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Question #1:  

I googled the word "ichthys" one day while doing some research for a tattoo that I want to get and I stumbled upon a link to your site called Three Questions about Tattoos and Salvation. I don't want to bring up old topics but I was just wondering if you could help me out. I've been thinking about getting this tattoo for about a month: just a small one on my left wrist of an ichthys. Reason being, I'm in a rut. And I swear, this rut is bottomless. I got saved around age 7. I can't even count how many times I've "re-dedicated" my life to Christ and then drifted even farther away. But I'm getting older. Its time to get serious. I want this tattoo to show my non-Christian friends and co-workers that I'm different: for it to be a conversation starter: for it to be a reminder to me that Christ is in me even on those bad days when I don't feel Him: for it to be there in my face when I'm tempted to fall back into bad behaviors: for it to be there for others to see so that they know that they can openly speak to me about their faith without fear of judgement. I guess my question is, what do you think?

Response #1:    I'm with on everything you have to say here – except for maybe the tattoo. Let me start by saying something you probably already know if you are familiar with this ministry. I try to avoid giving people specific advice, and for a very good reason. If scripture is specific, and it is specific about a lot of things, I point out what I believe scripture says (and show how it is that I came to that conclusion). But many issues in the Christian's life are matters of the application of definite principles of truth to indefinite and sometimes fluid situations wherein the only person with a chance of making the correct call is the individual Christian in question – and generally not without the guidance of the Spirit, working with us through the truth we have already deposited in our hearts.

Life is complicated. In fact in many ways it can be compared to an obstacle course we have to negotiate. Christians understand that at the end of that course, no matter how many bumps and lumps and falls and scrapes we take along the way, what awaits us is not to be compared to anything we can even imagine in this life. The obstacles, tests of faith, come in many shapes and sizes, colors and flavors, and just as no two people on the planet are the same, so our experiences are likewise very different indeed. As Christians, we all have some very basic things in common. We all want, or should want, to please our Lord as our number one priority. And in general terms we know precisely what that entails: A good defense (i.e., staying away from all the things the Bible tells us to avoid, living a sanctified life), and a good offense (i.e., praying, reading our Bibles, attending to orthodox Bible teaching, believing God's truth, applying it to our lives, and helping others to do all of these good things through whatever gifts and ministries we have been given). In terms of the specifics of our individual situations, however, God gives us quite a lot of leeway so that in the process of living our lives the depth of our commitment and the quality of our service are made very clear – at least to Him, as also it will be made clear to us on that great day of days when we stand before our Lord and give an account for all we've done and failed to do. If that sounds a bit scary, it is (as Paul says: compare 2Cor.5:10 with 2Cor.5:11; cf. Rom.14:11-12). That does not mean that we who are walking with Jesus need to be terrified; quite the contrary. We know that we abide in His grace and that He died for all of our sins. We have the helmet of salvation firmly on our heads (Eph.6:17; cf. 1Thes.5:8), and through faith we are shielded by God's power until that salvation be revealed (1Pet.1:5). But it does mean that we should take this life very seriously and see it for both the responsibility it is and for the opportunity it offers (1Cor.9:16-17; cf. Eph.5:16; Col.4:5).

Your motives here and what you want to accomplish are admirable, and I endorse these entirely. You wish to live a sanctified life and not turn back to ways of the "old man" you have put off in Christ, and so you should (Eph.4:22-24; Col.3:9; 1Thes.4:4). You desire to be a good witness for Christ to all around you, and so you should (Phil.2:14-16). You want to make a difference for Christ through ministering to others, and so you should (2Tim.1:6; cf. Gal.6:6-10). All of these motivations respond to our Christian responsibilities so that this is not so much a question of the truth of scripture as it is an application of that truth.

On this score I do have something to say. If there is one thing that I have learned from observation and experience in life issues that require self-discipline and persistent application (i.e., whatever it may be that requires us to modify our behavior and become consistent in our approach), it is that one day, one time, one shot pronouncements or dedications or dramatic acts of commitment almost never work (and I am not that sure about the "almost" here). If a person wants to do anything difficult in the secular realm (like lose weight, write a novel, become a Marathon runner, get a promotion at work, stop smoking, stop swearing, stop speeding – this is an endless list), then in all such things it will require a long, hard, difficult and determined application of will-power over many days, and weeks, and months and often years to accomplish. The very fact that a person wants to do (or stop doing) any particular behavior or course of action but is nonetheless not yet doing it means ipso facto that this particular thing is very hard for that person. And if it is a very hard thing, it is not going to be an obstacle overcome overnight. No "New Year's resolution" will be sufficient to meet the challenge. What will be necessary is the development of a determined attitude to change one's priorities in a fundamental way and to suffer through whatever pain and trouble may come in order to surmount the obstacles. Inevitably, moreover, there will be setbacks. Since this objective, whatever it is, is difficult, by definition the forces ranged against accomplishment will counterattack. In the case of Christians, this is no mere metaphor. The devil and his minions are not just going to sit idly by and allow a Christian to dump some bad behavior that is holding him/her back or adopt a good behavior that will contribute to his/her spiritual growth and help others as well. All such "hard things" involve a fight, and fights of this nature are never pretty, never quick, and never clean.

