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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

I'm very grateful to you for this - thank you.

I had tears in my eyes last night when I was reading in the link about our Lord's selfless death on the cross for us - when we deserve nothing. I'm glad He can see into my heart and how grateful I am to Him.

You know when you said to me "He is tapping His foot in anticipation of blessing us" - well I don't know what's wrong with me this week but I'm feeling SO full of joy! A real deep joy. I think it might have something to do with me having my attention fully in His Word.

Thanks again Bob.

Your friend in Jesus

Response #1: 

We should all be so "wrong" all the time! I'm very happy to see that Lord giving you such a wonderful "honeymoon" in delving into His truth, and I'm particularly encouraged to hear about your growing closeness to Him. That is what it is all about. Please take pains to remember this time and this high point. We're also allowed to be tested, after all, and that is when we need to remember and hold onto that godly "high ground perspective", knowing that He is the same dear Lord in good times and in bad (Heb.13:3). I praise Him for your "good time" with Him!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Bob,

It's ok - I do understand what you are saying because of what I've learnt from your teaching. I realise that there are going to be some hard, testing times ahead and that this is necessary for me to grow.

I've spent so much time thinking about ___ and reading all about what they are doing to the point where I wasn't reading enough of the Word for my own growth. It's just been a huge relief to give it a rest for a while and just concentrate on the Lord and try to learn more. If I'm to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength and mind then that's what I'm going to do. I don't want to mess about. This is too important to me to be lazy about it.

I already thought I'd come through some testing times with my injury, no job, abuse in my past, the worry over ___ and feeling on my own because of being surrounded by unbelievers in my family who are quite happy as they are. But I've chosen to feel lonely rather than compromise by joining some 'church' that would just cause me to feel righteous indignation. But maybe this has all been easy stuff. If this IS easy stuff then as someone who suffers from anxiety anyway, I've clung to the Lord as tightly as I could through it all. I've tried my best to handle it all in the way He asks me to - in a way that is pleasing to Him. I've learnt some very valuable lessons and I do feel that I've grown because of it all.

I haven't found any of this easy. I don't even find studying His Word easy but I'm giving it everything I've got in me. All of these issues are still going on and there will be worse to come, but I'll continue to praise our Lord for the joy He puts in my heart and for His amazing love.

Thank you for being there Bob.

Your friend in Jesus

Response #2: 

I certainly did NOT mean to imply that you haven't seen tough times (sincere apologies if I gave the impression of not remembering what you've been through or not appreciating the gravity of your sufferings). What I meant was that it's very typical of the Lord through the Spirit to give us a special time of joy after we've been away from Him for a long time – just as He gives it to new believers. However, even if we diligently pursue the truth thereafter, we will be tested and there will be times when joy has difficulty breaking through the trouble. But we can always maintain our peace if we hold His hand tight (Jn.14:27), because we know that He is the One who is leading us through the valley of death-darkness. Joy in the Lord is the most wonderful thing, but we rely not on the emotion that often comes to those who love Him heart and soul, but on the truth about Him and of the security and eternal future we have as part of His Bride. So I'm only talking about balance here. Walking through this world is a lot like walking on ice; lean a little too far this way or that and it tends to land on person on their keister PDQ! That's all I meant. As a brother in Christ, I'm delighted to share in the joy (Rom.12:15); as a teacher I'm also responsible to shout "duck!" when I know there's going to be some "incoming". I have full confidence that you will handle both well even as you are clearly already doing (see the link in BB 6A: "Peace and Joy").

I'll be continuing to keep ___ and the situation in my prayers, my friend. Yes, keeping to the path and continuing to carry one's cross forward until we get to "point B" is not so easy. Perhaps that is why so few are even attempting to do so in our late hour of Laodicea. But I'm sure that you are going to be one of those who is genuinely prepared for all that is soon to come.

Yours in Jesus Christ whom we love more than life itself.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Bob,

It's ok - you really don't need to apologise for anything. It's just me - I think I just got the wrong end of the stick again.

