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Culture and Christianity XI:
Lying, Suicide, Tattoos, Investing, Drugs, Music, Family, Dating, Politics

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Question #1:

Hello Sir,

How are you Sir? Things are bad here. Hoping and praying that things get better for both of us soon. I have read most of the e-mails on "lying" which are posted at Ichthys. There is still a lot I want to learn about this topic. In today's e-mail posting, in response # 2 you wrote,

"Likewise, absent Christ's sacrifice, a small little white-lie told by a saintly grandmother to spare someone's feelings is just as worthy of condemnation in the lake of fire as the most heinous sin you can imagine – and Christ died for them both. "

I want to know more about "a small little white lie". What should a person do if by telling the truth someone else falls into trouble? I am talking about "small" matters and not about "Rahab like" situation.

You also wrote somewhere else:

"For it is one thing for us to stand by the truth when the only victim will be ourselves. It is quite another when we place the safety and welfare of others below a misguided sense of hypocritical self-righteousness."

Are you here talking about life and death situation only? There is a totally different situation in mind. Jesus often asked the people He healed not to go and tell anyone. What should these people do when someone asked "who healed you?". Should they lie? Or should they say " I am not telling you"?

I have finally bought a NIV study Bible (Zondervan Publications, General editor K. Barker). Thank you for advising. This book has amazing cross references. I made a small mistake though. I ordered a Compact Indexed Bible. The fonts are very small. I actually bought a magnifying glass to read the references! And the pages are very thin (don't know how long it will last, since I would be turning the pages a lot) . My younger brother paid for the study Bible. I always wanted to buy it with my own money, I waited for 4 years.

Thank you for your help Sir. You are in my prayers.

In Him,

Response #1:

I am certainly sorry to hear that things are bad. If we could see the solution coming, there wouldn't be any need to trust Him that things are going to be alright. I am confident that this is the case for you and yours too, my friend, and I keep you in prayer for deliverance day by day. Thank you for your hopes and prayers too! They are greatly appreciated.

As to your first question, with no more information, that is what we call "a judgment call". In one of the responses on lying I remember disagreeing with a person who felt that if a Christian were, say, hiding Jews in the cellar and the Nazis came calling and asked about it that the Christian would have to "tell the truth". In my view that would be horribly wrong. When it comes to criminal, illegal, or enemy activity, we are responsible to protect others, not to be self-righteous about false standards (cf. Elisha at 2Ki.6:19). We do owe the truth to one another especially when the lie we are tempted to tell will protect only ourselves from embarrassment or the like. If there is no such extreme on the one hand or self-serving motive on the other, then I would say that the default position ought to be to tell the truth but also not to go out of one's way to get someone else in trouble. On the one hand, we are not responsible to "cover up" for other people's sins and errors; on the other hand, we are not obligated to volunteer information that will cause trouble for someone else, even if we are prodded for it. In this country, we don't have to tell anyone else anything, except the police (in which case we have to tell the truth) – and even there we can refuse to answer in certain circumstances. When it comes to social circumstances, therefore, I would suggest avoiding any situation or person likely to get us into situations wherein pressure for covering things up is likely to arise, and instead developing a mindset of not being forthcoming where it will only cause trouble to others. It may be that in some cases the line is blurred. In such instances, we do the best we can, make the best "judgment call" we can, and, if after the fact our consciences smite us (either for telling an indefensible "white lie" or for failing to stand up for or protect someone when now we feel we should have done so), well, we are not perfect: so confess and move on. The point in the email you quote about the "white lie" is that the most innocuous of sins is still a sin; blessedly, we have been forgiven all of our sins in Jesus Christ (Eph.1:7; Col.1:14), and we are cleansed of the ones we commit as believers through confessing to the Lord (1Jn.1:9).

On our Lord's situation, He never tells anyone to lie. What He was trying to avoid at certain times was a large number of people who would flood to Him in one place because of a widely broadcast report and thus complicate His ministry unnecessarily. If anyone was interested and asked, I can't imagine why the person healed wouldn't be able to tell the story.

I'm glad you found a good Bible – but sorry to hear that it's still not ideal. I don't think they have a separate New vs. Old Testament version.

We will have many stories to tell each other on the side!

As long as we hold tight Jesus' hand, all will be well in the end.

Your friend in Him,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Genesis 27:6-13, was Rebekah's deception wrong ,though she was pushing for a right thing, same to her Jacob?

Response #2:

Clearly, it was God's will for Jacob to receive the blessing, not Esau, and the Lord had made this very clear from the start (Gen.25:23). I am certain that God would not have allowed Esau to receive Jacob's blessing no matter what had transpired on this occasion. Still, since Rebecca had been promised the blessing to her youngest and saw that Isaac was about to violate this promise, I am reluctant to second-guess her decision. In her mind, she was doing right not only by Jacob but also by Isaac (who was on the point of making a terrible mistake). Generally speaking, deception is only permissible for believers in order to prevent harm and injury to others (in war or when dealing with evil people, criminals, etc.; cf. 2Ki.6:19). This was the only avenue Rebecca had to prevent a great injustice from taking place; her only other option was to sit by and do nothing. Sometimes that is the right decision; sometimes the Lord means us to act. Knowing when and where to do which is a good measure of what spiritual maturity is all about. Please see the links:

Is it ever justifiable to tell a lie?

Is it ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?

What about Rahab?

The Old Prophet who lied

Satan's system of three essential lies

Lies in war and peace

Question #3:

If Saul died through the sin unto death why did he die by his own hands? Did God use circumstance of him being suicidal to kill him? What was the Holy Spirit convicting him and he killed himself to escape the torment?

Response #3:

At the time of his suicide, Saul was defeated and his sons already killed; if he had not fallen on his sword, the Philistines would have killed him very shortly thereafter anyway. I think the fact of his suicide merely serves to reinforce the place he was at spiritually, namely, of having very little faith in God left (so that it was a blessing for him to be killed before his faith completely lapsed into apostasy). As to his situation after death, however, we have it from Samuel that Saul was still a believer, although on the point of suffering the sin unto death (see the link):

"And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines."
1st Samuel 28:19b NKJV

Question #4:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Do you think I am a Christian? All this time I've been presuming that you think I am. I don't think I've ever asked though. I read your opinion on suicide. From my understanding, you think people who kill themselves are not saved. I'd like to do it, but I'd not like ending up in hell. Please understand, I'm not sad or anything like that. I'm not having any particular problems besides the usual. I feel like the person in Ecclesiastes. There is not anything I want this side of eternity. I don't have anyone I'm accountable to or responsible for. I don't have any responsibilities in general. It's not like I would be neglecting anything. I know the Lord wants us to do His will while we are on earth. I'm not doing it though, so there is really no use in staying. Besides, the Lord is sovereign and almighty. His plan will march on whether I'm here doing His will or not. He doesn't need me or anyone else to accomplish anything at all for Him. I'm pretty clear-headed right now, so I would say I'm thinking rationally. I'm obviously not afraid of death. No one would be negatively effected or burdened by my departure (besides emotionally). There's really no downside.

