Welcome to tomthinking.com Sunday, December 17 2017 @ 03:37 PM UTC

Reflections on the Superior Life of Jesus

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Consider some of the most respected figures in religious or political history. Moses is revered by the Jews as their lawgiver. Yet Moses was a murderer. Mohammad is honored by 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide as a prophet. Yet Mohammad may have been a pedophile, having sex with a child bride when she was just nine years of age. Buddha is revered by more than 300 million Buddhists. Yet Buddhism’s founder abandoned his family without warning to search for enlightenment. Karl Marx is revered by atheists and communists. Yet Marx’s philosophies led to the murder of more than 30 million people in the 20th century.
Every great religious or philosophical figure has some dark, stained past that even their so-called good deeds later in life can never erase. The same is even true in Christianity.
Christians regard Paul as the greatest Apostle, and most of the New Testament was authored by him. Yet Paul was a man of cruelty bent on murdering Christians before he became one himself. King David is revered by Jew and Christian alike for his tender heart to toward God and his unswerving devotion to righteousness. God called David a man after his own heart. Yet David was also an adulterer, a murderer, a man even the scriptures call, “a man of war [who has] shed blood”
Jesus Christ is altogether different, wholly remarkable, and completely superior to these men. Unlike these significant figures of history, Jesus Christ lived without sin.

Disappointed By My Night With The Queen

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I sat down in my hotel room in Beijing on Friday night to waste away a couple of hours on a movie – One Night with the King. The movie, now on DVD, tells the story of Esther, the biblical figure who saved the Jewish nation from destruction at the hands of Haman. Now, I may be late in seeing this movie compared to most back in the States, but when I did watch it I confess that I was disappointed.
One Night with the King was promoted as one of the best-produced movies based upon the Bible in decades. In many ways that is true. It’s production values, acting, directing, all very good. When I first read about the movie and saw the previews I was hoping it could be another movie for Eagle TV to use to tell the Bible’s story. After all, the official website for the movie asserts boldly: “The True Story of Queen Esther.”
It is not the true story of Queen Esther. It is a mix of biblical elements, speculation, and downright fiction. Only a completely made up story using the same names would be further from the truth.

The Social Science of God's Love

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Here’s an interesting excerpt from an article pulled from LiveScience.com on the effects of religion on children, and by intimation, the home (all emphasis mine).
Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.
John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.
The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children’s parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued about religion in the home.
The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.
But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. “Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family,” Bartkowski noted.
Why so good?

Not So Subjective A Thing

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I’ve spent a great deal of time during the last few weeks talking with Mongolian Christians about their desire to reach all of Mongolia for Christ. If there is one thing that Mongolian Christians are not short of, it is passion for the Great Commission and their country.
One question I ask every person I speak with is, “What is it about the Gospel, or what evidences in the Gospel convinced you that Jesus is who He claimed to be – the Son of God?”
In the past whenever I’ve been asked a question like that I’ve always given answers about Biblical evidences: Fulfilled prophecies about Jesus, the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible, etc. But what I’ve received from my Mongolian brothers and sisters is very different. Perhaps all these years I’ve been giving the wrong answer?
“What is it about the Gospel that convinced you that Jesus is the Son of God?” How would you respond that question? Recently, every single Mongolian believer I’ve asked, without a single exception, has provided the exact same answer.
God’s love.

I Sent My Daughter Away

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This is one of those blog entries that I wonder if I should post. It is so personal, so gut-wrenching personal.
I sent my daughter away.
It’s hard to describe at this moment, not quite an hour after Stefani’s plane took off, how desperately alone I feel. It was time for Stefani to go back to America, prepare for college, and learn how to begin living life on her own. It was time. And I know that what I’m experiencing at this moment is not unusual for parents who send their kids off on their own. It’s not usual. I’ve seen other parents send their kids away, halfway around the world—as I just have, knowing that I won’t be seeing my daughter for a very long time. Knowing that she’s not just around the corner, or down the street, across town, or even in the next State. Very soon her bright days will be my dark nights. But I know it’s not unusual. I know that the emotional earthquake inside will calm over time. I know. Still it’s hard for me to contain.
I sent my daughter away.
It was the right thing to do, but the overwhelming sense of guilt and loss at this moment is hard to take. I can’t recall ever feeling this alone. Not ever.
I moved up Stefani’s original date for departure by 8 months because I thought it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do. I’m her dad. Her future is my first concern, even if it means losing her early. As hard as it was, she also thought it was the right thing to do too. Still…
I sent my daughter away.

