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Mutual Encouragement in Christ V: Soldiers of the Cross

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Question #1:  

Hello Professor,

I wrote to __ and she responded; we can stay in touch now.

I appreciate your birthday greetings, Professor, as everything else. And I mean this from my heart. I have met few believers since I have become one and so the understanding when it comes to the things most important is only developed with the precious few.

This period of settling in is taking long. It has the outward aspect of it, which has been time consuming and difficult, but it's the inward, spiritual part which is the most important. I know it's time to overcome the things which have been a hindrance or have grown to become a hindrance, particularly in the past couple of years. This is difficult too. Your prayers are greatly appreciated and needed.

In our Lord,

Response #1: 

Thank you!

I appreciate your spirit and your good words – and thanks for helping our friend. If you don't mind, I may have more "R.C. refugees" to send your way in future.

I'm very happy that you have a good new place where peace and effective study will be possible, even if it is taking a moment to get it all sorted out. Nothing is ever perfect in this life. There is no "finish line" where we can relax and rest on our laurels, not until we see the Lord face to face. So we always do have to keep in mind that things will "swirl" in this world, and that everything good is only good because it comes from Him and has no security except what He provides for it; and everything which is otherwise cannot destroy us, even if it can annoy us and test us, because He will keep us safe for as long as He wants us here. Between those two truths, it is possible to get things done and have some satisfaction in the doing of them, and enjoy the respites our Lord provides.

Here's hoping that you have a fitting birthday celebration, my friend.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

I have had many failures of faith and moments of sin that I am ashamed of. How do I know if indeed I am capable of spiritual growth? Maybe I am not a spiritual infant, but I feel like I may be one of the spiritually "developmentally disabled."

"And He said to them, 'O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.' "(Luke 24:25)

I am foolish and slow of heart. So how can I enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

We all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2), and I think you know the Bible well enough to understand that even the really great believers were imperfect. The mark of a believer who is truly a warrior for Jesus Christ is spiritual resiliency, the ability and the willingness to keep getting back up and back on the road forward after a stumble, boldly and deliberately "forgetting what lies behind" and moving forward in personal growth and production for the Lord (Phil.3:13).

A little humility is a good thing. Taking it to the point of self-loathing is unprofitable. And Christ died for all our sins, large and small, ignorant and arrogant. So at some point failing to embrace that forgiveness with joy is also a problem. David always did that as his Psalms attest and God loved him for it. You are fighting the good fight. My advice is to keep it up and don't let momentary lapses of whatever nature slow you down. Objectively speaking, it makes no sense since brooding over failures only prevents growth, progress and production; and to be absolutely honest about it most people tend to be very upset about some things and not concerned at all about others which in God's eyes are just as bad . . . and just as forgiven.

I'm sure that the Lord has a very specific plan to use you and your gifts and your willingness to prepare – so that in the end not only will you "get in", but your reward in the kingdom will be great indeed.

Looking forward to cheering for you on that great day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Brother Bob,

I thank you much for your needed prayers. I know the prayers of the righteous availeth much. Things are getting better. I can't remember if I told you about my new business but God completely turn things around and I have been busier than ever like over night. I almost thought I had to give it up because I couldn't afford to take a lost and still maintain my regular bills, but God gave me favor with a Christian women who works for a large company, and she said it was just something about me and she said she could feel Holy Spirit leading her to help me immediately. Praise God for that! I've been busy almost none stop since 2 weeks ago. I will be in position to hire a few people next month already. Look at God!

Now with that being said, I have been giving the God the glory and using my travel time to pray more, but I still know I need to make time to study his word. I know the word of God is the bread of life and I need it daily. So though I happy about the business, I still feel like I'm neglecting my daily duty which I am. See with running this business by myself and handling all of the paper work at work at night, I'm completely wiped out. And sometimes I have to be up by 4:00am and get ready.

I understand I must find that balance, so please continue to pray for me that I find the know how and strength to do just that. I'm going to try to study what you sent me and down load it to my iPad, so when I'm waiting I can study it in between.

Again, I really appreciate your prayers and your encouragement. Even though I allow the lack of time/mismanagement of time get the best of me, I still remember to include you in my daily prayers as well.

God bless you my friend!

Your friend in Jesus,

Response #3: 

It's great to hear from you, my friend! And it's great to learn that the Lord has blessed and delivered you. I know exactly what you mean about pressures of time and multiple responsibilities. The Lord has wrought great deliverance in my life too – for which I am deeply grateful. That has meant more time needs to be devoted to the source of the extra income that has warded off disaster, however. I have found that if I keep "first things first", it generally works out well. It has meant that I don't always spend as much time on my university job or on my secondary areas of responsibility (or on other issues such as relationships, personal administration, yard work, cleaning, etc.) as I would do in a perfect world, but the Lord has provided enough also in terms of time and energy to keep it all afloat . . . and still have time for the most important things: prayer, Bible study, and of course this ministry. Most serious Christians I know who are trying to do all that the Lord wants them to do have similar issues – it's just a matter of degrees as to how much pressure there is on any of these fronts. So there is always the challenge to keep our priorities straight in the face of competing demands on our resources. Finding that balance can take a minute. It sounds to me as if you are not only approaching this "good problem" in a godly way, but are also making good progress in solving it. And I have also found that it often turns out that we end up doing more and doing it better under such circumstances than we would if we suddenly found our time completely liberated. God certainly knows what He is doing!

I will most certainly continue to keep you in prayer, my friend – and thank you so much for yours! They make a big difference. I have recently had health issues that were not getting properly addressed medically (in my opinion; of course I'm not that kind of a Dr.), but just lately they have been mostly clearing up and some of the worst seem to be on the verge of disappearing. So thank you again for your consistency in bearing with me in prayer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Dear Professor,

Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.

It is always refreshing to hear from you - thank you very much for informing me of the new study posting. Needless to say, I very much look forward to going through this, particularly given the impending times and imminence of the tribulation. I have been keeping you and your ministry in my prayers day by day, even though it’s been a while since I have been in contact. In particular, I have been praying for increased diligence and productivity in completing the pending studies. During this time I notice that you have completed the recent Peter Series and now Eschatology - all praise be to God!

As to my current progress, I am now on Part 4 of Satanic Rebellion Series. In recent months I have steadily been making more progress and refining that much desired routine (still a long way to go). The last month or two have been extremely hectic having had to move location and find accommodation, whilst also having to contend with challenging circumstances in my job and also adhering to academic commitment. Through the Lord’s grace, He has brought about a great deliverance for me. When things were looking helpless, the Lord provided me with my own place at just the right time. This was a good test for my faith, and a much needed one at that (Matthew 6:33). It taught me the importance of application: applying whatever truth had been inoculated into my heart; the synchronic moment-by-moment choosing to be filled with the Spirit in pressured circumstances; choosing to believe not what my eyes see and ears can hear, but what I believe through faith through supernatural revelation, adopting the divine perspective which the world considers foolish.

I realise how gracious a provision this has been - I have everything I need to be able to study in peace. It is the type of place my heart has been craving (quiet, country side, hardly any traffic). There are no excuses and I know much will be expected of me on that great Day (Luke 12:48b). Recently, things at work have been getting more challenging. I haven’t faced it before, but it seems like the opposition is slowly mounting (which as Christians I know we are to fully expect). I have been finding it hard to "switch off" coming home from work and focusing back on the Word. Spending 8-9 hours amongst unbelievers seems to take its toll and it does take time for me to ‘reset’ and prepare my heart for the reception of truth. I find that these anxieties sometimes also interfere with my prayer - I hope that as I mature more I will be able to handle this better as it does frustrate me and is quite mentally draining. Having said this, reading Satanic Rebellion and how we really are sojourners in the devil’s realm has really helped me cope with these fiery arrows. What a joy it is to go through this wonderful series - I marvel at the truths contained in this series. Life without God is well and truly hopeless. Inevitably, the unbeliever places an inordinate amount of importance on this world, because it’s the only thing the unbeliever has. We, however, have a higher purpose. And it is to this we have been called, and it is this I have to keep reminding myself of. Transforming my thinking through the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

Our friend and I have now parted ways due to having a mutual desire to escape from the hustle and bustle of London, I find myself living on my own for the first time. Living with him was a true blessing. He challenged me to accelerate my spiritual growth. Witnessing his zeal for the Word and unshakeable commitment to ministry first hand is something that I will keep hold of for the rest of my life and use to fuel my own journey. Although this is undoubtedly a very loose comparison - If he was Paul, I was a young Timothy eagerly awaiting his instruction or word of encouragement. I would like to make it a point to keep regular contact with him and yourself, and Pastor Teacher Curtis Omo at Bible Academy. I feel that would keep me on course so to speak, reminding myself of my mission here as a follower of Christ and servant of God.

I am also keen not to keep in contact just for the sake of exchanging emails, but most importantly to delve deeper into the Word of God.

Lastly, whenever you get a chance would you kindly be able to change my email address? I have just recently transitioned from the previous email address.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #4: 

Wonderful to hear from you again, my friend! Apologies for the delay – busy weekend (and longer than usual posting – part of which is from you as you have probably noted).

Thank you so much for your prayers, my friend, and also for your enthusiasm for the Word of God. I keep you in my prayers too day by day. I'm very happy to hear that you have found a good place to live. I knew you were "in limbo" on that score so I have been praying for that as well. Always great to hear when things turn out. God is good.

Working in the world and maintaining a Christian perspective is indeed a difficult challenge and none of us probably gets it 100% right 100% of the time. The fact that you are actively engaged in the struggle is a great victory in and of itself. I am confident that you will find just the right balance as time goes forward and be able to do much for your own personal growth and progress and also in ministry in the future. It's no doubt never as much as we would like, but it is also a fact that we often get more done when we face such pressures than we would if there were no pressure at all. It is certainly the case that we only grow past a certain point by being tested.

I am sure you are missing our dear friend but I know that you can keep in touch with him by email – we have never met in the flesh but keep up a good correspondence and I feel I know him very well.

I have changed your email address in my "book" – thanks for letting me know.

Keep running your good race, my friend! I'll be very interested to hear what develops so please do keep in touch.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Have a great day doc! Please update me with your latest posts. I am so thankful or your prayers. Trials are still lingering, but at least things are getting better now than before.

