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Ichthys and the Contemporary Christian Experience

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Question #1: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill!

I have had several opportunities to minister to family members such as my brother who desires to make it big in this world more than anything else. He loves life in the here and now (nice house, boat, car, etc.) and living life to the fullest and making it big time is his top priority. He has told me that he understands what I say to him (the Gospel) and finds it interesting and even remembers every word I spoke to him. For instance he told me, "I remember that, you said that to me before." He remembers because he finds it interesting. I see this as God slowly drawing my brother to Him. I got several emails also from him expressing himself to me by telling me that I shouldn't force things on him sometimes. This confuses me. When is the right time to speak about the Gospel? and how often should I do it as to not seem like I am trying to force it upon him? I don't know what tomorrow will bring for any of us which is why I feel that time is precious. What are your thoughts?


Response #1:  

Good to hear from you. And good for you that you are witnessing to your family. Oftentimes, family members are the most difficult "nuts to crack", and I think that in many cases it is more difficult to talk to close family about the gospel than it is to evangelize perfect strangers. A lot of that is on account of the fact that our family think they "know us" now because they "knew us then". Also, there are often emotional issues and past baggage of all sorts which may not be present in the case of mere friends (let alone perfect strangers). So I applaud your courage, an essential quality necessary to witness for Jesus Christ in any case.

This is the sort of question which it is difficult for a third party to answer since it does not have a particular, direct biblical answer and depends upon circumstances. So while I will give you some of my impressions here, the essential answer is that each believer has to make these sorts of judgment calls for him/herself, based upon what scripture does say, their own spiritual growth, and the intricacies of the particular situation, aided by the Holy Spirit and prayer. I think it is certainly true that when it comes to giving the gospel to people we love (or in general as well too) that it is possible to do either too much or too little. If one is going to err, erring on the side of doing too much is probably the better way to go, but I hasten to add that by that I mean only until one is sure that the place of "too much" has been or is about to be reached. Because going "overboard" can turn people off too.

Two things to keep in mind in all this are, first, that God is in control and has scripted all this before the universe was ever created; secondly, accepting Jesus is something that everyone will do who has been ordained for it, and something that no one will do who has deliberately chosen against it. Therefore, once we have made the gospel clear to a person, we have "done our job" well enough for that person to be saved if salvation is what they desire. Since the Holy Spirit is the One who makes what we say understandable to their spirit and thence to their heart, and since Jesus is the One being accepted (or rejected), not us, and since the Father has ordained the opportunity this person is receiving, we personally are really a very small part of the picture. God has so ordained the process of human history that every human being (with the exception of those who never attain or who die before attaining normal human mental competency and maturity) comes to realize the existence of God, their mortality, and their inability to stand before God without salvation because of their sinful imperfection. Knowing these things, seeing the approach of death, and not being interested in "getting right with God" seems to me and most believers to be total lunacy. But in the history of the human race, that is where the 99% has always been. God went so far as to subject His own dear Son our Lord to the judgment of eternal death for all of mankind's sins, even though most human beings are not interested in receiving this bewilderingly gracious act and offer. What I mean is, if people are that hard of heart to throw the cross back in the Father's face, what can a single believer do?

That said, the fact that God knows everything in advance should also be a motivation to persevere. He does honor prayer (and He knew in advance we would be praying Ė if we are actually going to be praying). He does honor commitment (and He knew in advance we would persevere in witnessing to those we love Ė if we are actually going to keep at it). And He does honor those who honor Him (1Sam.2:30); He does act in behalf of those who truly love Him (Ps.91:14-16); He does respect the faith of those who pray to Him in true faith (Matt.21:22). So one of the best ways to help those we love, including on the issue of salvation, is to persevere in our own spiritual growth, not only for the magnification of the grace we receive personally, but also in the ever improving witness of the life we are sure then to exhibit:

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 NASB

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
1st Peter 3:1-2 NASB

I don't want to say that it is impossible to "get it wrong" in this regard, but as long as a Christian is personally growing spiritually, and gives the gospel correctly, and operates out of true Christian love as opposed to questionable motivations, then there really is no "wrong" way to witness, for God the Father will honor genuine motives, the Spirit will use the sword of truth presented, and the Son will draw all that are His to Himself. Our role is much more of a privilege than of a necessity. So while I applaud your desire to "get it right" in all things Ė and we all should so strive not only in witnessing but in every single aspect of our lives Ė when it comes to "judgment call" areas of life like the specific mechanics of witnessing it is hard to be wrong. I would say to do what you feel the Spirit is calling you to do (important to separate this from mere emotions, however), informed by the spiritual common sense within in you that grows day by day through the intake and application of the truth of the Word of God. Ultimately, that is all we need to do. We really only have to ask, "what is the right thing?", "what is the godly thing?", "what does the Lord want me to do?". And as long as we have done our best to put ourselves in that "sweet spot" of God's will as best we can discover it, then we can relax completely and really "let go and let God do it". As long as we not messing things up by some sort of sinful conduct, improper motivation, biblically incorrect procedure, or a wrong presentation of the gospel content, then we can rest assured that it is really the Lord who is "flying this plane", and we are just along for the ride. Trust Him that He will bring about all the legitimate desires of your heart in the godly, righteous way.

I will continue to keep you and your brother in my prayers as well. Please note that there is much more about all of the above at the recently posted link BB 4B: Soteriology.

Keep soldiering on as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Thanks for the update on the new posting, Rob!

