Welcome to tomthinking.com Monday, December 10 2018 @ 07:22 PM UTC

Functioning In Another Culture: What You Need To Know

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A friend of mine recently sent me a link on Facebook to a presentation called, Myth And American Values. In it, the author compares 13 values in American society and compares them with counterpart values found in other cultures. As I went through the brief presentation that strong light of recognition went through me as I compared the values of Americans with those of other cultures. Having lived in three countries I know a little of this subject (though I’m by no means an expert). I wish someone had shared this kind of tool with me before I moved to Mongolia in 2002. It would have saved me a lot of headaches.

 

Is Our Will Our Own?

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You’ve probably heard the age-old argument about free will. Does man truly have free will to decide his own fate? If God hardened pharaoh’s heart then why was pharaoh responsible for his sin? (Romans 9:18) Do we choose God or does he chose us? If God puts something on our hearts are we experiencing free will in what we think or is God controlling us?
The debate over free will and God’s sovereignty has been raging for centuries. I doubt we will solve it here. But there are some things analogous to free will in the life we experience now that might offer insight into this topic. I’d like to offer up two things that might help us with the idea of free will.
 

What Does God Expect From You?

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  If God is our Heavenly Father then what does he expect from us? Have you ever given that question any thought? Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to God as his Father, but also as our Father. This idea of God as Father helps us to understand some things about God because we understand what a father is supposed to be like. Admittedly, there are fathers who don’t live up to our ideals, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some expectations about fatherhood. We all want a father who is kind, loving, understanding, strong, committed, forgiving, unafraid, and so on. When our fathers don’t live up to those ideals we become ashamed or embarrassed. Some children even become hateful if their fathers constantly exasperate them or become abusive. But deep down we have expectations of fathers similar to the traits I listed above. But if God is a father, then what does he expect of us?

All fathers have certain expectations of their children. I have three daughters. I have expectations of them, even though they are all out of the house and living their own lives. For me I boil down my expectations of them to a single passage of scripture. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (III John 1:4). I pray for my girls, and my son-in-law, and my grandkids, that the supreme love in their lives would be Jesus and the scripture, and that their lives would be a reflection of Christ’s love for them until the day they die.
But what about God? What expectations does God have for his children?

Harmonizing Science & The Bible

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Many western Christians have difficulty harmonizing what they know about science with the Bible. Since the spread darwinism many Christians find their faith challenged by concepts such as the Big Bang, macro-evolution, and even historical sciences like archaeology. Some expositors take the position that anything within science that runs contrary to their understanding of the Bible means that the science is wrong. Others go another route to say that Christians should not attempt use scientific discoveries to reinterpret biblical passages.
While there are many challenges to be overcome between the general notion of science and the Bible, Christians should not be upset or feel inferior when it comes to these issues. I believe that science and the Bible, when carefully approached, are actually complimentary disciplines from which we can learn much. And the Bible doesn’t suffer from it, in fact, our understanding of scripture can be robustly enhanced as a result. To understand why this is I’d like to make the case that scientific disciplines are a form of revelation that expose us to truth in the natural realm.
Theologically speaking, there are two kinds of revelation that tell us things about God, man, and the world around us. These two revelations are known as:
 

Why Does God Allow Other Religions To Exist?

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I’m going to ask you a question and it’s a big one.
If there is only one true God who created all things, and if he has established only one way that a person may acquire eternal life, and if the only way to the one true God and eternal life is through Jesus Christ, then why does God permit other religions to exist thereby deceiving millions of people throughout history, ending in their eternal condemnation?
Have you ever wondered why God permits other religions to exist? I recently read a book on this subject and was mostly disappointed with its ascertains. Like many Christians, from time to time I’ve wondered about this issue. If Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life then why does God permit other religions to exist? When you give it some thought doesn’t the existence of various contrary religions suggest that religion is a man-made venture and that God doesn’t really exist at all? Some lend support to this idea by noting that other major religions are usually tied to specific cultures around the world with specific histories. Generally speaking, Indians are Hindu, Arabs are Muslim, Africans are animists, Mongols are buddhists, Israelis follow Judaism, Chinese are Confucian, and so on. Doesn’t the idea of religions being tied to specific cultures demonstrate that those cultures created those systems as a way of relating to reality from their historical and cultural perspectives? In fact, I think a partial answer to that question is actually yes.
 

