Welcome to tomthinking.com Saturday, June 23 2018 @ 05:54 AM UTC

A Missionary's Most Difficult Task: Releasing His Kids

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 57
I’ll never forget the day my friend Karl called to tell me he was leaving Mongolia, never to return. We were planning to work on a ministry project together. Then, it seemed out of the blue, he decided to leave. When I asked him why, he said, “We really miss our kids.” Karl had a thriving ministry, spoke the language well, and understood the culture. But being separated from his grown children was too much to take so he decided it was best to leave his ministry and return to the States. Karl was trying to balance his choices between his ministry and his kids, and the kids won. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but his choice ended up closing down his ministry.
Every parent faces the prospect of losing their children as they grow into adulthood. But most parents are comforted by the fact that if there is a problem they can drive down the road, or to the next state, or catch a quick flight to be with his or her child. Just a century ago this was not possible. When parents released their children they knew that they might not see them for many years, and in some cases with children going abroad, they might not see them ever again.
Thankfully the modern world has made that situation (for most westerners) null and void. But there is a group that suffers this kind of separation anxiety more than the average westerner—missionaries.
I’ve lived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for nearly nine years. My daughters grew up here. I decided early on that when it would come time to release my children I would focus on my ministry. I would let my work distract my grief. That didn’t work out so well.

Recognizing a False Prophet

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 57

The world as we know it will end on October 21st of this year. That’s the newest claim by Christian broadcaster, Harold Camping. Camping earned his 15-minutes of fame when he predicted the rapture of believers and end of the world would take place on May 21st. Of course, we’re still here. Mr. Camping’s word failed to be fulfilled, so he moved on to a new date for his spurious claim.
Most people familiar with the scriptures can easily refute Camping’s doomsday claims by quoting a short, straightforward passage of scripture: Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” However, many people, possibly thousands, were taken in by Camping’s claims to know the end of days. Why did they fall into such a spiritual trap when they had the basics before them in the Bible? In fact, why do people follow cult leaders or organizations at all? What is it about people like Harold Camping, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, and so many others that people fall under their influence? Certainly lack of Bible knowledge plays a roll. Just because you call yourself a Christian and own a Bible doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what it really says. So how do you recognize the characteristics of such charismatic leaders? How do you know they are what the Bible refers to as “false prophets?”
In addition to the guide written in Deuteronomy 18:20-22, here’s a seven-part test to help you recognize a modern-day false prophet.

When to Unify and When to Separate

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 60

If there is one topic or theme that prevails throughout the book of I Corinthians it is unity. I Corinthians deals with many significant and difficult issues including leadership, wisdom, spiritual growth, marriage and divorce, spiritual gifts, love, and the resurrection of the body. But one of the themes that runs through the book is unity. The Apostle Paul, the author of I Corinthians, regarded the unity of the church so important that he dealt with the subject right at the beginning of his letter, and then nearly every other topic he addressed had something to do with, or became an example of, or life lesson about the unity of the church. Paul wanted to unify the Corinthians believers around Christ and certain core principles of the faith.
As Christians, what unifies us? Are there times when it is permissible for Christians to be divided? Must Christians always be in agreement about everything? Why did the Apostle Paul regard unity as so important?

The Jaw-Dropping Peace of God

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 61
Have you ever heard a Christian say they have decided to do something or not do something and that they “have a peace about it?” “Peace” is one of those Christianese terms that is sometimes used in the context of decision-making as a test for God’s will. Often when a Christian says, “I have peace about this or that,” they mean that they take that particular thing to be God’s will for them. Every Christian I’ve gotten to know over a length of time, no matter what country or culture they are from seems to have this universal catch-phrase in common. “Peace” is used as a barometer to determine the right thing to do in a given situation. Many go so far as to say, “God has given me a real peace about it.” (As opposed to him giving a false peace?)
In my Christian experience I’ve sometimes taken to using the peace barometer to aid decision-making. Rather, I should say that I used to do that. I don’t do it anymore because, uh, well, because…
I don’t have a peace about it.
;-)

Was Adam a Fantasy or Historical Figure?

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 53
Just the same week I happen to be reading Science, Creation, and the Bible, a new survey by Gallup was released showing that 40 percent of Americans still hold a young-earth creationist view. To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on the young-earth/old-earth debate. Though I do lean heavily in the old-earth category for both theological and scientific reasons. However, I’m willing to leave myself open to other opinions.
Science, Creation, and the Bible by Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III is an interesting read, but falls very short of convincing me that theistic evolution, as they advocate, is true. Carlson is a scientist. Tremper is a reformed theologian. What captured my attention to read this book was the mix of the two authors. What lost me was their conclusion that Genesis 1 and 2 are not to be taken literally or historically, but serve as a sort of Old Testament parable literarily designed to communicate a set of truths to ancient Israel within the framework of their Ancient Near East (ANE) culture. The two go so far as to say the Genesis creation accounts are myths used to teach specific values.

