Articles by Tony Cooke

Reflections from the Movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ

In every biblical movie I’ve seen, the directors have taken certain artistic creativity and liberties, and that is to be expected. There are always some things I would have presented a bit differently, or statements that I would have re-worded, but that is not what I want to focus on in this review. The great value of this movie is that it graphically presents the intense persecution faced by early believers in the Roman Empire. To be honest, it’s not the most comfortable or cheery movie that you will see. One reviewer refers to it as “gritty,” and that is an honest assessment. ... read more

Another Look at “The Calling”

We are called! Whether we have been called to be a preacher and stand behind a pulpit, or something else entirely, many Scriptures indicate the calling of every believer to be salt, to be light, to be ambassadors, to be witnesses, to serve, and to be a blessing. I don’t say this relative to being a “paid” minister, but every Christian has full-time calling! A Christian should never use “I’m not called” as an excuse to avoid accepting responsibilities that are consistent with the calling of every believer. ... read more

Are You a Spiritual Lifeguard?

As a recreational swimmer, the emphasis is on you. It’s about your enjoyment and having fun. You show up when you want and you leave when you want. Poolside or beachside, you can put your earbuds in and listen to whatever music you desire. You are at liberty to drown out all of the noise that would otherwise distract you. You do what you want—whether that’s lying in the sun, going to the snack bar, or swimming leisurely. It’s all about you and what you want. The lifeguard, though, has an entirely different focus. For the lifeguard, being near the water is all about the safety and well-being of others. ... read more

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

It was Yogi Berra who famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” As a baseball player and manager, he no doubt saw many great comebacks in his career. He saw teams who were ahead but eased up too early and allowed another team to overtake them. He also witnessed teams that were behind, but refused to give up and fought their way back to an unlikely victory. A verse that recently spoke to my heart involves Moses’ successor. Joshua 13:1 states, “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.’” ... read more

Degrees of Syn: Partnerships that Matter

It is important in life and in ministry to know who is with you, and to what level or degree they are with you. Have you ever had someone that you thought was a committed friend, but later found out they really weren’t? What about a person you thought was a loyal church member or staff member, but they quickly proved otherwise? People can step away from a church or a staff for positive reasons and in a positive manner, but it is still important for teams to be cohesive and working toward a common purpose. ... read more

No One Can Do It Alone

In the lobby of Good News Church in Moscow, there is a large plaque expressing gratitude to the partners who helped make that wonderful facility a reality. Each time we entered and exited the building on my recent visit, Rick Renner stopped and placed his hands on that plaque. He prayed a brief prayer thanking God for their partners, asking him to bless them. I was impressed with and moved by his action; it reminded me never to take the kindness of others for granted. The reality is that all of us, whether we are pastors or not, have been profoundly impacted by the efforts of others. We are beneficiaries of the farmers who have grown the food that we eat, the construction workers who built our homes and the roads on which we drive, and the teachers who have shared knowledge with us. ... read more

How Jesus Dealt with Tragedy

Americans are reeling yet again following another senseless tragedy. As always, good-hearted people are responding with compassion, and in this benevolence, many find strength and hope. Many others, though, are increasingly confused and bewildered by the endless stream of natural disasters and human violence that incessantly assault us. Instead of succumbing to fear and fatalism, these situations present us with an opportunity to gain perspective, find answers, and discover comfort in God’s word. We will never comprehend these events unless we understand the bondage that this world and all of humanity came under due to original sin. Scripture is not mythology or a fairy tale. Paul writes, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Rom 5:12, NLT). ... read more

One Piece Does Not a Puzzle Make

Can you imagine someone opening up a box containing a jigsaw puzzle, and simply picking up one or two pieces of the puzzle? Imagine them holding up that piece or two and feeling like they’ve made a great discovery! At the same time, they blatantly disregard the hundreds of other necessary pieces that are designed to give a complete picture. We might think that is an absurd illustration, but people do the same thing with Scripture frequently. It takes all of the pieces of a puzzle to make a complete picture, and it takes the whole counsel—the comprehensive teaching—of God to give us an accurate picture of God and his will for our lives. In teaching the Bible, I have often stressed balance. It is important to understand that balance is not 50% faith and 50% unbelief; neither is balance 50% grace and 50% legalism. ... read more

Thoughts on the End of the World

I’m writing this on September 24, one day after the most recent in a long-string of ill-advised predictions about the rapture, the end of the world, or whatever cataclysmic event was supposed to have happened on September 23. Every time one of these so-called researchers predicts a date, I groan silently and roll my eyes. Some people simply refuse to learn from history, and some persist in thinking they have discovered the hidden, secret, cryptic formula for calculating the end of time. What equally troubles me is how gullible others are to jump on the bandwagon and believe these types of things. While the whole world did not end dramatically on September 23, the world did end for thousands of people, as it does every day. A quick look at a few websites reveals that approximately 151,600 people die each day around the world. This is most sobering, especially in light of Hebrews 9:27 that states, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” ... read more

Twisting Scripture Needs to Stop!

As a minister of the Gospel, it is imperative that I not only study the word of God diligently, but that I also maintain an awareness of my own heart and motives. I will answer to God for what I teach others, and I must ensure that my motives are truly for the benefit of others and not for self-gain. I recently was sent a preacher’s message, and I regret to say that he twisted and misused Scripture considerably. It is probably not surprising to you that the issue pertained to money and prosperity. Listening to this message reminded me of what A. T. Robertson said, “One proof of the inspiration of the Bible is that it has withstood so much poor preaching.” There is an enormous need today for ministers to be excellent students of Scripture and faithful proclaimers of truth. ... read more

About Faith and Storms

September 5, 2017 - Lisa and I just returned from an attempt to go to Florida. When we reached Dallas, we were advised not to go further. In addition to the cancellation of those meetings, we will also not be going to Savannah, GA this weekend either. What is a minor inconvenience for us is potentially catastrophic for thousands, if not millions, of others. With many still reeling from Hurricane Harvey’s effects and with Irma’s overall effects yet unknown, thought it good to share a couple of thoughts about storms from a biblical perspective ... read more

Are “Should” and “Ought” Condemning Words?