I know all about the "honeymoon" period from when I first became a Christ as a teenager and I remember it being spoken about even back then. It just confused me a bit. I've been back with the Lord for about two and a half years which I know is nothing but it doesn't really feel like any sort of "honeymoon". Or maybe it is and I just don't realise it! It just made me question what I'd been through and whether I was making a big deal about nothing. That for some people this would be a breeze because others go through a LOT worse. If what I've been through has been hard then how much worse will the testing be. It's not that I don't want it. I do because I want to grow. I know with the Lord's help I'll be able to come through it. I know what has come my way IS a breeze compared to what it's going to be like in the tribulation and I've got to be well prepared for that.

I'm making good progress but maybe I sounded a bit too over the top about the joy. It is there but at the same time I'm always aware that I have to be alert and know that this isn't always going to be an easy ride. If there's anything that is important to me (like getting better after my injury) then I'll work and work and work at it and this goes for studying His Word and learning from your teaching and your own experience in your walk with the Lord as well. The big difference this time is that I've got Him with me so it's not all in my own strength.

I might still be considered a babe in the Lord but I have learnt a lot (which I'm sure you're glad to hear!). Sometimes it feels like because I've only been back with the Lord for a short time my ___ thinks I don't know anything. Like what would I know about the "deeper things of God". I don't care about competing, I care about where others are going to end up. I don't take it personally because I know how blind you are when you're deceived. I could spot the errors as soon as I did come back to the Lord - it was as clear as anything to me. But it's in the Lord's hands and if He wants to use me as an instrument to help guide others back then I'll do whatever He wants me to and I'll keep praying.

I know the Lord tells us that this is how it would be but it's still so sad to see isn't it Bob. Churches are just absolutely full of false teaching and the people are being so easily deceived. It's like give me all of Your love, the good feelings, the blessings, the experiences, the worship music to ramp up my emotions, the healings, the entertainment and the man-made rituals. Just don't talk to me about sin and repentance and suffering for You and giving up my life for You. I'll have anything you've got but don't ask me to submit to You or become Your slave or love You more than my family, my possessions or my life. Our Lord deserves so much more Bob - so much more. I'm sorry - I just needed to say all that.

I really do love and respect you as my brother and my teacher and I do try to listen and take everything on board. I've got so much to learn and I wish I could cram it all in quicker. I'll keep doing what I need to do every day - consistency is good. Sorry this is so long Bob.

Your friend in Jesus

Response #3: 

It's always a pleasure, my friend!

Understood. Honeymoons come in various shapes and sizes. For someone like yourself who already had a grounding in the truth and was very quick on the uptake for much more, joy in spite of pressures is really "the good stuff", because the spiritual blessings we receive always outshine the material ones – for those who are maturely walking with Christ.

You're right. This is not a competition – at least not between believer and believer. We are all part of the same team and we rejoice when anyone on the team does well and grieve whenever any teammate is tripped up (1Cor.12:26). All of us, moreover, have a chance to win the three crowns, of righteousness, life and glory.

I look forward to clapping for you when you receive yours.

We'll keep praying for your friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you for explaining the honeymoons (sounds funny!). I understand it better now. Also when you used the word 'grieve' when talking about our teammates that's just the right word. It's exactly how it feels. The closer I get to the Lord the stronger I seem to feel it.

I was reading over the link you sent me - BB 6A: "Peace and Joy". It's funny sometimes because while I'm reading it I'm thinking wow! - that's exactly what has happened to me. When I first came back to the Lord right from the off I was hit so hard in a certain way (I won't bother you with the details) and it was horrible. I had an idea that it was some sort of attack I think especially because of what I'd been involved with before. I remembered from years ago James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. I hung in there and eventually it eased off (this was before the Lord led me to you and Ichthys).

I think I said to you the other day that for too long I'd been too distracted by reading about the bad stuff __ is involved in. I realised enough was enough and I had to get my attention fully back on His Word and I mentioned to you that I was getting hit hard but that it was ok - it had passed before and it will again.

In BB6A you write about how the devil is an expert counter-puncher, with the result that it will be a rare occasion when any of our spiritual successes will not be met by counter-attack - sometimes of a furious nature. That's exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago. When I read it at first I thought well mine isn't a success it's just a decision I made. But it IS a success because it's an extremely important decision and what better weapon can I have but soaking my mind even more with the Word of God. I really am going to get some serious flak for that. And it wasn't a light decision, it's a decision where I really mean business. As soon as I made a positive step forward - BOOM! I have to say I was surprised at how instantly the counter-punch came and in such a furious way. I really wasn't expecting it. It came in exactly the same way as when I came back to the Lord and it really is horrible. It was the NAME Jesus that brought me back and I got hit hard and now it's Jesus again but this time because of His WORD (the enemy doesn't seem too keen on our Lord Jesus!).

