps Christians understand their role as part of an earthly society while at the same time being a part of a heavenly society.
Most Christians have heard of what is commonly known as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
We hear sermons about the Great Commission all the time. This is important, and especially important to me, specifically, as I’m employed as a missionary trying to help fulfill the Great Commission. 
However, there is another kind of Great Commission mentioned much earlier in the scripture that is remarkably similar to Matthew 28, but we rarely hear or read about it. It is called the Cultural Mandate. It comes from the book of Genesis in 1:28 when God tells Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
Immediately upon creating man, God gives him instruction about how he is to live in the world that God has created. This instruction is not only for Christians, but for all of man as Adam represents all of man as the first man. Notice what God says to Adam. Let’s break it down. He must:

Was Jesus Married?

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A recent news item about Jesus and marriage has a lot of people speculating. Was Jesus married? Here’s the skinny, from a September 19, 2012 Washington Post article:
“A newly revealed piece of papyrus offers fresh evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married, according to a Harvard Divinity School professor. Four words written in Coptic on a fourth-century codex quote Jesus referring to “my wife,” Karen King, a scholar of early Christianity, said on Tuesday (Sept. 18). It is the only extant text in which Jesus is explicitly portrayed as betrothed, according to King.
“King is calling the receipt-sized slip of paper ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.’ She believes the fragment was originally written in Greek, and later translated into Coptic, an Egyptian language. The fragment says, ‘Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...,’ according to King. The rest of the text is cut off.”
Was Jesus married? Let’s avoid the speculation and get right to the evidence from the scriptures. In short, the answer is a resounding, “no.” Here’s why.

Why Are You Following Jesus?

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We were launching a new ministry project in Mongolia. During a board meeting we wrestled with the issue of why our TV ministry was limited only to a single city while all of our competitors were broadcasting on satellite nationwide.
It was then that the Lord gave us a strategy to take a series of character-driven Bible movies into the Mongolian countryside to do Bible story telling and win communities to Christ. Called, Steppe-by-Steppe, the project is a resounding success.
At the time of this writing more than 95,000 were touched in hundreds of countryside communities with more than 50 new church groups planted—in just seven short years. But when we began putting the project together I wondered if we could even find the right people to carry it out.
We interviewed more than 50 Mongolian men looking to fill six slots for Mongolian missionaries. These men would need a strong knowledge and reliance on scripture. They would need a clear sense of calling. Most importantly they would need a firm understanding of the Gospel message. Candidates went through multiple interviews, but the first interview was the most important.

Prosperity Gospel: How We Approach The Scriptures

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How do you approach the Bible? How do you know that your approach to the Bible gleans the most accurate understanding of the scripture? Do you simply open and read and see what you are impressed with? Or do you have a set of assumptions that guide your approach to God’s word? In fact, everyone approaches the Bible with a set of assumptions. But some assumptions are faulty while others are better suited for receiving life changing truth from the Bible’s pages.
It is important to recognize that we all have assumptions about the Bible, and many within the church have differing assumptions. Many people have some things in common about the Bible, and some important differences. For instance, we may agree that the Bible is the word of God and should be taken as our authority for all things in the Christian life.
But we may part ways on how passages of scripture should be interpreted and appropriated. Indeed, many Bible teachers, especially those in the prosperity gospel movement, often appropriate verses from the Bible that at a surface level would seem to be exactly about what the teacher is teaching, whilst other evangelicals scratch their heads in light of the context or culture of the passage. Let me provide a brief example.

Jesus & Homosexuality: Silent, Supportive, or Sin?

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Since President Obama recently came out in support of gay marriage a number of editorials have made arguments in favor of gay marriage from the Bible. Specifically, there have been three assertions made about the Bible and homosexuality that to the normal Christian seem to be a stretch of biblical logic. In a nutshell, those arguments are:
  • Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, he never condemned it
  • The Bible condemns eating shellfish, and wearing clothes of two different fabrics, along with homosexuality, how then can we take it seriously?
  • Paul taught mistaken views about homosexuality. We should follow Jesus' teachings, not Paul
For the purposes of this article the issue before us is not whether gay marriage should be legal or considered a human right. The issue here is whether or not the above statements regarding the Bible and homosexuality have any merit. It is one thing to argue for gay marriage as a right based upon history, politics, and biology. It is another thing altogether to argue for gay marriage or so called gay rights by using the Bible as a supportive document. Does the Bible support the modern idea of gay rights? Let's find out by answering the three challenges above.