From a practical point of view, this is why I personally would be nervous about such a "commitment tattoo" in my own case. Because I know enough about human nature and enough about myself to be able to say that it is a stone cold fact that anything that would be so challenging as to motivate me do something like this would be sure to initiate a battle of the sort that would in turn inevitably result in counter-attacks and set-backs. Every time I failed and looked at it, it would be a reproach and a hit to my morale at precisely the time when I would most likely need a morale boost. Speaking personally again, better in my own case to do something along these lines after victory was secure than while it still hung in the balance (and since no victory is ever unchallenged as long as we are alive, I tend to shy away from such things altogether).

Of course, every person's character and heart and personality and experience are different. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. It's just that in my experience and observation, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of tattoos, this kind of thing never seems to produce the intended result, and is often counter-productive for the reasons advanced above. I had a seminary professor who quipped one time "Every time I get cut off on the freeway it seems it's by a car with an Ichthys bumper sticker". I have thought about that a lot, and my own personal conclusion on the subject has been that it is far better to live such a good Christian life that people will be impressed by your conduct than it is to advertise your Christianity via earthly means and invite scrutiny of your imperfections. Personally, I find the challenge and opportunity of the former more motivating than the inevitable reproach of the latter. That is just my personal opinion – but on this point I do believe I have the Spirit of God:

Keep your manner of life among the gentiles (i.e., unbelievers) [morally] good, so that when they slander you as evil-doers they may [yet] give glory to God when they look upon your good works (i.e., life and production).
1st Peter 2:12

I won't tell you outright whether or not to do this (that is between you and the Lord). But I do want to say in conclusion that while you may feel you are in a "bottomless rut", in fact God's timing is perfect. Abraham waited many years for the heir of promise, and Joseph waited a very long time to get out of prison. In every Christian life there are times of waiting wherein a crucial part of the test is learning to trust the Lord that even when we think things will never change, the day will indeed arrive when He changes everything for us for good. I have seen it with my own eyes, and I can tell you absolutely that God is faithful, that He answers prayer, and that if you wait for Him, you will definitely not be disappointed. You may have to wait a bit longer, but He will deliver you if you continue to put your trust and hope in Him. Keep doing the good things you are doing, and keep resisting the devil "to the point of blood" (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). This life is often not pretty for us Christians in the way that the world defines beauty, but nothing is more beautiful to the Lord than one of His children continuing to fight the good fight of faith day by day and combat by combat in total despite of the things that the world finds pleasant and important. In so doing I know that you will find answers to all of your questions and solutions to all of your problems, even if they take some time to come and come with a good measure of blood, sweat and tears.

I hope this helps with your question. Here are a couple of other links from the site regarding the issue of tattoos in particular (you have probably already seen them, but I've linked them here just in case):

Three Questions about Tattoos and Salvation.

Body Marking in the Bible.

Body Piercing

The Bible as "divine", roof prayer, and tattoos.

The Christian walk and tattoos

More on Tattoos

Tattoos and Body Piercing

Thank you for your good words of support.

In Him who will write His Name upon us on that glorious day (Rev.3:12), and will wipe away all of our tears (Rev.7:17), our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:

What would you say should be the main priorities of woman who is a wife with small children? I guess it's sort of a hypothetical question, and I mean to be asking it in the context of that the husband is saved and actively wanting to follow God. I've been giving this question a lot of thought and talking about it with friends of mine. One is reading a book that puts the priorities in this way: 1. Fellowship with God 2. Husband 3. Children 4. Soul Winning . Would you add or take away or change the order of this list?

Response #2: 

Pleasing Jesus Christ should be our number one priority, and I am happy to affirm this unequivocally. However, I would have to say that the idea of prioritizing our life-emphases on a list is probably not a very good one. As far as memory serves, the Bible doesn't do this sort of thing (scripture says rather that love, for God and for everyone else, encapsulates all other commands: Matt.22:34-40). If we are supposed to be doing something, then we should do it, never mind how we would "rank" our priorities. Overtly prioritizing such things and putting them onto a "ranked" list almost guarantees that we are going to leave out the stuff on the bottom. To my mind all such lists do is to give us a rationale (read, "excuse") for why it is we are leaving stuff out we should be doing (i.e., "it's not the top priority"). I can't think of any scripture, for example, that would give a married person an excuse not to do right by their spouse in any respect because "fellowship with God is my top priority". We are responsible to God to do a good job in our spiritual growth, our spiritual production, and in all of our earthly responsibilities. If we feel (and the feeling is correct: e.g., 1Cor.7:32-35), that if we get married we won't be able to do as well on the first two because of the increased load on us that marriage produces, then we should think twice before getting married; but if we do go on and get married, then we are not allowed to let anything for which we are responsible drop. If we do slack off on anything we are supposed to be doing, that may be understandable since we are only flesh and blood, but it is in my view a big mistake to give ourselves any wiggle room about the rightness or wrongness of slacking off on necessary things as being just a "different emphasis of priorities". God's priority is that we do all we are supposed to do, and if we are willing to follow Him with our entire heart I have no doubt that He is willing and able to give us all the resources, energy, wisdom and other help we need to fulfill all of duties to Him directly and indirectly (even if it often feels like we just can't keep up).