I understood what was going on and I kept that peace in Him (as in BB6A) and it's a whole lot better now. And then I mentioned to you about the joy and you write: "We are joyous that we belong to Him and are saved, we are at peace - even under pressure - that our salvation is secure through faith in Him ....

It might only have been a short hit but it was hard and furious. This fight is far from over so I'll always stay alert. But I'm encouraged Bob and I just wanted to show you how your teaching is helping SO much. I would just be struggling along on my own without it but to have the support is absolutely brilliant. I know you always hear it but I've got to say it again - I thank the Lord for leading me to you and I thank you for everything you do to help me.

I can't wait for that day when I can clap long and hard when you receive your crowns as well. What a day that will be!

Your friend in Jesus

Response #4: 

This life is a fight for sure! At least for all believers who are determined to do things the way the Lord wants them to. It's not the most common thing nowadays either, here in the late "innings" of Laodicea. So I suppose the evil one has plenty of resources to spare for the most irksome of us. Not a pleasant thought, but also not one we have to dwell on, because "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1Jn.4:4 NKJV). So we are not really even the ones fighting that fight; we are merely responsible to trust our Lord and keep plugging away regardless of opposition, knowing that He's never going to give us anything we can't actually handle, even if we sometimes allow ourselves to think that way (1Cor.10:13). Even if we have to suffer the troubles of Job, we remember that in the end it turned out well for him – much better than it had been before his troubles began.

Thanks for all your positive comments and for your wonderful witness of faith, my friend! I draw great encouragement from both.

Your friend in Jesus Christ who died that we might live forever with Him.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

I heard a believer say that when a trial's severity increases, that means deliverance is near. Is that true?

Response #5: 

It's not a bad rule of thumb – because the Lord never allows us to suffer beyond our capacity to endure it (1Cor.10:13).

However, as I often say, believers more often than not THINK they can't take any more when in fact they can.

We have to trust the Lord no matter what happens, remembering that His love for us is perfect (He died for all of our sins on the cross when we couldn't have taken dying for a single one), and that the plan of God for us is also perfect: He's "working all things out together for the good . . . for those who love Him (Rom.8:28).

Keeping you in my prayers daily – for deliverance.

In Jesus Christ who has never ever let us down.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Dear Teacher

I am always greatly encouraged by your very generous words. Always. It means a lot to me to hear that I am getting this business of Faith and Ministry right especially from you. Thank you, Sir.

I am honored and privileged every time that I am able to support a fellow believer and __ is really like a big brother to me. He is a gift that I am thankful for everyday as well. I'm really sorry that his health is troubling him so much now.

I believe you are right. My dad has said several times that I should start a ministry since I am so handy with the Bible. They have no problem with my becoming a pastor, only with my being the sort of believer that I am.

Amen, Sir. And I thank you very much for all your support and help through it all. I started considering again [details about planning for self-support in the pursuit of preparation for ministry omitted]. It's a lot of difficult options and only one clear desire which is hard to attain whichever way I go. I am grateful for your prayers, Sir. They encourage me just as much as your very kind words.

Your student in the Lord

Response #6: 

You're very welcome, my friend. Your dedication to the Lord and your spiritual solidity are very encouraging to me.

Being in the situation you are in is not necessarily comfortable, but you have to recognize it for the test that it is. I think all of us who are planning to minister the Word get this sort of "security test", and its probably necessary because there are built in threats and opposition in store for anyone who wants to be a serious teacher of the truth.

At several major decision points on the way to where I am here today, I bumped into this. What I can tell you for certain is that 1) while you need to do your best to make wise decisions, it's really the Lord who is working these things out for you; so that 2) this is really not so much about about "making good decisions regarding various options" but about trusting the Lord to work it out – which He most assuredly will do.

