Welcome to tomthinking.com Wednesday, May 23 2018 @ 01:30 AM UTC

Faith! Faith! Brutha, You Gotta Have Fay-eth!

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“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This verse has been dancing around my head recently because of a conversation my daughter and I had after a faith preacher came to town to offer healing to whomever wanted to come forward for their miracle.
The Word of Faith brand of Christianity is quite popular in Mongolia. If you are a preacher who claims to heal or do miracles you’ll find an easy audience here. Word of Faith theology is a form of heresy, that is, it is predicated upon ideas foreign to the Bible so that the biblical text is reinterpreted apart from its historical intent to bring meaning to the scriptures that distract from its central themes. Word of Faith theology is part of the Charismatic wing of evangelicalism. Not all charismatics are Word of Faith oriented, though Word of Faith ideas do have a significant influence on the charismatic movement today. Some have described Word of Faith theology as charismatic Christianity turned into charismania.
I got to thinking about these things again because of the predilection by Word of Faith preachers (I scarce call them teachers) to claim that miracles and healing can come to you “if you only believe.” 
I bring this up to preface my main subject this week: Faith. You may have heard the old saying that, “Faith doesn’t require evidence.” Some well-meaning Christians have said this taking Hebrews 11:1 to heart, from older, less accurate translations that read: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (1769 KJV). That little phrase, “Evidence of things not seen,” is problematic for two reasons.

Darnel It All

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Had a great time at church this afternoon looking at a large number of verses about God’s sovereignty over all creation, and the supremacy of Christ. Our service time was spent looking through scriptures and discussing how people often perceive the Gospel. We went through so many passages this afternoon that I lost count, but the one in particular stuck out to me: The Parable of the Sower.
Luke 8:4-15 records Jesus’ parable and its meaning so that what he intends us to get from the parable can be clear and unmistaken.
In the past whenever I’ve read this passage I tended to focus on the hearers whom Jesus describes as being good soil. More than anything I want to be good soil, that is, one who hears the word of God and bears the kind of fruit that God intends his word to bring about. Though Jesus does not explain in this passage what “fruit” means, his meaning is actually pretty clear since throughout the Gospels and the New Testament “fruit” is either used to represent the souls won to Christ by Christians, or (and most often) it is a reference to personal character brought about in the Christian through obedience to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart (in John fruit refers to both, but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke fruit refers to character). More importantly for my purposes today I was drawn to Jesus’ use of the description of “thorns” that grew up with the seed (word of God) and choked it. It brings to mind another passage where Jesus referred to “tares” or in the common vernacular, “weeds” in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Experiencing God's Love Through Violence

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How much does God love you?
I was reading a passage from John 17 this morning that caused me to stop and wonder about the incredible love of God. In verses 22 and 23 Jesus is praying for our unity, saying “…that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
In case you missed it, Jesus said that God loves you and I to the same degree that he loves his own son. He loves you just as much as he loves Jesus.
This is a staggering thought. You and I are filled with sin—the thing that God hates the most. In our natural selves we rebel against God. Yet Jesus says that God loves us to no greater or less degree than he loves his own perfect, holy, sinless, eternal son. Yet here’s the kicker…
God’s love for his son did not prevent him from sending Jesus to the cross.

Without Sin

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How well do you know God? Has it ever occurred to you why we are able to know the depths of God’s character?

We all have people we know better than others. We know them better because we spend more time with them, interface with them more than others, and feel a closeness to them. In the case of our Lord Jesus, the more time we spend in communication with him, the more meaningful time in his word and contemplating his truth, the better we get to know him. But I submit that our knowledge of God’s goodness and character would be severely limited if not for one terrible thing.
Sin.
Allow this to roll around in your head for a while. Had it not been for sin we would know and understand far less about God’s character than we do right now. When I say “know,” I’m referring to knowing God experiencially. It’s one thing to know God theoretically or intellectually, but experience is a different matter altogether.

Why God Doesn't Speak

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There’s an important page in your Bible that, if you are like most people, goes completely unread. Chances are, you are like most Christians who rip past this page without a moment’s thought. In fact, in all of the Bible this page might be described by some as the most irrelevant, unnecessary, useless page between its soft leather covers. Virtually no one earmarks it, thumbnails it, highlights it, or contemplates what it represents in God’s grand scheme. Yet I’ve found this page to be one of the most important reminders to me that God is always sovereignly at work, performing his will in the world and in my life. Before I tell you where to find this page in your Bible, allow me to share a story.
Craig was an up and coming political star, somewhat controversial, but completely dedicated to his mission. He passionately wanted to represent righteousness in the political system but often found himself frustrated. We were on the phone one day, discussing his latest machinations with his political party and race for power when he pulled a big question out of his hat that was probably the most important question he’d ever asked me.
“Tom, why don’t I hear God speak?”