Response #4:

Let me start by saying that if you believe in Jesus Christ, if you accept Him as your Savior, the One who died for your sins, your Lord and your God, then you most certainly are a Christian.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:17-18 NKJV

Plenty of people, Christians perhaps especially, can from time to time be so overwhelmed by troubles or disappointment that they come close to despairing of life, even great believers, e.g., the apostle Paul:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.
2nd Corinthians 1:8 NIV

But for all those who continue to trust in the Lord, He always comforts us in all of our difficulties, often in ways we cannot expect or anticipate.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
2nd Corinthians 7:6

As to there being "no downside" (and please do not underestimate the emotional devastation on your family; such things have been known to shipwreck the faith of those left behind), things are quite the contrary. We are not here for ourselves. We are here for Jesus Christ, the Lord who bought us. We belong to Him and it is not our place to say when or where or how we are going to complete this mission He has sent us on.

"As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world."
John 17:18

It is true that we are not to love the world or to want to cling to it in any way, for we are not of this world.

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. "
John 17:16

But that is the perspective mature believers hold fast to in order to vigorously prosecute the task the Lord has given them to grow, progress and to help others to the same, aka "spiritual growth and production" or "sanctification".

"For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."
John 17:18

Since Jesus went to the cross so that we might be fit to carry out the tasks He has given us, it certainly behooves us to look at life the correct way and follow through. It is very true that we are not here for "the fun of it" (even though the Lord gives us blessing and joy in many things), but it is also true that we are not here by accident: we each have a job to do, a life-ministry to which the Lord is calling us; this will be the basis for our Lord's evaluation of us on that day, and we certainly want to hear "well done!" from Him, rather than being reproached. If we leave early of our own accord, that is at least as bad as wasting a long, fruitless life.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
2nd Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV

And how do we accomplish our mission? How do we grow, how do we learn to walk closer to Christ day by day, and how do we help others do the same? There is only one way:

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."
John 17:17

Don't give up the ship, my friend. While it is true that "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22 NIV), it is also the case that He is "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles" (1Cor.1:3-4), so that "just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ" (1Cor.1:5).

All who persevere learn to have God's peace through all the ups and downs of life, to set their sights on things eternal, not the things on the earth, and to deeply desire the heavenly rewards that come to those who run this race well. I am confident that you are not only a believer but also one who falls into this category of finishing the task you have begun and not quitting before it is accomplished. It takes patience and effort to run this race to the end, but growing in the truth of God's Word and fulfilling your purpose for Him is incredibly spiritually rewarding in this life, and abundantly more so in the next beyond our present dreams.

In Jesus through whom and for whom we live,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Deuteronomy 22:5, was there a distinction between men's and women's clothes, or God meant their personal gowns which must not be shared with the opposite sex? And does this apply today in Christianity?

Response #5:

As far as I know, in every culture which I have ever studied or observed, there is a difference. What this means is that men should not dress up as women or women as men. While we are not "under the Law", it is also true that wherever the Law is not speaking about purely ritualistic things the truth it proffers is truth we should gladly accept – and in this case does not the Holy Spirit speak to our consciences (cf. 1Cor.11:14)?

Question #6:

In Gen 34:19 after Shechem raped Dinah, the bible informed us he was the most honorable of his father's household. Is this because he requested her hand in marriage after he regretted his actions? Was he ever repented? or did God state this because he turned a dishonorable event into an honorable event and that is a lesson for us all.

Response #6:

The Hebrew Bible says that Shechem was nichbadh, which I would translate in this context as "[the most] distinguished" in his family – which doesn't mean he had the least amount of honor whatsoever – and it is clear from his behavior that he had none.

Question #7:

Genesis 14:20, Luke 11:42 Matthew 23:23, does tithing still remain demanded of God as the above verses put it in positive and that it did not come with the law which ended /fulfilled in Christ ? If it must end ,then how?

Response #7:

Tithing was a kind of income tax for the ancient state of Israel, and was a form of taxation crafted for an agricultural and theocratic state where the animal sacrifices of the Law et al. and those who administered them were thereby provided for. We are not in ancient Israel. We are not in a completely agricultural economy. We are not living in a theocratic state. Tithes cannot go to support the Levites since there are no Levites presently serving at any temple. So there is not only no mandate in the New Testament for gentiles to tithe, I really don't see our Lord's words in Luke 11:42 and Matthew 23:23 as supportive of tithing – beyond the fact that He was addressing people under the Law at that time who were indeed responsible to carry out the Law (for Abraham, see the links below). Rather, our Lord's point is that justice, mercy, faith and the love of God are the really important things (cf. Hos.6:6), rather than making a show of tithing insignificant things as the Pharisees were doing (Matt.22:21). Here are those links:

Tithing 2

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

Tithing

Tithing and the Book of Life

Tithes and Tithing

Christian giving

Charity

Giving and Ichthys

Question #8:

Also, of a woman is under the authority of man, how can she pastor him. This is another oxymoron because she can't be the husband of a wife and she would be the teacher with authority over him. This would be a backwards household with her being the head of him.

Response #8:

Only those with the gift of teacher are to teach. Men who are not gifted to teach – and who are not prepared to do so even if so gifted – have no business teaching. The gift of pastor-teacher is only given to men. Therefore women have no business teaching a mixed congregation of believers (teaching other women and children is fine). But if it is a question of  preaching rather than truly teaching, I'm agnostic because I don't find that idea in the Bible; it's true that some versions use the word, but what the Bible means on the one hand, and the emotional, anecdote-full, spiritual content-empty stuff that takes place in most pulpits most Sundays on the other have nothing more to do with each other than hay does with straw.  See the link:

Women Preachers

More about Women Preachers

Should Women Preach?

Women Teachers - Women Preachers

Question #9:

As I read through what you write on tattoos I find that we'll likely agree to disagree, but only to a point. I have tat's and likely will not get more but not for the reasons you point out. My reason is stewardship. I regularly work with a man who opens and operates orphanages around the world (and is Christian based) and, much like other organizations, does the "child sponsorship program" type of deal where you give X money to "adopt" a child (or widow) to provide for their care. Well, tattoos can be expensive, and I rather make sure approximately some orphans or widows are provided food, clean water, and medical supplies. This is not to say I believe in being "artificially poor" as some legalists would have us believe nor do I believe in health and prosperity teaching.