When I moved out to California on a shoestring to go to seminary, I didn't have any place to stay and I didn't have anyway to pay tuition. I remember sitting in a little cafι having a sandwich, spending short funds, and feeling the pressure of a place where everyone seemed to have a fancy car, fancy clothes, and impossibly expensive places to live. Guess what? The Lord provided. For the whole time I was there I was able to rent a room in an old house where there were other seminary students and so so for next to no money. I did have to borrow the tuition money, but the Lord provided the means to do so (and the means to pay it back years later). God is good!

When I was at seminary, I had a real crisis of conscience. The plan had been to become a minister in the Presbyterian church like my father before me. Of course I had very different ideas about what was true than the dogma of the church, but since in growing up in that church I had observed that this was not so much of an issue, I entertained the fantasy that somehow I would find a church where people were willing to learn. I interned in a local church out in CA teaching an adult Bible study, and that went pretty well (I thought, any way). But as I got closer to having to make a commitment to be a minister in that church, it became clear to me that, conscience-wise, I was not going to be able to sign off on what they officially believed and what they were doing, and that the prospect of a "job" was no valid excuse for going that route. So in the second year I changed course and switched my degree to finish in two years (dumping the silly classes and concentrating on Hebrew et al.). But now what was I going to do? I had done a second B.A. in Classics in Illinois after the USMC, so I decided to put in an application for graduate school. Mind you, I only put in one! To one place! And not only that, but I hand wrote the letter of interest (since I didn't have a typewriter and getting things typed up was expensive)! Looking back now, I can see that I didn't have a prayer of getting into that program – from the human point of view. But guess what? Nothing is impossible for the Lord. Not only did He get me in, but He got me a fellowship that paid my tuition for the duration and paid me a stipend the first year and got me a teaching slot thereafter! God is good!

And I remember when I was getting ready to finish up my Ph.D. work at Irvine, I had a campus visit at a place in Missouri, but even though they were clearly wanting to hire me, I withdrew my name because I wasn't done with my dissertation yet and I just didn't like "the vibe". After I graduated, through my professors, I got a one year slot at USC to tide me over, but at the next convention my interviewing didn't go so hot. I didn't get many interviews at all, for one reason because it was a slim year (I had gotten twice as many the year before when I was not yet done with the dissertation). I remember praying about this – what am I going to do now? Now I should have remembered all the many times the Lord had been faithful and that He had never, ever let me down – ever (like the three deliverances above). But I was getting concerned. Then He reminded me that the sparrows neither reap nor sow, but they don't starve because He provides for them. And He had always provided for me. And guess what? He provided for me again. I hadn't had any serious nibbles, but there was this one place in Louisville. I called just to check up, and it turned out that the secretary had misplaced part of my file, but got it straightened out after that. They were the only place that called me for a campus visit. And I got the job. God is good! And He is faithful. That is the testimony of my life. I made SO many mistakes, mistakes, which, in a highly competitive field should have doomed me. But it was really all about the Lord and His faithfulness, not about me and what I was doing at all. Yes, we have to do our best. Yes, He expects that of us. But even if our file gets misplaced, even if we only have "one shot", even if we haven't really planned things out well at all – the Lord honors the intent of our heart, and He works things out for our good and for the carrying out of that good intent for the edification of His Church. It's about Him, His Church, His truth. Our job is to trust Him, and to follow through on that trust by showing in what we think, say and do that we really do trust Him.

And we do. I do. And I know you do too.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.
Psalm 20:1b-5 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

Life is a bit crazy here at the moment (what's new?), but I am happy to report that I'll be starting up a Bible study again. This one will be a little bigger (~7 people including myself), and we'll be going through Ephesians.

I am going to try and start my online ministry concurrently with this... for real this time. Here's the general plan for each hour and half meeting:

Spend about 30 minutes going through hermeneutics and issues surrounding inspiration, the importance of scripture in developing one's view of truth, and things of this sort. "Christian epistemology," if you will.

An hour talking about difficult passages from Ephesians, getting into specific topics as necessary. (I anticipate predestination will come up in Ephesians 1, for example).

I don't have any class on Fridays, and am hoping that I will be diligent in using much of the day to prepare for the Bible study in the evenings. All of the notes I develop I am planning to put up on my site, and I am thinking about recording the Bible study (audio).