Thank you so much again doc! More blessings to your ministry! God bless you!

In Christ Jesus Our Savior,

Response #5: 

Great to hear from you!

I am very glad to hear that things are improving, and greatly desirous of the time when you can report that the storm clouds have been completely blown away to reveal the rainbow of God's glory signifying His total deliverance.

I think the fact that you are able to express gratitude for the truth – which comes from Him entirely – even in the midst of residual trouble says much about your spiritual state and progress.

So keep up the good work and walk for Jesus Christ, my friend!

I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers daily.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Thank you so much doc Bob!

When two of my debts were paid, I immediately thought of your ministry that for sure you and company have been constantly been praying for people like me who are in serious trouble these days due to challenges in life. To that I am sincerely thankful. I am also praying for all of you doc Bob. Your ministry is truly a blessing.

In Jesus' Name things will be alright, til we meet Him!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #6: 

You and your positive attitude are a great encouragement to me!

Looking forward to hearing more good news from you in the months ahead.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

I am truly thankful for your ministry, which God has provided for me. If it so pleases the Lord, I only ask that I may have the same depth of knowledge you do regarding scripture.

Response #7: 

Thank you! You are certainly well on your way. The main thing is to get to the place spiritually as well as in terms of preparation to be able to carry out whatever specific ministry the Lord has for you. That's the way to eternal reward.

I'm very much looking forward to following your spiritual and ministerial career.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2nd Timothy 2:2 NASB

Your friend in Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello Professor,

I have just had a milestone birthday but not in a manner I hoped for or expected. I knew that I would not be ready to start a ministry at that age and the commencement of our Lord's teaching when He was 30 is an inimitable ideal. I also knew that the examples of such great believers as David who became king at this time of his life were also way beyond me.

Nevertheless, regardless of that it was a wonderful opportunity to start again and begin a new chapter. Those last few years I have been a believer have furnished me with all types of experiences, God has tested, delivered, disciplined, blessed. And I knew it was a milestone.

I was coaching at the time and the club made a very nice surprise for me, gave me a wonderful gift. There was a toast at lunch time for me and a speech given by one of the club's officials. I don't like such situations and don't feel easy in them, but I know they did it with a good intention.

In our Lord,

Response #8: 

(Belated) happy birthday again! But of course this is what I read in scripture:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
Romans 14:5 NIV

But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:10-11 NIV

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 NIV

It's nice to be remembered and appreciated by others: relax and enjoy it – even as you know in your heart of hearts that special days and milestones are really meaningless. Everyday is "the day that the Lord has made", and special in its own right. If on any day, including a big birthday, we do what we think we need to do to fulfill the many different responsibilities we have, that is just fine from a divine point of view. If we feel on any day that we haven't given enough time and effort to the Lord – it happens for all of us mortals – then we will try harder to keep priorities straight and elbow in what we can more on the next day, if God gives us another day. All the days down here are "evil" (Eph.5:16; Col.4:5; cf. Matt.6:34), but they are all also opportunities to grow, progress and produce for the Lord. So let me wish you a very happy "day after your birthday" and "day after that" and "after that" until we all meet together face to face with the Lord once we have put in our time on earth. We can be glad for every step of forward progress the Lord blesses us with – and set ourselves to doing better with the balancing act tomorrow, should it come. But there is never any point to worrying about or getting upset about yesterday. As I have often said, yesterday we were saved by the Lord who died for us yesterday – and that is the only yesterday that counts . . . and we ought be deliriously glad for that day as well.

"This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24 ESV

Don't let what's behind you slow you down in achieving what lies ahead.

Your very good friend in Jesus Christ who is our joy forever.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Professor,

I wanted to wish you a blessed year. I pray and hope that you are restored to full health as soon as possible and that you keep producing in your wonderful ministry.

As I'm writing this birthday message to you the words which come most easily to me are the words of gratitude. For bringing me to salvation and then tirelessly and patiently helping me grow through these five years. I said it before, but I can say it again - I owe you my very self (Philemon 1:9).

My birthday was only a few days ago and in this time when I've been now putting everything together as I'm now starting this new chapter, I know that I can start it because you have been helping me with scriptural wisdom throughout all this time, all these different trials.

Professor - may God give you all that you need to continue your inspirational walk, your ministry in which He is glorified.

In our Lord

Response #9: 

Thank you my friend!

And thanks too for your prayers!

Question #10:  

Dear Professor,

I just wanted to write you to wish you a very blessed birthday! How has your day been? I hope you can take some time out to celebrate with your loved ones. Though having said that I’m sure you will be eager to continue pressing forward with all the more haste in your ministry!

I wanted to take the opportunity on this special day to thank you for all the gracious teachings you provide not only to me, but also to all our brothers and sister in Christ. Your teachings have helped me discover the marvelous truths of God’s Word. You are a shining example to me in this dark cosmos. I count myself truly blessed to have you as my Bible teacher, my encourager, and above all, my friend. I also count it as a true privilege to even be able to correspond with you via email. It is indeed all to God’s glory.

You motivate me to persevere unto ministry, wherever and whatever that may be - the Lord knows all these things.

Thank you Professor. God has truly transformed my life using you and your ministry. May I encourage you to keep up the good fight of faith until the end, when we shall know as we are known.

Happy Birthday.

Response #10: 

Thanks so much!

I appreciate this very much, and also your prayers, my friend.

Looking forward to seeing you grow into ministry at the Lord's perfect time.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hello Bro Bob!

I'm so sorry for the late response. I did read this email when you sent it and I've been lifting you up in prayer daily every since I learned of your health issue that it completely disappears and that the Lord continues to encourage you the more day by day. I've been so busy running my business that I'm completely exhausted when I have some time to spare. I just reread your email and I greatly appreciate the wisdom you shared with me as I need to remind myself daily of it. I get so frustrated with myself because the things I need to do and want to do I don't do it, because I'm putting/speeding more time with the business and very little time with my Lord which I'm no doubt guilty of.

Everything you said is spot on regarding putting God first and everything else will work out. I truly do believe that because that's how I've pattern my life before the new struggle started. I must press and push myself into a daily routine and create a natural habit like I used to of making time to read and pray like I should even if it's a little bit. A little bit is better than nothing or here and there. I'm so tired of making excuses and not making changes, not tired like I feel like giving up, but I'm so tired of failing to do what I need to do.

I thank God for you brother Bob. Thank you for the prayers and the wisdom and knowledge you share which sends conviction and encouragement. Please continue to pray that the Lord gives me the strength and determination to get where I need to be in him. I know God doesn't make us do anything and gives free will, but I also know God refreshes us in the Spirit and light that fire back up when needed through of course obedience and being a doer of his word.

Please keep me posted with your health issue as I will continue to lift you up in prayer.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #11: 

Good to hear from you brother. My little "issue" is getting better – thanks for asking and thanks for your prayers! I hope you have healed up OK, and am praying for you and your business daily. There are certainly times when we do have to devote more to "the job" than at others, especially when we are just getting started with something. I was thinking about you earlier and how much you have sacrificed in trying to do what the Lord wanted – doing it His way even when that meant that most people didn't understand. We know very well how to attract a crowd the wrong way. Teaching the Word the right way is very difficult and, in this day and age of Laodicea, generally not well-received by many people. You played that hand to the end, and I know the Lord appreciates that. I think it is a great thing that you now have a chance to put the rest of your life on a stable footing, and I know that you will find the proper balance down the road. I'm also sure that there will be other opportunities for ministry down that good road too.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hello Professor,

Things are finally in a good shape. Of course, there is always something left to do, matters which are unfinished or not quite resolved. But I can now say that I have settled. Your prayers through this time really are greatly appreciated. It has been a journey and a spiritual one. Now that spiritually things are in order, and when I say "in order" I of course understand that the race and the battle take place daily, but there have been major disturbances present for a while.

Both your work and your health are in my prayers daily. As for your work, I have some limited experience as a teacher and know how time-consuming many of the aspects of this work are, particularly with the constantly increasing penchant for legalism and officiousness on part of educational institution, a tendency of which the inevitable, disastrous result is the time wasted on producing meaningless papers. I hope you are spared that as much as possible and that the work you do, while providing sustenance, occupies as little time as possible. I'm also very relieved to hear that your infection seems to be regressing now. I pray that this comes to an end as soon as possible and is not a nuisance in the mean time.

[many details regarding witnessing to friends and family omitted] Your prayers for all of them, Professor, will be much appreciated. I have often been writing to you for guidance, often shared the hardship of the tests I have been going through. So now it is only right that I share the joy with you also. As for me, things are well. In fact, I know they won't be like that for long, as we are not here for comfort. So the fact that there is for the first time some stability and peace I take as a time to prepare for whatever is round the corner. And at the same time, I'm slowly entering the production phase and I'm so grateful for all the provisions from God. And as for others - this is not my fruit, Professor, I'm merely an agent of the truth and teachings that you have laboured hard to present and these teachings are changing the lives of those who show openness to the truth.

Thank you very much for your answers and I'm looking forward to going through them all, as always. No problem about the editorial, only a very small contribution towards these wonderful studies.

In our Lord,

Response #12: 

I very pleased to hear so much good news, my friend! I have been and will continue to keep your friends and family in my prayers. Very encouraging report! Thanks so much for your prayers too. They do mean so very much to me.

I admire your courage and consistency. You are a great example and a great witness. If we all were as dedicated to sharing the truth with others as you are (I include myself here), the Church would be so much better off.

Thanks also for your very generous words. But we are all links in a chain, my friend. That is precisely what the Church is supposed to be as we each help each other build up the edifice which belongs to our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2nd Timothy 2:2 NKJV

Enjoy your holiday – you've certainly earned it!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hello Doctor,

How are you and your family holding up in the crazy year we're having?

My family and I are well ourselves. We found out that despite our miscarriage in February we are again pregnant and everything looks just right. My daughter is so much work, I'm very excited to have another boy, though she is so great to me, I couldn't handle another one I think.

I owe you an apology also. I once questioned your sources of news info and went so far as to imply that certain thinking is wrong, and I was way wrong. Please forgive my formerly arrogant tone.