What I really want to say, though, is thank you for not doing what drives me absolutely haywire when legalists condemn tattoos. Thank you for not taking "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" out of context as so many of them do. That is NOT the context of that verse. Those verses about the "Temple of the Holy Spirit" are NOT about care for our physical bodies (aside from misusing our physical bodies for fornication and adultery, etc). If one is to make an argument about damaging our bodies through tattoos and piercings then one would BETTER to argue from the perspective of stewardship of our bodies which God gave us.

As a note on piercings: even the reference in the OT about not piercing your bodies is NOT a definitive statement against piercing in general; even for the OT. If one looks, in some (only one or two) circumstances God actually commands piercings such as when a "slave" is freed from his master but decides to remain as a bond-servant; he is to pierce his ear (left if I recall?) with an awl.

Anyway, I like your level headed approach and thanks for your writings,

Response #9:

You're very welcome.

I have written on this topic many times.

To be honest, since there isn't any direct biblical guidance, I don't find it to be a very important issue. It's an individual question (and everyone has different tastes) and a cultural question (and that has changed massively over the past half-century on this topic). As you correctly point out, legalism and prosperity teachings are absolutely wrong and incredibly spiritually damaging, so there no comparison between those things which are anathema to the Lord and a cultural practice some embrace and some do not.

One thing about tattoos and piercing, while there is plenty about this issue on the site (see for example the link: "Tattoos: Links and Legalism"), the thing that would personally give me pause is the permanence. There are plenty of things one can do which are sinful, plenty of things which may only be foolish, plenty of things which may objectively be neither sinful or foolish, all of which things may be capable of being forgotten, forgiven, gotten over, and cured/healed/buried by time. But things we do to our bodies will be with us as long as we have our bodies.

Yours in Jesus Christ to whom we belong through faith, tattooed or not.

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:

Dear Bob,

Please forgive the nature of this question, but it worries me a lot. What is your opinion about the upcoming financial crisis? And when do you think this event could take place? Also, should I put some money into physical gold and silver, so as to safeguard what little I have?

Thank you!

Response #10:

To paraphrase Niels Bohr, I'm not good at predictions, especially when they involve the future. Even if these things were only a function of human societies and economies interacting, there are too many moving parts for anyone to say for certain what might happen. And of course there is the critical spiritual dimension to which economists and prognosticators are blind. We believers certainly do have an advantage in that we know that the Tribulation is coming (or at least we should). We also know that Babylon will be the richest and most favored place in the beast's empire – before he destroys her utterly. Does that mean that we are on the cusp of greater prosperity here in the US? Or does the beast's rise to power necessitate some huge financial/economic dislocation that opens up political possibilities that would otherwise not be the case (in the manner of Germany in the early 1930's)? Even here, there are too many possibilities to say with certainty, and that would be the case even if it were not true that events during the Tribulation will proceed with a rapidity unseen and unprecedented at any time in prior history (so that wherever things stand just before it begins, that will not preclude any of the predicted events happening after it begins).

Blessedly, I personally have little to worry about (as my maternal grandmother was fond of saying, "Blessed be nothing!"), but I do appreciate the question from a biblical point of view. Here is the one posting I have at Ichthys which approaches this issue in a spiritual way: "Cast thy Bread upon the Waters: What do the seven and eight portions in Ecclesiastes 11:2 mean?".

As always, the best preparations are spiritual. What we have in our hands and in our homes can be taken away. What we have in our hearts is ours to keep – and that is the ammunition with which we shall fight all the fights to come (see the link in CT 7: "Preparing for Tribulation").

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hola, Doctor!

So, reading over part 3a of the Coming Tribulation series and I'm reading about your view on just what that may be. You say that psychedelic and mind altering substances are most likely what's being mentioned here. I propose another idea, let me know what you think.

Having had much (unfortunate) experience with various drugs and alcohol (legal and illegal drugs essentially), I believe what's being mentioned here has much more to do with how said potion empowers sin. For example: I had a Prozac prescription for years, that evil junk kept me chemically feeling "ok" about where my life was, although it was a sinful wreck (I believe this is how it is for most, if not all SSRI users; run from God, look for ways to numb out your bad choice). Also, "erectile dysfunction" drugs, tell me you can't see how much sin those allow.

Not to mention the million other inappropriately (illegally) abused drugs out there that give you a sense of as you call "pseudo reality (happiness)" like steroids or collagen injections/ breast implants, etc. Not that getting drunk or too high on pot isn't a sin, the bible is crystal clear on natural substances and their power. I simply see The Lord specifically pointing out our mega indulgence and dependence on pharmacy (man manipulated drugs as well; cocaine, opiates, etc.) instead of The Lord. This seemed to me to be more the reference and less to do with the lesser recreational stuff out there. What do you think?

Response #11:

Good to hear from you.

As to your observations, I think you make some very good points about the problems with illicit drug use, and also with the misuse of legally prescribed ones as well. The former is clear enough for Christians – if they are illegal (and unnecessary), then there is no question but that we should stay away (and my point about witchcraft / demon influence always being associated with this word in the Bible is appropriate to keep in mind). For the former, this is in many respects a matter of Christian application. There are today – and there were in antiquity – medical substances which benefit the user when used properly. So I would not wish to get into drawing lines for my brothers and sisters as to which legal and/or prescribed substances are permissible and which are not. For example, is aspirin OK? Are all SSRI drugs wrong to take for all Christians at all times under all circumstances? Aspirin can be overdone, and I rather suspect that there are at least some instances where, properly used, SSRI medication may be helpful, even for Christians, in the case of definite chemical imbalances. I am not a medical doctor, and, as I say, I think it best for these decisions to be left to the individual Christians concerned. Clearly, your good comments are important for us all to keep in mind – just because certain drugs are available and accessible does not mean that we should take them. My own preference is for under- rather than over-medication (but when I am ill I do take what is prescribed and/or recommended in hopes of recovering). That just seems to me to be the sort of spiritual common sense you are advancing here, and I would very much like permission to post your comments (anonymously, of course [permission was granted]), because this would be an important palliative for anyone who is flirting with unnecessary and counterproductive dependency.