The Brilliance Of Bill Bright

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Diane and I just spent the last week in Fort Collins, Colorado taking part in the bi-annual Cru staff conference. It was a wonderful time to reacquaint ourselves with the US ministry after having served in Mongolia for 10 years. In fact, this was our first staff conference since 1999, 14 years. As I reflect on the presentations and seminars my thoughts turn toward the person who started it all, Bill Bright.
Dr. Bright has been in Heaven for 10 years. It was July 19th, 2003 that he died, leaving the reigns of the ministry in the hands of Cru’s now president, Steve Douglass. During one of the sessions Steve told a story about his last face-to-face conversation with Dr. Bright before he died. Dr. Bright asked him what he intended to do with the ministry. Steve answered that he would do what the Lord commissioned Dr. Bright to do when he founded the ministry in 1951, help fulfill the Great Commission.
Before my association with Cru began in 1995 I had never heard anyone refer to their ministry as helping to fulfill the Great Commission. We always talked about fulfilling our ministry, doing the Lord’s will, telling people about Jesus, and so on. But no one ever said to me that they wanted to help fulfill the Great Commission. That kind of statement now sticks with me. Think about the audacity of such a statement. Who would claim to do such a thing? I think about it this way: If we are not called to fulfill the Great Commission, then what in the world are we supposed to do? Fulfilling the Great Commission is our calling. It is the calling not only of Cru, but of every Christian who has ever lived, and I’ll tell you why.
 

You Can't Be Common And Lead

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In my ministry career I have not only been a leader, but a missionary. That means that I need to be an accessible person to others. It means that I should make myself available and identifiable to the common man. But as the leader of a major television company in Mongolia my staff wanted me to be not so common. Once in a while they would say something to me like, “Tom, you need your own car and a driver.” I always refused such things. I didn’t need to own a car. In Mongolia, at the time, it was cheaper for me walk and take taxis than it would have been to own a car. Besides, I always reasoned to myself, traffic in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is the most unorganized, aggressive mess I’d ever seen. I was afraid to drive!
As the only foreigner running a TV station in Mongolia I was somewhat of a controversial figure with some politicians who believed that foreigners should not be allowed to have such an influential tool at their disposal. More than once I had been publicly accused of contaminating Mongolian culture. Then one day in 2006 the Speaker of the Parliament, Nyamdorj, made a speech about me on the floor of Parliament. He called for a government investigation of my activities. He called for my communications and whereabouts to be monitored at all times. And he demanded that the Justice Ministry investigate my activities. Around the same time he arranged for a newspaper article to be published accusing me of terrorism against the Mongolian State. No kidding.
 

That Granite Atheist Monument Is Hollow

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On July 1st a New Jersey based atheist group, American Atheists, erected a 1,500 pound monument outside the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida.⁠1 On the front of the monument are words by the famous 20th century atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. In the name of equality the monument and bench were erected because the Florida courthouse refused to remove another monument, religious in nature. 
What does the atheist monument say? Along with historical quotes the monument prominently features these words from O’Hair.
“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed should be done instead of a prayer. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not to escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”
These are moving words by O’Hair that touch the heart. There is only one problem. None of it is true.
 

What Will You Give To Save The World?

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It was with frustration and a bit of anger that I read an article today about a megachurch pastor in Texas, Bishop Hilliard, who asked his congregation for “seed” gifts to help him upgrade his helicopter with new blades. Yes. You read that right. He even went as far as using that old prosperity gospel ploy of promising that those who give will see some kind of financial breakthrough in their lives within 52 days or weeks if they give. You can read the sickening story here: http://bit.ly/1bWItvE
I confess that I feel the frustration over this kind of thing more so, perhaps, than others because I am also a person involved daily is raising money to fund my ministry—in my case, a media ministry targeting difficult and challenging countries where the Gospel is rarely heard or even allowed. I talk regularly with people about our work asking them to come aboard as supporters to fund our ministry at whatever level they can afford and feel comfortable with. Now let me be honest, it can be frustrating work. Twenty percent of the people I talk to become supporters—and I praise God for every one of them. But 80 percent do not. That means I spend a lot of time reaching and presenting to people, the majority of which will not help us in any way. They don’t upset or frustrate me in the slightest—and that’s the truth. People need to give where their hearts lead them and that’s not always with my ministry; I understand that. What is frustrating is to see that when people like Bishop Hilliard ask for money to upgrade his helicopter, many in his flock will give for such a luxury item—and expect God to reward them financially for doing so.
Meanwhile, people are going to hell.
 

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.