It's About What's Real

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 93
For a long time many people have believed that there is a war between science and faith. The issue of origins is a challenging one. On one side the evolutionist argues for creation as a self-directed process without the interference of a Creator. The other side argues in various ways for an intelligent agent that guided the process of origins. Both sides, with minor exceptions, view the other as the enemy. “Creation is religion and not science. Religion does not belong in the classroom,” goes the mantra. “Evolution is only a theory, not a fact,” says the other. Both sides are at war. Science and religion, as it goes, are incompatible.
I think, however, that there is more to this issue than to simply (and wrongly) say that science and religion are incompatible. The two operate in different spheres, but the two also touch the other. Is there really a disagreement between science and faith? In my view, such a classification doesn’t quite address the core issue. The core issue is, to put it simply, this: This is not a disagreement about science and faith. It is a disagreement about what is real and what is not real.
In one sense it doesn’t matter which side a person is on. The question is the same for both. What is the nature of reality? Does God really exist? Are origins dependent upon or independent of a Creator?

Buddhism's Error of Self-Denial

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 78
Denial is a concept found in virtually every major religion. Various ideas on the practice of self-denial can be found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and other religious and philosophical streams. In most religious practices, like Buddhism, self-denial is a means to achieve an end. Ironically, self-denial is a means of attaining something for oneself - selflessness. Some have thought that the Bible teaches something similar, noting as one example Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Are these concepts similar? Not in the slightest.
Unlike Buddhism and the other major religions of the world, self-denial in Christianity is not a means to an end, nor is it a religious practice. Self-denial is a loving expression of benefit for others, in obedience to God.
There are three great differences between most religions and Christianity regarding self-denial:
Buddhism & Other Religions
 
  • Self-denial is a means to spiritual enlightenment,
  • Self-denial is a religious practice,
  • Self-denial is performed for the benefit of oneself.

 

Christianity
 
  • Self-denial is an indicator of pre-existing character,
  • Self-denial is not a religious practice, rather it is an expression of love for others and for God,
  • Self-denial is not performed for personal spiritual benefit, it is always performed on behalf of others.

Thanksgiving: Like No Other Holiday

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 61

More than any other, Thanksgiving embodies both religious and political freedoms, and puts them in their proper place. Of the numerous holidays Americans celebrate each year, Thanksgiving is uniquely American, and uniquely Christian.

In the early 1600s a small group of devoutly religious men and women sought to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. These Pilgrims broke from the Anglican church and were persecuted from England to Holland until they boarded the Mayflower and set sail for the New World. The Pilgrims were separatists, seeking to restore the true nature of the Gospel to Christian practices from what they believed were the pollutants of Catholicism and the Anglican Church.

Upon arrival, before disembarking their vessel they signed an agreement known as the Mayflower Compact. The text of the agreement included a vision for a new government:

The Cross Waves Higher Than The Flag

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 55
Those words from the Steve Camp song, Justice, ring in my head when I read the first chapter of Romans. Just how much sovereignty do we attribute to God?
When was the last time you read scripture and saw in its words the extolling of Christ to a position higher than any government, any ruler, any person, ever? As I read scripture I see God’s sovereignty everywhere—but especially in Romans.
In chapter one of Romans the Apostle Paul uses political language to describe our commitment to Christ and his authority with the church body. Look at these words:

Earn The Right. Wrong

Email Article To a FriendView Printable Version
  • Views: 62
I recently heard a speaker declare that to share the Gospel we must first “earn the right” to share by doing things to take care of people’s physical needs. You may have heard something similar. As the concept goes, there is a realm where by doing good things for people we earn their ear to talk about Christ whereas without such things a person might turn a deaf ear to us.
However, as I listened to the speaker it occurred to me that making the sharing of the Gospel dependent first upon taking care of humanitarian needs may be, although well-intentioned, a mistake. In fact, five things jumped at me about what is wrong with the concept if applied as a rule for evangelism.
Before I continue let me qualify my intentions. I’m not discouraging humanitarian effort as a means of sharing the Gospel. On the contrary, such strategy can be effective at opening doors for the Gospel. However, we should consider that requiringsuch action before sharing the Gospel can be a mistake where the scriptures are concerned, and possibly, where culture may be concerned. Allow me to explain.