In the passage mentioned, Revelation 9:20-21, the indulgence is sinful (something that needs repentance), and the passage does not go into specifics; that is why I do not go into such specifics where I treat these verses. So when you say, "You say that psychedelic and mind altering substances are most likely what's being mentioned here", not to be overly pedantic, but I have been deliberately very careful in my language here so as not to rule in or rule out anything which the scripture itself does not rule in or out. That is to say, "potion" can cover a lot of territory, but where to draw the line is where the use is sinful, and with such substances demon influence is always present, and usually understood on at least some level. After all, the entire context is one of idolatry, and, specifically, the egregious beast-worship of the Tribulation. Your comments are especially important because many of the things which may be disputable at present will become, during the Tribulation, very clear as antichrist uses any and all means to try to reinforce his rule, exert his will, and lead the entire world down the path of damnation. So it would not surprise me to find the use of medicine rolled up into his system of all-encompassing false religion, especially when it comes to the sorts of substances you mention. In this respect, there will be no worries about confusing one with the other, because at that time those who follow the beast and those who refuse to do will be very clearly demarcated. The "potions", then, of whatever sort they may be (no doubt covering a good deal of territory) will definitely be connected with worshiping and following the beast by those who have taken his mark. Please see the links:

Drugs and Medication

Drugs and Witchcraft

Legalized Marijuana for Christians?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose new Name we shall bear on our foreheads for all eternity.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Sunday Greetings, professor. I hope that you have had a refreshing and rewarding day. Anyway, on to this week's round of questions: I remember reading a response about your strong caution against "Christian music" because of how music can galvanize lyrics that are not necessarily scripturally correct:

"The same is equally (or perhaps doubly) true of music. Music is a very effective means of galvanizing our emotions, but it often does so independently of (or at least disproportionately more influentially than) the meaning of the lyrics – the only part of the song having any potential for true biblical content. Given that very little Christian music is taken straight from the scripture without emendation, I am more than a little worried about relying on it to any great degree. Whenever I hear a "Christian lyric", there always seems to be at least some parts of what is said that is not really scriptural, so that one is often relying emotionally on incorrect interpretations of the scripture rather than scripture itself (and that has much potential for steering us in the wrong direction altogether)."

My question: does this mean that we should try to avoid music with lyrics in general, or just be extremely selective in what we listen to? I tend to listen to music when I do tedious things that must be done (e.g. homework), so am just curious as to what I should listen. Obviously music itself isn't bad, and it would not be so terrible for me to only listen to instrumental things (I already listen to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, et al.). While I understand over dependence on the emotional "high" music provides is an easy way to become stagnant, I do not feel that total withdrawal is necessary. Also, what about hymns/worship songs?

Response #12:

Good to hear from you again. There is nothing wrong with music per se. There is nothing wrong with liking, playing, listening to music. There is a problem with, as a Christian, substituting music for Bible teaching and Bible study, and it is also the case that if the "Christian" music a person listens to is doctrinally flawed (as it almost inevitably is), then this is something that may have to be mentally/spiritually fought against even more vigorously than obvious assaults of human viewpoint from the secular culture around us (just as in war we are ready for enemy attacks but not to being stabbed in the back by our friends and comrades . . . or undermined by their poor conduct). Music wields an emotional influence disproportionate to its face value; as long as Christians understand this and weigh it out, like all decisions we make it comes into the mix. No one can be a hermit (nor should anyone try); on the other hand, embracing the secular culture of the day with both arms is going to be a mistake as well. A middle course, as often is the case, seems the most prudent. My main gripe is with Christian groups which have abandoned teaching the truth of scripture (the main reason for Christian assembly) for the sake of musical entertainment.

Question #13:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

If you have time, I am interested in your thoughts on a trend I see occurring more frequently of late; the mention or request (in prayer and song) for fire to "fall down". I've looked up dozens of passages with the word fire. What I've found is predominantly in reference to God's judgment and purification or purging of evil from the world. I've also read many passages on prayer- how to and for what to pray. Nowhere do I see us being told to pray for fire or fire to fall down. Many people praying for fire quote Matt. 3:11, which to me should not be separated from Matt 3:12, which seems to indicate that the fire will be God's winnowing fork. If my understanding of "fire" is on track, is there a danger in misapplication in prayer and song of this concept? Am I "nit-picking" when I refuse to sing songs that call for God to send down His fire?

Thanks for your thoughts. May God's truth be glorified.

Response #13:

Good to hear from you again.

You are certainly correct when you say "nowhere do I see us being told to pray for fire or fire to fall down". I think the passage being loosely referred to in these instances (at least originally – there's no accounting for how people exegete hymns) is the following:

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Acts 2:2-3 NIV

Clearly, this is not exactly "fire falling", and also, for anyone who has learned about the truth of these matters, this unique coming of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost was just that: unique. He has never manifested Himself in this way before or since in the biblical record (so praying for it to happen again is certainly wrong).

This is a good example of the problem with Christian music and with contemporary Laodicean Christianity in general (see the link). People who write lyrics to music are not necessarily any more spiritual than anyone else, and given the sad state of contemporary Christianity, this guarantees that the lyrics written, while they may be "good" in terms of art, will be off, at least a little bit, in terms of doctrine. And sometimes, as in this instance, they will be way off. Worse to tell is that when a song gets extremely popular like this, it begins to be treated as the equivalent of scripture. Since music is, by its very nature, endued with the power to influence us emotionally, it can have very misleading results when it carries such lyrics which misinterpret the truth of scripture in substantive ways. This causes more problems today than it should because the Bible and particularly the teaching of the Bible have been so de-emphasized in contemporary Christian "worship services" (even though the lip-service to both is often not lacking). Here are some links which apply:

Cultural influences

The role of music in worship

Problems with Christian music

Potential negative effects of Christian music

Worship and Christian music

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the truth, the very Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #14:

G'day Sir,

Its been a while that we exchange mail. I want to let you know that the Lord has finally deliver out of cult and I am experiencing peace within and in growing spiritually through daily study with the materials printed from ichthys. I have been directing my love ones to ichthys, even if people ask for my church I tell them its ichthys and there is no one that has not ask me how did I found your site? God is using you for our generation and you are in my prayers. I need your advise, my relatives not to share the same belief with me and are still attending the church. They were told that I backslid and even if I give them your materials to study they would not understand. They did not know the bible even with many years in church. Sir - any advice?

Response #14:

It's good to hear from you, my friend, and I am very glad to hear of your own spiritual progress. I am, however, distressed to hear your other news. I think it is fair to say that no Christian alive who has determined to pursue spiritual growth in a serious way has failed to experience similar issues in the estrangement of close friends and family members. Truth has a tendency to divide the serious from the lukewarm (cf. Matt.10:34ff.). This is not always a permanent thing. Sometimes it is just that a believer's turn to the truth in a major way tends to be out in front of his/her friend's/family's reaction, and occasionally these too follow the positive believer's good example, even if there is some delay. We will certainly pray for this in your case. What your former church is doing in attempting to further this difference of opinion between you and your family is despicable, and it certainly exposes what kind of an organization it is – self-serving and not at all interested in promoting the peace of Jesus Christ within individual families. Furthermore, slandering a good man such as yourself who is only trying to walk closer to Jesus through pursuing the actual words and doctrines of the Word is another serious affront to the Lord. I would not want to be in their shoes.

I know that it is no particular comfort to be "right" when under such pressures, but, believe me, it is much better than being "wrong":

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
1st Peter 4:14-16 NIV

Whenever those we love do not see eye to eye with us over the truth of the Word, the best approach, sometimes the only approach, is to continue dealing with them in love, letting our good example in Christ do the speaking for us. Then, when an opportunity does come to explain the truth to them, it will be just that, a genuine opening of their hearts (as opposed to a skeptical "hearing" that we are forcing on them).