I think if I were again political minded I'd have a different approach at this point. But I see the futility in either side as they're both "bought and paid for" clearly, and I still share your view in all things political.

Also, kudos on foreseeing Russia in Babylon's camp for the Tribulational wars soon to come! I was wondering how it would happen. I know throwing in my support like the world does with politicians will only cost some of my faith and that's just not going to happen. I can totally see how coming policies will really stoke the Babylon the US will soon be though also.

I'm still waiting for a chance to study deeper, but it is coming very slowly with all the work and kids to handle. That said, my wife and I get along better than ever and my kids are blooming in faith so it's not wasted.

I'm still keeping up with our friend overseas; he is able to study but only in the middle of night with his wife's phone as his has died. His son also needs prayer as he's sick, apparently anemic and has a low red blood cell count. Please pray our brother and his son are ok.

Once again thank you for all you do.

In our Lord,

Response #13: 

It's good to hear from you, my friend! I hope your business is going well. I pray for you and your business partner (and your family) daily. Felicitations on your good news as well!

As to "at this point" etc., let me assure you that I am not even registered to vote! I'm not a member of (or advocate for) any party, and as you attest later on I always advise all believers to stay out of politics entirely. We are entirely incapable of predicting how this or that candidate will play into this or that strategy of the devil. Suffice it to say that just like the super-rich always hedge their bets and have their hooks into anyone who runs for important national office, we can be sure that the devil does the same thing. Everything we see here in this world has one thing in common: there is no solution . . . in this life. Only our Lord is capable of solving things, so that things are likely to go from bad to worse (by whatever standard of measurement we are using) until Jesus Christ returns. Blessedly, we will be resurrected and eternally united to Him when He does, and at that point all worldly things will be of little interest to us. That being the case, the more we can come to that attitude now the better off and the happier we will be. We do have to live in this world, and we do have to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow as long as we are here, but we don't have to think that our situations or our happiness have anything to do with what goes on in this world. That is what the world (unbelievers) think, of course, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Our Lord is with us – and in us – and has made perfect provision for our every need in eternity past. We do have trouble seeing that clearly at times, but it is the truth. So anything that might happen politically, for example, will have absolutely nothing to do with our situation as believers, and can only affect us at all to the extent that we think that it does matter.

As to how contemporary political developments might impact the coming Tribulation, even here it is not really possible to be sanguine about connecting the dots. There is so much we do not know, and as soon as the Tribulation does begin, things will develop at such an unprecedented, break-neck pace that anything and everything could/can/may be turned upside down in a matter of days. So while it is not wrong – and may even be salutary – to see the beginnings of the end times in what we are witnessing going on in the world today, it always best to take it with a grain of salt as well (or maybe an entire cellar).

I keep you in my prayers daily as well, my friend, hoping for you for a door of ministry to open and also for the right balance to be found between work and the Word. The latter is a battle we all have, so please don't feel overly discouraged about it. Rather, keep fighting the fight every day, being grateful for the victories, and determined to do better tomorrow in the case of all defeats.

I'm indebted to you for keeping in touch with our friend. I have not written to him lately. I wish to avoid any sense that I am "checking up" on him as I feel any sort of thing like that coming from a pastor-teacher is abhorrent and abysmal – to me as well as to those who might receive it. We all have to make our own decisions in this life and are accountable to the Lord, not to some "pope". I do pray for him and his family daily as well, and will keep his son in my prayers more so now too (thank you).

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hello Professor,

I had a very good rest back home, perhaps the best few days I had there. Normally I would come back spiritually quite drained and longing to resume my normal study routine, but this time, even though it is often not possible to keep my rhythm there, I studied every day and was provided with many opportunities to testify. I will be looking forward to coming back home for Christmas, much more so than in the past. Now that there are a couple of open hearts there I was able to speak about the truth with them and I came back motivated by the responsibility to provide those few with sound biblical teaching. [details omitted about friends and family responding to the truth]

Your prayer that those at home whose heart have begun to open to the truth and receive it are provided with systematic teachings will be much appreciated. There really is a great need for them. I decided to commit some time every day now to the preparation of resources, as I'm slowly entering the production phase in a limited capacity. I know, however, that all this will take time. A thought occurred to me again about translating your lessons and although I'm still unsure whether this is my role (I'm no interpreter), it would be such a great resource to have available. The same for Curtis Omo's videos (link). I pray that the Lord gives guidance here.

I am grateful to God for leading me to where I am now. The first couple of years after salvation had their difficulties. But I look back at them fondly despite the financial hardship. It was a time of a simple life committed to the Lord. The last couple of years, particularly the last year, have also been difficult, but in a different way. And I definitely will not look back fondly at this period. Our citizenship is in heaven, but God has put me in a wonderful place where I can focus on study and which gives me refuge from professional life. And I have to say, Professor, that after this long and difficult time affected by all the earthly issues and disappointments today is the first day in a long time when I feel like I felt back a while ago, in that wonderful period where I had very little and when study and ministry were all that mattered. I had to learn to live like that despite all that goes on in my life now, because I don't imagine things slowing down. Thank you for your prayers, Professor, I know they have played an important role in me getting to this point.

In our Lord and Saviour,

Response #14: 

Thanks for the update, my friend. I really do rejoice over your good news about your family and your friends back home, and I am keeping them all in my prayers day by day (and you too of course). I'm very pleased to hear that your perseverance in doing what you felt was right – even when it was emotionally taxing and otherwise onerous – has been so richly rewarded by the Lord. God is good! We will keep fighting this battle on the prayer-front all the way to the end.

As to how best to help your family and friends, especially the ones who do not speak English, it is just my opinion, but I think it might be best for all concerned if you were to find your own path in this, constructing your own materials for them which you feel meet their particular needs (rather than translating the materials at Ichthys). You have your own pastor's voice, gifted and empowered by the Spirit, and it is to that voice that they have responded in the first place. Whatever is true at Ichthys belongs to the Lord in any case; the method of presentation of the truth may differ as personalities and styles of speaking and writing differ, but the truth is the truth. So I would urge you to think about, e.g., your own "basics series". My own was meant to be much, much shorter than it has turned out (and meant to be completed many years ago), but needs and circumstances changed and the Lord had other ideas. That said, I think that everyone needs "the basics", and they will benefit from these essential teachings more if they are presented in their own language (as things which have been developed in that language as opposed to being translated into it) and from someone whose way of presenting things they appreciate and find understandable.

As to study methods, we all have different approaches to these things as well. I will share something with you that I have found (I've no doubt said it before, but with important things in particular I don't mind repeating myself): I have found that five minutes reading the Bible, particularly in the original languages, is superior to five hours reading commentaries. And that is especially the case if I am reading with an open and inquisitive heart in the Spirit. He always shows me things just as I am sure He is always showing you things. And those "things" are the truth and its power. Commentaries inevitably focus on grammatical peculiarities and traditional doctrinal hair-splitting. Some of that is necessary to consider and I do "use" commentaries from time to time. But the power of the truth is transcendental. Between purely emotional highs which have no grounding in the actual truth on the one hand and bone-dry exegetical speculations on the other, seeing and hearing in your heart the living words of scripture and understanding in the Spirit what they actually mean and their true import is beyond blessed. I wouldn't want you to short-change yourself on that.

The struggle you are involved in now may be different from what went before but it is just as important and just as valuable. "Honeymoons" tend to come to an end, but the marriage goes on. Finding the right balance between work and the Word is something which all men with the gift of pastor-teacher struggle with. And it is good that we do. It must be, because it is certainly within the Lord's power to liberate our time entirely. One would think that if that were truly helpful the Lord would do so, especially since there are so few today who are actually devoting themselves to studying and teaching the truth in the right way. But of course even the apostle Paul, the twelfth apostle and the most fantastic Bible teacher who ever lived, had to work for a living for much of the time he ministered. So we are in good company. And no doubt if we did fall into a pit filled with money, we wouldn't handle the situation all that well. So we trust the Lord and we try to make the best possible decisions we can as far as arranging our lives and making use of the time and resources we do have to serve Him as best we can. No doubt we could do better. But we do what we do, and the more we do the better, striving to put Him first in everything we think, say and do. This is a very tricky fight in which we are involved, and there is plenty of room to second guess each and every decision. The best thing, however, is to put all such subjective thinking aside and instead make it a point of keeping up the fight day by day, whether it is a day of sprinting forward or a day of crawling. Forward progress is forward progress, and if we crawl today, perhaps we will be able to get back on our feet and run tomorrow.

Keep fighting the fight.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Good Morning Robert,

I cannot believe that at the moment I thought to send you an email and began to type, an email from you popped up before my eyes! Lol Praise God! That is no coincidence my friend! I am so pleased that you are well and the antibiotics and other meds worked for you. Again, Praise God!! We need you Robert so you have to stay in tip top shape!

[details about continued struggle with disease and fair-weather family and friends omitted] I have never been a needy person, never ask for anything and have always been very independent so it does hurt me deeply when I need them the most they are not here for me. I pray for them all that God open their hearts to empathy and would appreciate your prayers in this matter. So how is your teaching job going? So thrilled to hear you are well Robert!

Your friend in Christ,

Response #15: 

I'm very glad to hear from you, my friend, but a bit distraught to hear that you are still suffering from this disease and still without adequate medical help. That can be hard to come by even in more mundane cases like mine, but very tough to get in special situations like yours, I understand. I will keep you and that particular concern on my prayer list day by day.

I want to let you know that I find your positive attitude in the face of such a difficult test – one which involves a large emotional element with your "Jobs comforters" family and friends – with such incredibly encouraging good spirits! That is a testimony to the power of the truth, the power of the Spirit, and especially also to your personal spiritual status. You are a wonderful witness! I would like to think that I would do half as well in similar circumstances, but given my tendency to whining manifest in this much less serious situation with which I have been dealing I am convicted of being less than "stand up" for the Lord as I should have been. This is one of the things the Church does for each other: as we advance in ranks against the enemy, the courage shown by our brothers and sisters in the fight encourages us as well – or should. But that would not be possible without the spiritual character which growth in and from the Word of God imparts. Good for you!