As a practical matter, the two main reasons we don't do everything well or completely as we should are 1) too many bad/selfish decisions/practices made on a day to day basis and 2) too many past bad/selfish decisions which have structured disadvantages and obstacles into our lives. For an extreme example of the latter, if we rob a liquor store and get sent to jail for three years, it will make it very difficult indeed to provide for our families physically or emotionally both during that time and afterwards. For a less extreme example of the former, if we spend four hours after work watching television and stuffing our faces, we will likely not have the time or energy we otherwise would have had for our nightly devotions. Life is all about making decisions, and, ideally, making good decisions in response to Jesus Christ. In my observation and experience, when we are falling short of the standards He sets and when we are being convicted of the same in our hearts by the Spirit's ministry, the problem is never that we have our list of necessary priorities ordered wrongly; rather it is always that we are doing now habitually or have in the past done something with lasting consequences that is putting pressure on our time, energy and resources to get done the things that God would have us do, namely, to grow spiritually and to help others do the same without letting down any of our secular and familial responsibilities in the process.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

I forwarded your response and got an almost entirely different view:

"If God is our top priority then why is the idea of prioritizing was probably a bad idea? When a woman marries and begins to have children, her emphasis on life necessarily shifts. The Bible tells us that we will be more concerned with our husbands. And that is a right thing. But that is not talking about putting our personal relationship with God below our husbands. If we have the proper relationship with God, all things will follow the way they should. A married lady is responsible to her hubby - God designed it that way, and he is her number one earthly priority. No other earthly relationship is as important, and the wife needs to understand that. If our relationship with our husbands is right, then all things in the family will follow the way they should. The next priority in a married lady's life is her children, if God has given any. As was mentioned in an earlier post, a woman's children are her ministry...but I would go a step further and say they are actually an extension of her ministry to her husband. But she is helpmeet to her husband, not her children. She is to put his desires and wishes above theirs. If that happens, things will follow the way they should. Disclaimer - this is supposing that both spouses are saved and seeking to serve the Lord. If the husband is not saved, it is still his wife's responsibility to make him her number one earthly priority, but since he's not saved, things will not always follow the way they would otherwise. So, priorities would be God, husband, children, and then anything else...within the bounds of what hubby allows. This is not a list, but a way of life. And if the relationship with God is as it should be, there will not be excuses or rationales for "letting something go." Any woman who has been married for any length of time will admit that there are things that just have to be "let go." Earthly responsibilities change when a woman marries - whether modern day woman wants to admit it or not! "Not allowed to let anything drop?" Where is that in the Bible? When a woman marries, she is to submit to her husband, and if he tells her to drop something, she's to do it pronto! When I got married, I was teaching school. Since there were just the two of us, everything was fine. Then along came the baby. And guess what...something had to go! What went? Not my baby, you can be sure! No - the teaching went. Does that mean we rationalized and made excuses? Nope - I was doing what my husband wanted, because he is my #1 earthly responsibility. He recognized that my #2 earthly responsibility was to our son, and he acted upon that. Actually God's priority is that we are to obey Him. And He requires different things from each of us. When a woman marries, her priorities are supposed to shift. If a person's relationship with God is their top priority, there will be no attempts at excuse to not do right by a spouse. When a woman marries, her priorities are shifted - by God's design! She is to submit to her husband over all else on earth. Your view is not consistent with Biblical principle here. There is a difference of priorities, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. The new husband has become earthly priority #1 - that in itself is a major lifestyle change, and a major shift in priorities. And God does not expect women to be Super Woman. He expects women to each individually do what He has called them to do...and when a woman is married, her calling is to her husband. Yes, God does give us all the resources, energy, wisdom and so forth to fulfill our duties to Him. But the resources, energy, wisdom, etc., is to focus in a different direction when a woman marries. If you decide to marry, you will find that indeed, things change. And for the better, if God has led in the marriage! Priorities will shift, without sin involved."

Response #3:    

Well, how should we prioritize the ten commandments? With the exception of the fourth, they are concerned with what not to do rather than what to do, but as James says, if a person prioritizes considering murder worse than adultery and stays away from murder but not adultery, that person is still a "law-breaker" because we are supposed to be obedient to the entire Law of God, not just to the parts we deem important (Jas.2:8). That is my essential criticism with this idea of prioritization. Now if thinking about these things in this way is helpful to someone, I won't kick about it much. However, as a teacher, part of my job is to anticipate how non-biblical "helps" of this sort may be abused as well as used, and to weigh out whether they may do more harm than good. Since I think that such "prioritizing" is unnecessary if a person is hearing what scripture is saying, to wit, that we need to fulfill all of our responsibilities, then forgetting about this idea won't possibly hurt. On the other hand, since in my estimation and observation of such things and also of what the Bible says about similar things (as in the James example) this sort of technique can be harmful for some people because it gives them a rationale to avoid some of their responsibilities, it seems best to me whenever asked advice on this score to call a spade a spade: this is a modern "self-help" non-biblical technique with the potential of doing much harm for very little "up-side". As in all things, we are free to make our own decisions for the Lord, so that, as I say, if a person wants individually to think about their life in this way and if it is indeed a help for them individually, then I have nothing to say. But when a person begins teaching this as something useful for every or at least for many Christians, when they begin to suggest it has a biblical basis, and when – and this is the truth-teller – they begin to make money off of the idea, I am not reluctant to voice my opinion.