I will be keeping you and your family in my prayers, my friend.

In the dear Lord Jesus who knows all that is in our hearts,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

[details omitted regarding relatives borrowing money and vehicles and not repaying the former and only returning the latter in trashed condition]

Response #15:

Good to hear from you. Most people I know have had comparable experience with family, immediate, distant or "inherited". We can pick our friends, but not our families. However, we are not bound to allow ourselves to be abused by anyone, family included. When conduct by anyone, even relatives (even spouses) passes the point of annoyance (of which the whole human race has a part) into what can only be considered abuse, then at that point we should part company – or at the very least take action to "wall off" the relationship in appropriate ways that prevent further future abuse.

For what it is worth, I think that you are handling the situation in exactly the right way. You are refusing to be drawn down to that level, you are not allowing yourself to become involved in questionable conduct through potentially compromising social interaction, and you are comporting yourself as a good Christian in every respect. I do understand that since you respect your elders and their feelings on these matters (even though you would not allow yourself to be abused in the same matter). That is especially difficult – but more difficult now than it will be in the future when you are completely on your own. When it comes to individuals who exhibit the sort of behavior you report, the only safe way to love them is "from a distance". As I say, if it is any comfort, please know that I hear about similar situations all the time (if these were friends, the people in question would just dump them). So this is a "test" many of us face, and one that is passed only through walking in faith like all other tests – congratulations on handling it well!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

I am feeling very sad and demoralized. I went through my friends list on Facebook tonight. I decided to delete the people who are not what I consider to be real friends. I feel like, if I can't pick up the phone and call them, they are not my friend. What do you think about that standard? Also, I deleted all of my friends that don't align with my Christian worldview. Do you think that was a good idea? I guess it hardly matters now. It's already done.

What I'm sad about though, is that I apparently didn't have very many friends to begin with. I looked through my friends list, and I felt like I hardly knew anyone. I don't have any close friends. Would you pray that the Lord would send me some Christian friends to fellowship with?

Thanks,

Response #16:

I wouldn't worry about Facebook friends. In terms of friends you can share your faith with who will understand that Jesus is the most important Person in your life, it is not uncommon for good ones to be very rare indeed. That has certainly been the case in my own life – but a handful of truly worthy friends are worth a thousand who are of questionable value. I will continue to keep you in prayer on this and other matters. David spent much of his youth alone in the wilderness tending a flock of sheep, but in the end the Lord blessed him to overflowing in this and every other area. The main thing is to keep cultivating your relationship with the Lord through His Word like David did, walking more closely with Him day by day, grabbing hold of the peace and joy that pour forth from His great love. If you do, all of these other things will fall into place.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Bob,

Hey, it's been awhile since I last emailed you, and do have more questions but I don't want to overload you with them, but a new situation has developed with my parent's live-in friend [details omitted].

I'm not intentionally trying to be antagonistic. Both of these incidents just happened, I wasn't aiming to provoke anyone. I know you said you never or try to avoid giving specific advice on how to deal with specific situations like this, but I suppose I'm asking more than anything else, "am I right in being patient and just letting this slide off of me?"

My first instinct is to get angry and defensive, but I remind myself to calm down, be humble, and just let it go: people get angry, it happens, and I let it go. But sometimes that is very difficult. I need to determine what MY next actions will be, what MY response will be.

For now, my plan is to apologize and then just leave it be, not tell anyone about it (except for you, I suppose). Is this the correct response? Should I let myself feel a little bit offended? My first instinct says yes, but that a human concept, a human feeling. My mind is telling me to calm down, be patient and let it slide.

Response #17:

It seems to me that the sooner you can move out and be on your own, the better. Naturally, life "out there" is no picnic, and since are still in school that would probably create a hardship. True, I don't like to give advice, but this seems to me obvious. If I were in your shoes I would try to finish my degree ASAP (going summers, taking extra hours, what have you), and move on to the next phase just as soon as I could.

My dad was a Presbyterian minister and sometimes did counseling (although he wisely avoided it when possible). I remember one incident of a married couple on the verge of divorce. The husband's main complaint seemed to be that his wife "made the soup too hot". I'm no expert, but when trivial things like what you report here produce major conflagrations, it seems to me that they are more likely than not to be just symptoms of greater hostility lurking beneath the surface.

You have been describing this conflict since I first started to correspond with you, so I really doubt that the tension is a matter of "tactics". It seems rather that it will be unavoidable as long as you are under your the same roof.

I will be keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ who is our all and everything.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello Brother

I was wondering if you could help me with a problem. I have a family member in her early teens. She has been spending a lot of time with a man that is in late middle age. Too much time: the church here has spoken to him about the matter and her. But the man is defying the church's command to stay away from her. He claims he is only helping her because she has nobody to talk to. Several women from the church have been trying to help her but she refuses the help. I was spending time researching for scriptures how to deal with this – how older men are to stay away from young girls – but really couldn't find anything but a thought came to mind about holy and unholy soul ties. How would you present scriptures to handle this problem? I am eager to approach this man but I have not yet done so as I'm seeking God to help with this and I don't want the flesh to rise up. If she was your daughter and you would speak to her how would you do it and what would you say? Please .. your advice would help – I believe you could help – you came to heart so I am sending this to you...God Bless

Response #18:

There are plenty of wrong things that the scripture does not prohibit overtly – usually because they are obvious to anyone with any spiritual common sense. That is to say, just because the Bible does not say out and out that something is a sin does not mean it is not a sin. What I mean is, this is so obviously "problematic" and a situation which can only lead to nowhere good, that both individuals no doubt understand that in their heart of hearts. Since they are doing it anyway, appealing to them on scriptural grounds is likely to be a waste of time. That is to say, when people have decided to follow their own will rather than the will of God, it is usually pointless to quote chapter and verse. The real issue is one of choice.

If this were my daughter, I would tell her in no uncertain terms to "knock it off!"; and if this were my fellow church member, I would tell him in no uncertain terms to "stay away from my daughter!" When she leaves the nest, she'll be free to make whatever tragic mistakes she is determined to make; until then, I would put my foot down (grounded for the duration if necessary). So if I were to appeal to scripture, on this one it would be to the principle of parental authority:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."
Ephesians 6:1 NKJV (cf. Col.3:20).

I would have a no-nonsense talk with her parents as the first order of business.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dr. Luginbill,

I'm curious what scriptural principles there are to guide two people in a dating relationship in regards to physical boundaries. I know there's nothing in the bible that directly addresses kissing or holding hands or cuddling. And obviously sex is out of the question.