Now we want to see you well again. Please know that I will continue to do battle with you in prayer on this all the way to victory however long it takes – and my wish and hope is that it take not long at all (Ps.20:5).

I'm getting through the semester, but it has been a load this year, for some reason or other. I'd attribute it to getting older but I know that can't be the case.

Please know that you are an inspiration to me and all who see your spiritual heroism.

Keep fighting this fight my friend – I know it is hard, but I am convinced of your victory.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hi Robert, how are you my dear friend? I wanted to let you know . . . [details about struggle with disease and impending medical appointments omitted]. I become weaker each day and the pain is unbearable at times but I pray constantly and our God is such an awesome God, he gives me strength as well as peace each day and always gives me what I need and I Just love Him so much!

I hope you that all is well with you and I pray for you each day. Have a good night and I will keep you informed. If you happen to correspond with our friend, please let him know about the appointment. Ty Robert!

Response #16: 

I am hoping this is news of yours is already an answer to prayer. I have asked our friend to pray for you as well. I have and do and will pray that this will be the right therapy to finally get you on the road to recovery.

You are a marvelous witness for Jesus Christ! I don't know many Christians who could handle this kind of pressure while maintaining such a positive attitude . . . of faith that the Lord is and will work things out for good. That said, we want this trial to be over for good with a happy and healthy result as soon as possible. So I hope and pray this is finally the right person with the right therapy to bring that about.

The Lord doesn't need any indirect means to heal us . . . but He does most certainly use them, and does most certainly work in these ways for His own perfect purposes. It takes a lot of faith to trust Him when He is working through imperfect people (as we all are), but He can make the dullest axe sharp enough to do the job at hand.

Do let me know how it goes.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hi Robert....The appointment did not go well at all. [details about skeptical Mds omitted]. Unbelievable! I have no trust in doctors and I am too tired to see any more. I will keep my appointment with the specialist and hope and pray that I will still be here. I am not getting upset bc I know there is a reason for all of this and only God knows the answer so I will continue to pray with confidence and faith. Please do not feel bad about this as it is all too common an experience for most people with this condition unless of course if you are very wealthy. I am so very grateful for all your prayers and I will never give up hoping and praying for a healthy outcome and continue to have a strong faith in our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Response #17: 

I'm very sorry to hear about this disappointment. Once again, I admire your wonderful witness in the face of such a disappointing setback. Most people would have probably "lost it", so you are a great witness for the Lord to the power of faith and faithfulness!

I can't pretend to understand the "whys?" of all this, my friend. What I do know is that God is absolutely faithful and that He is working things out for the good in every way. Our part is to accept that as "gospel" – which it is, very good news. This is difficult when the answer we get seems to be exactly the opposite of what we were expecting and hoping for. That, however, is the time when great faith is separated from weak faith. I draw great encouragement from your spiritual resiliency and your determination to stand fast in faith regardless of what you are seeing or hearing or feeling. That is the stuff of great eternal reward.

One silver lining I see in this is something I have noticed with my own situations in the past. When the Lord takes away all other options except one, that of trusting Him, and when there is nothing more we can do but trust Him, if we are willing to do that there can be a great peace and even greater confidence. That is because at such times it really does have nothing whatsoever to do with us anymore – since there is nothing more for us to do besides wait for His deliverance.

But we can keep praying. And I will be doing this with you and for you until we hear the good news of your complete deliverance.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Hi Robert....Ty for your kind and encouraging words. I am trying to be strong and my fears do get the best of me I times but I tell myself the evil one wants me to feel this way and that's when my faith becomes strong and I pray so hard and our Dear Lord Jesus never lets me down. I always feel His peace and love envelope me until I relax. [details omitted]

I noticed you have me on the Ichthys prayer list and I am truly grateful and appreciate all of your prayers and I pray for you all as well. I haven't been visiting Ichthys as much bc my eyesight is not good and is also caused by this illness but I am going to begin my studies once again as I never finished the Peter series. Ty for all you do Robert you are a good man and a true and faithful servant of our Lord!

God Bless,

Response #18: 

As always, my friend, your courage under pressure is an inspiration. Fighting the fight is not easy under the best of circumstance, but when the heat is on, well, that is where the solid believers are separated from those who are not stable in their faith. I have every confidence that the Lord will see you through this and that you will hang in there until He does. In the meantime, I promise to hang in there with you in prayer.

Thanks for your good words, and do feel free to reach out whenever you want, even if we are still waiting on good news.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and ever faithful Savior.

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for responding to my questions so completely and quickly (as always). There is a lot in this email to think about and respond to and I should be able to write back sometime this week. In the meantime, you are welcome to give my email to our sister in Christ. I would love to bounce ideas off of her and vice versa, or just correspond with her about our faith.

Also, I wanted to let you know that the introduction to your Peter Series (Peter #1) was VERY helpful to me this week during some personal tribulation of my own. I have noticed, lately, a pattern in my life: Just when I am getting into some consistent habits that support the extra Bible study time I am putting in for my spiritual growth and ministry (like going to bed early, finding some extra hours to study etc.) someone from my circle of family and friends will disrupt me somehow. It comes in the form of a well timed argument or fight; or one of my friends will call needing help with some trouble in her life. I know they are not intentionally trying to keep me from my ministry; I think the enemy is using them to get to me. I am really sensitive to other people and how they are feeling, so when my loved ones are upset or going through something difficult it tends to "suck me in." I wasn't sure if it was demonic attack when it happened the first few times, but after this week I am pretty sure of it. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was ten steps ahead: He led me to read the introduction to your Peter Series the day before the most recent "flare up" and I was able to regain my focus quickly. So, thank you, again, for your wonderful ministry!

Please let me know if you, Pastor Curt or anyone else on the Ichthys prayer list need any extra attention in prayer this week!

In Christ's love,

Response #19: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend. I've emailed our sister to ask if she is agreeable and will put the two of you in touch if/when I hear back. As I wrote her, one of the best things that ever happened to me in preparing for ministry was getting to know the group of men I was with in seminary at Talbot, men who were equally committed to teaching the Word the right way (among whose number was Curt Omo of Bible Academy).

Thanks too for your encouraging report! The truth is always helpful for all we do – whoever is packaging it up. I have noticed lately that among just about everyone with whom I have contact who is ministering the Word in one capacity or another and/or preparing to do so, there has been much resistance. That is no doubt always the case, but it has been the "theme" of late. Balancing between work (and other necessary commitments) and the Word is always tricky, but it is a necessary thing and no doubt a part of the testing and refining we are undergoing. After all, the Lord could certainly liberate in the blink of an eye your time and my time and Curt Omo's time (etc. – there are many on this list I find myself praying for in this regard). The fact that He is not doing so completely is important to consider. We demonstrate our true mettle by making good choices when such pressure is on. On the one hand, we can't overlook our responsibilities; on the other hand we recognize what is really important in this life and therefore we don't let the load of life keep us from doing what needs to be the top priority. It's always possible to second guess the balance we have struck on any given day, but this is a fight we will have possibly all the way to the end. Sometimes we may go too far in one direction; sometimes too far in the other. But as we love the Lord and want to do right by Him in all the responsibilities He has given us, we will find a way to do both this and that and keep fighting our way forward.

I commend you for not ignoring the needs of those who depend on you and also for not overlooking your spiritual responsibilities either. Our Lord is the perfect example in this; He was the perfect son just as He was the perfect Son. And we are in good company in other ways too: Paul had to work for a living for much of the time he ministered, and he was an apostle. Finally, I am greatly encouraged not just from the fact that you are using the Word of God to fight this fight and are fighting it effectively, but also because of the wonderfully good spirits you project. This is something the Church does for itself – or should: we all draw encouragement from the courage and high morale coming from the Spirit that our brothers and sisters manifest under heavy pressure, realizing that it is possible to be joyful in the Lord even when we are hurting or heavily-laden, and being motivated by such good examples to do the same ourselves.

Our sister (prayer list) is another warrior for Christ who is suffering from a serious medical condition yet giving a wonderful witness in spite of continuing setbacks. I know she could use some extra prayers (thanks for asking!).

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hi Dr L,

It's great to hear from you! Thank you so much for your prayers. I have been praying for you and your ministry also. It has been a time of extreme testing for me, and I suspect I am not alone. I know it is good because we will all need the faith and patience these trials produce even more as the Day approaches, but it's not always "fun" is it? I know at this stage in human history though, that there will be calms in the storm, and we can have joy and peace in the storm, but the storm itself isn't going anywhere. The thick clouds of spiritual darkness will cover the land more and more as the beast system takes over this present age, the Antichrist rises to power and the Great Tribulation commences. Satan will poor out his wrath on the saints, and God will poor out His wrath on unbelieving mankind; against Satan and all he stands for, and all who stand with him.

Thank God for His Word making His promises known to us. Thank God we know these present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. He is teaching me to look ever more increasingly toward the prize...toward that glorious Day when we will see our Lord face to face, knowing Him as we are known, and being delivered forever from these bodies of death. I think I am beginning to understand what it means to groan for the final adoption, for Christ in us...the hope of glory!

I have been feeling very isolated. I'm having transportation problems and have not had much fellowship with other believers for several months now. The church I was attending is full of warm, kind people who love God, but they preach the milk of the Word, with anecdotal stories from a somewhat worldly point of view. It's not what I would call seeker sensitive or watered down, I would just say, again, it is milk not meat. They also believe in pre-tribulation rapture, which in my perception has lent toward a certain complacency and lack of urgency.

When I came to know the Lord it was in a church that fed us thick cuts of meaty Word. I actually used to complain to God that I was not ready for such knowledge! But having been delivered out much falsehood I really needed it. I would call my coming to faith a very dramatic experience. Anyway, that church taught us extensively on spiritual warfare, on the power of God to deliver from sin, on the importance of pursuing holiness and having the utmost faith in His character and promises. The church I have been attending is not like that. I feel I have reached an impasse there, a certain inability to grow spiritually. Please pray for me to have clarity about this, to know for certain that God is calling me to another fold, and if so, which one.

God bless you and thank you for thinking of me.