As to the other e-mail, I don't find it confusing at all. Seems to me we are all saying the same thing. The wife's duties to her husband and the husband's duties to his wife are clearly spelled out in the New Testament, and our collective duties to the Lord are also very clearly spelled out. When I talk about not "letting things drop", I am talking about our responsibilities as Christians, whether in the home or out, whether in our direct relationship with the Lord or everything else that is indirect, whether for growth or for production. There are certain basic levels of "functionality" which if we fall below them we will be guilty of not carrying out our duty to the Lord. In the parable of the talents, for example, one servant gained five others, one gained two. Both were rewarded, although clearly in this parable they had comparable resources and did not achieve the precise same results. So some of us will do more with what we have; some of us will do less and yet still fulfill our duty acceptably. What we don't want is to be like the fellow who buried his talent – he is a case of someone who failed in his responsibilities to the Lord. As a teacher, I can tell you that not all students are equally well endowed to study Greek and Latin; not all have the same amount of free time, or the same amount of motivation, or the same amount of intelligence, etc. Yet all are judged by the same standards in my classes. Some do better (A+, A, A- etc.), some do less well (C+, C, C-), but there are always some who do not carry out their basic responsibilities at even a minimal level and as a result end up failing the course. Now if this had happened because they were "prioritizing physics", they have made a bad bargain by drawing up a priority list – not because it's a horrible thing per se, but because it is an open invitation to human nature to rationalize slacking off on the things you don't want to do.

In our discussion of a woman in marriage, such a person should be a good mother, a good wife, have a good relationship with the Lord, and produce a good amount of fruit for Him. If she does "excellent" instead of good in all four areas, that's great. If she does only "fair" in all four areas, well, at least she is fulfilling her responsibilities. But on no account is she permitted by the Bible to do a poor job in any of the areas. Just as in school where all subjects are important, if you are an A+ student in everything else, but consistently flunk out of math class, you will never graduate. And no one, not your teachers, not your principle, not your parents, not your prospective employers will be impressed by the argument that you were "prioritizing". Our priority as Christians should be to glorify our Lord in everything we do, and shoot for "excellent" in every sphere.

It is true that we all have to make choices. It is true that there will be many times when we choose to use this hour or that for one or the other of the four areas as we have demarcated them. However, God helping us, unless we have so befuddled our lives by a host of previous bad decisions, God will give us the means to do well in all areas – and then it is up to us to do so.

I am all for putting God first, as you should be well aware by now. However, I am not going to give myself or anyone else an excuse to slack off on other areas of responsibility by saying "well, I'm putting God first", because there is not doubt whatsoever from scripture that we are supposed to do an excellent job "as unto the Lord" in our work, and with our families, as well as in spiritual growth and production.

And all of these things are interrelated and truly inseparable. If we do our jobs and love our families "as unto the Lord", that will further spur us to draw closer to Him in all ways, and our resultant growth will make us better employees and better spouses/parents (not to mention that such spiritual growth is an essential ingredient for more effective and consistent ministry). Whereas, on the other hand, if we slack off in any one thing, it will negatively affect all of the others, souring our attitude and producing bad habits and sloppy applications.

So this is much ado about nothing. We need to do what we are responsible to do. If we do it with joy and responsiveness to the Lord, growing by grace and the knowledge of Him, we will do it better day by day and enjoy it more day by day, in spite of testing and tribulation. But if we are slack in our approach, the best we can hope for is bumping along at the status quo, while at worst we may fall into spiritual degeneration and apostasy.

Yes, let's put the Lord first always and in all things, even as we do all that He would have us to do at all times. We are imperfect and will never meet this standard perfectly, but let's not institutionalize a rationale that lets us neglect our spouses our children or our jobs because "we are putting the Lord first". That is the kind of thing people say when they read their Bibles on the job instead of doing the work they have contracted to do. Such approaches only dishonor Him and damage us.

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Ephesians 6:5-8 KJV

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
Colossians 3:22-25 KJV

In the One who is our all in every way, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

 A sister in Christ had asked several of us if I and others have asked God to show us His Glory (Exodus 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.). She had explained in her own personal experience how God had revealed His Glory to her through her trials of faith, and how they were such great treasures which are to awesome to describe in words. To me this would be different depending on one's stage of Christian growth, and some will recognize them as blessings rather than trials because of the growth they brought into their life. Do you agree?