In terms of this email to you:

You can be praying for this endeavor. I'm getting close to graduating, and am anticipating that small-medium Bible studies of this sort will be the bulk of my non-online ministry after I graduate.

If you know of anything specific on Ephesians that would be helpful, I'm open to suggestions. I was planning on drawing heavily from some of Curt's video studies, but unfortunately, while he has series for, e.g., Romans, Galatians, and Philippians, I don't think he has a series on Ephesians. I can use Ichthys materials as they line up well (such as 4B Soteriology's section on the divine decrees). At this point, some of what I use will be from myself as well (at least the wording of specific things depending on the people attending, etc.).

If you have any thoughts on recording the audio of the study (Good idea? Bad idea?), I'd like your take on it. I could just stick with written materials for the time being, but I like the idea of having both.

In Christ,

Response #7: 

Good for you, my friend. The main thing I would point out is that it's very easy for these sorts of things to consume much more time than imagined. So, especially if one begins them during a low point in the semester, it's easy to feel the crunch when things heat up. For that reason, I would suggest you consider sticking with the face-to-face Bible study for now and worry about the online component later. So, for example, if you record your sessions, you can always load them up later, once you've got an online presence. Even if that's a year and a half from now, you haven't lost anything. Also, it's hard for an online site to catch fire if there isn't a sizeable amount of content present.

Ephesians is a wonderful epistle – it's also not easy (the first chapter is pretty much one single sentence). I've done some on that (e.g., the three levels of glory in that first sentence). One runs into most of Paul's esoteric usages in Ephesians (another example from the first chapter which most people miss is that "peripoesis" in v.14 is talking about the resurrection body and the rewards pertaining thereto). Another thing to note is that it's a good idea for the teacher at least to be spending a lot of time on Colossians at the same time, because there are very many parallel passages in Colossians. Paul seems to have written these letters at the same time more or less and they contain a great deal of the same information but structured and presented differently – so that they help to explain each other (always check the parallels before you "decide" that "this is what it means" in either one).

Audio isn't a bad idea. As mentioned, you can hold onto these files and use them on your website when you get to that in time to come. I'm guessing – as someone who's had the "blessing" of hearing myself and seeing myself in similar recordings – that it might be an enlightening experience.

I'll definitely be keeping this in my prayers!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

I have several questions from people in my Bible Study that I'd like to get more information on. We are hypothetically going through Ephesians but it seems that we will wander afield as things come up. When I asked if people would prefer that we follow the rabbit trails or try to get through a set amount of text every week, basically everyone said they would rather follow the rabbit trails.

This has the advantage of covering a lot of ground, since everything is inevitably interconnected. It also has the disadvantage of making it much harder for me to prepare for a given week. I thought I did OK in the first meeting – after introducing Ephesians as a book, we ended up going through things relating to the sin nature, Jesus' virgin birth, children and accountability, and kensosis, among other things – but I very intentionally pulled back when I wasn't 100% on things, so as not to mislead anybody, and said that we would go over questions people had once I did more study on them. Here are the questions:

1) Why was it necessary for Jesus to become a human being?

I was asked this and as a reflex said that of course Jesus had to become a human for his sacrifice to atone for our sins. But when asked to explain more, I was hesitant since I realized that while I believe this unconditionally, I didn't have a good explanation ready at hand.

The questioning party believes that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, and isn't questioning the human nature of Jesus. They want to know why scripture presents it as necessary (cf. ὤφειλεν κατὰ παντα τοις ἀδελφοις ὁμοιωθηναι in Hebrews 2:17 -- ὤφειλεν having a sense of obligation).

You address this in section I.2 of BB4A. In one place, you say:

"While the wonder and the glory of Jesus in His eternal capacity as God cannot be underestimated nor with our present limitations more than dimly understood, scripture is very clear about the fact that He had to take on true humanity in order to accomplish eternal salvation for us. God cannot suffer; God cannot die; God cannot become a sacrifice for sin or atone for sin or indeed in His perfect holiness have direct contact with sin. Only a human being, a perfect human being, could possibly fulfill the role of becoming our sin-bearer. As sinful human beings, absent intervention by God on our behalf, we were destined to face the “wrath to come” and the eternal damnation final judgment inevitably entailed. But the indescribably good news of the gospel is that Jesus incurred this judgment for us, bearing all of our sins in His own body on the cross. To accomplish this for us, He had to be a human being, and a perfect one at that, a genuine human spirit in a genuine human body, wherein He would bear the sins of the world on the cross (Jn.2:21; Rom.7:4; 1Cor.11:27; cf. Matt.27:50; Lk.23:46; Jn.19:30-42)."