Love in Him,

Response #20: 

Thanks for the encouraging testimony! I will be keeping you in my prayers – and thanks so much also for yours (they are greatly appreciated).

Please do feel free to write me back any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hi Bob,

What am I going to do with my life?

Today I was driven close to total despair. I can barely hear God's voice.

Response #21: 

A big part of getting to spiritual maturity is learning how to cope with emotional ups and downs – we learn that how we feel means nothing and we start navigating through what we know by faith instead.

Near as I can tell (apologies for anything "off" in my analysis here), you are young, relatively healthy, gainfully employed, well-educated, extremely intelligent, with a loving family and great prospects for a secular career going forward. And even more than any of that, you have learned a great deal of truth from scripture, have believed (I hope) much of what you have learned, have made spiritual progress, and have begun ministering to others in a variety of capacities – with great prospects for much more of that in the future with the result of a wonderful eternal reward.

If I had to construct an "ideal life" from a Christian perspective, this would be very close to the outline I'd use (if not the actual one).

I know. You've had troubles, have troubles, anticipate troubles. Welcome to the battlefield. We Christians will continue to have troubles of one sort or another, large, medium and small, until we are no longer in this world. If we let our emotions focus on those, we are doomed. Instead, we need to fix our gaze on all the wonderful things that "God has prepared for those who love Him" (1Cor.2:9). In due season we are going to reap a bountiful harvest . . . as long as we don't allow ourselves to give up when we are tired or frustrated or in pain or being troubled (Gal.6:9).

I don't know what your present troubles are, but I do know that in order to effectively minister to others it is necessary to master (or at least get the hang of) the technique of not paying undue attention to our feelings. That is the diagnosis I make when I hear "I can barely hear God's voice". When we are upset or off-kilter, often for lack of doing the good things we should have been doing, getting back on the "divine viewpoint wave-length" and reining in our emotions – which like the Israelites in the golden calf episode have been running amok – may take a little hard love with ourselves and patience too until the joy returns. Sometimes this is our fault; sometimes it's a function of the testing we are undergoing. But just as we learn not to throw ourselves off of tall buildings just because the sun goes behind a cloud – and instead learn to wait until it comes back, even if it takes days to do so – so also with "how we feel" in this life we learn how to encourage ourselves in the truth. If we are not immediately successful, we learn to stick with it until we are. And if we keep reading scripture and keep praying and keep focusing on the truth we know and believe, He is faithful to bring that joy back . . . every time. Our job is to trust Him that He will. He is 100% faithful and can't be otherwise (Ps.9:10). What we often lack, sinful human beings that we are, is sufficient patience, persistence, and consistency of approach. So we will have ups and downs as a result. But we must never forget that the "downs" will pass as long as we employ even a mustard-seed's worth of faith in grabbing hold of the perfect faithfulness and love our Lord always extends.

I am sure He has great things in store for you, my friend. Be pleased to patiently wait for Him. Moses had to wait until he was eighty years old – I'm pretty confident that your wait won't be nearly as long.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Thank you very much. It's good to get a letter that puts these kinds of things into perspective. Praise God for the blessings he has given me!

Response #22: 

Amen! We can all benefit from paying more attention to what the Lord has done for us and less to the things that bother us. As you say, it's a matter of balancing out the perspective

Question #23:  

Hello Dr.

I arrived at your wonderful site after googling "bible commentary God I can't keep fighting". Your post "Fighting the Good Fight of Faith" was listed as a result. Once I read that post I launched another from a gentleman who wanted to blow his head off everyday. My initial reaction was one of arriving at an unanticipated but perfect destination. Yes, I related to what the man wrote but your response was what provided me with peace because I have felt like I am the only one out here who is having this radical experience while I do my best everyday to allow God to do with me what He will.

You wrote about the the state of the church and I could not agree more. What God is ramping me up for will be a direct challenge to the notion that following Jesus is a traipse down a rose-lined path with birds tweeting merrily above your head. Honestly, my walk freaks other Christians out but at the same time they commend my faith which I find bizarre because Jesus is the perfecter of my faith not me. I know I am rambling now. The point I wanted to make is that finding your site was an answered prayer and it makes me feel less alone out here on the battlefield. I am not confused about who my "commander" is and what He expects of me and it is so validating to know that there are others doing the same thing.

I will continue to familiarize myself with your content and I am so grateful that you have shared your knowledge online.

God bless you for these gifts you've given me!

Yours in Christ

Response #23: 

I'm happy to make your acquaintance. It is certainly true that for those who are genuinely desirous of walking with our Lord and pleasing Him, this life is a fight to the finish:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2nd Timothy 3:12 NIV

There is a great deal of information at Ichthys about spiritual warfare written for the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ (and more to come), as well as much about the sorry state of the present day church-visible. You are very welcome to all of it. Please also do not hesitate to write me back, especially if you're having any problems with site navigation. Here are a couple of links I can recommend based upon what you've written.

Mutual Encouragement in Christ IV

Mutual Encouragement in Christ III

Fighting the Fight IV: Dispatches from the Laodicean 'Front'

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

Christian Struggle, Perseverance and Deliverance

Mutual Encouragement in Christ II

Mutual Encouragement in Christ I

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #24:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope your week at school went well! I wanted to write back to you sooner, but things have been very intense at work and I have been too exhausted to respond during the week. Our sales team has a lot on our plate this school year and we are all just trying to keep our heads above water in our individual territories. I have been putting in longer hours these past two weeks. Things should settle down, soon though, or I will just get better at handling the pressure.

Thank you for responding to my last two emails! If our sister wants to connect with me, let me know what her email address is, so I can keep on the lookout for a communication from her in my mailbox. I would love to hear more about her approach to evangelism and her plans for ministry. I am sure we can learn a lot from each other. I desperately need more fellowship with Christians who are not lukewarm. My family and two close friends are believers, thankfully, but they are not very interested in reading God’s Word or reading/seeking out Bible study...right now. Also, I am trying to be better about corresponding with you and quicker with my email responses.

The balance between life and ministry is something that I am always struggling with. When I start to give one area of my life some attention, another area starts to fall into chaos. More than anything, it is a matter of prioritizing what is important. Reading God’s Word and doing Bible study in the morning helps me to see my life with "eyes of faith" so I know what to focus on each day, but when I fail to do that it doesn't' take long for my priorities to get turned around.

All of your advice to the other Christians on Ichthys is extremely helpful, too. I know I am in good spirits when I write to you, but it is only because God has been strengthening me this past year through trials and testing. I feel overwhelmed most of the time, sometimes in a good way in which I feel very "full" and blessed, but sometimes in a stressful way when I fear I am not strong or capable enough to handle what God has given me. I am prone to anxiety and if I give in to it, eventually even despair. I am constantly crying out to God for help – a lot of the time I’m literally crying. He always listens to me then the perfect guidance and encouragement comes. The Holy Spirit is the most encouraging and positive "person" I have ever known. More than anything He encourages me to focus on what He has given me to do in the present moment, and not to worry about the future. He is constantly reminding me to have peace and hope no matter how I feel (or how others around me are reacting to their own problems).

Since I have been led into ministry I have noticed the temptation to put my needs above those of my loved ones, because "I have a job to do for God," but that is NOT the way Christ led His life. I know we are not suppose to put our loved one before God, but the Holy Spirit has led me to see that loving others and serving them in the right way does serve God and is just another aspect of my ministry that I shouldn’t neglect. I need to pray to God for discernment, though, to know what are the best ways to support my loved ones and help with them with what they truly need from God’s perspective.

Your words about Christ being perfect son and the perfect Son is something that really stuck with me after I read your Christology study. Knowing that Christ was human and dealt with all of the same things we have to deal with (and so much more than we can understand or fathom) emboldens me to pray to Him for help with the daily struggles of life as well as the bigger issues. Our God is, truly, a God of empathy and understanding. God helps me with so much and He is always plenty of steps ahead of me in knowing what I need. The closer I draw to Him and experience His love, the more it motivates me want to guide others to Him. It is so difficult watching people struggle through things alone, thinking that they are alone when they could have a relationship with our Creator and Savior.

And thank you so much for helping me to understand what the Bible actually says about the ministries of women, and about the differences between being an evangelist, being led to teach and having the gift of a pastor-teacher. My concerns about not being allowed to teach were troubling me, because I do have a very strong desire to teach others about what the Word of God actually says, to combat all of the lies and misconceptions that are keeping people from knowing Christ. I still need to take the time to respond to everything you gave me in your answer to my questions and I will work on that little by little this week.

I do have a question, though about something that one of my messianic Jewish friends posted on Facebook concerning the definition of "blessing" in the Bible. I always thought that being blessing by God was being given favor or grace from Him in some way and I have definitely been blessed by God in my life in many ways. I know what people mean when they say talk about God blessing someone or something, but I have never understood how someone can bless God or bless someone else in the name of God. I thought God was the only one who could bless people. This article helped to clarify it for me, but I just want to make sure it conforms to what God's Word actually teaches. I have bolded the parts that zero in the main point of the article: "Essentially, blessing is God giving power to something or somebody to do that which they are designed or intended to do."

I was wondering if you could read it and tell me if that is how you understand the Biblical definition of blessing?

https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/what-is-blessing/

Thank you so much for answering my questions, always. Also, I will continue to pray for everyone at Ichthys, especially you, Pastor Curt and our friend. Please let me know if anyone else needs additional prayers!

In Christ's Love,

Response #24: 

Thanks for the update. No worries about timing. You are more busy than most people could possibly be without suffering a breakdown! Please do try to pace yourself and write when you can. Just wanted to let you know how encouraging I find your emails. I think your successful struggles in the fight are the sort of thing that all really positive believers go through. Jacob, whom the Lord named Israel, was characterized by Him as one who wrestled in faith and refused to quit. That is the way to spiritual greatness – so don't give up!