Response #4:   

Clearly, what God did for Moses was absolutely unique. It is very rare in the history of the Church for God to actually manifest Himself directly in dreams or visions, how much less to speak to someone "face to face just as a man speaks with his friend" as He did with Moses (Ex.33:11). And what happened in Exodus 33 is even more remarkable and without precedent, so that it is hard to make comparisons. Now what you seem to be saying and, giving the benefit of the doubt, what your friend seems to be saying, is something along the lines of God working in a person's life in ways that let the person know that what is happening is "of God". On this I would certainly agree, and say that not only does spiritual growth produce differences in this regard, but any number of factors do so as well. God deals with each of us as individuals, loving us, and wanting our best, and knowing each of us intimately so that it is no surprise that every thing He does for us is perfectly tailored to us individually. As people of faith, we love Him, even though we do not see Him (1Pet.1:8) – so great is the manifestation of His glory through the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

I wanted to know what you think about this article.

http://www.sermonnotebook.org/old%20tes ... _12-23.htm

Do we experience the Glory of God whenever we wake up and look out to see the dawn of a new day? or the joy of experiencing a childbirth, or the Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, where 7 states can be viewed in one glance. Or hurricanes which is the movement of God...is this the awesome power of God's glory? what do you think?

Response #5: 

I scanned over the file. This seems like a pretty typical sermon of the sort they were big on in seminary (outline, alliteration, tricola, etc.), of course without all the time-consuming (and essentially pointless) illustrations and stories. I think I might have mentioned that I'm not big on sermons. They are rhetorical compositions designed to entertain and provoke emotional response, not to teach (nowadays they generally have very little if any true content). Inevitably they seem to raise more questions than they answer (a good thing in philosophy, perhaps, but not in the Church of Christ). I have never gotten anything at all out of sermons and, as I probably have already said, their substitution for the entire teaching component of most ministries has done the church-visible immeasurable harm in my view.

Without question, God makes Himself known by what He has made (Rom.1:18-21; cf. Ps.19). For unbelievers, this is a signal for them to acknowledge and turn to Him. For believers, the wonders of the creation are a constant reminder of who He is. Since "who He is" is alternatively described in scripture as His "glory", that is, the amazing revelation of the fullness of God, to the extent that we appreciate Him from the things you list, to that extent we appreciate a small measure of His glory. But as wonderful as sunsets are, and as emotional as we may get watching them, they can't compare to the smallest bit of truth in the Word of God and the joy of knowing the deep things of Him that come forth from the diligent study and teaching of the Bible.

In the glorious One Himself, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #6:   

Hi Dr. Luginbill:

Do you think pursuing help from doctors when we are ill is an indication of a lack of faith? Should we instead rely on God to heal us, or lessen our pain, if that is His will? I must admit that my first thoughts when I am ill, or when one of my children spikes a fever, are those of doctor visits and OTC medications. I try to remember to pray first – before doing anything else. Sometimes, though, I think that if my faith were real, I would go no further than praying. Does scripture shed any light on this?

Response #6:    

I think you have hit the nail right on the head with your own comments. It is really more a matter of our attitude than our specific actions. Life today requires means. When Jesus sent out the 72 and the 12 to herald His approach to Jerusalem, they were told not to take anything with them for the journey; but in His final instructions to His soon-to-be apostles He told them to take with them all the means of life (Lk.22:35-36). We have legitimate needs in this life, and since the gift of healing was apparently an apostolic and transitional gift which is no longer functional today, it would be a strange thing if believers were to be prohibited from seeking medical attention when in need. Certainly, Jesus commends the good Samaritan for bandaging the wounds of the man who fell in with robbers. We are not prohibited from doing common sense things for the sake of our health and survival, including getting necessary medical attention, and would in such clear instances be in the wrong if we decided to just "let God do it" while, for example, we let someone we loved bleed to death.

The real question, as I say – and as you correctly intimate – is just how much we should get emotionally involved in the earthly solutions. Just as in a job or a relationship or any other sphere of human life we do what we are responsible to do but then we put our trust in God to do all that is beyond our power and our ken, so should our attitude be in medical issues. Getting worried rather than trusting God; putting more faith in medicine or doctors or procedures than we do in Him; or seeking our own will in such matters instead of His are all examples of misuses of medical attention where the problem is not with the help we are seeking to receive but with our attitude of heart in the process of seeking it. We know that God can heal us. We also know that we are not meant to live forever in these earthly shells. We know that He understands all of our needs and is fully aware of the pressure that bodily illness puts on our hearts (cf. the book of Job). We also know that He is all sufficient for all of these needs. I very much like your approach of "prayer and bandages". We know that it is God who gives us the bandages; and we also know that without His healing power they would do no good whatsoever. So it is with all other medical attention. Paul who had more confidence in the power of God than any man living advised Timothy to get some OTC help for his "frequent infirmities" even as he clearly understood that this was an immediate means provided by God that would require supernatural and invisible means to be truly effective (1Tim.5:23).

Therefore it would seem to me that in such matters we want to do exactly as you intimate: 1) not foolishly omit necessary and available earthly means, but do whatever it is our reasonable responsibility to do; and 2) not trust in those earthly means, but recognize and have faith that it is really God who is putting the power behind everything we do or is done for us in this life. King Asa is reproved not for seeking medical help but because "in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians" (2Chron.16:12; NIV).