It's not that I'm not convinced, but could you explain this a a bit more? In general, can we say that Jesus becoming human was necessary because

~God in his undiminished deity could not be in contact with sin
~Sin requires either payment or substitutionary atonement in place of the payment. Humans would never be able to pay on our own (not even being worthy to atone for our own sins), so we would be utterly lost without God's mercy.
~So God's justice requires that the sins be payed for. But God cannot do it in his deity since he is perfect and cannot be in the presence of sin.
~Thus, for God to atone for the sin of man, he had to become man. It was the only way.

I know that Holy Spirit was involved on Calvary, mediating the process of Christ's payment on our behalf. This might be relevant to this question inasmuch as it relates to the sins being born in his physical, human body upon the tree (1 Peter 2:24).

2) How do we know that the sin nature is passed down through the male line? How do we know that it is something distinct from the commission of personal sins through our free will exercised imperfectly?

I started off answering this one by going to 1 John 1:8-10, and pointing out the difference between ἁμαρτιαν οὐκ ἔχομεν (we have, as in possess, no sin) and οὐχ ἡμαρτηκαμεν (we have not sinned -- perfect verb). The sin nature would seem to line up with v. 8 and sins as actions with v. 10.

I know you have written about the sin nature in BB3B. A relevant passage:

"The miraculous sign that Jesus' unquestionably divine conception and birth provided and continues to provide is an important part of the reason for the virgin birth, but there is another highly significant aspect to this ineffably momentous event that brought the Savior of the world into the world: only a pure and sinless Jesus Christ would be qualified to bear our sins and so atone for them on the cross (2Cor.5:21; 1Pet.2:22-24; Heb.2:14-18; 4:15; 7:26; 1Jn.3:5; cf. Is.53:9). Without a human or angelic father (Heb.1-2; cf. Jn.19:34-35; 1Jn.5:6-8), the potential problem of the passing down of the sin nature through the line of Adam could be and was thus avoided. Indeed, since the sin nature is universally passed down from Adam through the male line, a virgin birth was the only way in which our Lord could be at the same time truly and completely human, and yet be born without a sin nature."

You base this point of view, at least as I've seen it, off of taking the οὕτως in Romans 5:12 as essentially standing in for Adam physically passing on the sin nature. It's not that this is so large an interpretive leap given the obvious idea of indwelling sin in scripture, but I would like to better be able to understand why 1) we know the sin nature is passed through the male line via physical procreation, and 2) the sin nature is something distinct from personal sin stemming from free choices made against God (i.e., why the two can be seen as separable... if they are?).

Essentially, what the person asking this questions was getting at was this -- why must there be this other concept (the sin nature) if all humans would sin if left to their own devices, having been given free will?

3) In discussing kenosis and the sin nature, Christ's temptation as a human came up. People were curious, given that Christ did not have the sin nature (based on how I was presenting things, in line with the virgin birth and the sin nature being passed through the male line), exactly what was the nature of his temptation?

I confess that I myself am curious about this. Every time you address kenosis (that I've seen, at any rate), you take great pains to make the point that Christ didn't have it easy since he came in for a lot of personal attention from the devil and his minions. He faced a lot of suffering on account of being who he was, in other words.

This aside, what exactly does temptation without a sin nature look like? Could Jesus the man have sinned if he did not submit his human will the God's will? If you say no, then someone might ask (as a human argument) "well, how was he really tempted then?" If you say yes, then someone might ask "well, what would have happened if Jesus had failed to follow God's will perfectly, and sinned?"

Related to all this, the same person asking about the sin nature said something to the effect of "Christ living a perfect life with the sin nature would only serve to make what Jesus did for us even more impressive." Is the reason why this isn't even workable on the face of it because Jesus with a sin nature would not be worthy as a sacrifice?