On your question, the first thing I would want to point out is that there is often a disconnect between the way words are used in one language vs. the way they are used in another. The fact that in the Bible people "bless God" or pronounce Him "blessed" is illustrative of the fact of the disconnect with the way in which we think of "bless / blessing" because of the way we are familiar with them in English; but they are a little bit different in Hebrew and Greek. In that respect, Greek, which translates the Hebrew barach as eulogeo, illuminates the matter rather than striking off in a different direction. The Hebrew word is based on the word for "knee" and properly means to kneel – so as to express praise or thanksgiving or gratitude to the one who has given us a favor, reflecting that gratitude with one's posture. The Greek word, which etymologically means "to speak well of" and thus "to praise", reflects that same basic idea. So while we from our English perspective may feel that "doing something good for someone" is the basic idea behind the word "bless" with the other biblical uses being the ones in need of explanation, biblically speaking it's the other way around. The Hebrew word existed when Moses wrote Genesis, and meant primarily the expression of gratitude for a blessing given and received; the idea that the word(s) can also mean to provide a blessing is a later development or extension of the word based on the original idea, and one needs context to see which use is which in scripture. Since God cannot be "blessed" in the sense of anyone being able to do anything for Him, "blessing God", that is, getting down on one's knees to thank Him, is actually perfectly consistent with the original idea of the word. Of course He is the source of all good things; therefore it is not a great stretch to see biblical writers being given by the Spirit to show God "doing good things for which He should be blessed/praised". So God is "bless-ed", meaning He is the one from whom all blessings flow, and worthy of all praise, gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessings He gives us. If we are "bless-ed", it means that we have been the recipient of blessing/benefit from God in His grace – for which He should be thanked by all who see and appreciate it. So a blessing without thanksgiving for that blessing is inappropriate – and perhaps that is the reason for what we may feel at first glance is usage which is a bit hard to understand. It's all about God and what He has done for us, the premier and fundamental blessing of all being the Gift of Jesus Christ. For Him, the blessing of all blessings, we will be thanking the Father forevermore.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you and your family had a relaxing Thanksgiving and were able to enjoy the time you spent with each other! I was finally able to take the time over the holiday weekend to get some sleep, "take a breath" and reflect on everything that I am thankful for. I probably shouldn’t use the word "everything" because I can’t possibly remember or even fathom what God has done in my life and all of the blessings He has given to me; all of them made possible by the death of His Son - there is SO much!

And, I was able to start my email back to you. Thank you, again, for your detailed response to my months-ago question about the meaning of the word "blessing." Your email response was so interesting and there is so much more meaning behind the word than I originally thought! The fact that barach/bless actually means to be grateful and thankful for God’s grace is beautiful. I want to understand and be clear on all of the different ways it is used in the Bible, and you said we have to know the context in how it is used, so I have quite a few questions about specific verses. Before asking them I want to make sure I am using the word blessing/blessed in the right way when talking to other Christians. I am still not sure I know the exact motive or intention when other Christians use the word blessed/blessing in our day and age.

Is it appropriate to tell someone to "Have a blessed day?" or "God bless you?" I often hear other Christians say this to me and others. I work with a lot of Christian schools (my territory covers a few states in the Bible Belt) and these phrases are often added to their phone menus and voicemail messages, not to mention email signatures. It seems like a misuse or even abuse of the word blessed, especially after reading your teaching about its original meaning in Hebrew. I think those phrases bother me because they sound pagan, almost as if God's blessing can be invoked, similar to when I hear Christians say "I bind this evil in the name of Christ," or "I command this in the name of Christ." It reminds me of spell casting or of the Wiccan phrase "blessed be." We cannot invoke blessing, we can only pray to God for it, asking Him directly, right?

In the article on blessing that I included in the email before this one, the author says that telling someone "God bless you" is the same as praying for them:

"And what about blessing others? When we bless others in the name of God, we are in effect praying that God would send his blessing to them. When we bless we are asking God to bless someone to be successful in God’s good will and intentions for them. It is also an acknowledgment that we can’t do this without his power. It’s not simply a matter of desire, but of design – doing the very good that God intended and designed us for. He tells us what to do in his word, and his blessing is his given power to do it. He gives us commands, then he alone is the one who gives us the capacity to be fruitful in obeying them."

I am not sure if I agree. When other Christians say this to me, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and just assume that they are expressing their hope that God favors me or gives me grace today in some way. But then, why not just say "I hope God favors you today," or "I hope God is with you today?" It might just be something as innocent as them wanting me to have a nice day, but trying to say it a way that reminds them that God controls our lives. Personally, I would just rather pray directly to God and ask Him to bless them.

Based on what you have taught me about the original meaning of the word barach, when Christians say "Have a blessed day," it actually could mean "Today, be thankful for what God has given you," but I don't think many Christians would understand it in that way. If I ever use that phrase I might have to explain what I mean. It would put the focus not on hoping that God blesses that person, but recognizing that fact that they are already blessed and should use their day to count their blessings. I always need to be reminded of this, myself!

Hopefully, I will be able to make more time to correspond with you this winter. Our sales division had a really rough season, but it is finally wrapping up. Speaking of blessings...God has definitely blessed me in my job this year and got me through - this season could have gone a lot worse and I would have had even less time for Bible study and working on my ministry. Thank you so much for adding me to the Ichthys prayer list! I know God is answering those prayers! Also, I think my cousin accidentally got deleted of the list. Can you add him back on? Him and his family are still hanging in there and I know the prayers are helping them too. I am praying more often for our friend right now, but does anyone else in your family or on the Ichthys prayer list needs extra attention?

In Christ's Love,

Response #25: 

Wonderful to hear from you as always! I'm very glad to learn that things are going well for you. I keep you in prayer daily, knowing that you have a lot on your plate. On your cousin, apologies for the accidental deletion. Would you mind sending along a specific prayer request (and I'll put it on the list verbatim)?

On blessing, I think you have ferreted out the issues very well. The main point I would wish to make is that language may technically mean what it originally meant, but what it ultimately means at time of use is what people think it means. Whenever I say anything or write anything, I try to keep the audience in mind. I don't make a habit of talking down to people, but I resist using words and phrases which I have a good idea are going to be misunderstood by those receiving them. In Christian terms, as you know, there is a good deal of technical vocabulary involved in getting into the depths of the truth of scripture. I wouldn't use the word "kenosis", for example, in trying to explain the gospel to someone who knows little about Christianity. So if we are talking about communication here, what "I" mean by the word "bless" may well not be what a person I've just met means by it. I'm sure that when the average person says "bless you!" when you sneeze, they mean nothing much by it at all – except maybe "hope you don't get sick!" or "hope you get better!" or even (cynical me here) "look at what a good person I am!". Clearly, if by "bless" we mean "supernaturally confer benefit" on a person, no human being "has that power" (as one of my seminary buddies pointed out to me when I made the mistake of letting the phrase pop out of my mouth in an unguarded moment many years ago). In terms of the history of English, "bless you" originally understood a subjunctive verb, so that the full phrase would be "I wish for God to bless you!" or "May God bless you!" As you mention, wishes are fine enough, but they mean very little. As you point out, if the person is not going to pray for God to bless us, then what is the point? And there may be no point in any case if the person is not a believer or is a believer in not much more than name with no particular "clout" before God. God hears all prayers, but it does make a difference who is praying and from what motivation (e.g., Jas.5:16).

Because of the communication gap and the doctrinal issues involved, I personally stay away from using this expression (can't say I never ever slip up, but I do generally regret it when I do). As mentioned in the previous email, the biblical basis for saying this sort of thing is questionable at best precisely because of the disparity between what the biblical passages actually mean and what the English phrase "bless you" conveys today – regardless of who is using it or how they are understanding it within the accustomed semantic range.

As far as "blessed" goes, I'm more relaxed about calling something or some event "blessed", because God clearly is blessing us and our actions and our possessions (in the English sense) all the time.

So I suppose the bottom line here is that what the Bible says and what English means regarding "bless" and "blessed" are not to be connected up in terms of corresponding vocabulary, at least not directly or without explanation. We have our own customs, and as with many "religious" customs, the relationship to actual scripture is often tenuous at best.

Thanks so much for your prayers as well, my friend!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope that you had a good week!

Thank you for checking my understanding on how to use the word "blessing" when talking to other Christians. Your practice of not talking down to others, and using language that others can understand is really good for me to keep in mind when I talk to others about my faith, especially as God guides me in my ministry. I read your Ichthys email responses almost every day and I think you do a great job in this!

It is definitely true that "language may technically mean what it originally meant, but what it ultimately means at time of use is what people think it means." I have always loved studying words and often look up the etymological roots of words and names just out of curiosity. It is so interesting to see how the meaning of words and phrases change over time and translate from culture to culture. My French teacher and I have a lot of conversations on different idioms in French and English. Different cultures (and sub-groups within cultures) think in entirely different ways and that is reflected, I think, in the structure and usage of their language. I really enjoy how image-based Biblical Hebrew is (like barach giving us a visual image of someone kneeling in gratitude).

It might be because I am studying two languages at the same time I am growing in God’s Truth but I am noticing more and more how people twist language to deceive and incite others into action. I try to be on my toes and think critically when listening to what others are saying to me, especially politicians/pundits on TV or when someone is trying to sell me something. Lately, the Holy Spirit is guiding me to be a better listener in general, but when it comes to recognizing when words are used to deceive he lead me to these two passages last week:

Proverbs 26:23-26 (NIV)
23 Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
for seven abominations fill their hearts.
26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,
but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Psalm 55:20-21
My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

I think these passages were a reminder about what comes out of people’s mouths sometimes does not match what is in their hearts and that I always need to be aware. God is answering my prayers and helping me to become "wise as a serpent."

It is important for me to check with you on the true meaning God’s Word in the original languages and in how I am using it in English. I want to be able to recognize false teaching when I come across it and make sure I am actually leading people to the truth and not causing confusion when I speak about my faith. This can get hairy because, like you said, there are usually communication gaps between people and doctrinal issues involved, especially since so many Christians and unbelievers I meet have a different mix and level of knowledge about God’s Word.

When it comes to how the word blessing is used in the Old Testament, I do have a few questions about certain verses and how God conferred blessing.

1) 1 Samuel 23:21 (NIV) Saul replied, "The LORD bless you for your concern for me. Is this an Old Testament example of a believer trying to invoke God’s blessing praying for God’s blessing even though he was acting against God’s Will at this point?

