Welcome to tomthinking.com Saturday, April 20 2019 @ 02:14 PM UTC

Ask Tom: Is The Earth Really Young Or Old?

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I am writing about your belief in an old earth. Do you still believe what you wrote? As a fellow Christian, I am always concerned when one takes a position that is unimportant to the Gospel and often causes unnecessary divisiveness in the church.

Recent scientific discoveries contradict your post. Age [of the earth/universe] is pretty much impossible to determine and the presuppositions made by science are not scientific at all. You mention a "distant starlight problem" and believe it to be related to the age of the universe. Do you believe in the Big Bang Theory? That theory is woefully unscientific.

I believe you might want to consider the following when trying to argue about origins: 1) Given that God is the creator and sustainer of all that's visable and invisible, in what way is he limited? and 2) Whatever man might believe to be true based on his observations and calculations, he's observing and calculating a fallen world.


My Daughter Had A Stroke

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On Christmas Day my oldest daughter, Stefani, had a stroke. She is only 29.

I’ll spare the details except to say that her mother and I were in a state of shock. We never imagined when she was growing up that something like this might happen. Immediately we knew that our lives might change, being that we would need to act as caregivers for a time while she recovers. In addition to her stroke, there may be a related heart issue. When we got the news from the doctor it was like a punch in the gut.

Through all of this there has been no comfort. Not yet. There are too many “What ifs,” and still as of yet, unanswered questions. Will she die? Will she have a long and difficult recovery? Being in her brain, will she experience lifelong incapacities? As of yet, the answers are still in the future.

We need comfort. We want comfort. People talk about what a comfort scripture is at times like this. I’m all about the scripture. I love it. I read through the Bible three times a year. I love theology. I love the Lord. But comfort over my daughter’s future isn’t in scripture for me. God is not speaking comfort to me right now. I find, in my trying times, that comfort is fleeting. Instead, the Bible offers me something different. The theology I’ve learned me offers something more important.


We sometimes look at theology and the Bible as if it’s a big fuzzy stuffed bear that says nice things when we squeeze it. But that’s not who God is. The scripture describes him as something different.

He is a Rock.

“The Lord is my rock” (Psalm 18:2). “Who, but our God, is a solid rock?” (II Samuel 22:32). “The Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Psalm 18:46).

I don’t feel good about Stefani’s situation. There are no warm fuzzies because that is not what is needed. What I need, what Stefani needs, is a rock. A great big boulder. An immovable mountain of granite.

My daughter belongs to Jesus Christ. He can do with her whatever he wants, whether those things are good or bad. Her life is his and I don’t need to know the reasons why God does or allows the things that he does because I trust him. His decisions are always true, just, righteous, and necessary.

Remember Job? He didn’t look for comfort. He wanted answers. But ultimately, he didn’t get what he was looking for. What did Job say? His famous declaration was theological, then practical. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away (theological), blessed be the name of the Lord” (practical) (Job 1:21).

Stability is more important than comfort. It’s like the soldier who trains for war. He doesn’t feel good going into a battle knowing he could die. He needs training that becomes second nature to help him attain victory.

It’s like a scene in one of my preferred science fiction shows. After a brutal attack by the enemy the commander of the ship tells his crew, “What matters is that as of this moment, we are at war. You've trained for this. You're ready for this. Stand to your duties, trust your fellow shipmates, and we'll all get through this.” This is what the Rock does. This is what scripture does. It prepares us. We can trust it, we can trust God. The battle isn’t pleasant, but facing it is necessary.

What is next for Stefani? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. But I am her father. So I will stand to my duties, trusting the Rock who gives stability, and he will walk with us through the battle.

And your prayers help sustain us.


UPDATE 12.29.18:

Stefani is almost completely recovered from her stroke. She had an amazing turnaround yesterday. Thank God for what he has done.

Christian Media: Is It Really Christian Without The Gospel?

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What does it mean to share the Gospel of Christ? Have you given much thought to that? If you were talking with an unbelieving friend and he asked you what the Gospel was, how would you respond? Take a moment to think through that question. Your friend could receive Jesus right now. But what do you tell him?

I’ve been fortunate to be trained in two fields of discipline. I’ve been a broadcaster for all of my adult life. I’ve occupied positions in talent, programming, and management, exercising my skills and calling in three countries. I’m also trained as a missionary and have been working with Campus Crusade for Christ for 23 years, also in three countries. My training and experience gives me a unique perspective on Christian media.


Here is How Much God Loves You

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Do you know how much God loves you? Have you ever contemplated how great his love for you really is? And how about his wrath against our sin? Let’s start with God’s love. Here are six incredible demonstrations of God’s great love.

  1. He loves us to no greater or less degree than he loves his own sinless son (John 3:16).
  2. He exchanged himself for us as if we were of equal value to him. In II Corinthians 5:19 it says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The Greek word here, used for “reconcile,” is a financial term that literally means, an exchange of equal value. God considered us as of equal value to Jesus. 
  3. He died for us while we were his enemies (Romans 5:10).
  4. He loved us so much he became like us, not considering equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6).
  5. He loves us so much that billions of years before he even created us he decided that he would die violently and unjustly, for our rescue (Ephesians 1:4). 
  6. He loves us so much that even though we killed him, and rebelled against him, he decided that he wanted to live with us, and in us, for eternity—trillions times trillions times trillions of never ending years. And he will never tire of us (Revelation 21:3-4).