I'd appreciate your prayers for all this. I'm glad to be doing a Bible Study again, but it is certainly more work than one might think from the outside. I am also planning on starting to record the study, beginning with this Friday, and we'll see how that goes.

I'd also appreciate prayers for a friend of mine who recently decided that 1) homosexuality in committed relationships is not sinful, and 2) that he is in such a relationship. I have not talked to him since learning this, but of course this was not good news. I am honestly quite curious as to how he gets around such passages as Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. If he is willing to try and explain it to me, I may meet with him and see if there is any hope of him returning to the position that scripture states clearly, in my opinion, or not. He was by all appearances a relatively serious, Bible-believing Christian, who knew enough about philosophy and human logic to understand that scripture is the only firm base of truth we have in this life. Which makes the current turn all the more perplexing.

Yours in Christ,

Response #8: 

In terms of your friend, I have said a prayer for him. In terms of "how he gets around" the Bible, well, people are very good at ignoring the Bible when its teachings get in the way of what they want to do. But there is no getting around God – and no getting around discipline from the Lord in the case of believers.

In terms of your specific questions:

1) I think your four points sum up the truth very well.

2) Jesus was without sin; Jesus was born of a woman; Jesus was not born of a human father; being born of a human father is what passes down the sin nature, Q.E.D. Paul's commentary in 1st Timothy 2:8-15 gives the explanation of "why" such is the case.

3) Hebrews makes it very clear that Christ was tempted just as we are tempted (Heb.4:15). Adam and Eve had no sin natures, and yet succumbed to temptation. Having a sin nature makes it harder not to succumb to temptation, but not impossible; not having a sin nature makes it possible not to sin, but is no guarantee. Christ passed all tests successfully.

But you knew all this already, and were convinced of it as well. It would be great, I suppose, if the Bible had an entire chapter each on all these hard questions. It would have to bigger than the Encyclopedia Britannica in which case, however. And then there would be no need for teachers, I suppose. But, really, people wouldn't be any more willing to accept the truth just because it was presented in even more detail.

So in terms of your congregation, there are questions, and there are questions. There are people who are truly desirous of getting closer to the Lord through the truth, and there are those who merely have itching ears (1Tim.4:3), who are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2Tim.3:7 NKJV). And why not? For one thing, because the only authority they will ever actually accept is themselves. To grow, a person has to accept the truth by faith. One thing I can tell you is that if a person is not willing to accept it when presented by someone as well-versed in it as yourself, reams of additional detail will not help. After all, the real question is, "is what I say true, or not?" If it is – and in all of these cases it was – then the Spirit did make that clear to the hearts of those listening. Did they resist and mask their resistance with questions? Then no amount of detailed answering is going to help. Mind you, there are legitimate questions, and as you certainly know I make it my policy to answer them. My mentor didn't believe in that at all. It can at least be said for his approach that it had a tendency to separate those who were really serious about learning and growing from those who were not. And in a face-to-face situation, if you allow questions, there is a fine line to walk on the issue of authority. If you are the teacher, then you are the authority. If someone in the group does not wish to accept your authority, well and good. He/she should stop coming. But if you allow questions to become challenges, they will have to be met, or the whole thing will fall apart. Here is what I read in scripture:

Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Titus 2:15 NKJV

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1st Timothy 4:12 NKJV

The how to do it part, that is, how to be open and entertain questions on the one hand, but also not allow oneself and one's authority to be despised, isn't spelled out. That is all a matter of application – but it is most definitely an issue. There is a lot about this in BB 6B (at the link).

Now if you had a Ph.D. and some other degrees and years of experience in an established ministry, then these folks wouldn't dream of questioning you and your teaching . . . my aunt Margaret! I get disrespected all the time. I even have some who hold the fact that I DO have the degrees and qualifications I have against me – on the grounds that no one with any serious standing in academia can possibly be in touch with the truth.