That said, an additional application is for us to have the right perspective about modern medicine. It's not magic, and the men and women who practice it are not "gods". We are not going to get sick unless He allows it (it may be testing, again as in the case of Job), and we are not going to get well until God decrees it (and nothing is beyond His power; certainly not small things like our ailments). Therefore it would be very much like selling our birthright for a mess of pottage like Esau did for us to get involved in medical procedures that we feel are "over the top" or "wrong" for whatever reason. God is perfectly capable of taking care of us when we opt out of questionable procedures if the "procedure" or solution that is being offered offends our faith or our conscience (and medical technology is becoming more bizarre and hubristic every day). Where one draws the line on such things is and must remain a personal decision – what the believer believes and what God thinks are what counts, not what I might write (I have in mind a number of "heroic procedures" as they are sometimes called to which I cannot imagine myself being a willing party – I am not so eager to remain on this planet if it takes doing anything that compromises my faith). After all, as long as we are committed to doing things His way, following Jesus and helping others to do the same, we are going to be around just as long as He wants – not a day longer or a day less.

Here are some links that address different aspects of this question:

Satan's world system: economics and technology

Are Miraculous Gifts Operational Today?

In the One who carried all our sins and healed all our diseases, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Here some thoughts in favor of signing up for offers for credit card insurance, various programs, etc. 1.) They sent them to me, so they want me to sign up for them. 2.) If I signed up before, and sign up a second time, they sent the offer to me the second time, and they have power to keep me from signing up again if they don't want me to. 3.) The companies make money from exploiting people, so I don't mind making them lose money. 4.) Perhaps when they sign me up again, I will really discover how great the product is and keep it. 5.) If it is not sinful, it is good stewardship to get the extra money.

Thoughts against offers: I would like to know if you think my analysis of this is correct or not. While I was on the phone trying to get a $25 bonus from ________, a service I have signed up for before and cancelled (probably around three times), I was troubled about whether it was right to get the bonus or not. I thought about Romans 12:17: "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men." The word honest is "beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable." I clicked on the verse for cross-references, and came across "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men" (1 Thess. 5:15). This verse seems to me to relate to the statement, "but they keep marketing these products to you, so you can sign up again and again, even though you know you will cancel them." That may be evil on their part, but whatever it is on their part, and whether or not the service they provide is junk or a ripoff ("evil,") that does not mean that I can render them evil, so if it is not right to keep signing up like this, then I cannot use their actions to justify it. 1 Corinthians 13:5 reads, "[Charity] doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." It is hard to see how this is not "unseemly" action. 2 Corinthians 8:21 reads, "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." The word honest is the same as in Romans 12:17. Philippians 4:8 reads, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." It is hard to see signing up with the intention to cancel, something I had already done before a number of times, as true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. The next verse is, "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:9). I can't see Paul doing this. For that matter, I can't see the Lord Jesus doing it - no way. 1Thessalonians 4:12 reads, "That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." Here honestly is decently, in a seemly manner." This is not decent and seemly. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 reads, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." The first listed meaning for this word for appearance is "the external or outward appearance, form figure, shape." Signing up over and over again is at least an outward appearance of evil, from which we are commanded to abstain. Therefore acting in this manner is sinful, and it should immediately cease. Another (related) issue is the matter of time; it takes time to get these bonuses and cancel, and that time would be better spent on something that is actually honorable, instead of talking to supervisor X about situation Y. "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

If the above analysis is correct, and repentance leads one to want to make things right, I would need to do something to rectify the financial gain obtained by sinfully signing up for these bonuses over and over again. (Compare the situations in the Old Testament where restitution was to be made). I don't think the companies would take their money back - they would not even begin to understand why I was going to do it. What I could do is return an equivalent to the Lord's church, on the analogy, as I recall, of the trespass offering. I don't think that signing up the first time was sinful; they wanted me to, after all, although, of course, they didn't want me to cancel. But doing it again, knowing that I intended to cancel, would be sinful. (I don't think that there is an equivalent analogy for maxing out credit cards, for that is simply borrowing money and putting it in the bank, a completely different sort of action. Bank bonuses should be thought through.). I am not sure exactly how much has come in from doing these things/ Furthermore, "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22), so above all we need the Lord's blessing for financial well being - and even if we were not to get anything out of it materially, we still need His blessing above all things. I appreciate any help or comments from you. Thanks in advance!

Response #7:   

This seems to me to be an area of personal application. It wouldn't occur to me to remonstrate with someone who is doing this. On the one hand, it sounds to me as if you are doing at least $25 worth of work in this process (and taking at least that much risk, since, if memory serves, if anything gets in the way of a timely cancellation it will cost you more than this); also the company could be argued to be getting its money's worth since they know in advance very well that many people are following this same rationale, but are counting on 1) some people forgetting to cancel, and 2) some people actually deciding as a result that the service is right for them after experiencing it. Since life is uncertain and you can't be sure you don't fall into either camp, it is entirely possible that they will get the better of the bargain before all is said and done. And I guarantee you that they have had professional "bean counters" run the probabilities based on much past experience and have set the price very carefully as a result (i.e., $25 is enough to get enough people to do it who are of the proper sort so that as a statistical pool they will make them money in the long run). In my own life experience, similar situations (like using "coupons" for example) have shown me that it takes a very disciplined "player" to come out of this game ahead over the course of a normal life-time. The vast majority will, sooner or later, buy something they really don't need, or be on vacation and forget to cancel, or, or, or. Bottom line: I don't see much to worry about.