I've looked through tons of websites and most everyone likes to give their opinions on what they think is prudent but don't have scripture to back it up which is very frustrating. One line of thought that said there are three God-ordained categories of male/female relationships: Family, Marriage, and Neighbor and that a dating relationship falls under the Neighbor category, in which there should be no sexual relations, but then the question of what constitutes sexual relations arises. From there, the reasoning moves to 1 Timothy 5:2 to support no physical contact before marriage. They're claiming to treat woman as you would your sister or mother, and the physical aspect of things you'd do with your sister or mother are fairly limited. But that verse doesn't seem to support that meaning; it looks like it supports the meaning of how to admonish or reprove those if you're in an authoritative position.

I'd like to get married in the future and would like to have some solid reasoning based on scripture on how to conduct myself in the relationship. I'm not looking for a list of things I can or can't do with a girlfriend but principles on how I should act. I'm personally of the mindset to not have physical contact because I feel that it prematurely draws people too close together and clouds their judgment, but I've no scripture to back up my viewpoint. I also know the verse that says there should be no hint of sexual immorality but that seems like it could be subjective as well (like is hand holding, lingering kisses, etc labeled as sexual immoral?). I'm confident the guidelines exist somewhere in the bible, I just don't feel I've definitely found them yet.

As usual, I appreciate the fantastic job you're doing and definitely appreciate this aspect of your ministry. Keep up the excellent work and know that it's definitely helping.

Response #19:

Good to hear from you.

Your question encapsulates a perfect illustration of the fact that the Bible is neither a text book nor a how-to manual, and why that would not be reasonably possible. This one issue alone easily consumes thousands if not tens of thousands of books already, and beyond general principles one would have to take into account changes in societies, cultures and cultural norms, not to mention technology. For example, in the ancient world (Greece, Rome and Israel in particular), there really was no such thing as "dating". The standard practice was for the parents to pick out a bride or husband for their child, and this often took place well before either future partner was anywhere near physical maturity. While this seems bizarre and unworkable to us today, from what I have read in scripture and in secular history and from what I have observed personally, a somewhat better result seems to have been achieved in this way than is the case in leaving us to our own devices. Of course, part of the previous success rate stemmed from the nature of ancient society: divorce was really not much of a possibility. Today, things are different in a variety of crucial respects, and we do all (for the most part) need to make our own choices on this score. Had the Bible produced a set of rules, I am pretty confident that dating wouldn't even be in there since there was no "dating" when it was written.

I think your approach is exactly the correct one; that is, focusing on the general principles of scripture and drawing the applications which with the guidance of the Holy Spirit seem godly to you. After all, beyond very clear dos and don'ts, most of the decisions we have to make in this life come down to just that, namely, the flexible and godly application of the truth we have learned and believed to the complex situations of this life we come to face day by day. Telling the difference between absolute right and wrong is not difficult; telling the difference between choices which involve shades of gray on either side is another story. Being able to make those sort of distinctions correctly is precisely what spiritual maturity is all about in terms of its practical application (see the link in BB 4B: "The Need to Transform our Thinking"). In other words, you seem to me to have done precisely what the Bible guides us to do (us being mature believers): sum up the truth and determine in the Spirit best way to proceed then do so. In this way, while we may not have four hundred rules of millimeter tolerance precision, we can keep the car on the road well enough even if it turns here or there or is a bit wider or narrower or more slippery here or there. Any attempt to spell out more fine-tuned adjustments would probably be a mistake. That is true of each of us on an individual level, and it is especially true of trying to make rules for others. That is essentially legalism, and it never comes to any good. We are to walk in Christian love, a positive guiding force; not try to prescribe and proscribe every possible circumstance and situation so as to be "legally perfect" (which practice only makes us "feel good" in a self-righteous sort of way but which may actually involve us in greater sin as in the case of the Pharisees who manipulated the biblical rules on divorce). We have a conscience which we are cleansing and fine-tuning every day through taking in and believing the Word of God, and we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Trying to go beyond these is always a mistake.

Keep running the good race in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20:

I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my emails. I've never dated. How should a Christian approach that subject?

Response #20:

When it comes to things like dating and romance, the Bible doesn't have a lot to say – so neither do I. This is one of those areas where every Christian has to apply the truth he/she has learned (as opposed to being given detailed biblical guidance). As in the workplace, we know we are supposed to do a good job "as unto the Lord", but scripture doesn't tell us the specifics about how, just for example, to be a good manager at the local fast food chain (if that is where we are employed); on the other hand, we can get plenty of good guidance when it comes to things like treating people fairly, being open and honest, working hard, being diligent, etc. etc. In other words, if we approach our jobs in an honorable Christian way, this will be glorifying to the Lord. The same holds true of personal relationships. Clearly, most people are supposed to get married, even though life would be simpler and more easily directed towards serving the Lord if we could abstain (most of us cannot, however: 1Cor.7:2). How to get from point A ("single bliss") to point B ("holy matrimony") is something scripture does not discuss directly. In biblical times, most marriages were arranged, and, despite the obvious concerns, that approach had many positive aspects too (like taking all the guess work out of the process). Such is not the case today in this country (with very few exceptions). We "get" to make our own decisions in these matters.

As to how to date, whether to date, when to date, etc., there is no specific biblical guidance of which I am personally aware. What I will say is that the general principles of scripture apply, so that whatever we do or don't do, we should do it or refrain from it in a way that is acceptable to and honoring of our Lord. That's a high standard, and none of us live up to it perfectly in anything in this life, but it is what we should shoot for. After all, Jesus Christ lives in us, if we belong to Him. He is here with us at all times. He is watching, observing, evaluating, everything we think and say and do – and of course He knew all this before He created the world. If Jesus were visible at our right hand all day long, I am pretty sure that we would act differently, speak differently and think differently than we often do. Because we cannot "yet see Him" (1Pet.1:8), however, we often – far too often – think, speak and act as if He weren't around (which of course He is). That is the nature of this difficult life-struggle in which we are involved. We are confronted by many bad influences, external and internal, and we have to struggle with our motivations and our dedication to the Lord at all times, often being under severe attack from the evil one in the process.

So for me this question and many of the sort always comes back to the fundamentals of our Christian walk. The more we learn about the truth generally, believing it and treasuring it, walking in it as best we can, and helping others do the same, the more all of our questions about everything in this life will be clarified.

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:2

When we do bump into questions such as the ones you have where we do not find ready answers, we can ask others who have knowledge (as you are doing), we can search the scriptures (as I am sure you are doing), we can pray and ask the Lord for guidance, general and specific – and we can also trust our spiritual common sense (the more so as we advance further down the road of spiritual maturity). We already (hopefully) know a good deal of God's truth, and we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The truth and the Spirit's ministry act together with our consciences to give us very good direction about what is right and what is wrong, about what is likely to be beneficial or problematic, about what is a good and godly course of action and what may bring us into trouble. If we are honest with ourselves about our motivations and consider such questions with an open and responsive heart, we are likely to "know" the answers we really need to know about all manner of "judgment calls" already – even if we may not always like the specific answers we perceive.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is our all in all,

Bob L.