Also, have you considered incorporating Facebook, somehow, with your Ichthys.com?

Response #2: 

You're very welcome Ė thanks for the update to your email address for my notification list (most people forget about this when they migrate).

I don't see any pluses for Ichthys with Facebook (or Twitter, etc.), only minuses. But then I'm not a big user. I'd be happy to hear a different perspective.

In Jesus,

Bob L

Question #3: 

Hello Bob

The social network is expanding rapidly where over 20-50 million users are using this medium as a ways and means of socializing and connecting.

Your website, ichthys.com can be easily interfaced as an outreach to reach millions. Most companies have a Facebook account: AT&T, Zune, CNN, NBC, etc.

I use Facebook only. The user controls the security settings. For example, ichthys.com can allow only those who are invited friends to be able to see ichthys.com "friends". Hence, the chain reaction of other users with the same interests will build rapidly. On the homepage, people can post questions and blog as other friends can chime in or respond to questions. You'll have the ability to be a moderator on that account and could chime in once in a while for any issues being discussed that warrant your input or clarification.

The only negative side is being inundated daily by messages and it would require someone to monitor.

It is worth the try. Let me know what you think.

Response #3:  

Thanks for taking the time to write this. The time to monitor the account is one of the things I would be very concerned about. Right now, Ichthys is averaging up to 1,400 unique visitors a day. Granted most of these "looky loos" who click out almost immediately. But if only one percent of these visitors availed themselves of the opportunity to blog and converse with others, it would just about double the amount of time that I would need to spend on admin-type issues (and I am stretched pretty thin as it is). If this feature proved more successful, and if it attracted even more active visitors than the site (a likely occurrence, since many users now visit only once or twice a month to download whatever they are interested in), then maintaining any sort of responsible monitoring would be impossible. As a pastor-teacher, I have a certain responsibility to make sure that no one accessing this ministry is preyed upon by any third party falsely representing themselves as connected to Ichthys. That is simple enough at present, but I am not so sure that with a Facebook presence it could be entirely avoided. In a brick-and-mortar church, this is a big enough problem; in cyberspace, well, there really is no way to know if a person is who they say they are, and difficult to gauge if they are going to be trouble Ė until they become trouble (and then only if one has the time to do a decent job of monitoring). As to being worth a try, I am the sort of person who likes to start what I finish, and am therefore reluctant to start something that is unlikely to be capable of being finished, so I would want to be pretty sure of all of the issues of workability before the fact.

As I say, I am not a big Facebook user, so it is very possible that my impressions are erroneous. I would be very happy to hear your reactions to the above.

Thanks again for your time, and for your support of this ministry!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill:

I have been attending a non-denominational, grace ministry, dedicated to the in depth teaching of the Word of God from the original languages and making it available at no charge throughout the world. I believe the Holy Spirit led me to your website while searching for the doctrine of suffering, a topic we are currently studying at my local church. I wanted to let you know I was blessed to read your teaching on the subject and I look forward to reading the other lessons available on your website.

I'm wondering whether your lessons are available on CD's or audio tape.

I pray that God will continue to use your ministry as a light to a lost and dying world and to those believers who wish to continue to advance in the spiritual life.

Thank you for your dedication to the Word of God.

In Christ,

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance. You are most welcome to all the materials at Ichthys, quite a number of which have to do with Christian suffering, even if not focused on that subject particularly (it is, after all, an integral part of Christian growth; cf. the link: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm").

I am sorry to report that Ichthys has no video or audio component. There are many reasons for this (i.e., obstacles to this), but the chief of them is time. As a full-time Classics professor, continuing my commitment to weekly email postings and to the production of major studies as well prevents my branching out into these other areas (for the moment, at any rate). I do very much appreciate the interest, however! And one never knows what doors the Lord will open in the future.

Thank you for all your kind words, and especially for your prayers.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

Thank you sir for your kindness to me. I'm very glad Bob, to have made your acquaintance as well. God's blessings in Messiah be with you and yours.

I'd also like to thank you very much for your considered input, feedback and advice on the paper. I know your time is precious and I count myself blest to have your review.

If I may say so, I have no personal stake in publishing a paper. But I've had no rest since nearly the beginning of my walk of faith with Messiah, knowing that essential elements of the Good News are misunderstood by the Christian world. More than a billion Catholics believe, at least nominally, that sacramental water baptism regenerates the baby. I may sound melodramatic but I sometimes have tears over my lack of understanding of the Good News, and over the lack of understanding by the Ekklesia.

I mentioned that I came to faith while in the USMC. Before coming to faith indulged in much questionable conduct. After coming to faith I realized that in God's eyes my behavior had been worthy of death, even though I was quite ignorant. I realized then that I had absolutely no good work to present to God for my salvation. Rather I knew that only the Messiah, lifted up on the tree, like the bronze serpent lifted up on the pole, would provide my salvation. I came to faith pretty much on my own, but I also soon realized I should associate with people who believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ. Being completely ignorant, I looked in the yellow pages to find a "non-denominational" church. The associate pastor of the very first church I visited, the very first time I went, told me, almost nonchalantly, that if I were not immersed in water I would go to hell. I was shocked. That seemed completely wrong, knowing that Yeshua provided my salvation by grace, not works. But at the time as a new believer I was incapable of answering.

The years have passed and I still have no rest. In the military you do not do anything unless you have orders. And if you do not understand your orders, you are obligated to find out what they mean before you do anything. If not you might do something your C.O. actually does not want you to do. I believe most of the Christian world has gone off without understanding their orders, and without seeking clarification. But even Paul the apostle set an example and went to Jerusalem to present the content of his evangel to the Jewish Apostolic leadership. Paul says he might have been mistaken and that he might have been running in vain. He wanted to be sure. After two-thousand years, how much more should we strive to verify the evangel that for long centuries was so grossly distorted.

So that really is the point of my paper. It is an attempt to elicit either affirmation of the conclusions, or correction of error. And please understand that I'm not asking you Bob specifically for that kind of response. But I honestly do not feel released to do anything until these issues are clarified, especially as it relates to "the gospel to the circumcision" which may not be identical with "the gospel to the uncircumcision", even though faith in Messiah Yeshua is the basis for salvation in both of them.

One of the editors has been working with me, and he is in favor of having it published. He has mentioned that the paper is longer than necessary. It is usually easier to wave the sword to remove redundant information than to wave the quill to add missing information. So I will tighten the paper up before it goes anywhere.

Would you possibly be willing to answer a questionnaire for this editor, accepting the premise that you do not regard yourself an expert in extra-biblical Jewish literature? I think he would appreciate your opinion of the paper in any case. But you're under no obligation.

Now, with your permission, I will take you up on your offer and ask your opinion about some verses in Greek. But please feel no rush at all to answer, nor any hesitation to defer the question. It is not exactly simple.

Perhaps I am too easily impressed by things that are not remarkable, but the following four verses in Acts strike me as interesting at the very least.

Does Luke intend to indicate different things in the two formulations?

Peter's command for water baptism:

Acts 2:38: Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 10:48: So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Luke's narrative on two situations involving delayed reception of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 8:16: because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:5: On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

F.F. Bruce and Philip Schaff (et al) seemed to think there is a difference between the two. The difference is what led me to list what others have said about the Greek behind "baptized into the name" in 8:16.

For the sake of argument, if Luke actually used ὑπῆρχον with its more ancient understanding, what would the verse say? Blass and Debrunner say, "Huparchein, only with the perfect participle" would be an "analogous way to denote the beginning of a state or condition." In this case, the beginning of what state or condition would it indicate?

You mention that by NT days this construction had pretty much fallen out of usage. Do you know of any examples, either in the NT, or secular writers, or in the Fathers, where such construction is used?

So, I think I've used up quite enough of your gracious offer for the time being.

Just to mention that the farthest overseas I got in the USMC was to Puerto Rico for a few weeks. Like you, I never met anyone that was glad to have been stationed on Okinawa. About the only other thing I know about Okinawa is that the bloody battle was raging there in May of 1945, when my dad turned 17. He got his folks to sign the papers and joined his older brother, my late uncle, in the USMC. Of course two nuke strikes, just as he finished boot camp, probably saved his life, and hence resulted in my coming into existence. So the only place my dad actually landed was in the brig at Rosy Roads, Puerto Rico, the location of my 3 week overseas adventure 30 years later.

Today is the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, and on the 9th the Jewish world mourns the destruction of both the first and second temples. I agree with you that soon there is going to be a great outbreak of faith in Messiah Yeshua here in Israel, and I believe it will spill over into the surrounding Arab world too. May it be soon.

Many blessings Bob, and please feel no obligation for a speedy reply.

Sincerely in Messiah,

Response #5:  

I'd be happy to do a questionnaire, previous qualifications about my qualifications being understood (by profession I am a Classics professor and generally only do scholarly referee work for Classical and ancient historical journals).

I have a problem with any distinction between Jews and gentiles being drawn on a biblical basis. Of course, there are great cultural differences, and the story of the early Church is replete with examples of that; these same differences and distinctions have not in my view dissipated over time. In fact, they have increased as the original Jewish leadership of the Church passed from the scene. I am very sensitive to the fact that Jews require a different approach Ė preferable from fellow (believing Jews) Ė in order to be likely to respond to the gospel (this is why, for example, the 144,000 need to be Jewish, their ministry being primarily to Jews not gentiles). That is a reality of culture; but the gospel message, the gospel requirements are the same. We are all one in Jesus Christ, and we all get there the same way: by faith in His Person and work on the cross.

Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Romans 3:30 KJV

I am new to some of the issues you are addressing, but I have long been firmly opposed to the traditional view (coming from most denominations) that there is somehow a wide chasm between "Israel and the Church" (please see the link). As I have written and explained many times and in many places, the Bible makes no such distinction (even though almost everyone seems to think it does). Believers are the Church; the ekklesia is the qahal. It is certainly true that the gift of the Spirit changed many things . . . in the administration of grace (that is the real point behind "dispensations" to the extent that the concept is at all helpful in explaining anything; please see the link), but it did not change the composition of the Church. The Body of Christ consists of all from Adam and Eve to the last person saved before our Lord's return. I will not go over all the voluminous proofs here; suffice it to say that the Bible read with this viewpoint reinforces it on every page, whereas attempts to find structural distinctions (beyond the priority of Israel and the advantage of being Jewish) will be sought in vain.

As to the passages you ask about, I will answer succinctly here, because, as often happens in such matters, understanding the language and (in my view, anyway) the correct theological perspective will redirect the argument entirely. Do feel free to ask "follow ups"!

1) Acts 2:38: The key phrase here is "for the forgiveness of sins". I connect this prepositional phrase more with "Repent!" than with "Let each be baptized"; it also clearly connects up with the preceding prepositional phrase "in the Name of Jesus Christ". There are five elements here: a) repentance/change of mind about the gospel (the impetus/prerequisite for faith; b) water-baptism; c) the Name of Christ (the object of faith); d) forgiveness (based on faith); e) the gift of the Spirit (the result of faith). As the parentheses make clear, water-baptism is the one "odd man out" in the list, and indeed was as unnecessary then as it is now. The other elements all tie together and the verbal one is a direct command. However, the phrase "let each be baptized", is a permissive, third person imperative (permissive when the people to whom it is addressed are actually present, as in "let each have his one wife" which is not a command to marry but a permission to marry). In my opinion, Peter was aware that water-baptism was not necessary for salvation, but in the context of the baptism of John and the audience with whom he was speaking who would have to connect John with Jesus to understand His Messiahship, this was not only forgivable Ė it might even have been necessary on this particular occasion. That does not mean, however, as Peter grew, as the knowledge of the age of grace grew, and the base of Jewish believers grew, that it would not be appropriate to set aside this ritual which, since the Messiah had already come, was technically no longer necessary (and potentially very misleading, as history has shown). After all, we know that Peter and even Paul, sad to say, did not give up their attendance on the temple and the temple rites immediately, even though later on Paul would be very vehement in his witness to the truth that such things were in effect trampling Jesus' sacrifice underfoot (because by continuing in the shadows, one is proclaiming that the reality has not yet come: the theme of Hebrews; cf. Heb.6:4; 10:29). The same is true of water-baptism; John's baptism (the only true water-baptism) was a preparation ministry for the Messiah; once the Messiah had come, accomplished His first advent mission, and departed to heaven, continuing in water-baptism has the same overall effect: proclaiming that we still need to prepare for His first coming.

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV

2) Acts 10:38: Yes, Peter told them to be baptized with water, but as a concession, not a requirement, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have!" (NIV). Remember too that these were all gentiles, not Jews. Peter was at this point still climbing the "learning curve". I know people assume that if the apostles did it (whatever "it" was), they had to have been right. But Acts is a historical book and it relates the truth of what happened, right or wrong; just as the apostles make mistakes in the gospels, neither are they perfect in Acts. Peter we know from Galatians fell into hypocrisy on a very similar issue in Antioch, letting himself be bullied out of close fellowship with gentiles (Gal.2:11-14); and, less we forget, Peter would never have gone to Cornelius without the lesson he received directly from God on the roof of Simon the tanner's house (and the miracle of the men who arrived precisely as the Spirit said they would). When Paul and Barnabas feud over taking John Mark on the second apostolic journey, at least one of these apostles was wrong (and likely both were at least a little off-base). In my view, all we can take from this verse is what I freely admit, namely, that during the apostolic days there was a period of transition wherein everyone had to get used to the "new way" of doing things. For the gentiles, this meant putting up with otherwise unnecessary Jewish customs and interpretations until these were gradually moved towards the entire truth of the gospel (as in the patience they demonstrated until the Jerusalem council exempted them from the Law); for the Jews, it meant coming to terms with the influx of gentiles into the Body of Christ, and also with the abrogation of the Law (which Jesus had just fulfilled). Neither transition was easy, and, nearly two thousand year later, it is still not complete (both sides are still making mistakes for failure to diligently pursue the scriptures).

3) Acts 8:16: The verb hyparcho is used throughout the NT and secular Greek as a copula. That is, it is just a synonym for the verb "to be". One need to look no further than the usage in Luke and Acts (though Peter, Paul, and James use the verb the same way) to see that loading the verb down with any sort of special meaning is a mistake (cf. Lk.7:25; 8:41; 9:48; 11:13; 16:14; 16:23; 23:50; Acts 2:30; 3:2; 3:6; 4:34; 4:37; 5:4; 7:55; 10:12; 16:3; 16:20; 16:37; 17:24; 17:27; 17:29; 19:36; 19:40; 21:20; 22:3; 27:12; 27:21; 27:34; 28:7; 28:18). The volume of passages here makes it clear that this is a "tick" of Luke's, that is, an idiom (as in Mark's fondness for the adverb euthus) which is common enough elsewhere but clearly a favorite of his. That predisposition makes investing the passage in question with any special meaning because of hyparcho doubly unlikely. This is just a typical periphrasis for the perfect passive, which in all ages of Greek was rendered by the perfect participle and a copula.

4) Acts 19:5: Verse 5 says "on hearing, they were baptized into the Person of the Lord". I take the aorist participle to be expressing their faith (which, like the men assembled at Cornelius' house in Acts 10, followed immediately upon hearing the Good News), and the main verb to refer to their salvation (entered into Christ by the Spirit) Ė not a reference to water-baptism. Notice, this all happens before Paul puts his hands on them in verse six (and he does so not to dunk them even then, but to minister the gift of the Spirit as the apostles did).

You can find much more about this at the following link which will also lead you to many others:

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Thanks for all your good words! I look forward to hearing from you again.

Keep up all your good hard work for the kingdom of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

The person who sent Q 11 thru Q 15 in your latest emails seems to be one of those hobby horse riders that gets on a false trail and rocks like crazy trying to get an answer he likes. I read the links he referenced and their content is so much baloney it looks like something even the National Enquirer would refuse. So many seem to get tossed about by every rumor of evidence because they do not evaluate it in light of Scripture. They take anotherís version at face value rather than discerning the truth. It is a case of "if it is written and sounds deep it must be true" type of gullibility. Some of this is attributable to spiritual immaturity but I suspect thereís some level of fruitcake also involved. Call me cynical. Since thereís been very little basic teaching of the Word in churches on a widespread basis for four or five generations, the collective ignorance is now what is widespread. How much more so in another 15 years.

It reminded me of when I was general counsel to our state auditor several years ago. We would get complaints from persons about some locally elected official and if state auditor did not do exactly what they thought should be done, they would accuse him of being bribed. The guy was truly honest and very conscientious about investigating corruption and would get very upset at such allegations. I told him it wasnít worth worrying about because no matter what he did, someone would not like it; just make the best decision and move on. The complainants were almost always someone with a personal grudge against the public official they accused of wrongdoing. Some would invariably get mad at me when I would explain no law had been broken. Occasionally one would threaten me and I would invite them to come visit me and my two friends, Smith and Wesson. Never had anyone take me up on my offer. That also seemed to end the phone calls from that person.

Hang in there.

Response #6: 

Thanks Ė I couldn't agree more. As always, I greatly appreciate your comments. As you can see, they are very welcome additions to the weekly posting!

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Bob,

It's been quite a while since we conversed. I see from your emails that you are still having a huge impact on many who just "happen" to run across your site (as I did years ago). Your emails and responses alone are a Bible lesson in and of itself because they are questions that many of us have. This week's question on blessing, cursing, and prayer was one that I had often wondered about and the answer brought an "ahah" from me. I cannot tell you how blessed I and my entire family has been since we last corresponded. At that time I was having some serious problems which have greatly improved thanks to God's grace, mercy, and the wisdom that he has given me to research problems and come up with solutions. May God continue to bless you and the mighty work that you do in His name.

Your sister in Christ,

Response #7:  

Always so good to hear from you. Sorry for the delay in response. I have been in the final "push" to get CT 6 done (finished the draft on Monday night). I'll be sending out an announcement about the preliminary posting later, but I wanted to get off a "thank you" to you first. It's always great to hear that these things are helping my brothers and sisters in Jesus grow. After all, that's what we're here for. I appreciate your encouragement.

I have been keeping you and your health in my prayers. How wonderful to hear that things are going well for you and yours! And by the way, how is your ministry to the children going?

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello Bob,

It was so nice to hear from you again and find that the draft for CT 6 is available too. I can't wait to get started. Your site is the most comprehensive and thorough one I have found on the web for religious studies (although not for newbies). It is just amazing the amount and depth of Bible teaching available knowing the research and work that went into making it happen. Because of my eyes, Iím sorry to say that Iíve not yet completed all your studies. While my knowledge of God's word is deep, there is still much to be learned even from your Bible Basics series. My distance vision is excellent, but close up vision has gone to the dogs because for more than 25 years I set looking at a computer screen all day. I sometimes find that an email topic grabs my attention and then Iím off to a completely different area of the site than the one I previously left. Printing the series would solve the problem, but I would miss the great emails, some with links that go back years. If Iím not mistaken, I saw an email recently from a Russian. That is awesome and your reward should be awesome; I canít even conceive the numbers you have reached through this online ministry. Thank goodness the sin of jealousy will be non-existent in heaven cause there are many whose rewards will not compare (myself #1). Other than the US, how many countries have your readers come from?

As for my health, I donít discuss the miracles (there have been 2 in the last 15 years) that have occurred with people, primarily because I can see the skepticism in their eyes. Although I know my osteoporotic bones have not completely regenerated (a 10 year process for long bones), if I didnít know I had the disease, I wouldnít know it. Thatís how great the change is as far as pain, weakness, etc, and, after almost 200 hours of research, I decided to forego the very dangerous medicine typically prescribed and focused on the cause (vitamin D deficiency). I felt the difference within weeks. I couldnít help but smile when I read the email from the gentleman describing the family that the Lord was blessing greatly. I think mine is one such family. My husband was diagnosed in early 2009 with leukemia (stage 0); the kind with a great chance of a long remission. It was more than 15 months before he required any treatment whatsoever. He began 6 months of chemo (3 days/mo) in May. The chemo greatly depresses the immune system leaving the body high susceptible. For 6 days after chemo, he feels terrible and generally on the 7th day, he feels well enough to go out and play 18 holes of golf. The doctor said the first treatment got rid of any trace of cancer, but he still must go the full routine to ensure that there is none left in the bone marrow. A month after he was diagnosed, I happened to be reading a brochure that I had set aside a few months earlier. Lo and behold, I found that his type of cancer was covered under Agent Orange (Vietnam). Less than 3 months later, he has full military disability in addition to his regular military retirement. If I think about all the bad things that have happened, it only takes a moment to find the blessing the Lord has provided. There have been several such incidents in my life where I can see that my family was being blessed and I do believe itís because I pray for them daily Ė I got that from Job.

My ministry with the World Vision program is not going so great. While I still have my sponsored children, my attempts to get others to sponsor have fallen on deaf ears. Most of these ministries work in conjunction with a personís church. While no one actually said it, my church wanted no parts of it. After hearing of my desire to share the ministry with others in the church, I suddenly began hearing about a missionary family in Zambia that we support. I have been a member of this church for decades and only began hearing of this family after my attempts to get members to sponsor third-world children. I was allowed to have the use of the display case for a month and not one person mentioned it (the display) or said a single word about it. Most that I spoke to on an individual basis said there were enough people right in our own town that needed help. I didnít think it would do any good to explain that the poorest family in the US could not be compared with one in Haiti (for example). To say that I am disillusioned, is putting it mildly. I sincerely believe that my pastor is a godly man, but the various boards and other factions actually run the church. I attend church regularly primarily because of my family. I suspect some of them are weak in faith but enjoy the social aspect of the church. I try to lead by example; I donít know what else to do. I could say I attend church to be around other believers (and there are many), but I have had a few tell me recently that they seldom read their Bibles. I declined an invitation recently to join a book club. The reason I gave was that my reading time was limited and the time I did have was given to the Bible and related literature. The lady, a member of my church, told me that she admired that because she did not read it (Bible) much at all (not nearly enough, she said). Of course I didnít go into the fact that she might have time for more Bible study if she left the book club alone. I have also found some that donít read the Bible because of problems similar to mine (eye sight). With them, I gladly share (give actually) audio Bibles with people; even workmen who have come to my home to do repairs. When we talk about the Word of God and they find that they can listen to it on the radio, if they want an audio Bible, they get it.

As for World Vision (and similar organizations), I have my own disillusionment with some of these agencies as more and more I find about the unbelievably lavish lifestyles the CEOís and others lead. While the actual founder of WV, Bob Pierce was a missionary and pastor, the current CEO is anything but. Itís a business.

I applaud you even more because many websites, such as yours, solicit money via paypal for the upkeep of the site. As a former computer specialist, I know there are many expenses associated with a site as large as yours. You must use your regular job to finance your work for the Lord.

I didnít mean to go on for so long; forgive me if I ramble at times. To you, I can only say keep up the good work. It is a mighty good work.

Your sister in Christ,

Response #8: 

Thank you so much for the update! And thank you so very much for all your kind words.

I am absolutely thrilled to hear what the Lord is doing for you and your family! He "mixes" things just right, doesn't He? We have our troubles, we have our problems, we have our crosses to bear; we also have our victories, if we just trust Him long enough to see the sea part.

We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
Psalm 20:5-6 NIV

Your description of your local church is typical, as is your rationale; believe me, I understand how a good Christian would want to do anything reasonable to keep their family "engaged" with the Lord, even at a low level. This is a ministry, as is all of your other work for Him. Some of these problems are easier to solve than others. I will tell you that what you are discovering is what I discovered very early on. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but, blessedly, I have always had a great skepticism about the ability of organized religion (or organized anything) to do what needed to be done. In seminary, I came very close to partnering up with the Presbyterian Church (my dad was a minister in that church and that is what I had grown up with); happily, I decided to strike out on my own instead (more in the manner of the ministry that influenced me while in the USMC). I knew it would never provide a paycheck, and, the Lord be praised, it has never needed to do so. I suspect you will find that your extra-organizational efforts in the areas to which you find yourself called to serve Jesus Christ will be far more satisfying and far more successful than anything piggy-backed on someone else's organization.

Finally, don't sell yourself short. We all have the potential of reaching the highest levels of eternal reward. We all have our own gifts and our own unique circumstances. It's what we do with them that counts. The widow who threw a penny into the temple offering outdid all the rich men of her day, not only on account of relative means, but also out of relative love and dedication to the Lord. He knows the "true score", and if we persevere in "doing good", growing in Him (as you are doing); believing the truth and passing the tests He gives us (as you are doing), and striving to serve Him as best we can according to what He has called us to do (as you are doing), then there is no upper limit beyond what place on ourselves.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:9-10 NIV

In joyous anticipation of that blessed harvest to come.

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

May the Lord continue to touch you. May he enlarge your territory and may he bless the works of your hands. Once again thank you for your response but I have another question. What is the biblical position of equal rights as in right between men and women? Should women preach in churches or lead churches?

Response #9:  

Women are unquestionably full fellow heirs of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and as such just as entitled to win the three crowns of reward and amass treasure in heaven as much as any male believer. To this purpose, as believers and members of His Church, women are also given gifts at salvation as all members of the Body are. And of course in the history of the community of faith, the number of great female believers who accomplished much for our Lord and His Church is large and impressive (see for instance the wonderful example of Mary Magdalene whose faith in the resurrection eclipsed that of the apostles: Christ's appearance to Mary Magdalene; see the link). When it say in 1st Timothy 2:12 "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man", however, I find that unequivocally to mean that women do not have the gift of pastor-teacher and therefore are not authorized to teach the Bible to the congregation. That does not mean that they cannot teach other women or children Ė they certainly may. It does mean that the primary reason for assembly, the teaching of the Word of God, is left to those who have been specifically gifted by God to carry it out. Only men are so gifted. However, I hasten to point out that one finds the leadership in many churches composed of men who are not so gifted, or who are not properly prepared, or who have no intention whatsoever of actually studying diligently and teaching the Word (as opposed to preaching a sermon Ė which is not the same thing at all), or often all three at once. In such instances, the difference between a "male preacher" and a "female preacher" is an academic one only. Here is what I have written on this previously:

Does the Bible prohibit women from preaching or teaching in the Church?

More about Women Preachers.

It's not a question of "rights"; it's a question of "what is right" and why.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

I need some advice on how to study and read your entire series of books. What is the chronological order you suggest for the best learning? Your site is so vast itís hard to figure out where to start.

In Christ

Response #10: 

Good to make your acquaintance. The best answer I can give you here is the one I give on the FAQ page (pasted in here for your convenience):

8. Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?

As these studies all reinforce and complement one another, a variety of approaches will work equally well. I do recommend the study Read Your Bible as a good place to start in order to understand the methodology of this ministry. The Peter Series then provides a good general introduction to many basic doctrines. The Bible Basics series is not yet complete, but the available studies (Theology, Angelology, Anthropology, Hamartiology, Christology) provide comprehensive treatments of the subject matter they contain. The completed Satanic Rebellion series and the nearly complete Coming Tribulation series, while primarily focused on eschatology, contain much additional doctrinal information on a variety of subjects and can thus also be very profitable for general spiritual growth. Making a habit of reading the weekly e-mail response postings is also recommended: E-mails at Ichthys.

Thanks for your interest in Ichthys! Please do feel free to write back about this or anything else.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11: 

Mr. Bill,

It's always good to hear from you. I get excited when you respond, because I know you're a servant of God, and you respond with sincerity, Godliness, faith, and wisdom.

To begin with, I really want to know how you are. If there is anything you would like me and/or others to pray about, please do not hesitate to tell. I am a website developer and would be happy to give you the benefit of my expertise.

But I have some good news:

1. In and around the time I contacted you, when I sought to really please God instead of being a noisy cymbal, I've noticed one BIG thing: I'm released from my duties. But these are duties that I have put myself under. Reading the Bible...doing it every day...I think it's been more of a ritual. I think it was part of my growing spiritually to see that. God has shed these blinders, and opened my eyes to LIVING LIFE, instead of burdening myself with "God's duties", but instead every day seek out what exactly He WANTS me to do. Recently I feel called to focus more on work upon making an income so I don't get in debt and I can take care of myself. Also I feel He wants me to focus on healing myself so I can do the duties that I'm called to. He is my daily bread. I feel called most of all to live every breath for Him, and I know as I seek Him first, everything else will pile under, more organized than I could ever get it.

2. I went tubing on Friday. Just being outside all day was enough to bring reality within reach and overflowing. By the next day, I had news eyes on God's creation.

3. God has everything under control, so ***I*** don't really have to worry about it, other than use my brain.

After I read your reply, some time later it really hit me....something you said. "To use my talent for good". I don't know how much of a talent this is, but it is a talent. I see that......now. And today, our churches youth pastor went over a parable: about the people with the talents. One had one........I feel like I'm that person, which doesn't matter because I know that whatever God has given me is really good, and I know once I use it for His glory, then through His strength, it is really something. I don't know exactly I can do with this.

I'm realizing more that if I think that any strength is from me, then I'm being really stupid, because I'm a weak vessel, broken shards with God's super glue which doesn't even begin to describe what He's doing. Indeed His grace is sufficient for me. But I don't see this as a cross to bear, because a cross is something we pick up ourselves right? But I do see this as a thorn in the flesh. Except this thorn is a good thorn from God.

Another good thing I didn't list above, is the second thing you counseled me about. I am now looking /*forward*/. That is what matters, and that's where I'm called. They are gone as you said, so **crosses arms** I don't have to worry about them. Thank you for reminding me of this stuff! Thank you for being a vessel for God and helping me and praying for me.

During this process, I want to form a daily process of working on memorizing the New Testament. Even though I have this condition and my memory is horrible, God has blessed me with good memorization skills. Part of the plan is to, instead of having a daily Bible reading time, and then a time set apart for memorization, then I time for Bible-study" Why not join all of these together? I can wake up...and as my gears are creaking, I can read. Then mid day I can *memorize*, and at night I can study! All of the same passage...then as I read I can know, as I memorize I can be, and as I study I can do! This will be efficient, and I can know it really well after I'm done. Also I can research (that's how I ran across your website), and write annotations! God's in control!

Thank you again Mr. Bill. I know you research a lot, and also teach, and it must be a hassle when people dump their problems on you. But I know the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. I see now that when I truly love God, then I truly love people, including myself. Sorry this took so long. I wanted to apply what God had given me and the advice that you had sent, then reply with a note of application result, and hopeful sign of change. The good kind I hope.

On a whole different note, I don't know if you've seen this or not, but at Godhatesamerica.com they say John 3:16 (under the "what about John 3:16 link), when it says "the world" that's really talking about the "world of believers" and that God actually hates unbelievers, which is really stupid. I emailed them and posed a theological debate arguing that the whole Bible literally goes against what he said. He really has a bad attitude about......um.....everything....and I pointed that out also. This totally stinks because it's bringing down the name of God and God's love for us. I realize that our voice needs to be louder, although it's the Holy Spirit, I feel called to PROCLAIM. When I typed in "God america" in Google, it was the second website to pop up! I want to make a website that appears above it that tells the people of America that God loves them. And provide PROOF, the gospel of Jesus Christ. His message to the world.

May your day be blessed with the knowledge of the Word of God, and remembrance never fail to be applied in every aspect, with the blessing of the love of God and His strength in the same.

I'm praying for you.

In Christ,

Response #11:  

Thank you for your encouraging and enthusiastic email. Thank you also for your very kind offer of help. It means a lot. I have taken pains to keep this website's architecture on a fairly basic level (for a number of reasons), but can always benefit from constructive advice. For example, the visibility level is somewhat less than I would like, but on the other hand, I think I have pretty much exhausted the number of ways to change that and not violate my own standards about what I would feel comfortable in doing. On top of that, I have my hands pretty much full with the level of response as is. But do feel free to have a look at the code (there's no CSS style sheet so it's all visible on the net).