Now, let’s turn this around. How much do you love God? Do you love him at all?


Ask Tom: What Is Apophatic Prayer?

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“Tom, what is apophatic prayer, and is it biblical?" - Lynn

Thank you for asking this question. Some people may look at this question and wonder, along with you, what apophatic prayer is. This is not a term which is familiar to most Christians. So, let me tackle your question first with a brief description of apophatic prayer and then provide you with some scripture about prayer and how Jesus instructs us to practice it.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines apophatic theology. “Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.”

That’s a bit convoluted, so let’s take this simple description of apophatic prayer, provided by author Jim Manney who states, “Apophatic prayer has no content. It means emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God.” 



The Promises of God Come With Separation and Death, So Merry Christmas

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Christmas is one of those holidays that I can take or leave. Perhaps it’s because of the way that we have trivialized what the holiday represents. We hang stockings, decorate trees, arrange manger scenes, and give gifts. Of course no one is fooled, it’s the gift giving and receiving that has become the real focus of Christmas. We love to get stuff. And we get joy, happiness, and a lot of squishy good feelings when our loved ones rip off the wrapping to expose our expressions of love. That’s a form of “getting” too. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself; but we are fooling ourselves if we think that benign gift giving and receiving is really representative of what God gave man in Jesus Christ. God’s great gift to man, in point of fact, didn’t happen on that first Christmas. It happened on Good Friday when Jesus was violently crucified for our sins. Had the crucifixion never happened, and the resurrection, then Christmas would be meaningless.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ – God becoming a man – was an event so powerful and significant that for 2,000 years man has counted his days and marked his history by the birth of the babe in the manger. While ancient kings the world over were positioning themselves to be worshipped like living deities to their populations and remembered like gods, the real Son of God busied himself with becoming an everyday man. And yet that humble event, regarded as a sweet treasured moment that gives hope to mankind was in fact something altogether more brutal and violent than our holiday pageants, Christmas TV specials, and even church services willingly remember. We focus our Christmas remembrances on the coming of “Immanuel,” the God with us from Isaiah 7:14 and the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace,” of Isaiah 9:6. But the Christmas tradition, that is, the belief that God would send a Savior, appears in the Bible long before Isaiah’s hopeful promises. And in these foundational promises of God, from which even Isaiah’s prophesies spring, the seed of Adam, Abraham, and David was planted in blood.

It’s Why I Am A Missionary And Why John Allen Chau Died

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I am reflecting on the death of missionary John Allen Chau. According to NPR, Chau was a “26-year-old American missionary who was killed by indigenous people this month after sneaking onto North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal.” Chau wanted nothing more than to share the love of Jesus with the people whom he hoped to reach. But before he could reach their community he was shot through with arrows and died. The island is so dangerous that it’s doubtful if his body will ever be recovered.


I am reminded that we who have taken up the call of bringing Christ to others in foreign lands go to those lands without weapons or means of defense. Soldiers go to hard places but take with them the accruements of war. We thank them for their service—as we should. But missionaries often go to those same countries and have only the Gospel of Peace.


I love my life. For me, It’s hard to imagine living a different life where I’m not directly involved in reaching the world for Christ. But my life is a bit different than Chau’s.


How Did Noah Know What Was Clean?

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In the early chapters of Genesis, God spoke to Noah about building an ark to save his family and animals. God said, “You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).

Question: This passage mentions clean and unclean animals taken onto the ark. Yet the distinction between clean and unclean isn’t defined in the Bible until Leviticus 11, roughly 1000 years after Noah. Therefore, what is this passage in Genesis referring to? How did Noah know what was clean and unclean? Does it mean unclean in the same way as in Leviticus, or something else? Here are six possibilities to consider and one lesson as take away.


The Garden Of Eden Wasn't Perfect

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Do you think of Heaven as a perfect place? What does it mean for a place to be perfect? Many Christians think that Eden was a perfect place because it was a place without sin. Yet, will it surprise you to learn that Eden was not a perfect place? And what about Heaven? What is meant when we think of Heaven as a perfect place? To understand the idea of perfection as the Bible seems to present it, we must first look at the character and nature of God.

Nothing can be added to God's nature to improve upon himself. We cannot add to his complexity or simplicity or his moral attributes or his power. Everything about God and God's nature is already perfect without any addition. With God, there is no room for improvement.
Many times people think that the Garden Of Eden was a perfect place. We think of perfection as having no flaw or imperfections or any need for improvement. But the Garden Of Eden did not fit such a definition. The Garden Of Eden was a good place, though not a perfect place. And rather than offering just a challenge to our theology, I think this notion of the Garden Of Eden not being perfect is actually a comfort and creates in me some anticipation for what the Lord has in store for us in Heaven (which is also not perfect).