Communism Lite Strikes Again

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With dismay but not surprise I read the news about Venezuela’s dictator Hugo Chavez making a move to shut down the only independent TV station in his country, RCTV—one that routinely opposes Chavez’s communism and takes a stand for restored freedoms in that South American country. Thousands of protestors took to the streets in a remarkable demonstration for freedom of speech and press, demanding that Chavez restore the license to the station instead of letting it expire. Even worse, over the weekend military forces swept in and seized the TV station’s equipment before the deadline expiration.
Rhetorical question: Why are military forces need to seize domestic broadcast equipment?
In RCTV’s place Chavez is placing a new station patterned after his brand of communism. It will be one more in the many stations already bowing the head to Chavez’s communist propaganda machine.

The Rightness of the Rope for Saddam Hussein

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It is both sad and interesting to see the world’s reaction to the execution of Saddam Hussein. I’ve long been an advocate of the death penalty. If carried out with caution and extreme care, it is a proper tool for administering justice and preventing future evils against societies.
There are a lot of good arguments for the abolitionist view of capital punishment, some of which I sympathize with. But I think the arguments for the retentionist view are far stronger, and much more in line with the Bible’s teaching—though retentionists do have some faults of their own. Clearly, the manner in which most capital punishment is carried out in modern societies does not meet the biblical standards. The death penalty is often assigned on circumstantial evidence—though often very strong. The biblical standard is multiple witnesses if guilt for execution is to be established. This does not mean that a person is not guilty and should not be punished, only that the standard necessary for a death penalty hasn’t been met. The penalty is often carried out too quickly, sometimes within hours or days of a sentence—especially in the Islamic world. But the Islamic world isn’t known for its mercy. In Saddam’s case I think a quick execution was justified. The facts surrounding his nearly 30 years of murders were more than enough to warrant the gallows, even though the actual trial only focused on an incident of 148 deaths.
In the case of Saddam Hussein, the biblical evidence necessary for Christians to support his execution was met, and passed, and circled several times.

Living Like Animals

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I recently read an article on LiveScience.com which purports evidence that homosexuality is a normal practice in the animal kingdom. Whenever such research is released it is invariably used to make the connection that since homosexuality occurs in the animal kingdom, therefore it should be considered equally normal in the kingdom of men. The Live Science article notes: “Homosexuality has been observed in more than 1,500 species.” It continues, “The argument that a homosexual way of living cannot be accepted because it’s against the ‘laws of nature’ can now be rejected scientifically.”
Is that really the case? It may be “natural” in the animal kingdom, but is it supposed to be “natural” for man? From what are we supposed to define what is natural and unnatural for human kind?
Researchers in the article imply that homosexuality is moral, or at least ammoral. Taking their cues from the animal kingdom, these researchers have essentially said that since the animal kingdom behaves this way, therefore, it’s okay for man to behave that way as well.
That many in the animal kingdom engage in same-sex relations is not in dispute. However, to equate homosexuality as a moral, or natural behavior for people is another thing entirely. The researchers are essentially taking their behavioral clues from the animal kingdom, i.e., looking at models of behavior in lower life forms and extrapolating those behaviors upwards to man—and that is a problem.

First Source Ethics

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Recently I’ve been developing a new series of Bible studies on Basic Christian Ethics for use with our Steppe-by-Steppe project and Ministry Production department. The studies I’m developing now will be used as the framework to create a 10-episode TV series that will begin airing in the fall season.
As I’ve been studying through a list of ten ethics, I’ve approached the series from what some might consider a rather unusual point of view (my usually unusual points of view notwithstanding). I have a number of titles in my library on ethical studies at various levels: Do the Right Thing, Francis J. Beckwith, Moral Choices, Scott B. Rae, How Now Shall We Live, Charles Colson, Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There are others sitting on my shelves that touch on the subject on ethics, but for most there is a problem.

Fear & Free Media

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“All fear societies are based on a certain degree of brainwashing. State-controlled television, radio, and newspapers glorify the actions of the regime’s leaders and incite their populations against those it deems to be enemies.”

The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, has given me extra insight into the condition of media in Mongolia—and our mission of Faith and Freedom.
My ability to read the latest western books is limited by living in Mongolia (where’s a Barnes and Noblebaatar when you need one?) but during a recent trip to the States I stocked up with a good year’s supply of reading material. Sharansky’s book was my last pick-up; at the Denver airport while suffering through an 8-hour delay. Thank God for airport delays! The Case For Democracy, is one of the most insightful books on political freedom I’ve read.
You may remember from an earlier commentary that a recent analysis by Mongolia’s Press Institute and Globe International found that while there is sufficient media freedom for journalists to pursue their craft, there is, in practice, less freedom because of how ideological control of the media has developed over recent years. Keep in mind that Mongolia is a young democracy, without the foundation of Judeo-Christian traditions from which modern political freedom sprang (I explore this issue in my forthcoming book, Faith & Freedom: How the missionary principle facilitates political freedom). Like any nation going through a major political change, there are significant issues to grapple with and problems to overcome as the society experiments with new social concepts. Allow me to illustrate.