On the other hand, if your conscience is bothering you about it for whatever reason, it seems to me that for $25 you could avoid having to feel you need to justify this action by forgetting about it entirely. From the length of this e-mail and the time you have devoted to the issue, it seems to me that you could be better spending your time and energies, and sleep better as a result too. This is, in my experience, often the way the Spirit deals with such issues, namely, forcing us through our consciences to run through such elaborate rationales that in the end we learn from the experience to distinguish right from wrong easily and quickly, and avoid all such potential traps in the future.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14 NIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:

My friend wears a ring on her finger because she says that it makes her feel safe when she leaves the house (she has panic attacks). The ring is a portion from the bible which reads "fear not." Do we need such totems to remind us of God's protection? and does this passage suggest "things" which can remind us of God's Word.

Nu:15:37: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Nu:15:38: Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:

Nu:15:39: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:

Nu:15:40: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.

Nu:15:41: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.

Response #8: 

This sort of thing is not my personal "cup of tea", but it's not something I would try to use scripture to rule out either. You certainly have a good parallel from the Law. In my view, however, the rituals of the Law have been superseded by the reality of Jesus Christ come in the flesh and the realized promise of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers. I find that concentrating on the spiritual realities and the truth of scripture is far better than falling back on rituals of any sort (especially ones we make up ourselves). There is a trend in the church visible today to bring back Roman Catholic rituals by the bushel and also to invent new ones. I don't think that it is an accident that this trend is going hand in hand with less interest in or focus on the Bible and Bible teaching. However, what a person does find personally positive and helpful in their walk with the Lord is not something I would feel constrained to comment on (as long as it is sanctified of course). We all have our quirks, our blind spots, and our imperfections of application – but being judgmental about the perceived shortcomings of others is a very common imperfection that can be worse than all such minor oddities put together.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

I visited your site. A friend of mines said that it should never be acceptable for a woman to have short hair...the Bible says it is wrong so therefore that cuts across all cultures. What do you think?

Response #9:    

I certainly agree with the premise that whatever the Bible says is what we should believe and do. I would also agree that using the principle of "cultural differences" as a basis for turning what the Bible says on its head is also wrong. That, however, is really something different from a situation where we are (erroneously) projecting our own cultural understanding of present day circumstances or our own institutions and traditions backwards on the cultures of Bible times, and are thus mis-understanding entirely what they were doing or saying as a result. In such cases, we are in fact mis-interpreting what the Bible has to say. There is a little bit of that in this issue you ask about, and also a good deal of mistranslation in the versions – or at least misleading translation based upon misunderstanding of the circumstances involved. After all, the Bible is written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and we have to make any number of interpretative decisions when we translate any passage into English. If we fail to understand precisely what the passage means, it cannot help but to negatively affect our translation. The key thing about 1st Corinthians 11 is the back story of why Paul is castigating the Corinthian congregation on this topic in the first place. Many people think that Paul is talking about "hats", but as I have tried to explain a number of times before (see the link "Hats of Hair?"), that is simply not the case (as his closing remarks which are all about hair and nothing about hats ought to make clear: 1Cor.11:14-15). A large part of the problem (though not the only issue; see below) seems to have been (as explained in the link) the Corinthian continuation of the pagan practice of disheveling the hair as a sign of mourning.

The next step in understanding this passage is to figure out why in the world the woman of Corinth might have "short hair" at all. Roman fashion of the times tended to elaborate coiffures, and, as far as I am aware, the custom of short, female hair styles of the type somewhat common in this country today was virtually unknown. Mind you, it was not that there was any cultural prejudice or legal injunction against them, but rather they just didn't seem to exist. Like mens' "pants", this was a style whose day had not yet come (and this is the best way to explain Paul's comment that long hair on women is a "natural thing" – i.e., what else would you expect?; 1Cor.11:14). So why would the women of Corinth not have followed the universal pattern of the ancient world in wearing their hair long? The answer is that indeed they did, but there was apparently another particular abuse that was creeping into the church there, and that was the adoption of the practice of having the head shaved in conjunction with the taking of vows (cf. Acts 18:18; 21:24), although the precise practice in Corinth as we know from verses 4-6 was, in the case of women, merely cutting off the normally long hair (i.e., cutting it close to the head but not shearing it to the scalp [like a crew cut] or shaving the scalp – though the idea is the same, namely, the vow holds until the hair grows back).