Jesus is no harsh taskmaster, but He does communicate standards and expectations to those He has freely redeemed, accepted, and forgiven. He said, “my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matt 11:30). He didn’t tell His apostles to merely teach people that they are loved and forgiven; Jesus directed, “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matt 28:20). The Beloved Apostle writes, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). I have no interest in laboring under a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts and should’s and must’s. Neither do I want to be a part of what Leonard Ravenhill described years ago: “Today’s Church wants to be raptured from responsibility.” That is not a right approach either. I want to live out of a vibrant relationship with God in which he empowers me to do those things that he has clearly instructed and commanded in His Word. That is not legalism; that is liberating! ... read more

Key Thoughts from LIFT: Experiencing the Elevated Life

What does “lift” look like when it is operating in our lives? When we have yielded to the power that flows from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we may be surprised at how pervasive and practical God’s influence in our lives can be. Resurrection power can drastically affect our overall attitude toward life and our attitude toward others. We can see hope where others see none. We envision possibilities when others have given up. Encouragement rises inside us even in the midst of discouraging circumstances. We reject pessimism, cynicism, and fatalism. We are empowered by a confidence that does not come from this world. ... read more

A Global Outpouring

We must remember God’s ultimate purpose—a purpose that you and I have the privilege of participating in—we are laborers together with God! God is resolved to fill the earth with his knowledge and his glory. I am excited about the proliferation of Spirit-empowered, Spirit-anointed ministry that are on a mission to set captives free and to radically transform lives. I really believe that God will fulfill his oft-stated declaration to fill the earth with his knowledge and his glory! ... read more

Are We Asking the Right Question?

The Latin phrase Missio Dei is translated, “the mission of God.” The concept here is that God has been on a mission to reach and express his love to mankind, fulfilling his good pleasure in redeeming lost humanity to himself. When I sense a call upon my life to serve God, it is not centered or focused on me. Rather, it is an invitation to join him in his mission, something he was doing long before I came on the scene, and should the Lord tarry his coming, something which he will be doing long after I am gone. ... read more

When Weakness Turns to Strength

Scripture is full of examples of people who acknowledged their need and their dependence upon God. As long as they remembered that God was their source, and the strength they received was for his glory, all went well. Paul is a great example of this. When Paul was troubled over a messenger of Satan (which he called a thorn in the flesh), he cried out to God for help. Paul had come to the end of himself, and there he found strength from God. ... read more

What Does God Say About Our Bodies?

Some mistakenly think that God only cares about our spiritual well-being and the condition of our souls. In making this false assumption, they minimize or completely ignore the great significance Scripture places on God’s concern for and interest in our bodies. In New Testament times, many Greeks believed the body was evil—a type of prison from which death would bring welcome deliverance. Some concluded that since physical life on earth ... read more

Necessary Networks

We were designed to be in relationship and in fellowship with others. Our journey through life was never intended to be made in isolation, cut off from others. There is truth and value in having a “personal relationship with God.” We hear that phrase often. However, we also have the privilege and the necessity of being properly connected with others as well. Someone said, “Our navel is a constant reminder that we all started life connected to another human being. We spend all of our lives trying to get reconnected to someone. ... read more

Vulnerability and Leadership

Living in this world involves risk. It cannot be avoided. Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” A study of Scripture reveals that Jesus and Paul both understood the risks and there were inherent in ministry and leadership, and that they wisely managed them. ... read more

Reclaiming Wonder!

Einstein once remarked that a person who no longer pauses to wonder is as good as dead. If there was ever a group of people who should take time to stand in wonder and amazement, it is followers of the Lord Jesus, and if there is ever a time to do so, it is when we consider Jesus’ coming to the earth, the Incarnation, when God took on flesh. more

All Sizzle and No Steak

As a young assistant pastor, I was assisting in various areas of the church, including helping with the coordination of our thirty-eight cell groups. My pastor was on Dr. Cho’s church growth board, and was also in the process of obtaining a doctor of ministry degree in church growth from Fuller Theological Seminar; his concentration was on cell groups. At that time, my pastor asked me to attend a church growth conference sponsored by another church, and one of the workshops I attended was called “Taking Your City Block by Block.” more

Emerging Heroes

Early last month, I read an interesting story involving Navy’s fourth-string quarterback. He didn’t dress for the game, but was in the bleachers watching his team play when he saw one of the managers running up the stairs of the bleachers in his direction. The regular quarterback had been injured during the game, and the third-string quarterback was out with an injury as well. more

Pray for America!

When Benjamin Franklin addressed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, he said: "I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings... Read this article by Tony Cooke

A Culture of Constant Improvement

One of the congregations I want to focus on in this letter is the church at Thyatira. Most who have a cursory knowledge of these locations will immediately identify the church in Thyatira with Jezebel, an individual who grievously taught a doctrine of compromise. This corrupt teaching facilitated immorality and idolatry among the believers in Thyatira—something Jesus hated. more

Are People Trash?

The denigration of people is nothing new. Paul experienced mistreatment by others, and spoke clearly about how it made him feel. “We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment” (1 Cor 4:12-13, NLT). more