Question #21:

This email was sent to me by missionaries in South Africa, who have known me for over thirty years. They have lived in South Africa for a long time and can testify to the truthfulness of what is said below. It is worth your time and effort to read in the next five minutes.

Some of you might have followed the "celebrations" of President Nelson Mandel’s passing. And undoubtedly, the endless commentaries would have either bored you or enlightened you, on a man of incredible stature. However, very little was known about his spiritual life, and even a member of his family was said to have stated when asked, "Oh no, Mandela is not a man of faith." Here are his words (quoted below) from the very mouth of Madiba (his Clan Name); and you can judge for yourself if he was or was not a believer in Christ. From our view point, being right here two years prior to the election and going through some of the most horrific times in South Africa, it is very clear that Mandela was the Man that was appointed by God to bring this nation out of its very depths and into a New Land of freedom, without the shedding of one drop of blood or without the overthrow of the Apartheid Government. He could only have accomplished it all, with the greatest of humility, forgiveness, virtue, graciousness and leadership; virtues that has now become synonymous with his name. But was there more: On Sunday, 15 December, the day of his actual burial and final resting place in Qunu, his hometown, instead of the expected "traditional" burial formalities, we were rather surprised to find the entire day complete with an all-inclusive military send-off; from shining military marching bands; to thunderous 21-gun salute by G-6 canons; to military aircraft flybys and helicopters carrying the South African flag in a fly-over; to the final Bugle Call of Taps! Even the Flag which draped his coffin was folded in military fashion and handed to his widow, Graca Machell. It was very moving indeed!! This was his speech, given at an Easter Conference, on 3rd April 1994."We bow our heads in worship on this day and give thanks to the Almighty for the bounty He has bestowed upon us over the past year. We raise our voices in holy gladness to celebrate the victory of the risen Christ over the terrible forces of death. Easter is a joyful festival! It is a celebration because it is indeed a festival of hope! Easter marks the renewal of life! The triumph of the light of truth over the darkness of falsehood! Easter is a festival of human solidarity, because it celebrates the fulfilment of the Good News! The Good News borne by our risen Messiah who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind! Each Easter marks the rebirth of our faith. It marks the victory of our risen Saviour over the torture of the cross and the grave. Our Messiah, who came to us in the form of a mortal man, but who by his suffering and crucifixion attained immortality. Our Messiah, born like an outcast in a stable, and executed like a criminal on the cross. Our Messiah, whose life bears testimony to the truth that there is no shame in poverty: Those who should be ashamed are they who impoverish others. Whose life testifies to the truth that there is no shame in being persecuted: Those who should be ashamed are they who persecute others. Whose life proclaims the truth that there is no shame in being conquered: Those who should be ashamed are they who conquer others. Whose life testifies to the truth that there is no shame in being dispossessed: Those who should be ashamed are they who dispossess others. Whose life testifies to the truth that there is no shame in being oppressed: Those who should be ashamed are they who oppress others." (Mandela 1994). An article in the British Christian News site, stated that Mandela had been raised and baptized in the Methodist church, that he had taught Bible classes at churches when he was in college. And that his first wife and many relatives were Jehovah's Witnesses. The article outlined the many ways his faith manifested, and stated that he did not want to cause division in South Africa during those crucial times, by speaking too often and too zealously about his faith. I can’t say anything about the latest new movie on Mandela as we have not seen it, but the movie, "Miracle Rising" is very true to form, even if it only captures the bare minimum of an epic era, and of a man that will most certainly go down in history, as one of its finest. For he put his Nation and it people above all else; even in the face of the most extreme and fiercest opposition, which came not just from his opponents, but from his own political party and even from some members of his own family. From where we stand today, there is no other person ready, that can step into Mandela’s shoes, but by the Grace of God alone, and by its people accepting and believing on Christ’s saving Work on the Cross, can this nation, as with any other nation, ever turn around to become the beacon of light, reflecting God’s Glory!!

Response #21:

Even assuming he wrote these things himself, there are plenty of examples of politicians being well-versed enough in various religions to say all the right things. After all, antichrist will say enough nice things about God to make most of the world believe he is Christ. And there is enough social gospel in here to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. So it is possible this individual is not in hell. However, even though people who look for and believe in political solutions, especially those who embrace violent ones which also espouse anti-God philosophies, may possibly be believers, I just wouldn't bet on it, nor would I want anyone I care about idolizing or emulating them in this world (even if we end up in the New Jerusalem with them in the next).

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello Doctor.

So, I finally got around to reading some of what the admin at CARM have to say on a number of subjects. For the most part; biblically right on. However, have you noticed the political bias being applied? He's going so far as to say (paraphrase) "liberals are messing up the church" (as if "conservative" types are any better), while stating little to nothing about the uber conservative, almost legalism that still unfortunately alive and well. More than that; he states outright that Christians are bound to vote against gay bills and such cause it's somehow our duty, not acknowledging that the Bible is pretty clear (in my opinion, anyhow) how dangerous ANY political involvement is and how the Lord's Will will be done regardless of "how we vote".

Here's the question: What do you tell militant left OR right-wing Christians when they can't help but be so politically minded (which, from what I've experienced anyway) that they minimize Christ in being and doing so? These types seem, as you've also pointed out, to be highly susceptible to the potential of apostasy if/when antichrist takes over politically. Some of these believers are so staunch in their false beliefs, I question any salvation on their part during that difficult time, and it's incredibly sad.

I hope all is well, sir, again many thanks for your ministry.

Response #22:

Good to hear from you. First, there is a significant difference between "conservative/liberal" when applied to theology as opposed to American politics; there are overlaps, to be sure, but while I do use these terms when discussing biblical schools of thought, I try to avoid all political discussions in the course of this ministry.

I'm not sure "what to tell" Christians who are gung-ho about political action. It is clear enough to me that morbid interest in such matters is detrimental to spirituality and to spiritual growth – and I think this is also the scriptural position. See the links:

Political Action versus Biblical Christianity

Christians should stay our of politics

What does the Bible say about War, History, and Politics?

