Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 03:05 AM UTC

Praying For The Unsaveable

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Mark had a Christian experience when he was a teenager. For two years he stuck with it. But events in his life unfolded in such a way that after just two short years of church and Christian experience he gave up his faith. Fifty years later he still doesn’t believe in Jesus, or the Bible, or want anything to do with the church. Some might say that since he made some kind of commitment in his teen years that regardless of the last 50 years he is still saved and will go to Heaven.
I think he’s going to Hell. And it breaks my heart.

You Are Not Speaking To A Christian Culture

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Every few days my youngest daughter, Whitney comes to me with a series of written questions about the Bible. We review the passages together, discuss her understanding of the issues being presented, and then I share with her my interpretation of the events in the narrative. Something that takes place regularly has me thinking about our culture. You see, there are things she is asking about in the Gospels that from my perspective are very self-explanatory. They should be easy to understand. But when she brings me her questions it is apparent to me that she does not understand some of what she is reading.
This was bewildering at first because Whitney is no idiot, not by a long shot. She is a bright, intelligent, creative, and observant person. Very often she gets the best of me. So when she has difficulty understanding what I think are simple passages of scripture I scratch my head and wonder what’s going on. Especially when I consider her background. She grew up in a Christian home, but not just any Christian home, she’s grown up in a missionary’s home. She took schooling that taught the Bible. She’s heard her father teach and once in a while fill a pulpit for a morning. So what’s the problem?

I Will Live On Another Planet And So Will You

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Geeks the world over are having spasms over the release of new science fiction and fantasy shows this year. Of great interest is the new Star Trek movie, the 50th anniversary episode of the British hit, Doctor Who, and the release of new scifi hits, Defiance, Revelation, and other scifi releases. On top of that there are many scifi and fantasy fans attending annual conventions, dressed as their favorite characters, a phenomenon know as “cosplay.” Fan devotion can almost be described as religious. Today’s die hard scifi fans don’t simply regard their favorite shows and books for their entertainment value, but often subscribe to the philosophy portrayed in their favorite franchises with passionate fervor. Some even go beyond playing dress up and try to live out their lives under the philosophy of the shows they watch. As a current scifi fan and author, yet former scifi geek I’d like to point out two things.
 
  1. It’s a TV show, not a religion, and
  2. I will live on another planet, and if you’re fortunate, so will you

The Show Must Go On, Regardless

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I recently read an article in Christian Ministry magazine about the television work of Joel Osteen and Phil Cooke. For those unfamiliar, Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in the United States with some 40,000 attendees. Phil Cooke is widely know in television and movie circles as an excellent producer who helps bring Christian TV productions up to Hollywood standards.
In Christian Ministry magazine, Cooke interviews Osteen about the quality of his television productions. The entire emphasis is on investing in the right equipment and expertise to produce a preaching program of the highest technical standards. Many Christian media productions are average and in fact, many are of poor technical quality. Both Cooke and Osteen point out that in today’s America, technical standards—the form of delivery—are of equal importance to the message being shared. In many ways I agree with this. But at the same time, high technical standards don’t guarantee an audience. The bottom line of all media productions is that the content you are delivering must be absolutely engaging. A pastor behind a pulpit isn’t enough. That person must be engaging. Of course, being the professional that he is, Phil Cooke knows this.
There is no doubt that Joel Osteen is an engaging speaker. His raw talent and his commitment to technically flawless presentations are truly engaging. The only problem is what Osteen is engaging people with.

What's Enough For You?

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Several years ago I asked a good pastor friend of mine, Chris Bayer, this question about the Bible: “If God never spoke to you ever again, would this book be enough for you?” He thought about it for a while then said, “No. I need God to speak to me to tell me who to pray for and who to heal and to do my ministry. I need God to speak to me.”
Now, as we were just getting to know each other I have to confess that at the time I didn’t really like his answer. You see, for me, no matter what situation I’m in I want my reliance on God’s word to be supreme. This is because the Holy Spirit is the author of scripture. What he says is timeless in its ability to transform lives. The Holy Spirit, if he were to speak something new, would never contradict what he’s already said, or anything he’s previously done. Therefore, I always go back to the Bible as my final authority for all in the Christian life.
Recently, however, something came to mind that has given me reason to back off my own answer to that question. If God never spoke to me again, would the Bible be enough for me?

Radicalizing Your Religion

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Over the weekend two news items stood in contrast on the subject of religion, radicalization, and restriction. On Sunday the 28th CNN’s Belief Blog presented four signs that a person’s religious beliefs might be radicalized. This stood in contrast to a TED presentation released on the 27th that showed that 75 percent of the world’s population live in countries that impose legal restrictions on religion.
It was CNN’s Belief Blog that raised my ire (as it sometimes does). It’s four signs of radicalization are so broad that virtually any religious founder, or significant leader, or even people attending evangelical churches might be considered radicalized. Here are the four signs that, according to CNN, your religion might be evil:
1.) I know the truth and you don’t
2.) Beware the charismatic leader
3.) The end is near
4.) The end justifies the means

Why Churches Need Missions Organizations

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Recently I’ve become aware of some churches that prefer to send out their congregants on short term missions trips and have moved away from, to some degree, sponsoring full time missionaries who work with organizations like Cru, Wycliffe, Navigators, and others. These churches want to engage their people in the missions experience so that they will become more excited about soul-winning and sharing their own faith. It is a great motivation! However, I’d like to touch upon seven advantages that missions organizations have to offer churches and missionaries on the field. To be honest, churches, while serving a critical role in the development of the body of Christ, can’t take on the task of the Great Commission alone. Neither can missions organizations do it alone. Both need each other to bring Christ to the world—especially difficult areas of the world where many sponsoring churches have few to no inroads. 
Let’s briefly touch on seven advantages that missions organizations provide for the advancement of the Great Commission.

Why The Shroud Of Turin Doesn't Matter

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A recent report claims that the Shroud of Turin has now been dated to with 200 years, plus or minus, of the time of Christ. Many believers regard the shroud as a legitimate relic from the time of Christ, espousing the view that the image on the shroud was created supernaturally during Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The shroud is something that people often look to as affirmation of their faith in Christ. They see it as a form of evidence that Jesus existed and was raised from the dead.

I am not one of those people.

Hey Pastor: Five Things Your Missionary Wants You To Know

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Pastor, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate and the last thing you need is more stuff to deal with. But you ought to know about a few needs that your missionary has. And not just you, but your staff and congregation as well.
I’ve been fortunate to serve Christ in two countries for a total of 11 years. There were times when I wished my home church knew about some issues I was facing, but felt like they might not understand what I was going through, or perhaps think badly about it, so I kept my mouth shut. That got me thinking about other missionaries, wondering if they had the same thoughts I did. So I surveyed a number of missionaries currently serving overseas to ask them what was the one thing they wanted you, their pastor, to know. From their answers I’ve come up with five things that the average missionary wants you to know.
Now, I want to warn you, you might not like some of what you will read. In fact, you might be a little offended. But please don’t be. You see, your missionary has a unique point of view and set of experiences that the vast majority of pastors and congregants never get to have. In addition to spiritual warfare, they face unique pressures of culture, loneliness, and anxiety for a host of reasons. So when they come home for a furlough or time of rest they want to escape their host culture for a while and enjoy their home culture. But guess what? 

Recognition

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What do people recognize about you? I’ve been recognized from my association with a TV station in Mongolia. During my New Mexico days I was recognized for my radio work and political involvement. During my radio career I was recognized for my voice. I’ve even been recognized as the husband of Diane and the father of Stefani, Rochele, and Whitney. But I ask myself, am I recognized for being with Jesus?