Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 02:49 AM UTC

I Want Pleasures Evermore, Or Something Better

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Part of serving in ministry in a foreign country is to identify the chief value(s) of your host country so that you will know what you should and shouldn’t do when trying to reach people for Christ in that country. I experienced this first hand during my 10 years in Mongolia. I listened carefully to what Mongolians talked about and watched their behavior. I listened carefully to the other foreigners I knew in the country, to learn from their experiences. After several years I think I began to understand the chief value of most Mongolians. That chief value is power. In fact, I can define most (not all) of my relationships with Mongolians in terms of power.
When I returned to America after 10 years away it seemed to me that many things here have changed. In a way I feel like I am an outsider from American culture. I’m still American. I still think and act like the average American (or so I think). But when I observe American culture I find myself trying to identify America’s chief values.

Hitting the Sink

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What was your first car? Was it a muscle car, a sport car, a truck? Or maybe like me it was a Toyota station wagon (yes, they made them once). My first car was a 1972 Toyota Corona Mark II. It wasn’t exactly what a 16-year old boy would want, but my parents helped me buy it, and it was mine.
Before my dad handed me the keys to my car he sat me down to give me some advice. He was always good with cars and took extra special care of his. He expected me to do the same. I wanted to take care of my car. So when dad sat me down to give me some instructions, I listened. Yes, I listened. But the first thing he told me was so obvious that in my know-it-all attitude I thought it was dumb. He said, “Tom, whatever you do, don’t get into an accident. Not even a little fender bender. Because if you do, your car will never be the same.”
Right dad. Okay. 

Boogers & Forgiveness

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What do you want to be remembered for? I’d like to think that the last ten years of my life will be remembered by my friends in Mongolia as positive ones—except for maybe one thing.
I flicked a booger at the nation.
I had been in my role of Managing Director of Eagle TV in Mongolia for only a few months. It was 2003 and we were covering the Iraq war live. We were the only TV station in the country to do so. Mongolian TV viewers had never seen anything like it. Our station, Eagle TV, was pulling as much as 90% of the TV audience. 
During the coverage, every hour we had a segment where people could call us and give their live opinions about the war, on the air, completely uncensored. We ran a live polling graphic on the screen. Nothing like this had ever been done in Mongolia before. Thousands of calls came in. A new threshold of freedom through media had taken hold and the people eagerly took advantage of it.
Within a couple of days of our coverage Mongolia’s Foreign Minister went on State TV to announce that once the government of Mongolia had decided its position on the war that the people of Mongolia should not be allowed to voice their opinion publicly. Some of the old communist ways still held sway back then, especially in the media. The next day an article appeared in the leading communist-friendly paper saying essentially the same thing.
I would have none of it.
I decided that our audience had to hear from the leadership of our station about why we were doing what we were doing. We needed to make a stand for free speech for all Mongolians. I wrote a two minute commentary, memorized my lines, and recorded a commentary to air during our prime time news. My goal was to assure the people that our station would always be a conduit of free speech and expression for the Mongolian people.

She's Raising Her Children Without God

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A recent article on CNN from atheist blogger, Deborah Mitchell, claimed that raising children without God is better than raising children with God. Mrs. Mitchell lists seven reasons why she raises her children not to believe in God. These reasons are:
  • God is a bad parent and role model
  • God is not logical
  • God is not fair
  • God does not protect the innocent
  • God is not present
  • God does not teach children to be good
  • God teaches narcissism

I'd like to briefly address each one of these objections to God's existence (or character). Keep in mind, however, that though I will present biblical answers to these challenges, many readers will likely not like the answers. In every question we have about God, in every challenge we have about him, we must remember that God is sovereign. He does what he wishes, when he wishes, for his own purposes, and he is not obligated to give us the feel-good answers we seek. We, however, are obligated to accept God's answers since we are the creature, not the Creator, and we are all accountable to him for what we think, feel, say, and do. God is not accountable to us or to our ideas of right, wrong, or fairness. We are accountable to him.

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: