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Church:  The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality III

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Question #1: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am sending some remarks made by one of the persons who sit in the Bible Study that I lead. This is the same person that believes in "Eternal Security" that I wrote about some months ago. Here are his comments:

The view that I have regarding Genesis 1 is that this chapter is all about “creation” for the context demand that this is creation without preexisting materials, that is, out of nothing. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens and the earth, indicate all of God’s creation incorporated into this summary statement that includes all six (6) consecutive days of creation. Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The earth was without form and void for it was not finished in its shape and not inhabited by creatures. In the period of six consecutive days, God spoke and beautify His creation. Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Also in Chapter 2:1-2 1“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Chapter 2:1, are words of affirmation that for six days, God had completed his work, thus He rested on the seventh day. Genesis 1:2b,”and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The deep, describe the waters that covers the surface of the earth before the dry land appear. Genesis 1:9-10 God said, 9“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:26-31 is the creation of man on the sixth day. The highest point of creation is a living human, made in the image of God to rule creation. The command to rule separate man from the rest of living creation and defined his relationship as above the rest of creation being God’s representative in ruling over it. God created both male and female (cf. Matthew 19:4) that equally shared the image of God, and both had dominion over creation (cf. Psalm 8:6). Physically they were divinely designed in order for them to accomplish God’s mandate to multiply, that is, neither one could reproduce offspring without the other.

I had sent each of the individuals your study on the "Image and Likeness" of God. I have one person and maybe two who agree with this teaching. Not sure about the others. In his reply, it seems to me that he is unwilling to give credence to any other teaching but continues to refute anything contrary to his opinion, which I do not believe is an interpretation. Again, he probably never considered all the scripture verses supplied in the teaching, even though they solidify it. Some people are bound and determined to believe what they were previously taught, and he comes from an Evangelical background whatever that is? He never addressed the second comment I sent with more than ample scripture support on the subject of Angels cohabiting with women. Probably way over his understanding. I have already replied to this individual once before, and so that is sufficient. He appears to be absolute that he is right in what he believes. What amazes me is that he was a former Roman Catholic along with his wife.

I think it is time for me to bow out of being the teacher of this group? There is as I stated, one person who absolutely agrees with your teaching. Any suggestions you may have would be appreciated. Always thankful for your great help, for as you well know, this is not an easy assignment. But what are the options when someone does not believe what is written in the scriptures?

I praise God for the day that He directed me to your Website, and I give Him all the glory and praise for it. I am also so thankful to have discovered your website, that has taught me so much, even though I don't have a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. May our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, overwhelm you with His grace and you continue working for Him to spread the truth.

Your friend,

Response #1:  

This person writes, "The heavens and the earth, indicate all of God’s creation incorporated into this summary statement that includes all six (6) consecutive days of creation." (emphasis added).

Of course, Genesis 1:1 is NOT a "summary statement". Summaries generally follow, and in any case this is the only place it says that God created the universe in the context; His remaking of it later is described differently.

This sort of approach ignores the grammar of verse two, which, in Hebrew says, "but the earth (NOT the heavens) became / came to be ruined and despoiled". God does not make anything imperfect in the first place – and certainly not something "ruined and despoiled". These are only a few points that make this person's (very typically) false view impossible on the initial face of it. More at the link.

As to continuing, not continuing, if we wait for a group where there is 100% response, we'll never do anything. Just ask Moses, or Elijah – or our Lord. On the other hand, if we are doing some good for the Lord and for His kingdom, sharing the truth with some people who are benefitting a little or a lot, that is blessed. If there is a more fertile field to attend to, that's one thing. But if this is the field we've been given, well, it's the Lord who assigns these particular ministries; the Father, not us, provides the response and the results according to His lights (1Cor.12:4-6).

No doubt the evil one is happy to have any teacher who is really teaching the Word quit. And no doubt he does what he can to provide enough frustration to bring that about. Elijah ran away; so did Jonah. Moses lost his temper. There's always justification to quit, it seems – although some times quitting is justified. I can tell you that Ichthys has seen better days in terms of poor response on the one hand and outright opposition on the other. But I've determined to stick with this all the way to the end – unless the Lord leads me to something else or is telling me that enough is enough. That's something we each have to decide for ourselves. But even though it's not biblical, this piece of advice has proven its worth over the years for me: "Never quit on a bad day."

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Bob, it is so good to hear from you! I read some of your work almost daily. Since our last email I've had quite a spiritual fight on my hands. I feel like the evil one attacks me daily especially the day after I witness to a friend or coworker.

I have been wanting to write you to ask a question but I guess I'm a little embarrassed because I think I know your opinion based on your writings. Since the opportunity seems to have presented itself I'll ask anyway.

It is with great respect I ask this question as your prior correspondences with me helped me so. I believe the Holy Spirit placed another friend into my life that has invited me into a small men's Bible study in Thursday evenings. I've gone three times. The main teacher believes strongly in dispensation doctrine. I must admit reading the Bible prior to learning this perspective I could not understand it very well and in my mind it seemed there were contradictory statements throughout. I tried very hard to understand and wrote myself off as unable to understand at the time.

After learning about the concept of dispensation and reading the new testament with that lens all my perceived contradictions seemed to go away. This man had helped to found a Baptist church in St. Louis and, after many years, left that church because they wouldn't accept this doctrine.

I've studied dispensation enough to know that it seems most Bible teachers teach that we live in a dispensation of Grace right now (but now) even though I've never heard anyone else speak of it by name.

My question to you, if you would, is do you have a thought you would share on this idea? One of the big points I've taken is that Hebrews through Revelations is written for future people after the Church has been raptured. Also they believe you cannot lose your salvation once you are truly saved. Moreover you can shipwreck your faith and God may take you out of the world but you cannot be lost.

I do think by your writing you would disagree with the last statement having read your book on Peripateology on trials and tribulation. Am I wrong that once saved a person can lose their faith during a trial and be lost?

I hope this email finds you well and I so look forward to reading your next work.

Wow. I've been reading your new work. It's late and I'm going to bed but it just amazes me that you're writing about the very thing I had questions about. I just had to let you know. We serve an amazing God!

Many blessings,

Your brother in Christ our Savior,

Response #2:  

It's good to hear from you as well, my friend. Although I have some concerns about what you've written me here: "Hebrews through Revelations [sic] is written for future people after the Church has been raptured".

1) Hebrews is only in the physical place where it is in the New Testament because of tradition. In the oldest manuscript we have it is placed after 2nd Thessalonians. There are other occasional differences in the placement of the books. So while the NT is all "the Bible", drawing any substantive conclusions from the order of the books would be incorrect to do.

2) There is no "rapture" before the Tribulation. There is only one return of Christ in the New Testament, the one at the second advent. That is when the Church is resurrected, e.g.:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Matthew 24:29-31 NKJV

Pretty clear. See the link which will lead to others: "The Rapture and other Eschatological Issues".

3) On "you cannot lose your salvation once you are truly saved":

It is through this gospel that you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you – otherwise you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:2

For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

Pretty clear. As John 3:18 and many other passages of scripture state explicitly, only believers are saved. Since it is possible to cease to believe in Christ, it is possible to apostatize as our Lord also said (Lk.8:13: they believe only "for a while" and then fall away).

4) Dispensations: this is a very often misunderstood concept in scripture and unfortunately there is such a thing as "hyper-dispensationalism" which, from your email, it seems you are being proselytized into. True "dispensations" have to do with the way in which God "dispenses" His truth in different eras of history – that is the core meaning of the key Greek root oikonom-. Simply put, there are indeed differences between being under the Law and being under grace, but the entire Bible applies in one way or another at all times (cf. Rom.15:4; 1Tim.1:8). Some incorrect schools want to put us under the Law; others want to disregard the OT and parts of the NT entirely (as your group seems to do); the middle course is the correct one. For more info on this see the link: "Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I".

5) The Spirit: I would agree that the Lord no doubt has allowed these things to happen, but doubtless not exactly for the reasons you are assuming. The Tribulation is fast approaching and we all need to get spiritually ready. Part of that preparation is inoculation against false teaching – and it seems you are getting yours. The Baptists are generally good people and also generally believers, but they are wrong on all manner of doctrines, the ones you mentioned here being among some of the most dangerous to get wrong, especially for us now on the threshold of the end times. When you say "reading the Bible prior to learning this perspective I could not understand it very well and in my mind it seemed there were contradictory statements throughout", this I would interpret to be the Spirit telling you that this perspective was incorrect.

To get your questions answered, you need a good source of truth. Ichthys is one source, in my opinion. I also highly recommend Bible Academy (at the link). But I would caution you that the teaching you are now receiving is dangerously wrong on many counts – even if those providing it are otherwise "good Christians".

See also:

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality I

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality II

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Thank you once again for your reply. I will read and study the links you provided to me. I want you to know you are not just helping me but you are helping my family as we try and draw closer to the Truth and the Life. Locally we have been attending an Assembly of God church. They are affiliated with Pentecost but I've never heard anyone speak in tongues or anything like that. It seems like most of our pastor's teaching are in line with yours. Is there any denomination that most closely teaches the Bible as it should be? I feel that God wants us to be a part of an assembly as the body of Christ in a physical way. I just don't want to lead my family into a place of false teaching.

In Christ our Saviour and benevolent King,

Response #3: 

You wrote: "I feel that God wants us to be a part of an assembly as the body of Christ in a physical way. I just don't want to lead my family into a place of false teaching."

That is indeed the dilemma. I think ALL Christians would say the same thing. But what happens, when in this Laodicean era in which we find ourselves, it seems that nearly every single Christian fellowship in our particular geographical area is in fact given to false teaching, false application, lack of dedication to the truth, hyper-emotional or hyper ritual substitution of all manner of things in place of the truth of the Word of God?

The silver lining to the above is that the very dilemma itself has the benefit of making our choice very clear. If you were to find a place that was teaching the truth and was not given to all the abuses briefly mentioned (and outlined at the link in BB 6B and other places at Ichthys), then by all means embrace it. But if not, is it ever worth compromising the truth? For the sake of "fellowship"? My answer to that for myself is along the lines of Galatians 2:5: "We did not give in to them for a moment" (NIV), for how beneficial can any fellowship be if based upon dedication to things that are decidedly not true? But we all have to make our own decisions – hopefully yielding to what the Spirit is actually telling us.

For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Hebrews 13:11-14 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I pray you are doing well. My wife and I recently had our first child; we are very busy these days, but doing well by God’s grace. It is truly amazing how He answers prayer and shows such great love and mercy to an undeserving Mephibosheth like me.

I wanted to ask you some quick questions about the Nicolaitans and their doctrine, as mentioned by Christ in Revelation 2:6. Can you explain who they were and expand on their doctrines and works? Moreover, are there modern day Nicolaitans in the visible church? If so, who are they and what do they teach?

Blessings in Jesus,

Response #4: 

Congratulations, my friend! Wonderful news!

The Nicolaitans are mentioned only in Revelation and only at Rev.2:6 and Rev.2:15. So all we know about them is what can be gleaned from those two passages and their contexts. There is, for example, no basis for finding the proselyte deacon in Acts 6:5 as being the "founder" of this heretical group, and later speculation in the church fathers and ever since is mostly wide of the mark.

As explained in CT 2A where the subject is treated (under Ephesus and at the link), the Nicolaitans, the etymology of whose name means "the people rule" – which is to say, the majority rules over what the Bible says – represented the false element of unbelievers who began to infiltrate the church-visible over time to the point of finally taking over for the most part during the church era of Sardis (when the Roman Catholic church triumphed, in worldly terms). The Nicolaitans thus represent an antinomian approach where members can "do as they please" irrespective of what the Bible actually says; the other extreme, legalism, reduces Christianity to a set of rules devoid of spiritual power (in the manner of the Pharisees). But between human legalism and absolute lawlessness we find true Christianity, the faithful following of Jesus Christ through love of and obedience to the truth in the Word of God.

So to answer your question, there have always been Pharisees and Nicolaitans in the church-visible – which is to be distinguished from the true Church of Jesus Christ composed of actual born again born from above believers. Nowadays, it's hard to find a physical church which is not dominated by one or the other of these former two categories.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you very kindly for that information and response. I actually really needed to hear this. You preached a mini-sermon to me that I hear and know is the truth, thanks to the blessed Lord giving me an ear to hear.

Response #5: 

It's my pleasure.

Feel free to write me any time, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

My concerns currently are, I hope, more productive. May I?

My church has just been given a steer towards contemplative prayer à la Pete Grieg book How to Pray. It’s mostly good until I see he’s big into this method, and he says that’s the best part for him. They have an app, Lectio365, and lectures on YouTube. Search there for Pete Grieg Prayer course. It’s episode 6. The app gives guided praying and some bible verses each day, but the atmosphere is created by the repetitive New Age music, and lulling voice. It’s like a relaxation session, or how to hypnotize yourself! The YouTube video has them contemplating an Eastern Orthodox icon, and at the beginning you see a blackboard covered in Indian script. And imagining, not a stone’s throw from visualizing, roots going down. Have a listen. With your armour on!

Been there, done that a little, and repented. Not going to get caught again, no thank you!

A few years back, not knowing what it was, I was interested in it, just to learn how to pray better, but got wind of the self hypnotic Eastern mind emptying that seems to go with this idea, and with the similar Centering prayer (Keating). I think contemplative and Centering prayer are from the same stable, in effect.

They claim it has old Christian mystic roots, but that’s no guarantee of anything. I smell a rat.

We are sitting out just such a stink in our currently unusable spare room, where a mouse must have died between the floor boards. I can tell you it really does stink!

Have you come across this prayer method? I regard biblical meditation to be chewing over scripture, and really thinking on it, discussing it, coming back to it. With my mind engaged.

I agree the worth of taking time alone and without distraction to be with the Lord to pray, but setting a soporific mood in which to drift into what is really an altered mindset is another matter. That is meditation of a different sort. I’m told it invites demons.

The taking out of context of ‘be still and know that I am God’ is typical. Ps 46. I read it all together as God telling us to stop trying to do what is His to do, to take refuge with him. He’s got this battle! And it will cease because of Him, and He is exalted. Our being quiet is in awe at how great He is! Even a command to be quiet! Be still, rest in your refuge. And perhaps even a stepping back from getting in the way because this is His business?! A far cry from sitting in a darkened room with a candle and reciting a mantra, even if it is ‘Jesus, Jesus’! It becomes a mantra. Vain repetition?

Am I being silly? Have you come across this?

If you’ve got a moment I’d value your opinion please

Thank you

Response #6: 

I can assure you that you are NOT being "silly". So-called "contemplative prayer" is a very dangerous anti-biblical and anti-God process. Lack of direction creates a vacuum into which only evil things enter. It's all part and parcel of the whole Laodicean approach where actual prayer – which takes effort – is supplanted by something "fun and new and not old and stodgy".

First, Jesus taught us how to pray, and the Lord's prayer is actually chock-full of all manner of truth that is not necessarily obvious at first glance (see the links:  *Lord's prayer I; and Lord's prayer II; Lord's prayer III); everything we pray for in that prayer has already happened in the plan of God so it serves to orient us to the godly point of view for walking through this world.

Second, prayer should involve thanksgiving always (Eph.5:20). Don't these people have anything to thank God for? Everything they have comes from Him – even the fact of their creation, and how great is being born again, born from above and having the resurrection to look forward to instead of the lake of fire!

Third, we should be praying for others, for the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters in Christ (e.g., Col.4:12), for their other needs as well, and for all other matters and individuals we see:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1st Timothy 2:1-4 NIV

And finally of course we need to be praying also for ourselves – yes for our health and relationship and material concerns, but also for our spiritual advance and production most of all.

This takes much time, it takes effort to concentrate, and it takes a great deal of sacrifice to be consistent day by day. "Contemplative prayer" vs. true godly prayer offered by a real Christian prayer-warrior is analogous to sitting on the couch eating potato chips listening to music and stretching one's pinkies vs. jogging several miles in the gray dawn at a good pace daily, even when it's raining: the former does you no good only harm; the latter is difficult, often painful and disagreeable – but it's the best thing for you.

Being persistent and consistent in good things is no vice, as long as we keep our mind engaged in the Spirit.

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also.
1st Corinthians 14:5a ESV

Here are some other links on this:

Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of

Prayer Questions I

Prayer Questions II

Prayer, Vows and Confession

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

Hope you having a nice and peaceful Sunday. I'm just starting an in depth study of Revelation and so am reading your Coming Tribulation alongside it. I was trying to find your section on what the Nicolaitans were doing and then I stumbled on something that took me by surprise.

The Wikipedia is as follows: The trend began early in Christianity of applying the term "Nicolaitans" to describe other antinomian groups with no attachment to the historical Nicolaitans. Tertullian in his Prescription Against Heretics, 33, is such an example: "John, however, in the Apocalypse is charged to chastise those 'who eat things sacrificed to idols,' and 'who commit sexual immorality.' There are even now another sort of Nicolaitans. Theirs is called the Gaian heresy."

So I clicked on that link about the "Gaian heresy" and it is weird stuff about "Cainites" venerating Cain. The reason this stuck out for me was whilst reading today's emails someone mentioned a messianic ministry that said that the wording that Eve said (when pregnant/ giving birth to Cain) was actually "I have gotten a man: Jehovah."

I know from what you wrote in response that this is nonsense and is implying that Cain is God somehow (which a bonkers idea) but was surprised to find that this "Cainite" sect actually believed this! Again from Wikipedia it says: Ireneaus states that the Cainites regarded Cain as derived from the highest God, not the Creator God worshipped by Jews and other Christians. According to Irenaeus, they claimed fellowship with Esau, Korah, the men of Sodom, and all such people, and regarded themselves as persecuted by the Creator. But they escaped injury from him, because they were protected by the goddess Sophia.

Obviously this is all balderdash from the enemy but maybe the person who has the messianic ministry is actually a Cainite! Just a thought! So what is the truth about the Nicolaitans? Is Tertullian or Ireneus worth reading at all?

P.s., I just realised maybe this is the cult where the whole "serpent seed" being Cain heresy came from. If they believe that Cain came from another false god that would have to be Satan. So maybe the whole lie that the serpent and Eve brought forth Cain was actually from the Cainite cult and so explains why they have the bible completely upside down (the Gnostics that is)! Just a thought!

Maybe some of these heresies that pop up from time to time are not new at all but ones that true believers have been battling against all along! Nothing new under the sun! It seems the enemy is fond of recycling lies with slightly contemporary window dressing!

Many thanks for your careful and patience guidance and fellowship my friend!

In Jesus,

Response #7: 

Irenaeus is not terrible, but also not terribly enlightening (and there are many things in his writings which I could not endorse); Tertullian is similar but even farther removed from the truth. The generations which followed the apostles lost virtually all of their teaching – it's a blessing they didn't lose the Bible! But they did "abandon their first love" (Rev.2:4), of the truth, and it has taken the better part of two millennia to claw out of the pit of false teaching, tradition, speculation and legalism that the church-visible embraced instead of the truth beginning immediately after the apostles' passing.

As to the Nicolaitans, they represent the false element inside of the Church in John's treatment of the seven church ages. There is no reliable information about them outside of those verses in Revelation, merely centuries' later speculation which is dubious – but not as bad as what you read in Wikipedia! Wherever anything spiritual is concerned, I would expect to hear nonsense from that source.

I would give you the links, but you are already reading everything I have been able to glean about this subject in CT 2A.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Thank you Bob,

I am listening to your Tribulation series (on mp3 at the link) and it is helping me immensely. I realised before that Revelation is ultimately about revealing Jesus Christ (as is the rest of the Bible) but it didn't occur to me before that the Tribulation period will actually be giving the majority of people exactly what they want, life on Earth without God's restraint. For us who know the evil of mankind's heart, it will be terrible but for others it will be seen as "unfettered freedom". For THEIR WILL be done.

In a sense then Tribulation is a period for both men and angels, that we will be basically 'left to it'. That we will all reveal the truth that was within our hearts all along. It will be the wheat and the chaff, those who delight in good and those who delight in evil with no middle ground or bystanders. That is why we will be hated by all nations because our behaviour and our witness will be a testimony against their evil and because there will be a lot more of them than us, they will want to be rid of us as quickly as the two witnesses.

My family keep saying that they believe people are inherently good. I guess this will be a perfect time to see whether this is true or not, whether left to their own devices, will mankind do good or evil. We know the horrific consequences of this period of freedom from restraint will bring on to the world. I find it strange that my family speaks of the inherent good in people and yet they complain that the police aren't tough enough and need to come in harder. I guess this is "talking out of both sides of the mouth". We will truly get to experience first hand what a completely lawless world looks like.

It makes me laugh to think of all these conspiracy theorists who think that as long as the "cabal" gets taken down, then we will live in paradise. They are completely blind to the all pervading corrosive reality of sin and its nature and that none of us are exempt from it.

I realise how necessary the Tribulation period is now. I realise that if a person won't seek God in the worst period of human history then they would never seek God in a billion years anyway. As God is so gracious, He is giving us plenty of opportunity to turn to Him and also abundant proof of our own wretchedness and His own perfection. So it will be the ultimate revelation of all our hearts to one another but most importantly to God Himself.

Please let me know if I am on the right lines here!

Thanks again my friend!

In Jesus,

Response #8: 

On "people are inherently good", I don't think anyone who's read a history book could ever come up with that one! Of course that is the basis of Platonic – and hence Marxist – philosophy. Which is why the communists always put half the population in prison camps I suppose, because they are so inherently good along with those they murder. As Thucydides said in the 5th cent. B.C., "War is a violent teacher, and brings most men's passions down to the same level as their circumstances". And the Tribulation will be nothing but "wars and rumors of wars".

As far as "if a person won't seek God in the worst period of human history then they would never seek God in a billion years anyway", amen to that! In fact, we know from Revelation 20:7-10, that after a thousand years of perfect rule, the majority of the world's population will rebel just as soon as they get the chance.

People are people, regardless of circumstances. But the pressure of bad times and the opportunity to do wrong in good times both tend to bring out what is really there under the surface.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hey Bob,

I just wanted to make some observations on the church visible that I have made since becoming a Christian (of a Protestant persuasion). Obviously I used to be a Catholic. Catholics, I have noticed, argue that Protestantism is obviously false in that it is fractured into many different denominations, whereas there is only one Catholic Church. My argument is that Catholicism only needs one big lie and indeed it was big enough and successful enough to fool millions (and keep on fooling them). They have falsely fallen for the idea of safety in numbers.

I have been puzzled at the whole multi denominational split of Protestantism and it makes me wonder, is this a trick of the enemy? If we look at this from a military strategy perspective.. You are looking for buried treasure in one of two rooms. The left hand room is Catholicism and it only has one guard. The right hand room is Protestantism and it has thousands of guards. Which room has the treasure?

When I became a (protestant) Christian, I thought (naively) now that I have found the treasure and the truth, I will be surrounded by fellow Christians who believe the same and will help me to keep my faith and treasure. It shocked me when I realised that this couldn't be further from the truth. If anything many if not most professed "Christians" have gone out of their way to give me stumbling blocks and false teachings. They will also bicker about which of their false teachings is more false whilst by being overlooked online by disgusted non-believers. I have said before that to keep hold of my faith, I have had to jump over holes, dodge arrows, swing on ropes and out-swim crocodiles and that is from WITHIN the walls of "Christianity" itself. I thought that within the walls I will be safe but I realise that safety will only be at the end in God's arms!

Of course I am referring to wolves that are now inside the gate but what I didn't expect is that there are now more wolves than sheep! We are greatly outnumbered! It has been a sobering moment to realise that there is more deception within the church visible and what passes for "Christianity" than within the secular world in its entirety. I realise this is that military strategy again. The weight of force is deployed guarding the hidden treasure.

I used to play computer games a lot. You could always tell when you neared the end of the game and was near to winning the treasure when it became harder and harder and harder. The opponents became progressively more fiercer and plentiful. That is what I have been experiencing. The biggest bulk of attack from the enemy is on the Bible and on Jesus and what Jesus has done for us and why. If this was a "game" or a military operation then we would correctly deduce that Jesus and what the Bible says about Him is the real treasure. So when the enemy is not busy hiding the treasure from view and fighting us to the death so we cannot get near to it, he is throwing distractions our way. Christians have double the amount of distractions to fend off. They have all the choking weeds of the secular world and then they have all the infighting and confusing mess within the church visible itself.

It's sad to say this but there have been times when I have reached for the remote during downtime and I have looked for a video with something unrelated in it (such as videos about birdsong). I have done this to avoid such things as "The God Channel" or "TBN" or an "insert famous Christian Celebrity preacher name here" on YouTube because at times I have actually thought the atheist making videos about birdsong will lie to me less and watching this will be less damaging to my spiritual health. I would say that is a shocking indictment on the church visible that a believer feels safer around non-believers than those who profess faith. At least I know what I will get from a non-believer. I don't know what to expect from a fake Christian. They are far more dangerous to my faith than an atheist could ever be.

This is not a message of defeat at all. It is just a sober portrait of what it is like to be a relatively new-ish Christian in this Laodicean era. My sympathies go out to people who come to faith after I have done as I can only seeing it get worse and worse.

Indeed I feel as though I have already tasted all the things that will lead people to join the great apostasy. I realise now how reading, rereading and constant study of the Bible and sticking with one trusted Bible believing ministry is the only way forward. Any compromise on either of these two points will leave a person open to attack, deception and eventual doubt.

I was stubborn enough to find out for myself how bad things are in the church visible and it isn't as bad as what you said Bob: it's much, much worse. At least I know now though and there is still a little bit of time to make some progress!

I've decided that as I am clearing the decks at the moment of anything false and I have already stuck my head above the parapet with the Nazarene Pastor... I thought I would rip the other band-aid off by replying to my atheist friend of long standing. He asked the question quite a while ago "What do I think about magic?"

Please read over the answer I wrote below and let me know on anything I can improve upon?

"I have been mulling over writing this for a bit. I was wondering whether to chat to you on the phone about it but as it is awkward I've decided to write it down instead. You mentioned magic (or magick) and witchcraft a few times and wondered what I thought about it. I am very aware of the fact that you have been gracious and generous about my Christian faith and naturally I wanted to extend to you the same courtesy. The problem is that I can't do this on the subject of magic/witchcraft because I am dead set against it and I can give good and practical reasons why. The obvious one is that it is in direct contravention of my faith. It is forbidden both in the New Testament as in the old. It is a "sin" and a rebellious one at that. What I understand now from my reading and research is that there IS power behind magic. The power behind magic is very real and a person can use it to bend the material world to their will. How they manage to do this is not because the practitioner themselves has supernatural powers but they are "given to them" from a spiritual being. Witches believe this power comes from the earth itself (The Force) and can be harnessed or is given to them from the "goddess" (Gaia). New Agers believe this power and all its associative knowledge comes from the "Ascended Masters". Christians believe that these forbidden powers come from demons or fallen angels. How this transmission of power happens I do not know. Whether you need to be possessed by the fallen angels/demons or whether they give the power another way. Either way the Christian view is that this is satanic, there really isn't any polite way to put it. What I have realised is that there is no such thing as "white magic" or good magic. As all magic is attempting to change the material world through spiritual means outside of God and against God then it has to be satanic to the very core. I've realised that the reason witchcraft is compared as on equal terms as rebellion (in the Bible) is that it IS rebellion, rebellion from God. The first rebel from God was Satan so it all fits together neatly that the power of magic or witchcraft comes from the rebels, Satan and other fallen angels. All angels, whether elect (loyal to God) or fallen (rebelled against God) have supernatural powers. The elect angels choose to use these powers to serve God, the fallen angels use it to rebel and fight against God. One way they do this is to give this power to humans through magic. So witchcraft and magic do not really exist in and of itself. Witches have no real power of themselves just as magic has no power of itself. These are just names given to the powers transferred from fallen angels/ demons to humans. So the only way to get these supernatural powers is through collaborating with demons. If you wanted to give it the proper label call it "borrowed power from demons". That would be more spiritually truthful. I hasten to add at this point that fallen angels (demons) actually hate humans' collective guts. They hate the fact that God created us after their rebellion and wanted a relationship with us. At the moment angels are superior to us in power. After death, angels will be below us in standing. They know this and the fallen angels despise us for it. So to use a human analogy-You wanted to poison someone so you decide to contact the world's expert on poisoning. He has agreed to sell you poison and to teach you how to use it. You have been invited to have dinner with him at his house. Whilst on the way to his house, a person on the way who is concerned about where you are going (that's me) and knows about this poisoner quite well (me again) says to you "I know what this poisoner is all about. Besides, I know for a fact that he hates your guts!" Would you still go to dinner at the poisoner's house? So to spell it out unsubtly.. The power behind all magic and witchcraft is borrowed power from Satan and other fallen angels (demons). These fallen angels hate your guts in fact in the bible it says that Satan's M.O. is to "steal, kill and destroy". He is also described as the "father of all lies". If whilst on the way to the dinner date with the poisoner, I told you that his motto was to "steal, kill and destroy" and he goes by the title the "father of all lies" would you still go?"

So what do you think Bob? It isn't at all subtle but you can't be subtle with a person when they are about to drive blindly off a cliff!

I've realised that people who are tempted by such dangerous practices always call out Christians as "narrow minded" for our flat out rejection of such things. I realise that "narrow mindedness" is always associated as a pejorative word and "broad minded" as a compliment. It is a not so subtle reference to the narrow path and narrow gate as opposed to the broad road to destruction. The truth is that we cannot be broad minded with these things or any of these things. It's like the whole "tolerance" thing. My old friend may balk at the fact that I cannot condone these things even by an inch. He may think this unfair to rain on his practices whilst he has been sunny with mine. It all comes down to whether you believe Jesus is the truth or not. We believe He is the objective truth and the only truth and that would mean that everything else that purports to be truth, whether it be other religions, other gods, magic or atheism...Well they HAVE TO BE lies! They can't both be the truth. I know Jesus is the truth. Whether my friend accepts this or not will be up to him. If he thinks magic can be good, that would have to make me (in his eyes) the liar. Unless he subscribes to the postmodern lies (see the Emergent Church) that there is no truth and if there is then we cannot know it!

In Jesus, the way, the truth and the life,

Response #9: 

Thanks as always for your great insights, my friend. I really think you should consider this ability and the ability to write these things up reasonably and persuasively as a possible venue for future ministry.

On splits in the non-RC churches, have a look at BB 6B at BB 6B; I roundly refute in that posting the notion that there is biblical justification for denominations or any "super church" organization. WE are the Church, believers in Jesus Christ; in the New Testament, churches are homes or other places WE believers gather to be taught and to share the truth and encouragement in Jesus Christ. All developments beyond that are of human origin and have caused much more harm than they have done good.

Are there groups/denominations which have "problems" doctrinally? You bet! Almost all do. Of course one difference between Protestant groups and the RC-church is that many of the former contain a fair proportion of actual believers in Jesus Christ . . . albeit lukewarm ones for the most part – otherwise they would have found something good outside of their flawed denomination. This is Laodicea, after all. If the believers in the Baptist church were serious about the truth, they would sally forth and find it. If the good individuals in the RC-church were interested in being saved, they would leave that organization and seek the Lord. And the Lord never ever lets anyone down who is seeking the truth.

(7) "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8 ESV

I like to think that when you personally got serious about this search, instead of sending you "crocodiles", the Lord led you to Ichthys. People have to want the truth. Otherwise it's a case of "hearing and not understanding", so that even the truth seems like parables which cannot be fathomed.

As to witchcraft, of course you are correct, and well done you for such a wonderful presentation! One thing to share here is that this phenomenon you are noting and combating is nothing new. The problem was endemic in the apostolic era, and Paul along with Peter and Jude had to confront the problem head-on on numerous occasions (incipient Gnosticism; there is a collection of links at the link).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Bob,

I have been going through your series on Peter and I just want to say what an encouragement they are for me right now. Thank you for all your hard work. I can only imagine how many lives have been changed by your faithful witness. You will know one day !

Response #10: 

Thank you so much!

That's really encouraging to hear.

I appreciate it a lot.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Dear Bob:

What I found disturbing is that modern cult definition seem to implicate Jesus as a cult leader and his disciples as cult members:


What do you think? I believe if Jesus was preaching today many will classify him as a cult leader from those criteria.

No doubt Jesus is God but what does that say about modern society?

Response #11:  

I have my own list of cult characteristics (see the link), and can assure you that any godly list will always vindicate true biblical Christianity. Our Lord's teaching is 100% consistent with the Bible – He is the Word of God incarnate, after all – as that Bible existed in His day; and the rest of the New Testament past the gospels is likewise 100% consistent with our Lord's teaching and with that previous Old Testament – when all of these three areas of scripture are rightly understood.

But let's have a look at your list:

1) "The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law." Godly Christians are never excessive in their behavior.

2) "Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished." Christians are free to leave a group any time.

3) "Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s)." Biblical Christianity eschews all these things.

4) "The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marriages or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth)". Biblical Christianity eschews all these things as well.

5) "The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity)." ??? I don't know how anyone would try to pin this on biblical Christianity!

6) "The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society." Christians are often persecuted, but that is the opposite of this.

7) "The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations)." Biblical Christianity makes the "leader" the servant of all (Mk.9:35).

8) "The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities)." Never happens in a genuine Christian group.

9) "The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion." Not in true biblical Christianity.

10) "Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group." While this is a classic cult tactic, it is never even suggested in the Bible.

11) "The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members." Not if the Bible is central to the group's teaching. Evangelicals in particular are known for their zeal in spreading the gospel and often do over-do it – but, again, that it different from what cults do.

12) "The group is preoccupied with making money." Not if the Bible and its truths are the reason for assembly.

13) "Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities." Again, there are plenty of "Christian" churches that do this too, but no true biblical Christianity.

14) "Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members." Not at all, if the Bible is the standard.

15) "The most loyal members (the "true believers") feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group." True believers in Christ live in the world but are not of the world.

It's not a bad cult list, and it is true that members of many main stream churches in Laodicea which have sold out to the world and only exist to exist have adopted – if somewhat mildly – many of these cult characteristics, but you won't find them in the Bible – or any group / ministry (such as Ichthys) which is dedicated to teaching and learning the Bible.  So I don't think this list could ever be effectively "weaponized" against any group of believers – at least not if that group is genuinely following biblical principles in a godly way.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Dear Bob:

I think modern biblical churches don't fit the cult description as such. But the days when our Lord walked the Earth and his disciples would seem to fit more closely with the description like (Matthew 19:27) leaving possessions to follow Jesus and travelling light. The threat of hell (what Atheist anti-cult groups would call utilising guilt/shame) for all those who do not follow him as well as apostates that forsake Jesus.

Or our zealous attitude towards our Lord demanded by the words (Luke 14:26) (Luke 9:62) which in regards to any other man saying those words would be considered a Cult Leader. And our Lord's description of himself (John 14:6) that skeptics who only see the man will also see that as something a grandiose cult leader would say.

I think that therefore this cult list can easily be weaponized against genuine believers.

Response #12:  

Obviously, I can't agree at all with your assessment of our Lord's first advent ministry; just for example, outside of our Lord Himself, who clearly had not only the ability but the right to accomplish such miracles as healing and casting out demons, only the 12 and the 72 did any of these things and only for a limited time; also, the Bible and our Lord do not "threaten hell" – rather, they tell us the truth. Warnings and threats are not the same thing as the latter is always mean-spirited while the former genuinely has the person in question's best interests at heart. I do agree that many today are more than willing to misrepresent Him and the teachings of the Bible for their own benefit and nefarious purposes. It's always been that way. Those who would – and during the Tribulation those who will – persecute Christians have never and will not then need a list of justifications to do so. It will be enough that we profess Jesus Christ and show by our actions that we really do belong to Him.

"It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!"
Matthew 10:25 NKJV

"Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you."
John 15:20a NKJV

During the soon to come Tribulation, genuine believers in Jesus Christ will be the ONLY "religious group" subject to persecution by antichrist (see the link). And we had better have "true zeal" for the Lord to get through that with our witness and our faith intact. And we had sure better see Him as the only One, the only Way, the only Savior – in an absolutely exclusive way. That will be the only safe way through all the trouble to come.

And in your hearts set apart in sanctification Christ as [your] Lord.
1st Peter 3:15 (cf. Is.8:13)

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Good Morning:

I love that I can ponder a question and then reach out to you with the expectation that you will answer.

I just spent significant time going through your Soteriology writings and have a much clearer understanding that God wanted me because He knew I wanted Him and through Christ we will spend eternity together.

Over the last 3-4 weeks, our Pastor has stood in front of our Church and made statements such as: “ this week alone another 3 people accepted Christ” and the congregation cheers and claps.

I’m no stick in the mud and enjoy hearing about victories but it is all a little unsettling for me because rather than celebrate their free-will decision (which we all knew was coming since God created them knowing their choice) I have this sense that there would be more relevance and reasons for celebration if we heard the stories - not of the one being ‘saved’ but of the one who lead them to making their decision. As an immature believer (surrounded by many in the same situation) it would be more encouraging and instructive if we used the story that led up to their decision as a teaching moment to better equip others on how to position our lives and grow in our own sanctification to lead others out of the darkness.

I find nothing negative in watching people do what they do to celebrate a positive expression of choice and I ask only to settle this in my mind. Perhaps there’s a future lesson to be shared regarding the importance of stepping out into the darkness in an endeavor to draw the lost into the light. Do I have this right?

If I’m out to lunch and focusing on trivial/non-value-added stuff that bears no weight on building the Kingdom, please be forthright and shut me down. I have a tendency to step back into the wilderness by chasing rabbits.


Response #13: 

It's always good to hear from you.

I share your concerns. There are lots of problems with the way brick-and-mortar churches do things these days. Instead of focusing on teaching the Bible, it's always "more exciting" to hear "wonderful testimonies" about "spiritual victories". Clearly, we do need some of this for mutual encouragement, but apropos of your point, unbelievers only become believers through hearing the truth of the gospel, and believers only gain true spiritual victories through applying the truth of the word of God. I like butter on my bread. But all butter and no bread is recipe for long-term problems.

You'll find a great deal about all this in the newly posted BB 6B – and long discussions about the reasons for why this is. Short answer: we find ourselves in the last Church Age era of Laodicea (link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Hello doc Robert. I am so happy to hear from your again sir specifically you asking me about my career and health. I really appreciate it doc Robert. By God's grace sir I am getting stronger amidst everything.

It's been a while since I've shared with you my life undertakings. I am now married sir for several months already. I have resigned from job sir due to job pressure and constant quarrel with my boss. I felt like I cannot grow spiritually if that persists sir. So I quit from my job and decided to get into another venture sir. I am still struggling financially but by the grace of God and with my wife's help sir I am able to pay my loans partially. I feel like it will take me a lot of years to pay everything, however slowly through His Word sir I have been inspired and just continue fighting through life's struggles. By His grace sir I strongly believe everything will be okay, for nothing is impossible with Him.

I and my wife also had too much heated arguments about our differences in faith and beliefs sir. Thankfully, by His grace again doc, we are now slowly reaching to a point of agreement. Hopefully she will no longer go back to Pentecostalism where oneness doctrine and speaking in tongues are taught and prevalent. I am now even preparing some slides where I will discuss with her biblical doctrines, and of course I've also included some of your articles sir as reference. For several months I haven't attended church and just stayed at home and read the Bible. I feel like Laodicean Era is what we live in now sir and too much corruption occurs recently in churches. It was only last Sunday that I went to a church again with my wife, as we've agreed that she will no longer take part in Pentecostalism.

Sir just like before, please continue to pray for me and my family. That we may be strong in the faith and I and my wife will continually serve and worship God in spirit and in truth. That we are saved by faith. That our respective families too will come in true faith since Pentecostalism and Catholicism dominate them. That we may be able to beat life's tests by His grace. That we will be able to pay off our debts that consume so much of our energy and frustration making us exhausted at times. That my wife and I will be able to earn substantially in our new venture to pay off monthly bills and obligations (I do not desire material riches. I just want our debts be erased and have our basic needs answered, which will definitely be provided by Him. With all the bills to pay now sir I feel exhausted at times). That I, as the head of the family, continue to lead my family sir in serving Him.

Please include us in your prayers sir. God will bless you more and more doc Robert. Continue to be an instrument of goodwill sir in the Lord.

In Jesus our dear Lord & Savior,

Response #14: 

Thanks for the update, my friend. I will certainly add these prayer concerns to my list. I've also added a prayer request for you at Ichthys.

These are "interesting" times – but nothing like what is soon to come.

I greatly appreciate the good spirit of faith that shines forth from your message, my friend!

"With such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Hebrews 13:16 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Dr. L.,

I've been a weekly reader of your site for almost 2 years now. I wanted to thank you for all the effort you put into your ministry. This should have come to you a long time ago. Your work has had a profound impact on my spiritual life. It has allowed me to open myself to Jesus in ways I never could in the many traditional churches I've attended. It also came at just the right time.

About 5 years ago I left the US Army after 10 years of service to provide a more stable life for my family. I was an Infantry Officer with 2 deployments to Iraq and many more training ones as well. In total I spent probably about more than half my time away from my wife and kids. Leaving also left me with no real direction and, since I was really only a 1 hour on Sunday believer (born and raised a Roman catholic), I had no real spiritual foundation to rely on. Over the course of the next three years, I was lost and living in a pretty atheistic/paganistic area, Portland Oregon, which didn't help. The general life situation, my actions, and my reaction to my families actions really put a strain on my them. Then about 2 years ago I stumbled across your website through a news site, which probably didn't even read yours because they couldn't be further from the truth if they tried.

I couldn't read your SR or CT series fast enough. My heart just burst with sudden realization that I finally realized what I had been missing in my life, the real truth of Jesus Christ, the true understanding of Gods word. and a deep abiding faith in him. Church felt not believable, especially the Roman Catholic Church, but also the various protestant denominations I tested. The messages seemed tame and unrelatable to my daily experiences, the fellowship disingenuous, and the rituals fake. It wasn't until I found your site that I realized what I had been failing to do, developing a personal belief in and relationship with God.

Since then I've really come to see how God had been and continues to work in my life. I've really come to enjoy the time I can spend reading my bible every day and going through your bible studies. I even started learning Greek about 4 months ago which is turning out a lot better then expected and another activity I'm starting to really enjoy. My previous attempts at learning languages, 4 years of high school French and 4 semesters of college Spanish, resulted in straight C's and the ability to only say "my name is..." all these years later. The Greek I've learned has allowed me to see a deeper meaning to some of the Greek bible I can currently read that doesn't come across in the English.

On the family front, after really making a commitment to growing my relationship with God I can say things are beginning to get more stable (outside of the self imposed craziness of the covid mad world). God really put it in my heart to leave Oregon and I found similar work in North Carolina, a much more family friendly and stable environment than Portland, Oregon. Since we make microchips we were deemed essential and I've been able to work throughout the crisis. I have a better spiritual perspective to handle the ups and downs of being a husband and father. (Still a ton more to grow there though.

Some days I'm definitely a better Soldier than others. Also it has given me the comfort and piece of mind to weather this current "crisis" with my family knowing that God is in control and, despite the current power play by the world and its leaders, this will all work out in the end, and gloriously so.

Sorry for the long email but I really needed to say thank you after all this time. Without your work I don't think I would have ever listened to what God was telling me throughout my life. I probably would have continued to self will myself down what would have been a spiritually dangerous path. Especially in the times we are living.

In our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Response #15: 

Wonderful to make your acquaintance! And thanks so much for your service. I'm sure you hear that a lot, but I truly mean it. I never had to go to Iraq or Afghanistan – or risk getting shot at. I don't think most people really have any conception of what going some place like that under those circumstances and having to be "stand up" as a member of the military takes (or takes out of you).

I appreciate your great testimony. I can't think of any positive believer whom I've ever gotten to know well who doesn't have an analogous testimony of wandering around for a good long time until the Lord brought him/her to a good place. Of course it first takes getting serious about the Lord. We are given "wake up" calls, and if we respond, THEN the Lord provides what we need . . . and are willing to receive. That was certainly how it went with myself. I'd probably be dead if I hadn't FINALLY gotten with the program. So when you say "Without your work I don't think I would have ever listened to what God was telling me throughout my life", I would say 1) you became willing to listen, and then 2) God provided a source of the truth that was right for you – if Ichthys wasn't your "cup of tea" for whatever reason, He would have provided you with something else (I also highly recommend Bible Academy at the link).

All that said, it is a very great pleasure to have you here. Since you are learning Greek – and may be thinking about the possibility of ministering the Word yourself at some point – I want to let you know that there is an online forum of a number of believers connected with Ichthys who are in a similar situation. If you would like, I would be happy to ask the moderator to send you an invite. There is also a general readers' forum (I can ask for an invite for you for that one as well). I'm not sure how active they are at the moment (I don't participate), but I do know that these have helped a number of readers form some good bonds of fellowship with other dedicated believers.

Again, thanks for the email and do feel free to write back any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Thank you for the quick reply and kind words.

I wish I could have had an equally quick response but I got very busy over the weekend. My air conditioning decided to stop working as soon as things started to heat up. I normally wouldn't mind but having 4 kids sleeping downstairs outside your bedroom can make for some tough nights.

As far as learning Greek and eventually ministering the word it is not out of the realm of possibility. I don't want to jump the gun and say that's what I may be called to do but feel I should at least be prepared for whatever God has in mind for me. In the least it is benefitting me growing my understanding of his word.

Also, since joining the Army I've held a lot of leadership positions and the one thing that always made me successful is the ability to encourage those around me during difficult times. I'm never the typical leader most would envision, I'm not Rambo, opinionated, or an A type personality, but I've always been able to get most individuals and Teams to not give up when things weren't looking so good. Fortunately, this approach has allowed me to have some success as a leader all these years. Being blessed with some equally optimistic and persistent people around me has also helped. I definitely feel this will probably play some role in the situations God may use me for in the future. So in order to motivate and help people persevere I need to know and believe as much as I can myself. That's kind of why I've taken your advice to learn Greek and time willing Hebrew.

I would definitely be interested in joining the forums you mentioned. I do feel like I'm on an island right now and would look forward to having some Interaction with like minded believers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #16: 

Good to hear back from you! I just sent an email to the moderator asking him to send you an invite for both lists. He just started a new job so he might be a little backed up. If you don't hear anything in about a week or so, let me know and I'll ask him about it again.

Thanks for the update and background on your leadership style. It sounds ideal for a prospective pastor-teacher. Plus, being a parent, you have an excellent feel no doubt from that perspective as well for how to balance love and discipline – a hard thing for many to get right.

As far as feeling like you're "on an island", that is a very common experience for new Ichthys readers. Continuing with "church" and being serious about pursuing growth generally leads to nausea – regarding one or the other. Hypocrisy is difficult for all who are really trying to walk closely with Jesus Christ. But I do know that while some "wilderness time" is often given to us as a matter of grace (so as to be able to concentrate on growing), the Lord always provides just what we need in regard to mutual support from those who love Him too. I hope these new connections will be helpful and also profitable for you in growth, progress and preparation to minister. As I've had occasion to say quite a bit of late, given the deplorable state of preparation in Laodicea, once the Tribulation does start, I would imagine that there will be a great deal for prepared and gifted believers like yourself today, once the lukewarm realize that they're going to have to "get red hot or die".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Some time ago, you wrote to me about the interpretation of this verse, but I cannot find this email or article you wrote about it. It was something about the Jews not assembling themselves, or something to that effect. If you can remember what you said about this I would appreciate it that you would respond to me about what you said.

I have finally convinced, or rather God has I should say, this brother who was determined to prove me wrong about the fact that Jesus did declare Himself to be the Son of God in two different places. Now I have this question to reply to him because he is using this one scripture to justify going to church on Sunday.

I appreciate your great help.

Many thanks,

Blessing to you always, and may the Grace of God be with you.

Your friend,

Response #17: 

Congratulations on your success, my friend!

I'm not particularly good at convincing people of the truth when they are not initially interested in accepting it. Persuasion is not a strong suit (probably because patience is not either).

As to the Hebrews passage, I've written about this many times and often; here is one good link that links to many others.

In essence, these believers in Hebrews were not acting like Christians at all because they were afraid of the local non-Christian populace. And in that non-tech era, there were not many ways to benefit from each other's gifts and grow without physically getting together with other Christians. But that is a far cry from what "church" is like today as it has come to exist in Laodicea where no good comes of assembly, only a feeling of self-righteousness for having gone – much like the RCs going to mass.

Some appropriate verses for "if the shoe fits":

"When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them."
Isaiah 1:12-14 NIV

"I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me."
Amos 5:21 NIV

"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands."
Malachi 1:10 NIV

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Dr Luginbill:

Thank you for thinking of me. I will be reading this and it is timely indeed. While I understand the church is not a building or denomination I am having a mighty difficult time finding one that seems to be a fit for my wife and I.

I finally got my wife to leave the Methodist Church as they are so far down the road of liberalism (and I would call it apostasy) that we just could not take it anymore. The last straw was several weeks ago, the preacher gave a sermon on justice. And he stood up there and preached that justice is socially defined and he spoke of Plato and Aristotle and used as a reference a book by a woman named Karen Swallow Prior who is an extreme theologically liberal seminary professor. He only used one verse in the whole sermon Micah 6:8 which liberals like to take out of context.

Now, I wouldn’t have said anything to him. I would have left the building quietly but I am standing there having coffee talking to some friends in the lobby and he just happens to come by and looks me in the eye and asked how I was doing. I wasn’t irate but I said what was on my mind that any definition of justice in my opinion should be based on the character of God; justice is not determined relationally because if it is then what is just can change and true justice does not change. I also told him I thought he was a danger to peoples souls and not biblically qualified to preach. Of course he told me I was not very gracious. And I told him that liberal Christians always love to tout grace but even Jesus didn’t show a lot of grace when he went in to cleanse the temple, and thus this appeal to grace was a liberal cop-out way to try to keep people from calling out poor teaching and that his sermon basically had no Biblical content except one verse that is basically a liberal favorite because it is a proof texting way to avoid sin, repentance and other Biblical teachings.

Needless to say, my wife doesn’t want me to go to the Methodist Church anymore!!!

Here in Texas, where there seem to be churches on every corner it is harder than you would think to find a good one.

If you rule out Methodists and southern baptists the liberal Episcopalians and Lutherans it leaves few choices.

You know, you do such wonderful work with many things and eschatology among them.....but here is something that is on my mind: the “church visible” as opposed to the True Church is in such a state of disarray that I have been finding myself wanting Jesus back to straighten out the mess we as humans have made. I think that things are such a mess only he can do it.....and this makes me think the time is near because I don’t think he will let some humans go on for long making a mockery of the church.

Thank you for this and my prayers are with you.


Response #18: 

I do think, given what you've written me here, that BB 6B will be a tonic for you in many respects (link).

It's not just Texas. The whole country – and I dare so the whole world – is suffering from this "Laodicea effect". Plenty of churches; little to nothing of the truth being taught.

The Lord will be back to "straighten it all out" soon enough indeed – but there's a lot of rough road between here and there. God helping us, we'll make it through, if that is His will for us to do.

Write any time, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Wouldn't you also say that we meet together (in true church) for fellowship and good works towards each other and breaking of bread together, not just for true Bible teaching? It does seem to also say to pray together and sing Psalms, and a couple of other things. So not just Bible teaching. Per multiple places in Paul's letters. The idea of different Scriptures completing a picture when put together, whereas just one only tells you part of the picture is elsewhere in the Bible, to. There are commands to do those things where you gather/in church, just as valid as the Bible teaching.

And on the fellowship on particular, if I can just zoom in on that one, I know some would say 'church is not a social club', how do you expect people to even get to know each other, let alone decide they even like each other, let alone being able to decide if they are a real believer (if they are not, you should avoid them since they are lying and being hypocritical), and how to help if they are in trouble (or to even know when they are in trouble)? You get to know someone partly simply through socializing with them over time. Some churches are full of people who are strangers to each other. Why help a stranger, you don't know if they are a sexual offender (since it isn't like the church screens at the door) or if they are a true saint. You'd have to get to know them first. In other words, socializing, almost like you would at a club or any organization where there is fellowship. How many verses say to love each other? Part of that is getting to know the person. Spending time with them either talking or doing something together.

Anyway that was just going into detail on one of the things I mentioned.

What do you think, may I ask?

Response #19: 

First, there is a great deal about this and all manner of related issues and questions directly related in the recent posting BB 6B: Ecclesiology (link), most of which is about the local church.

The purpose of the local church is mutual encouragement through the truth (Heb.10:24-25). Since all believers have spiritual gifts and, after reaching maturity, are called to individual ministries, of course we need to know other Christians in order to minister to them – and they to us. But it would be impossible to get together regularly in someone's home for Bible class without getting to know them, human beings being what we are. Just read all of Paul's salutations in his epistles and you can easily see that good Christian relationships were the rule. However, none of these were formed in a brick-and-mortar-church, because such things never existed in the Bible. The way "church" works today, everything is artificial. And from artificiality springs more artificiality.

The real issue is that socializing in a brick-and-mortar-church today is the main reason such places exist; whereas Bible teaching – and all the needful peripheral ministries empowered by actually teaching the truth – is an afterthought at best (and usually not present at all, in truth, even if some places make a show of it).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Sorry to bother you again but on your mentioning of the artificiality, I think it is true that is a bit of a problem in conventional church. It might have to do with the ceremonial aspect. Since the main service is ceremonial, then they have to have other places where you can drop handles (like dropping titles in the military outside of formation).

Thank you for bearing with me.

Response #20: 

Ceremony, ritual, is one of the standard ways that the church-visible substitutes for doing it's actual job, and having a dedicated building wherein to put the accouterments of ritual/ceremony (candle sticks, stained glass windows, statues, communion gear, altar tables, pulpits, pews, carpets, chandeliers, etc., etc.) is "helpful" for that dead, anti-truth approach – as are all of the meaningless rituals themselves which make up the bulk of a standard "church service" in lukewarm Laodicea, even in churches which contain some actual Christians. But there's little to nothing there for a believer who wants to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

Fellowship? What true fellowship can there be between Christ and Belial (2Cor.6:15)? Believers who act like unbelievers and eschew the truth can only bring us heartache in the end. We usually get enough of that from those who are "near and dear" from days past and often through no choice of our own (family). No need to make things worse. If we are chasing happiness through relationships, we will find in the end that the only relationship which makes for true happiness is the one we have with our dear Lord Jesus Christ. No human being can make us happy, and unless someone shares our love for the Lord, any such relationship can lead to great disappointment and unhappiness – even if it begins "in a church".

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

I can’t believe you remember me thanks. Everyone is fine. I read a lot of your end time material. I've downloaded most all your site just in case. I’m getting the feeling we’re very close to Christ Return.

I backslid terribly after my divorce but He brought me back after some harsh correction. I constantly look for signs of present times in scripture. I can’t help it but I feel so mad about the Church (Baptist) supporting Trump. I do visit the church every few months for communion. I couldn’t possibly recommend anyone else attend.

Thanks again for remembering me

Response #21:  

My pleasure.

Given your testimony, I think BB 6B (link) will give you some good insights and encouragements.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Thank you Bob. I have started to read it and you have done a wonderful job once again. Thank so much for your hard work. Your work and your website have changed my life.

After reading just the first few parts of your BB 6B: Ecclesiology series I am reminded about how few people really want the truth. Of all my friends that I attended church with only one of them will even read some of the teachings on your website. I know longer attend my old church. When I tell them that I have found someone who has a teaching ministry, and that our church was not teaching the Bible, they of course get defensive. I have asked them if they would be willing to look at what I been studying and they usually say yes, but then they never bring it up again. You would think they would want to know more, they have commented about how much I have grown spiritually, but that is a far as it goes.

I remember reading one your emails to someone where you had stated how some of the people close to you think it is nice what you are doing with your ministry, but that is as far as it goes. I thank God that he lead me to you and that I have a desire to keep growing.

Response #22:  

Thank you so much for this encouraging email, my friend!

Our friend has developed an "Ichthys forum" for readers to get together on line. Let me know if you'd like for me to have him send you guys an invite.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Hi Bob,

Unfortunately things on the job front got delayed again. My new start date is ___. This time things really should go through as I have that date on a firm offer in writing. My parents weren't thrilled since we effectively ate a full month of apartment rent and utilities for no reason due to delays and incorrect timing estimations on their end. There's nothing that can be done about it though, so life goes on.

I'm visiting a local church for the first time since I moved tomorrow morning. Based on recorded lessons, it's at least not as awful as others in my area. I'm thinking of skipping the services and only showing up for the Bible study on Wednesdays and community groups that never pretended to be anything other than social time (I wouldn't mind spending some time with Christian friends every week even if it was no more than that -- we all need some level of social interaction after all, and one could do worse). I'm also thinking of participating in similar small groups at a couple other places for a little while to send out feelers for interest in a Bible study I'd lead (recruiting, more or less). Does that sound like a reasonable idea?

I'm close to launching my own ministry site, and will sink more dedicated time into that once it's up (I'll keep you posted). If I can get enough truly interested people locally though, I still think I'd like to run something in-person, if possible. Even it's only 3 or so people, if they are actually interested in/receptive to Ichthys and my own teaching ministry, I think it would definitely be worth it.

Here's the list of screening factors I'm bringing to churches on my list (I'm presupposing orthodox positions on basic stuff like the trinity, deity of Christ, inspiration, etc.):

- Actual teaching is going on, and teaching is focused on scripture rather than pop psychology and anecdotes.
- Church is autonomous and independent from a denomination that determines doctrine
- No hyper Calvinism (predestination without free will)
- No pre-trib rapture, amillennialism, preterism
- No tongues or other signal/sign gifts (often phrased in terms of some "second baptism" of the Holy Spirit).
- Teaches a literal, eternal hell where unbelievers go. (No universalism or annihilationism).
- Does not teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation
- Does not teach that women can be pastors
- Homosexuality, transgenderism, sex before marriage, divorce outside of infidelity/abuse/etc., and so on are taught as being sinful, no matter what the current cultural situation says
- No formalized confession of sin to other human beings (pressure to have "accountability partners" or "discipleship mentors" included)
- No pressure (explicit or implied) to tithe, as if it were something expected or suggested for NT believers

We'll see if I can actually find a place that checks all the boxes. I'm in "Baptist country" (so to speak): almost all the churches on my list are some stripe of Baptist. OSAS is probably going to be the item broken most often, and pre-trib rapture after that.

I'm mostly looking for environment(s) in which I can meet Christians who are likely to be more receptive to Ichthys/my own teaching. I'm less interested in actually growing from the teaching therein as I have Ichthys. Hopefully that makes sense.

Yours in Christ,

Response #23: 

Sorry to hear about the job. Sounds like the military: "hurry up and wait" for one SNAFU or another. Still, there has been a benefit if it's shown you that a structured job isn't all bad. Let's wait and see how you like 9 to 5, however.

Hope your expedition today was profitable. Finding a church which checks these boxes is likely to be one you start yourself. That's a good plan. A fellowship of a handful is still a blessing. That's the way Ichthys started.

Thanks again for helping our friend! You probably got the latest update from our other friend.

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

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

Thank you Bob

I have started on ichthys, and it’s a mighty read! Thanks for the latest. I also listen to the likes of Mike Winger, and Chris Rosborough, Doreen and Melissa saved out of New Age, John MacArthur, Justin Peters, Paul Washer. And I did enjoy John Piper, but people seem to worry that he’s shared a stage with Rick Warren. I don’t know whether he’s gone over so to speak. I’m also interested to read people like Ray Yungen, because I worry about the drift that’s going on. I hope they’re sound? Some are cessationist and some not. I just don’t want a charismaniac!

I used also to listen to Jacob Prasch with interest because he shared so much Jewish insight. Lots of details made more sense. Then one day he frightened me by saying 2 Cor 6:17 means a Christian who married an unbeliever should come out of that relationship. I thought it was more about idols. But he contradicts Paul in 1 Cor 7 so I hope he’s wrong, but maybe you can imagine he knocked me over for a while. He has a very powerful style and is adamant.

For reasons of discernment I avoid Bethel, NAR, Joyce Meyer, Steven Ferris, Rick Warren and similar.

Does my list sound ok? I’m heading into reformed territory.

Thank you again Bob

Your friend in Christ

Response #24: 

I'm not familiar with all of these folks, so I can't recommend the ones I don't know. And the ones I am familiar with I couldn't recommend either.

I certainly don't presume to tell any Ichthys reader to whom they can and can't listen. But I do recommend Ichthys – and also Bible Academy (at the link)!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi Bob

Sorry, shouldn’t have asked you. Hoping for a sanity check was all. But may I check something of your answer I don’t understand quite, please?

"And the ones I am familiar with I couldn't recommend either."

Do you mean that following your stated principle, you refrain from commenting, which I think is perhaps the case, or that there were some on the list you feel I’m mistaken in listening too, and so couldn’t recommend? Oh the niceties of the ‘English’ language! Then I have the puzzle of working out which they are! Should keep me on my toes

Response #25: 

My apologies

I didn't mean to be opaque. In my opinion, there is serious Bible teaching and there is preaching. Most "Bible teachers" I've been asked about over the years have turned out to be, on investigation, doing the latter, not the former – and to be wrong when they occasionally do make attempts at the latter. It's a particular point with me and explains why I've done what I've done with my life. Every one of these people is responsible to the Lord for their production – or lack thereof. To put it in secular terms, feeding people nothing but store-bought chocolate eclairs may produce short term happiness, but in the end will come scurvy and all manner of other diseases. On the other hand, it takes time and effort and planning to feed people balanced meals consistently and over time – and they often don't appreciate that because it's not as much fun. Whenever someone comes to this ministry and indicates a possible willingness to actually learn and grow from the truth, it's my responsibility to warn them off from silliness – if they're willing to be warned off.

In addition, there are Bible teachers whose teaching leaves much to be desired because it is fraught with false doctrine. I've seen and heard enough of both Johns here (Piper and MacArthur) to be leery of even suggesting I'm OK with what they teach (you can find some of that on the website if you search for it).

Finally, there is also an authority principle at work here (covered in detail in BB 6B). Ideally all ministers of the Word would all teach the same thing – more or less – because we are all getting our truth from the same blessed source. However, there is a great deal of misinformation out there at present. What is a believer to do? A believer needs to find a good primary source (or a few who are in essential harmony) and pay attention once that/those source/sources have been thoroughly vetted. After all, you can't grow unless you believe what you're being taught and it also has to be true. But if you're picking and choosing from this and that source what you will and won't believe, well, let's just say that those without the gift of Pastor-Teacher tend in such cases to pick the worst of each of their stable of teachers and end up greatly befuddled.

I would never ever tell anyone that they have to read Ichthys alone (or Bible Academy). It's just that these two are the only two in-depth sources I know of that I can recommend with confidence as places where a believer can grow from giving serious attention to the truth. As I say, I don't know many of the other names on your list (except in your reject column), so it's possible that one or a number of these are excellent Bible teachers who teach the whole Word of God in sufficient depth and with sufficient dedication to make it possible to grow up to spiritual maturity under their tutelage. If so, the principle above still applies, however, namely, it would be better to find the right one – for YOU – and give that right one your attention (once fully vetted, as I say). That's the best way to grow up with confidence in the truth.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Dear Bob

Thank you! It is as serious as I’ve come to realise, yes. I am willing to be warned! Disappointing about MacArthur. And I will look for that, thank you.

I’ve puzzled about testing the spirits, over Christ having come in the flesh. How to tell who is a good teacher without so much studying that you’d then hardly need one! I’d thought originally that formula for testing was to address Gnosticism in apostolic times, but that didn’t satisfy. It’s also for us, surely, so I’ve been trying to apply that to what today’s silliness is doing to undermine the simple message of Christ and all He is. Any wrong headed doctrine can say Jesus is Lord, so that also can’t be all there is to that.

So yes, I want truth, but I am a quickly tired brain who is already recognising how it starts that I might well get like my dear mother, who now can’t remember what we discussed 10 mins earlier. I can’t hold it all in my head! So of course it’s natural to want to look for a sound teacher and sit at their feet.

It also bothers me that sometimes it feels technically complicated, (I tried to read Augustine on the Spirit and the letter but couldn’t retain it - v dense) and yet Jesus spoke of children coming to him, and that we need a child like faith, which tells me to trust more and worry less, but there must be meat there too, into which I may grow.

Yesterday I listened to a Lutheran teacher, Chris Rosborough, of “Fighting for the faith” . He caught me out on a subtlety that made me realise I was stuck in works. He said, paraphrasing slightly: "Many pastors would say the purpose of a sermon is to encourage a free will decision to intentionally decide to apply biblical rules and principles so as to be more Christlike." I fell for it! No he said. It’s to Exegete a text properly, to make correct distinction between law and gospel, for the purpose of convicting you of your sin; to proclaim Christ so faith is built up. Then through faith you mortify your sinful flesh through the Holy Spirit, and God produces in you the fruit of the Spirit.

This is an example of how my thinking slides around. I was equating applying biblical rules, and following them, in the first statement, with mortifying the flesh so as not to follow it, in the second. I get that the second sermon is saying God is doing the work in us, not us trying to be Christlike by our works, as in the first, which will never be enough. But I can’t manage to explain what the difference is in how I live, not quite.
Mortify, put to death, but how is that separate from exertion or effort?

I was delighted to hear Michael Heiser, in his podcast through Colossians, say something about Col 2:7 that we just can’t see in the English. Now I forget whether it was the rooted, or the built up, or the established he referred to, though they all colour the same thought, but he said it was God doing this, not us. That was such a relief! And I remembered God will finish the works he starts.

I am such a serious intense person, willing to dig but unfortunately soon weary, and now so prone to forget what I’ve discovered. I remember when I was baptised, about 5 yrs ago now, I thought I’d never get my head around it all, Topics spread in little bits though the Bible, and I still feel I’m not integrated, but I know I have made progress. I still feel overwhelmed, but I’m obviously making some progress.

I am very grateful for your resources, and I have started, but there’s so much there! God bless you, a life’s work. I feel so near the end of mine, sometimes, and mourn the wasted years, but no point in that.

No, I will recognise deception with God’s help, (I pray for that) by knowing about the real thing, as bank tellers do with dud bank notes. And it wouldn’t hurt to ponder more on the difference between trying, post salvation, to follow rules, even though I thought that was my loving response to being saved, Vs. letting God finish his work in me. Tricky thing, mortifying. Any thoughts on that distinction? They say you’ve got it when you can explain it. I don’t think I’ve got it yet! sorry, that’s not a challenge, just me recognising myself!

And so to breakfast I have the joy of a lockdown webinar later, singing along to early renaissance music, which is my joy. I nearly forgot!

God bless and keep you

Response #26: 

You're most welcome.

I think if any Christian gives any ministry a serious look, looking with the idea of "buying" (at least for the foreseeable future), then he/she will be able to tell pretty quickly if the fruit being produced is 1) clearly good rather than questionable; and 2) sufficiently nutritious to be able to produce spiritual growth (see the link: "The fruit test"). Contemporary Christians often fail to utilize this test, however, generally because 1) they are not really looking for good nutritious food but rather only to be entertained or find relationships, not really being interested in doing the hard work of spiritual growth, and/or 2) are unwilling to commit to a single ministry but want to have Smorgasbord of teachers, often because they are only interested in certain teaching and are not willing to take the broad-based whole-Bible approach – which is essential for spiritual growth.

But whenever a Christian gets serious about the truth as you have done, this process of winnowing begins in earnest and will eventually come to the correct place and correct conclusions – for you. If you persevere, you will find the right place / right ministry for yourself and won't have to worry then overly about evaluating all manner of ministries with which you have nothing seriously to do. The "fruit test" is designed to help you find the right place in the first place, not to pass judgment upon various and sundry ministries which are not the right ones for you, even if in their own way they are doing what the Lord has commissioned them to do (to one degree or another).

We are all different, and the Lord has provided for those differences, including differences in motivation and degree of commitment. So as I repeatedly say, Ichthys is not for everyone (I also recommend Bible Academy), and I wouldn't dream of saying that there aren't other ministries out there which are doing the Lord's will. John MacArthur is a Christian who is serious about the Bible and its truth and certainly has a large following of genuine believers (and even a seminary); my issues with him and his ministry have to do with (many) points of his doctrine to which I do not subscribe. It's not for me to say how big or small his reward will be at the judgment seat of Christ. But I do know that every point of truth is important, because truth builds on truth but error detracts from the stability of the whole edifice. So I can't recommend that ministry, but I'm certainly not condemning it.

Keeping you in my prayers daily.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27: 


Response #27: 

A long, long time ago, when I was living for myself rather than for the Lord and had not yet benefitted from His strong hand turning me around, I remember a conversation with a stranger of clearly Irish background. We were talking about something or other having to do with the troubles, and I asked, "Are you a Christian?" He replied, "Well I am a Catholic so I certainly hope I am a Christian!" To which I responded as to how then I didn't see any reason for controversy between Protestants and Catholics. But of course I have learned since that one can be a Presbyterian and NOT be saved and that it is apparently very difficult to be an RC and BE saved – and that anyone in either such group if saved is MOST unlikely to be a mature believer on the spiritual advance (in fact that seems to me now nigh on impossible).

So to your point about "minor" vs. "major" doctrines, all truth is important, and those who are wrong on some truths tend to be wrong about others – and not really concerned about the truth at all. Because anyone who really IS concerned about the truth will be led by the Lord into all the truth he/she can handle, and quickly too, when he/she finally gets around to caring about it. In other words, there are members of churches and denominations who are so purely out of traditionalism, and many of these defend their "doctrines" purely for that same reason. But anyone who is really saved and who really wants to find the truth will undoubtedly be led by the Lord OUT of that sort of dead end organization and approach.

As to joining / attending church and staying engaged with other Christians, that all depends on each person's "druthers" and also most particularly their personal ministries. You seem to have been called to have a very direct apologetic ministry and from your reports you are dispensing a great deal of useful truth to various and sundry who otherwise would not be exposed to it at all absent your efforts. For those without that calling – and at lesser levels of spiritual advance than yourself – being a communicant at a "church" where there is little true and much false being taught has the potential of doing more harm than good. Paul started with the synagogues – and always left them when push came to shove. Based on that parallel and basic spiritual common sense I don't think we can reduce this to a principle. It's a matter of personal application which depends on a great many factors – and so much so that I for one would not call a person's application "right" or "wrong" unless I saw great damage being done. In your case, I know I've never told you that I thought you'd be better off not engaging in this way. In fact, to be honest, it never even occurred to me! But I have told others or suggested strongly that they were in the wrong place – when I saw that they were not only in the wrong place but in spiritual danger because of it.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ the Lord,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Hi Bob,

This week's postings are as ever very interesting and helpful. The charismatic type emails are all too familiar to me now as you know. There doesn't seem to be much in that department that I haven't heard of or seen for myself or through ___'s involvement in it.

One of the women "pastors" at that church once gave a sermon on the filling of the Spirit and told the congregation that sometimes we "leak" and so have to be filled up again. And being filled up again in their book I'm guessing would be something like laying on of hands, being slain in the Spirit etc. etc. I'd never heard that one before - that we "leak!"

When you talked to one correspondent about the desire on the part of so many Christians for "having fun" my friend's church whose founder was John Wimber (Vineyard movement) continue to use the phrases he used to say that "everyone gets to play" we all "get to do the stuff". In other words the "stuff" that Jesus and the disciples did like healings, working miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, casting out demons etc. So they actually say they get to "play". This came to mind when you said in your response that so many prefer the "childish things".

It's helpful to read and to learn how you respond to some of the correspondents you get. (Responses #5, 6 and 7)

I like the way you said in your last email to me that, "It's more fun to sing in the pub with your mates than to drink a pint at home listening to the stereo". It's a great way of putting it! It made me think about something else I was going to ask you ages ago. A couple of years ago ___ invited me to one of their church services. They have a bar in the church and after the service people can go and buy a drink. I'm not legalistic or anything like that. I know there's nothing wrong with a Christian drinking alcohol in moderation and that it's drunkenness that is sinful. What felt a bit weird to me at the time is that after the service __ introduced me to the pastor who had given the sermon that night. He had a bottle of beer in his hand and while he spoke to me all I could smell was the beer on his breath. Like I say, I know it's not sinful but it transported me right back to my younger days when I was away from the Lord and used to go to the pub for a few drinks. It felt to me like it was just something else they were trying to do to make the church as much like the world as possible just to get the people in.

It got me thinking that this is a church and by doing this could they actually be putting a stumbling block in a weaker or less mature Christian's way? (Matthew 18:5-7) Say if the Christian speaking to the pastor had been a recovering alcoholic (not me by the way!) and that's all they could smell on their pastor's breath then that could make it very difficult for them not to crave that beer they know they really shouldn't have. That one beer that's going to put them back onto the path of destruction if they start drinking again. I know that this could happen anywhere for that Christian but to come across it in church where you need all the help and support from them to me seems to be a really bad idea.

Is it right, Bob that mature Christians should not only know their freedom in Christ but also stand ready, in love to forgo their rights at times for the good of others. (1 Corinthians 8:9) Abstain for the sake of love for others. It is a sin to cause another person to stumble into alcohol addiction or drunkenness.

They do what they do in these churches and that's up to them. I'm not judging, God alone judges but could you please help me to know if my thoughts on this are right. Purely for my own learning and understanding of the truth as far as putting stumbling blocks in the way of other Christians.

Thanks for your prayers for me, Bob. I felt dodgy yesterday again but better today!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Saviour

Response #28: 

"Leaking" and "playing" – good grief! One would think that any believer with an ounce of spiritual common sense would hear the Spirit saying "run for it!" when confronting such tripe. But thanks for the insight!

In one of the mega-churches here in town they have a beautiful atrium and they sell thing therein, including a Starbucks as I recall (it's been a LONG while). That definitely rubbed me the wrong way (e.g., Mk.11:17). But I have to say, after some of those sermons I endured, a couple of pints afterwards would have helped mightily. In all seriousness, yes I think having a bar and serving alcohol in a church is so problematic on the surface even without discussing it that it ought to be a non-starter. As to pastors drinking, see the link: "Should Christian leaders refrain from drinking in public?"

Sorry to hear about the continued dodginess. I am keeping you in my prayers on this.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill (and dear ___):

I have meant to write you and our community for quite some time, but as we all know - sometimes life and curveballs derail our best laid plans.

The first thing I must mention is that the Lord has blessed us with a beautiful and healthy grand-daughter (born end of June 2021). She is priceless, precious, and a true blessing! I prayed over her even before the knowledge that she was on her way. I have given her to the Lord - and have committed myself, should the Lord have planned for me, to help guide her into the Millenium kingdom. If our good God has different plans for her or me then I know FULL WELL that she will be with me for all eternity in the presence of the Lord. Perfect peace! I have attached a picture - and who can't help but smile?

I was quite confused and concerned about the amount of ink spent in Ichthys on the vaccine debate. Long-story short, I did not choose to take it - and I trusted the Lord without it. I then found myself taking it (for viable reasons that presented themselves) - and I trusted the Lord when taking it. Period. How is this not the end of the subject? We either trust the Lord or we do not.

The only hill one should find themselves willing to die on is for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I recall a time years ago when I found myself anxious when having to fly. I had flown for years prior extensively as a professional model, yet after having my first son I started to have panic attacks when needing to leave him and fly to bookings. I found myself a basket case - there was more to lose when flying, right? A young son left behind should something go wrong. Finally, the Lord in His wisdom and goodness and gentle voice told me, "It's not the how - it's the when. Your life is in my hands and has been written by me." I had such perfect peace thereafter. SO true! It's not the how - it's the when. This cannot change. God's perfect plan equals perfect peace.

Yes, I experienced some adverse reactions with taking the vaccine. Did I stop trusting the Lord? No. BTW - for perspective, I practice holistic remedies - and I am not prone to over the counter or prescribed medications and have not/did not vaccinate my children (now adults). That statement alone can open a whole other can of worms here. Not intended to. Point being; do I trust the Lord or do I not? Do you trust the Lord or do you not?

One of my sons took the vaccine and went blind for almost ten minutes. Paramedics were called. My son said, "Mom, I have no way to explain it but I had perfect peace. I didn't panic. I felt such peace that it would all be okay." And it was. Should this news "scare" others? No, this should be a reminder that whether we lean to the left or lean to the right the Lord will be there. This vaccine is NOT a Biblical, scriptural issue - but a personal choice based on modern medicine. Drive a car? Do not drive a car? Enlist in the army? Do not enlist in the army? Take legal meds? Do not take legal meds? Either way - God is there.

On another note, if you recall we were hit by the winter storm that flooded and damaged our entire home. Something that should have taken 5-6 weeks to repair took 4-5 months. The contractor finally finished and installed the last of the baseboards. We were so happy to be done. We took a trip to visit our children and grandchildren in TN and to celebrate a birthday. I returned early with one of our son's and we walked into our home completely submerged under water - again!?!? It was devastating! I was overwhelmed - I cried. My son jumped in to help me bail water - and my husband did everything he could to help mitigate loses while in VA (states away - visiting his folks after our trip to TN). Long-story short; the contractor penetrated a pipe with the nail gun when installing the baseboards ("the finishing touches after 5 months"). It was a slow leak that ruptured from the pressure while we were away. It is what it is - and God is good. I settled it in my spirit and we are in the midst of repairs.

On another note, my heart is so heavy. I have tried to engage others in discussions regarding the Tribulation and the rapture / false doctrine that so many have swallowed hook, line, and sinker. In addition, I am at a complete loss when looking at the landscape and carnage of the church visible today. Our company keeps our pulse and thumbprint on a database and relationship with over 330k churches nationwide - the stunning and staggering and sad state of affairs in regards to today's church boggles our minds and brings us to our knees - grieving. We are finding ourselves in a very isolated population. Keeping our distance seems the best approach - yet not wanting to miss our opportunity to grow up others. I see that my mission field is in those closest to me.

Praying for you, our worldwide community, and keeping my eyes on Our Hope, Our King, The Perfector of Our Faith.

" 11Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (makes me cry every time. Hallelujah!)

In the name of our Lord and Savior and Coming King, Jesus Christ -

Response #29: 

It is apparently a pattern that believers continue to receive testing along the same lines. I had a Christian friend one time who continued to get into auto accidents – which were by their nature very clearly not the fault of her being a bad driver. There are other examples of this sort of thing I have observed in the past as well. That said, I'm distraught to hear of your second flood! And how ironic that it was caused by "the finishing touch" and not noticed until after it was too late.

But I do rejoice at the way you are passing this test, my friend! God has a way of showing us that HE is the only thing, the only One, we can depend on down here. Everything else is "shifting sand", no matter how much love and care and effort we may pour into it. Therefore whatever we do for Him is always worthwhile because it will last forever; in terms of everything else, we have to maintain a certain level of flexibility, remembering that it is only dust – and may turn to dust far sooner than we had imagined. So, again, good for you, my friend, that you are handling this deep disappointment with such grace!

I certainly agree with you entirely on the vaccine issue – and hope I've expressed as much in recent weeks. I appreciate your perspective and additional information.

In terms of the church-visible, this era is not called "Laodicea" for no reason. It does remind me of many times in Israel's past where the believers (many of them must have been so) were not interested in the Lord or His truth for the most part. Still, we do also have to be careful not to "pull an Elijah" and assume that we are the "only ones left" when the Lord has "reserved for Himself" others too who have "not bowed the knee to Baal". Our job is to grow as much as we personally can, pass the tests that come our way and thus continue to progress with Him, trusting Him no matter what happens, and help other do likewise through whatever ministries we are given to accomplish – just as you are indeed doing. As you note, there's plenty of work to do "close to home".

Congratulations on your new granddaughter!

In Jesus,

Bob L.
p.s., would you mind me posting this (absent names and photos and such)?

Question #30: 

Thank you for the good reminder, Dr. Luginbill – around the globe and within current pews are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Keep praying, loving, and preparing for the days ahead!

Yes, please feel free to share.

The home repairs are coming along - and my husband has a pep in his step pulling out the nail gun and stud finder to aid in the process. If anyone will monitor to make sure no more pipes are hit - it's him!

We hear that Texas is expecting another winter like last year ( so the epic 100-year streak between storms is now possibly two years back-to-back). Hopefully all of our newfound knowledge from the experience will help us prepare for what may come (sort of like the benefits of spiritual boot camp - we may not like it in the midst, but it certainly helps prepare us for what may/will come).

I was glad to read that you are seeing some sense of normal on campus. Praying that the required vaccinated percentages don't keep shifting and that you can finally go mask-free. It is so incredibly stifling!

We are praying for you, our community of believers, and for those with special prayer requests on Ichthys. It is so comforting to read and know that there are others who value Ichthys (God's Word, solid teaching, you) as much as we do. What a blessing! Thank you, Dr. Luginbill.

Response #30: 

Thanks! I appreciate it.

On the prediction, if it's any consolation, those predictions usually end up just the opposite – so maybe it'll be a mild winter.

Keeping you in my prayers – thanks for yours!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

[update on masks and vaccines:  U of L is now at 87.4% vaccinated and STILL under the mask mandate; also, the Provost "shared" with us the other day that U of L is "considering" making vaccination mandatory in line with the administration's fiat inasmuch as U of L is a "US government contractor".]

Question #31: 

Okay now that I have some emotional distance, I was wrong to state that I thought that someone who engaged in that kind of sin should be barred. The only thing that matters is what God says and I don't see in the Bible that someone with that kind of sin in their past is barred (I mean assuming they repented of course). The only thing that might go in that direction is 'above reproach' in that maybe one could argue that one's past can call that into question, but I do think that one is tenuous and iffy. So I was wrong on that,

I do wonder if that no one stays at a church more than a few years nowadays, even for some the pastors (it depends on the church of course), would mitigate some of the more minor issues. It is hard to control much of other people with a revolving door. And maybe some of the teaching I should ignore wouldn't be that different from cultural background noise I already ignore.

And, No. The forum is not a substitute for the face to face social.

Thanks anyway though. Please take care.

Response #31:  

I do understand it's not the same thing, but some people have made some good friends there.

It's a blessing that we CAN leave bad churches and are not bound, as the RCs are supposed to be, to whatever church is closest to us geographically. But the real problem is the people who go to church. In the end, since they are paying the bills and doing the work, they get what they want, what they REALLY want . . . whatever that is. In the late innings in Laodicea that tends to be music, and lots of it, rites and rituals, the more the merrier, emotionalism and pseudo-miracles, legalism or antinomianism, sermonizing and specious testimonials – anything and everything except the detailed, solid, orthodox teaching of the Bible in sufficient quantity and depth to grow.

If you do find some place like that, please let us all know!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #32:  

You make a lot of points that I wholeheartedly agree with. I think a critical point you make is the audience needs to "have confidence that what you are telling them is based on the Bible." The internet certainly has a wonderful advantage of being able to link to all sorts of quotes and footnotes. Whereas, in the in-person setting one has to "pick their spots" if they are going to go on a tangent away from the scripture being directly analyzed. It's not enjoyable for an audience to be flipping back and forth through their Bibles constantly -- no matter how interested in the truth they may be. With a book like Revelation, it might be best to stick to its direct text as a framework for a teaching setting, with everybody following along with that as a basis, and occasionally flipping to another passage when it proves a critical point or in the case of Daniel, staying on a specific chapter for a while. This obviously will not accomplish as in-depth of study as you provide on Ichthys, but I think that's almost unavoidable when teaching in-person.

I appreciate your in-depth answers; you cleared some key things up for me, especially with the praying for strengthened faith response. Thanks! -- you are in my prayers daily as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #32:  

This is a very involved question to which there really is no specific answer. I've thought about parts of it all my life (there is much in BB 6B which is reflective of that; link). Two quick observations: a) don't worry about "driving people away"; the truth ALWAYS drives people away – and it's meant to do so, separating the wheat from the chaff. Working to retain people – at the expense of the truth – has resulted in the denominations and churches we have today. If you are ready to teach, the Lord will bring you the listeners at the right time and in the right way.

We say in the military that "no plan survives contact with the enemy" – and yet we plan. It's good to have a plan, but all a plan really is is a rubric for thinking about things you're going to want or need to do. Once you bump into a real situation, not being willing to change things around is almost always a mistake. It's the goal that's important (in this case, teaching people the truth), not the specific means meant to get there.

So in essence, if you think it'd be good to teach X first, then plan to teach X first. If it turns out that those needing the teaching already understand X, change to Y and Z; if, as is more likely, they don't even yet understand A, B or C, then you'll probably have to postpone X. But in general, teaching would look like you getting up in front of a group of people and explaining biblical principles to them, exegeting scriptures where need be so that they can both understand and have confidence that what you are telling them is based on the Bible. If you're doing that, you'll be OK.

Then said he unto them, "Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."
Matthew 13:52 KJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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