2) The power to bless in God’s Name in the Old Testament:

In an email response about Isaac, Jacob and Esau, you said this:

To answer your question, Isaac was a prophet. He had apparently been told through divine revelation that the son he blessed would possess the blessings he would confer. This was a special gift given to him to impart by way of the formal blessing he would pronounce. So it was not something that could be taken back. The reason for that, of course, was that his blessing he was merely predicting what God had planned to do for Israel through Jacob's line and not Esau's from before the beginning of time (and God foreknew not only Isaac's intention but also Rebecca and Jacob's deception). Isaac should have known this too – and perhaps he was attempting to circumvent the prophecy because he favored Esau.

[more at the link: http://ichthys.com/mail-Genesis-QuestionsIII.htm Q/A #17]

Also, God giving Aaron the power to bless the people of Israel (Leviticus 9:22, Numbers 6:24-6:26) and Pharaoh asking Moses to bless him (Exodus 12:32) are more examples of this power given to Moses and Aaron?

Did the Apostles in the New Testament have this power as well? If they did, was it similar to what the patriarchs and prophets were able to do in the Old Testament? I am assuming it was another power that was phased out like prophesy and being able to speak in tongues. I know believers do not have that power now (you just mentioned this in your last email), but there are so many Christians that claim they do have this power. Last week, I was getting frustrated listening to a Catholic radio show with priest talking about how he has a healing ministry and is able to lay his hands on people and command them to be healed in the name of Christ. Even in our traditional Lutheran worship, our pastor blesses the congregation.

But the Bible teaches that, in the Church Age, God does bless people through his believers. He does this by answering our prayers, of course, and in more indirect ways, too? If we see God answering our prayers and blessing people around us, how do we not let our pride get puffed up and think it has anything to do with us? Or should we keep in mind that God blesses people through us because of our faith and obedience to Him and use that knowledge as motivation to keep a close walk with Christ?

Thank you for putting my cousin back on the prayer list. Also, I was wondering if I could add one more person to the list? It is for my friend for healing, deliverance and comfort from severe cult abuse/control and to be led into God’s truth.

In Christ’s Love,

Response #26: 

It was a tough week, but a good one. I had a chance to spend some time with my family in Michigan and to break bread with my nephew and his new fiancé (wedding next summer). On the "tough" side was seeing my mother in the state she is now in. She was able to get in the car with me last May and do a number of things. Now she is on hospice, skin and bones, and doesn't really even recognize anyone. I think she did seem to know who I was for a couple of brief moments over three days, but mostly she slept or stared off into space. She's also in a lot of pain, but they are giving her serious meds which seems to mostly mitigate that. I guess I'm grateful that she is "out of it" since it would break her heart to fully realize what a sad state she's in – she was always a very 'can do' independent New Englander. Sorry for unloading! Anyway, she's had a good long life (96+), so one has to be realistic . . . and trust the Lord.

On blessing, I don't think I would describe it as a 'power' (because of the way that the word is understood and used in our present-day language). Prophets predicted according to the will and word of God – they didn't actually effect anything. It's the same thing we do when we pray and our prayers are answered – only they were often given ahead of time to know exactly how the blessing would come to pass and when. When we get what we pray for, it certainly doesn't mean "we" did it. And we know "it" wouldn't have happened but for the plan of God and the will of God and the mercy of God. That doesn't mean we are any less enthusiastic about praying or that we don't pray and welcome and even occasionally solicit prayer. It does mean that we acknowledge that we are only entering into God's work and will in doing so.

When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?"
Acts 3:12 NIV

As this quotation demonstrates, this principle is true even of all miraculous activities which it has ever been given to believers to "perform". God is the one doing the performing; we are merely His servants carrying out His will – just as when we carry out His will by doing the other things we are required to do as in witnessing: should someone believe, that is from God, not from us. We are merely "unworthy servants" doing what we ought to have been doing in any case (Lk.17:10). This is all true of praying as well:

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
James 5:16b-17

From this verse it might be possible to get the wrong impression that Elijah had some "special prayer power" – and of course everything about Elijah and his gifts was special. But we know that it was in the will of God and that it was definitely God's plan – not even Elijah's idea – both for the drought to start and the drought to stop. So this is a premier example of prayer in the will of God and is directly analogous to verbal blessing directed by God in the will of God and intermediating miracles in the will of God. Unbelievers or new believers (or lazy believers) who are not yet clued into these critical matters may not understand this important "division of labor" (e.g., Acts 8:18-19), but we who are mature do realize that everything that may happen through us for the good is done to the glory of Jesus Christ as outlined in the plan of the Father and accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the same is true of prophecy which may seem to be directed by the prophet (but is really the prophet being informed of God's future actions):

The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, "Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?" "You will see it with your own eyes," answered Elisha, "but you will not eat any of it!"
2nd Kings 7:2 NIV

On language, this is another of many areas where there is a "sweet spot" in between two extremes. On the one hand, English is English, but on the other hand people do understand different things by different phrases, words, constructions, depending upon education, culture, all manner of factors. So we do want to think that those listening are speaking a different language so that we can never get anything across to them, but at the same time we do need to recognize that we may only be 70% or 80% (or whatever percent) on their "wave length" (and this may rise and fall with the subject and with the way we are presenting it). This, by the way, is why repetition is so critical in all teaching. It is a grave mistake to assume that people understand what we explain to them the first time. They may. But if the subject is somewhat complicated or out of their normal frame of reference, or if there are any distractions, it make take several attempts to get through. I certainly am not one of those rare genius types who "get it" on the first take. I need to work at things. And I have also learned over the years that the mere fact that my students are smiling at me and seem to be enjoying the presentation does not mean that they are "getting" the point of Greek or Latin I'm trying to convey. And even if they are, it does not mean that they are retaining it. I often tell them I have a "rule of twelve", meaning that for tough stuff I sometimes have to explain something twelve times before they even first come to realize that a concept is important and then start the process of "getting it". So all teaching takes patience – and repetition. And, vis- -vis our topic, when we repeat we usually use different language, different phraseology, and different emphases – so that if a person didn't understand one way, he/she may "get it" another way. This is, by the way, one of the reasons why the Bible is written by many different human authors who express themselves differently even though the truth is exactly the same truth in all parts of scripture.

I thought about you up in Michigan when one of the hospice nurses engaged me in a conversation. Her husband had died a year or so ago and had been in a hospice situation wasting away like my mom – so she had great empathy. She was clearly a believer and appreciated my words to her as well. As we parted, she gave me a hug and said, "God bless you!" – and before I had even thought about it I returned the "blessing". If I'd thought about it, maybe I would have said something different or tried to explain what it really means – but on reflection while maybe the former certainly not the latter (one has to keep one's powder dry for the really important "fights").

In sum, pastors don't have the power to "put a special blessing" on someone, and even in the Old Testament those who use this wording are not doing something from an individual motivation or individual power or giving/doing something that is not in God's plan. It was important for the prophets and also for the priests (in terms of Aaron's blessing) to have the respect of those they ministered to, and this "apparent power" is worthy of respect. It does make a difference who says "bless you" because those who are closer to the Lord know that they are heard by Him (1Jn.5:15), and those who are closer to the Lord are much more likely not only to ask but to ask the right things from Him (1Jn.5:14). But nothing that happens in this world is going to violate the plan of God; everything good that happens in terms of blessing will come from God through His power and be in accordance with His will – but of course He also knew in advance whether or not we were going to commit ourselves to be close to Him (Jer.30:21; cf. Ps.91:14-15).

Good verses on deception! This is indeed a very important issue now and will be of even greater import as the end draws nearer.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day – and I've added your request for your friend.

Always great to hear from you!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope your week is going well. God is blessing us with a gorgeous week here; it is quintessentially fall. I was able to take a "breather" and start responding to your email about my ministry. And thank you for your answer to my questions about the meaning of "blessing." Your response was not what I expected and now I have even more questions, especially about how it is used in specific parts of scripture and how to use it the right way when talking to other Christians. I will prepare them for the next email.

Again, your advice and reassurance to me that it is permissible, according to the Bible, to teach to other women and children/teenagers was very relieving and encouraging. As I said in that email to you, I know I have been called to a ministry of evangelism, and the more I prepare, the more I realize I am going to have to do a lot of teaching to dismantle the lies that separate people from Christ. I was coming to the same conclusion as the statement you made in your response "…the gospel does have an entry point – the information necessary to be saved – but no exit point: the ‘good news of the kingdom’ encompasses everything about it." Many unbelievers do have knowledge about what the Bible says and what Christians believe, but it is distorted knowledge or they draw the wrong conclusions about God's character from what they think they know (and many just reject what they know). I want to guide people to faith in Christ, but also help them to grow into mature believers, or be able to prepare them to find and stick to a teaching ministry where they can eventually grow.

You said "…the only thing that a believer is not allowed to do is to operate in an area for which he/she is not gifted." That makes sense to me too. I am certain that my ministry is evangelism and that is the main focus now, but I think God is leading me to teach women and girls/teenagers eventually as I grow more in His Word. I asked God to let me serve Him a few years ago and that was when He asked me to give up my career path and "dreams". Since then, the Holy Spirit has called me to make a lot of changes in my life, many of which I did not understand the reason behind at the time, but more and more I am starting to see where He is leading me. During these past few years, I have been fighting to do His Will in my life, keeping up with my Bible study/reading and spiritual growth; all the while continuing to pray for more specifics and clarity about what He wants me to do with my life for Christ. In answering my prayers the Holy Spirit has sent me numerous, unmistakable signs that I will be FISHING!

When I finally "got it" I felt (and still feel) incredible joy and excitement about this task God has chosen for me. It fits right in with the focus and fire I have felt building in my heart since finding Ichthys: To reach out to people who are separated from God, people who are in the same place or worse as I was when I strayed from Him in my teens and twenties. There were so many lies that kept me from knowing my King and Savior and I can’t wait to get to work knocking those lies down so others can see Him. I feel like a boxer getting ready to enter the ring and when I got the call "to fish" it felt like God gave me the permission to start training for the fight.