I would also like you to remember that the Christian life is a Marathon, not a sprint (please see the link: Spiritual Marathons). That is a very important perspective to maintain, in my opinion, whether one is spiritually "up" or "down", because, of course, sooner or later things will change. The evil one tries both to pull us from the path and bump us off of it, so we need to be flexible in our balance whatever the circumstances of the day.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2nd Timothy 4:2 NASB

It sounds as if you are beginning to hone in on a potential ministry angle, and that is most commendable. Here too I have a bit of friendly advice: the best and most effective ministry always follows genuine spiritual growth. I would never suggest that a believer put any service to which the Lord is calling him on hold, but I know for certain that ministry can't replace growth and can't really be effective without growth, so should never be allowed to replace or hinder growth.

Thanks in advance for putting up with my friendly concern!

Your brother in Jesus and fellow prayer warrior,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hey Mr. Bill!

I can tell from the source that your website is frontpage. Take my advice that, even though there are 100's of good nerds at Microsoft Corp., the head guys over the operation are only interested in money and "getting the job done". Front page may work. Front page may be "compatible", however you need something much more flexible and sensible than frontpage. Although your website may work, it's methods are just to "get the job done". I see you have done very well with the organization and operation of the website. You think a lot like I do. However, hearing you say there is no stylesheet sends goosebumps down my back. I urge you to stop using frontpage right now. I would advise you to switch to Wordpress, which is currently about the most powerful but yet simple CMS out there right now. Made by coders, for coders and non-coders alike, I believe this system is what you're looking for. It's free btw. It does have premium, however, I think they will let you connect your domain name to the WP system so you'd have it on ichthys.com.

Thanks Mr. Bill. I don't think I mentioned really that God changed my perspective on the why and how when it comes to service for Him. That I am not to put up my sword or stop striving after God in growth, but instead of military style get-out-of-bed-live-every-day reading in OT then NT, memorization, reading, NT prophecy, and witnessing book....not that I ever reached that goal....nearly...but instead waking up, and just seeking God. Let Him pull me to certain things, but yet seeking after Him in all things.

But I'll keep a careful eye out in case I over correct and cause a wreck. I want to grow in Him. I want to be BOLD, and FILLED with His Spirit. One more thing. How would you like it if there was a website that was like wikipedia with there political/other news, except from a christian perspective, with the main purpose of showing the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, especially liberals?

In Him,

Response #12: 

Thanks for your advice. I will most definitely chew on it and keep it in mind.

As to your own idea, it took me a long time (and years of preparation) before I was directed into this particular ministry, and even longer before the proper format became clear. Your idea sounds like a real possibility to me. One thing to keep in mind, from my own perspective, anyway, is that content is king even if format is important. That is to say, the first step in committing to any such ministry is to ask yourself, like the man who was going to build the tower, "do I have what it takes to finish?" Successful ministry requires commitment and constancy; and content requires starting with something worth sharing and having the ability and dedication to continue to produce it, day in and day out. And all of this in turn requires a prior level of spiritual maturity and continuation of personal spiritual growth to be a success in God's eyes. So I like the idea. And without knowing all the details, it seems reasonable to me that the Lord might call you into some sort of ministry as this. This is something to think about and pray about.

In the meantime, keep growing in Jesus through His Word and His truth!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hey again Mr. Bill,

It's no problem at all. Just ask if you have any questions on anything. The most important thing I would say is to have a back up of everything. I'm sure you do, but I can't stress it enough. Of the few times over the years of web coding that I've erased or lost a few hours worth or more of data. What I want you to see is something I know you strove after in the building of your site. Simplicity (here are some links to free template sites).

You're right. Mr. Bill, I don't even have time to clean my room. At least not right now. It's just.....right now I know one thing for sure. I'm called to prepare. To grow spiritually seeking God first, and in that prepare myself with scripture for every circumstance. But I've heard of so many people who say they are Christians twist God's Word and turn it into some new age philosophy or something else profaning! And I know I must fight back. Mr. Bill, I can say right now that I know where God wants me to be. And it's here, at home, going God's work here with my family and friends. And he may call me to something more particular like what you said, but right now I think He wants me to emerge and come out of my shell. So long....soo long have I been locked up in a world where I truly didn't know any better and where the world was dull and unclear, and still there. So long have I had this condition that makes me feel crazy and leave me at the mercy of my surroundings. So long have I relied upon those surroundings to carry me through and not have 100% faith in God. I know God gives everyone a chance, but 1000's of people are being led astray, probably every day by just this one site I mentioned to you. I want to show them the truth. I want people to know the truth.

Mr. Bill, I don't know what I've got myself, but it seems tho God has given me an idea, and now help with friends. I believe it would be a very good thing. Please pray about this also. I pray that God will give me a more defined purpose, and if He wants this website at all.

All for Jesus!

Response #13:  

Thanks for the links and for the advice. I will be keeping you in my prayers.

It is very often the case that the more we as Christians grow spiritually, the clearer such things become to us; the closer we get to the Lord, the clearer His will for us becomes.

So keep on advancing spiritually! He will use you in His own way and in His own good time, as long as you continue to do things His way and stay responsive to His guidance.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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