Now totally apart from the fact that such legalistic rituals do more harm than good, it was still true that the gentiles in these mixed Jewish-gentile congregations in Greece (some of whom had been proselytes of Judaism even before accepting Christ) were attracted by many now outmoded Jewish practices (e.g., circumcision, water-baptism, abstention from various foods, etc.). Paul always put the gospel of Jesus Christ first and attempted to be "all things" to all people whenever possible, not making an issue of things which were of far less importance than salvation, spiritual growth, and the peace and unity of the community of believers. However, whenever certain behaviors got to the point of violating important principles of faith and practice, Paul had no trouble drawing the line (and as this is in the Bible, we know that the Spirit has validated his interpretation). The participation of women in the practice of head-shaving in vow-taking was something that not even Judaism permitted, and something that Paul was not going to allow to get a foothold in the Corinthian church. Being fundamentally opposed to legalism both by inclination and bitter experience, Paul clearly saw this and other superseded Jewish practices as necessary evils to be endured only until the message of grace could permeate the Church. They needed to be discouraged on occasion (cf. 1Cor.1:17), and directly opposed when they clearly began to exceed their limited, transitional function, or were entirely out of bounds under any view (as in the case of head-shearing for vow-taking which was never authorized for women; cf. Gal.5:12).

So it does indeed say in 1st Corinthians 11 that a woman should cover her head (i.e., not cut off her hair). However, it does not say outright that a woman should not have short hair, but rather that her hair is given to her by God as a covering and that this is "a glory for her" (v.15). This certainly does encourage longer hair and discourage abnormally short hair, but that begs the questions (since the word "short" isn't actually used in the context) of "how short is too short?" and conversely "how long is long enough?". The thing that I would ask everyone to bear in mind here is that the reason this practice of cutting the hair close to the scalp is being discouraged is because of its association with a dangerous legalistic practice that is not today in vogue. In other words, the reason for doing this was at least as important as the fact of doing it. Without the reason behind it (i.e., of making an overt sign of taking a vow), then the fact of getting an abnormally short haircut loses much of its negative punch. Paul puts the actual fact of hair length in the end of this section in just the opposite way of what we might expect if were are wrongly preoccupied with the issue of length by emphasizing that long hair is a good thing for a woman (and not the other way around by saying that short hair is a bad thing). The word which Paul uses to characterize the "short hair" in question in the early part of this passage in calling a woman so coiffured (if we can use that word in the case of someone who has taken scissors and cut all her hair off) is "uncovered" so that "uncovered" is the biblical standard of what is to be avoided. A woman who has obviously defiled her head by tearing her hair in mourning or a woman who has cut off all her hair in an imitation of Jewish male ritual practice would certainly fit into this negative category. How short would be too short today is, of course, a matter of interpretation. It seems to me that a shaved head or a crew cut would probably fall into the category of a woman clearly going against the natural "covering" about which the Bible speaks, especially if she has adopted such a style to "make a point". Beyond this I would be very reluctant to get in between any person's conscience and whatever the Holy Spirit may be directing them to do or not to do.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In the One who counts every hair on our heads, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

 I was discussing modesty and how tradition or customs plays a part in it. A friend had told me that those who believe women should be in only dresses believe so because of modesty verses and those that disagree don't believe that they are Biblically immodest. I was thinking it has more to do with pants being mens clothing. If a man puts on a dress everyone agrees that would be cross-dressing... But not if a woman wears pants... All male clothes are incorrectly considered gender neutral by many now. What do you think?

Response #10:   

I think you are indeed correct. While there are some definite biblical standards in this regard, particular types and styles of clothing are a different story. For example, had we grown up in Scotland 500 years ago, wearing a dress (i.e., a kilt) was considered a very manly thing (and some Scots still wear it on occasion). In the time of our Lord Jesus, the only people of whom we know who wore "pants" were barbarians. Nowadays, I rarely see women on campus in dresses (they are by far the exception rather than the rule).

However, in Deut.22:5 it clearly states that "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this" (NIV). So there are clear expectations with which virtually all reasonable people would agree at any point in time and in any culture about what constitutes clothing that is appropriate only for one sex. Christians should most definitely steer clear of wearing clothing that unquestionably belongs exclusively to the opposite sex as defined by their own times and mores. Beyond that, it is also true that one's conscience may keep a person from wearing clothing that may be borderline permissible. Where to draw that line is for the most part between the individual Christian and the Lord (except in cases where the person is deliberately making an issue of him/herself in the local assembly). One thing we don't want to do is to make it a practice to adopt someone else's non-biblical standards, especially where these are out of touch with the normal patterns of our own culture, just because we are afraid of their legalistic bullying.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Do you know who brought the celebration of Christmas to America? I've been told that Baptists had brought it to America.

Response #11:   

The social custom of celebrating the Christmas holiday is universal within Christian denominations, beginning with the Roman Catholic church (which had members here in the U.S. from the 17th century). So I can't imagine a scenario where it wouldn't have been here pretty much right from the start. As I understand things, however, making a "big deal" out of the holiday was pretty much an American development and in particular an invention Washington Irving's. Dickens, greatly influenced by Irving's work, produced "A Christmas Carol" which re-influenced us in the states to make an ever bigger "to-do" about the holiday. But the celebration of it of course goes back to the early middle ages at least.

In Jesus whom we ought to celebrate every day.

Bob L.

 

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