A big part of this fight, I think, will not only be learning God’s Word, but becoming "wise as a serpent" and spending time understanding the way the evil one warps God’s truth to alienate people from Him. Right now I feel an intense need to study, understand, categorize and rip apart the lies/distortions of God’s Word that kept me from Him for so many years (there were many different kinds). Eventually, I will branch out into unfamiliar territory and get a better understanding of the different attitudes, religions, belief systems and distractions that keep others from God. I need to have a general knowledge about all of this counterfeit truth. It is like you said, "People have all kinds of questions and misconceptions about the Bible. It is hard to imagine sharing the gospel without being able to address these concerns." It all boils down to me spending the time studying God’s Word, then being able to know which parts of scripture to use to effectively communicate the truth to others. Right now I am getting ready to start organizing my Bible study notes in a way that juxtaposes verses and chapters against specific lies. For example, in my last email I shared the story about the beautician who mentioned tithing to me. I need to start a page of notes about all of the ways this abuse of scripture alienates people from God and what God’s Word actually teaches. Eventually, I need to learn by heart all of the most powerful verses/chapters that argue against each lie, so that when the topic comes up in conversation with someone, I am ready to guide them to God’s Truth in a specific and concrete way. I know the more solid I am in my studies, the more the Holy Spirit will be able to use me. I have changed a lot since finding Ichthys and growing spiritually towards Christ. I see the world and my life differently than I did a few years ago. I don't think the way I used to and I don't think the way unbelievers and lukewarm Christians think. Sometimes I feel like I am from a completely different planet. But, I still need to remember how I used to think and behave before finding God's Word. I need to be able to understand and empathize with the unbelieving hearts I see all around me. I am praying to God to help me straddle this space between His Kingdom and the devil's world.

I am not sure what form my evangelism ministry will take and how I will disseminate the truth to others. I am sure the Internet will play a major role, like Ichthys. I can see how my background in graphic/web design could help me in these efforts and, if that is the case, God will use the skills I learned in art school and it will not have been a waste. I got excited when I read in your email that evangelizing ministries often are itinerant. The Holy Spirit has been preparing me for a life of travel. He has been helping me become unattached to material things for many reasons, but also because I am going to be living a life where I can’t take a lot with me. I know I will be on the move. I haven’t been led anywhere in particular yet, but last summer I applied and paid for a passport, just to be ready. Because the Holy Spirit lead me to study French, I am wondering I will be traveling to French speaking countries, eventually. There are many in Europe and Africa.

Thank you for your advice for me to state my intentions and be straightforward that my ministry is directed towards women and children, and also for your assurance that taking those steps will be sufficient to communicate to others the boundaries of my ministry. Also, I remember reading in one of your studies or emails about ministry that it is Christ, Himself, who controls who we minister to. I need to keep praying for Him to lead me to the people He has meant for me to reach.

In preparing for this ministry, I categorize my preparations in two ways: There is the spiritual growth I need to keep with and the work that I need to do in God’s Word to prepare; that is focus number one. Then there is the material/physical work He has given me to perform in my life that will support and shape my ministry; that is focus number two. God has guided me to put all of my heart into everything I do (my job, my relationships, etc) and to do it right, in a sanctified way no matter how inconsequential the task may seem. The closer I walk with Him the more He can use me in some way.

In the last few years, I have been trying to balance these two aspects of my ministry, and I fear that much of the time I put more effort into the second category than the first, but I am starting to see a shift in my life where I will have more time and energy to focus my time in God’s Word this fall. I am ready to ask for your guidance about my approach in using God’s Word to evangelize. That is the more important focus and will be the topic of many of my emails to you. First, though I want to update you on how the Holy Spirit is shaping my life, because I think much of it is coming together to shape and influence my ministry.

Thank you, Dr. Luginbill for being so patient while it takes me some time to write back to you. I will continue to keep Ichthys, you and your family in my prayers!

In Christ's Love,

Response #27: 

You are a blessing and a great encouragement! I pray for you to succeed and exceed in your efforts, even what you righteously purpose in your heart. I would of course be more than happy to respond to any and all questions you send my way. Keep to this course, my friend. It is an honorable one and a profitable one – for eternal reward – and will be a blessing to many others as well. It is very clear when a believer is really operating in the power of the Spirit, for they begin to purpose and to do things that would otherwise be impossible.

Giving power to the weary, and for the powerless He increases their strength. Even young men grow faint and weary, and even youths can stumble badly, but those who wait upon the Lord will put on new strength. They will rise up on the wing like eagles. They will run and not become weary. They will walk and not become faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

Looking forward to the fruition of your ministry!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior for whom nothing is impossible.

Bob L.

Question #28:  

Hi Robert,

As promised I want to keep you in the loop. [details omitted]

I guess this will be the feeling one will have when they have to face the ultimate Judge, Christ but at an infinite emotional degree level. You don't know what the Lord will do when the Bema seat arrives but you hope and pray you hear "well done good and faithful servant".

I guess that is what i want to hear through the eyes of faith.

Anyhow, don't mean to bore you but as promised wanted to keep you abreast.

In Christ our Lord

Any news on our friend? She did not respond to my email.

Response #28: 

Thanks much for the update.

Waiting like this is a big test. The more we learn to put ourselves completely in God's hands at such times, the better we find ourselves prepared to handle other such tests in the future (and there are plenty such coming upon the whole world).

Speaking of our friend, I did hear from her. The appointment did not go well. The Dr. was completely unsympathetic. I'm not sure where this leaves her in terms of medical help since her next appointment is not for a good long time. As I told her, the only positive is that when we have no other way of help but help from God it tends to make the issue clear. We can do no more, so we don't have to worry about our weakness; at times like this, all we can do is trust the Lord (2Cor.12:10).

I have been and I will continue to be keeping you in prayer on this, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29:  

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your letter. I have read through all your links. They are spot on! I totally agree with you on prayer. The throw away line you mentioned" I'll pray for you" happens to us all the time. It really makes my stomach turn. I get kinda upset. I'm not angry with the people just the expression not heart-felt. Regarding prayers in groups. I have not yet been part of a group prayer that doesn't include theatrics (I believe you that it can be done). Everyone seems to act out this perfect Christian image with their knowledge of words. I'm not upset with the people personally as I think most really feel they are doing right. I try not to judge them either as I don't know what's in there hearts. Its just a feeling I get. We never say anything to anyone as we are not that kind of people who get into controversial discussions regarding Gods Word. We do talk but only when felt to.

I was reading The Coming Tribulation in Seven Churches of Revelations Part 2 A. I was so delighted when I came across the "bad tree" warning. This sounds just like what we have learned this last year. We have experienced the "fruit test" I love how this is written. We have been able to distinguish between " good trees" and trees that are entirely bad. I'm starting to see some light on what we have been through this year. In every situation we have been through this year has been good at first but then comes something not good that has been hidden...at that point we pick up and move. The trees have looked good but the fruit has shown to not be good. Every time we have had to make a decision "taking the bad fruit and having a home or NOT and being homeless" many times I have felt that we are being told by the wrong side where we need to be. This is total confirmation. It would take me too many hours to write you everything that we have been through this year. I wish I had the time. One thing that has been a big eye opener is that I really don't think we would have known what we know if we hadn't been in this situation. The people we have been exposed to here are very "unique". Most people come here because they claim the Lord has told them. It is a beautiful place. Tons of wild fruit trees, wild blackberries, great gardening, lots of wild turkeys and game and most of all the water. Springs everywhere and the river is amazing. The Salmon and Steelhead run the river twice a year. The only pull back is making a living. This is the last county in the United States where you don't have to have a building permit to build a home. Of course that can be an advantage and then not. I was thinking the other day I can't believe we can't even put up a shed. It would work around here. But of course you have to have property for that to happen. I have to keep reminding myself this is where we are and its what God wants. Although I feel like I'm going to loose it sometimes and I don't have the strength to keep going. [details of difficult homeless life omitted]

It's just hard to explain. It's one thing and then another and it all builds up. No one knows exactly what its like unless its experienced. The pressure of living like this is extremely hard. Sometimes I think which is worse...going where it doesn't feel right or living uncomfortable. I prayed hard the other day to give me (us) some temporary relief of our situation. I was thinking maybe a cabin for a week or a get away somewhere. I didn't get that but its OK. I received confirmation that everything is going to be ok and to hang in there. After reading your writings today it gave me encouragement to keep going. Your testing the teachings is so true. Word for word. Our family has been exposed to many false teachers this year. We know some people non-Mormons that believe in no denomination or religious group. They are known in this valley as well respected Christians. They portray a perfect Christian image. They have great knowledge of the Bible, they come across kind, giving, humble. They go to great lengths to protect their image of sanctity. They have offered us money (which we denied). They have helped many people in this valley. We have now learned these people are hiding under a layer so thick that the average everyday living would never show where there hearts really are. We uncovered them. They actually don't like us now and I think they really don't know why. We haven't had any verbal confrontations. I think they think we just aren't there yet in there views of Christianity because of certain comments they make. Which is ok. They can have there opinion. All that matters to me is my relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I was told the other day by a gentleman that owns a restaurant in town that us being in our situation we impress him how happy and well together we are. I said you just make the best of it. I'm very thankful for this day even though I cry at times.

Thank you for your kind spirit. I really enjoy your emails.

Response #29: 

Always good to hear from you. "All that matters to me is my relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". Amen! With that attitude, the Lord will without doubt lead you to precisely the place He wants you to be – spiritually as well as geographically.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:19 NKJV

I'll continue to keep you and your family in my prayers. Nowadays I rarely see young children out on their own. The times we live in. People are the real worries today. When I was four and just turned five, my dog and I and my best friend had the run of our small Indiana town and no one thought twice about it (except when we got into trouble which was often enough). Then my dad took a church in Chicago and life changed: still had the run of the town at five, but without the dog (he stayed in Indiana, lucky dog).

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

I have certainly found in my life that without personal trials and tribulations, there is not only no real spiritual growth, but it is also not possible to appreciate so well that what is coming next is so much better than what we see as to make comparison pointless. This world is passing away; what our Lord has promised us will last forever. Keep moving forward in the Word and in the truth of Jesus Christ. Doing so means that the evil one will continue his opposition, but the end of our struggles is our Lord's good pleasure and a great eternal reward.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:6-9 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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