Merry Christmas: Christianity Creates Economy

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I’ve been reflecting upon Christmas in a way that most people tend not too. I’ve decided that I’m all for the commercialization of Christmas. In fact, during a time of bad economics, more Christmas commercialization is needed, not less.
My reasoning goes like this: If you think the economy is bad now, imagine how much worse it would be without Christmas. For many businesses the Christmas buying season accounts for nearly a third of annual income. The Christmas buying season is so heavy compared to the rest of the year that retail stores usually hire extra employees to handle the load. Even in these recent, tough economic times retailers are still hiring seasonal employees. Imagine the impact on the retail and grocery industries if Christmas went uncelebrated.

The Seen and Unseen World of Merit and Rebirth

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Rebirth and Merit are two important concepts in the Buddhist way of life. The two are intimately attached. Under Buddhism a person tries to end the suffering of rebirth by attaining merit through good works. In Buddhism merit is “the fruit of good actions which can be devoted to the welfare of other beings.” (1) As one accumulates merit he or she expects to attain a higher state of enlightenment through a more desirable rebirth that gets him or her closer to the goal of nirvana.

This concept sounds simple enough. Do good works and be rewarded. Yet there is a catch that many Buddhist, perhaps even you have experienced. How do you know when your good thoughts, feelings, and actions outweigh your bad ones? How can you know if your merits toward rebirth really outweigh your demerits?
Many Buddhists have great private struggles with their merit and demerit, and for very practical reasons. They simply cannot remember all of their good deeds and bad deeds. The answer for many Buddhists has been to dedicate themselves more fully to the Buddhist way of life—meditations, visiting monasteries, making gifts, attending teachings, and performing rituals. Out of a fear of suffering and imperfection they try to do more in hopes of earning a better rebirth. Rebirth, in this sense, is a form of punishment—in other words, a form of justice.
But is the rebirth concept practical, possible, or even just?

For the Buddhist Seeker: The World Around Us

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If there is group of people that might be described as “seekers,” then Buddhists must be high on the list. Buddhism, as a system, requires its adherent to be devoted to exploring a set of principles that will earn him or her an enlightened state that they hope will lead to the end of suffering—a noble and worthwhile goal. Those who explore the Buddhist path are taught concepts such as: The Middle Way, Samsara, The Four Noble Truths, and others.
Yet on a practical, day-to-day level, many Buddhists inwardly struggle. They feel spiritually empty, as if the practices they engage in provide some temporary satisfaction or guidance, but when over, the emptiness or futility remains. While they pursue the path they are taught the Buddha has lain out, they secretly wonder about the reality of the Buddha’s teachings. Being taught that they will experience many rebirths until finally reaching their objective, they cannot help but wonder, “Will this truly end my suffering? How can I know that what I am doing really works?”
I want to explore together some key ideas in Buddhism. I attempt to compare Buddhist principles to the teachings of the Bible and Jesus Christ in hopes of helping the Buddhist seeker, discover a different kind of enlightenment—one that can be fully experienced and realized in this life, right now, without the need for what may seem like a tumultuous cycle of rebirth.

What To Look For In A Leader

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As you consider the future during the next election cycle, know that God has considered it as well. God has prepared guiding rules for us to use when selecting political leaders. When we think of government controversies and ethics problems, the rules of Deuteronomy 17 offer evidence that the Bible is relevant to all of the issues of modern life.
In Deuteronomy 17:15 God outlined what kind of leader He wanted for His chosen people:
    "You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses."
How do we find out who God chooses for us? There are two simple ways: Study of the Word of God and prayer. Each of us must seek God in prayer for His choice of leadership. It was Israel that chose Saul as their king, but their process for selecting leadership didn't conform to God's desire for His people. The result was a nation that God's chosen leader, David, had to rebuild after Saul's death.

The Necessity of Sin and Guilt

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After writing my article, The Truth About Truth, I felt that something was missing. There were a small number people upset with the article, but as might be predicted, they were people who had trouble with the idea of absolute or objective truth. Since I’ve brought it up, let me touch on one aspect of objective truth verses subjective truth. I read a Buddhist blog entry this week where the writer protested the notion of “objective” truth. He reasoned that since all truth has to be perceived by someone, therefore no truth is truly objective. The writer asked, “How can one posit an objective absolute without a subjective perceiver?” I respect his point of view, understanding where it comes from, though I disagree with it for a very simple reason.