Jesus us told us not to throw pearls before swine, the application in this circumstance being that we should be very careful "whom" we "tell" – they have to be willing to receive it for our telling to do more than start another pointless fight. The only thing to do in cases like the one you note where a person has bought into political action (on either "wing") and deeply so is to lead by example and to pray. Still, there is the case to be made for a deft comment at the appropriate time: "God is in control, not the politicians". I know I have responded to such things in my own earlier life – but, again, there has to be a willingness in the heart to receive it. People who have the gift of wisdom and the skill of apologetics to do such things still need to do them with care.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm enjoying my classes so far. I can tell they are going to be hard work. I figured they would be, so I'm not bothered by the amount of work I have to do. I just have to make sure I stay focused. I'm feeling more comfortable now. I guess I just had to get used to being back around a bunch of people and back in class. It also helps that I've made a few connections in class, so I don't feel like I'm by myself. Everyone is friendly for the most part.

I'm going to miss Bible Study for the next several months because of evening classes which conflict. Do you think I should be missing Bible Study that much? How do you stay focused on, and devote time to God when you have a lot going on? I mean, more than just time-wise. I know my classes are going to take up a considerable portion of my time. That's to be expected. One by-product that I didn't expect was that I would lose my "drive" for Christianity. I know I was doing it wrong anyway, but I did have passion. I still do, but it just isn't the same. When I wasn't doing anything, I could focus all my time and attention on Christian things. Now, all of my efforts are being put into my classes. It's like I've started funneling all of my energy into something else completely. Christianity has been inadvertently put on the back burner. I'm also starting to feel the effects of peer pressure again.

Any suggestions?

Response #23:

I am glad to hear that you are "getting into the mix" – I knew you would. If you make a point of not missing class and studying hard for exams and quizzes, you will do well.

As to your question, this is part of life. Jacob spent day and night tending his flocks but still managed to cultivate a world-class relationship with the Lord – as have all of the other great believers. That really is the key in life, namely, to do one's job "as unto the Lord" and yet save time, energy, and thinking for Him – in first place. In practical terms, I have found that a good routine jealously guarded is the best way to be consistent about anything in life (and that is what I always recommend – make what you do on this score so much a part of who you are that you only occasionally miss). Part of it is also throwing out as much of what is extraneous as possible. For example, if the Bible study you attend is actually a good thing, you should strive to preserve it in your walk; if it is merely social and not truly spiritually helpful, well then . . . . . But as far as "total commitment" is concerned, the only people in the history of the Church who have ever managed anything like that are monks – and they ended spending all their time brewing beer, making cheese, and wasting the extra time they had in senseless and meaningless ritual. It is possible to run this race well, even if the course is not always smooth and downhill.

Your fellow runner for Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I was found by Jesus several years ago when my formerly questionable but enjoyable life suddenly became empty and meaningless due to a turn of events. Since then I have been on a voracious search for truth and knowledge.

My previous Catholic indoctrination was easily shaken off, as I was very rebellious anyway prior to being saved, and I quickly discovered the message of grace and also dispensationalism, which are prevalent today in the realm of truly born-again Christians. Some of the pastors and teachers I saw, heard, and read were very obviously children of God and in love with Jesus, and their sincerity rang true.

Some of these leaders are very intelligent. But I noticed after a while that while their teachings on the evolving plan and covenants of God's unfolding plan were easily identifiable in the bible (which they all accept as the only authority on doctrine), I was beginning to have questions and doubts in two areas. Pre-tribulation rapture and eternal security of salvation are the twin figureheads on their collective doctrinal ship, and I just wasn't seeing scriptural back-up for these two ideas. I felt uneasy questioning the teachings of these devoted disciples of Jesus, but slowly realized that the awkward explanations of these two doctrines were convoluted and not based on scripture itself, but rather their own ideas of "what must be", deduced by themselves when looking at the plan of God imparted in our bible, and un-obvious interpretations of a very few ambiguous verses. These men who, to their credit, teach against establishing one's faith on denominational religion or tradition, have actually fallen into the trap of following tradition themselves when it comes to pre-trib rapture and eternal security. Sadly for them, their entire belief systems seem to be based on these ideas more than anything else, and while being very scripture-based, they seem blind and even militant about only these two areas.

I recently acknowledged my growing discomfort to myself, and started my search again, this time determining to re-read Paul's epistles with new eyes, as though I had never heard any man's interpretation before. This eventually led me to your website, and I thank you profusely for your free gift to your Christian brothers and sister. I had come to many of the same conclusions as you (although on a vastly simpler and less educated level), but it felt very lonely in this place of belief, where most other true believers feel distrustful of my lack of belief in their two most cherished hopes. It was extremely gratifying to find a person who has devoted as much of his life to finding the truth in Jesus as you have make your life's work available for someone like myself. I now have so much more of a foundation of knowledge to stand on, and equally important, I am no longer alone. Thank you for your hard work, and thanks to God, Jesus, and the Spirit for giving your gifts to you.

I am trying to increase my faith for the coming time, and have a simple (and maybe ridiculous) idea. I am planning to have a T-shirt printed with the name Jesus Christ on it (in tasteful soft colors), so I can get used to my new identity as a child of God in public. Not with a goal of looking for attention, but actually the reverse - facing a fear I have of being so identified. I live in a place which is okay with references to whoever your "personal god" is, but quite hostile to the name of Jesus, and need to develop courage to stand up. Would you possibly be okay with your website address being printed on the shirt as well? I am a soft-spoken person and do not approach people, and am respected by the people who know me, so I don't think this would reflect badly on your site. Also, if you have any concern for a burden on your site's bandwidth allocation, (unfortunately) I don't foresee a problem with any noticeable increase in my area.

I will not print your website's address on the shirt without specific permission from you, so if you don't respond no worries, and thank you again.

Response #24:

It's very good to make your acquaintance! I'm always encouraged when I hear about my fellow believers having been benefitted by this ministry, but I am especially encouraged by your thoughtful and gracious email. As I have had occasion to remark many times, scripture, diligently followed in the power of the Spirit, always leads to the same place, to the same conclusions. It may take a thousand years (or only a long afternoon), but for those who really want to know what the Word of God really teaches, consistency of study and a sanctified approach are always honored by the Lord. The fact that you arrived at the same place independently proves (to me at least) that this is about the Word and what it really has to say (rather than any tradition or any particular group or any one individual).

As to your request, as I am also in the habit of remarking, there are all manner of spiritual gifts (and even if we should limit them to the ones mentioned in scripture, the variations among them are no doubt iridescent in their manifestations) – and we, every single believer in the Body of Christ, are all called to a unique ministry by our dear Lord Jesus (1Cor.12:5; and here the "traditional" categories cannot begin to comprehend or comprise the "multifarious grace of God": 1Pet.4:10). The Spirit seems clearly to be moving you to minister in a particular way; so it's not for me to object. The only thing I generally ever say in such cases is to remind readers to have a look at the copy policy "Guidelines" posted at the site (see the link), but I don't find anything objectionable in your request here at all (and I would be delighted for you to do so in any case).

Feel free to write back any time.

Best wishes for your efforts in ministry to our dear Lord Jesus.

In Him,

Bob L.

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