The point is that you told them the truth. You want to be able to explain it better? Great. That's teaching and it takes experience – but there will always be room for improvement. In terms of what you are doing, a person could prepare for 50 years and not be ready for every possible question. So you have to find a way to handle this issue. But the point, I reiterate, is that you told these folks the truth. And that is what your job is. So if you do take a rabbit trail approach, you have to stay clear in your presentation that "X is true", when you believe it is. Coming back with more support later is fine. But you also have to hold tight to the principle of authority. Because, after all, it's not "you" that we're talking about (or "me" either, for that matter) – it's the Word of God and Him who is the Word of God. We have no doubts about the truth, and we can't allow suggestions that there is some legitimate doubt to undermine the faith of those who have come to learn it.

Our friend's new piece about angels and Genesis 6, just posted, has a lot about "questions which aren't really questions" (see the link).

I realize that this is a different level of "flak" from what you received, but the principles are similar. Also, our friend in his own way is doing what you're doing, namely, engaging in ministry opportunities while trying to prepare for ministry and working on figuring out a way to make a living at the same time.

Happy to put you in touch (if I haven't already done so – sorry about the "absent minded professor syndrome").

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

My goodness, a different level of flak indeed!

I will say that I am perhaps more wary than you in attributing questions to defense mechanisms for apathy. Many of the people in my study either know me as their brother or their school friend more than the very-green-and-greatly-inexperienced teacher called by God:

Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."
Mark 6:4, NIV11

There may be an adjustment period for them of learning when I am and am not speaking ex cathedra, as it were. I was also a bit hesitant in using the "I know Greek and history and other things and have the spiritual gift of teacher; therefore I am much more qualified to comment on what the passage means than you and am far more likely to be right" sort of argument (not that it is invalid) the very first meeting. I think things may head more this direction over time, and I'm certainly not going to coddle sensitive issues in an attempt to preserve attendees.

I would be happy to receive our friend's contact information. Are he and our other friend in contact with each other? He and I exchanged emails a while back, but he is pretty far ahead of me, based on my understanding. To be perfectly frank, I really need to graduate before I can ramp things up. I've meant to contact him again just to keep in touch more, but haven't just because I don't wish to waste his time if I don't have a lot of concrete things to discuss – if he's anything like me, he's got to be incredibly busy.

But if there is a group of other "teachers in training" — particularly if there is communication among multiple people such that it could be labeled a "community" – that is something I am very much interested in. I'm aware of our friends and perhaps a couple of individuals (the "our mutual friend" person(s) from posted emails), but are there any more of us?

In Christ,

Response #9: 

There's no "list serve" for prospective pastors associated with Ichthys. I've told you before that I'm pretty circumspect about putting people together. But if we're talking about men who are in preparation for ministry, well, there ought to be enough savvy on either end of the equation to avoid abuse, even if I get it wrong.

Yes there are others, in various states of "repair". In some cases it seems to be aspirational, and in some cases the connection with Ichthys is not as solid as I would like in order to recommend connection.

Did I ever mention our other friend? He's working as an engineer in New York and trying to prepare in his spare time. His dad died recently, however, and I think it's made things tough for him in terms of forging ahead. He could use a little encouragement, so I'm going to give you his address too.

On your handling of your group, I think you're doing it exactly right. I've seen plenty of "beat the congregation over the head with the pastoral authority crowbar" ministries, and I'm very leery of them, even if they're right on some important points of doctrine. Figuring out how to make the issue clear when it needs to be made clear but doing so with love and the right balance of spine is a judgment call that can't be considered without factoring in personalities (yours and theirs). So on your group, so far so good (again, see the link in BB 6B). Just wanted to make sure that you know you have back up (from the Lord – and from me too, which hardly matters, except possibly as encouragement). After all, they can't benefit from anything they don't believe, even if it's presented in a crystal clear way. So the authority issue isn't just about you but also (and mostly) about them.

Keeping you in prayer on all this, my friend, and your family too.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Professor Luginbill

I pray for your health and deliverance from all trials through the victory of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I thank you for your gracious works in our same Lord who is full of grace and truth,

Just to restate that I have many weaknesses that would exclude me from being a credible witness (a witness each Christian life lived should be). Amongst the list is not being particularly courageous, even sometimes being fearful of sharing my faith in Christ.

While waiting for a friend, who knows something about cars to arrive to help us purchase a used car, we were waiting under a tree with our seller. What shall we talk about?

Me: Where are you from?
Him: New Zealand.
Me: And your original nationality?
Him: Kurdish.
Are you of the Muslim faith? Yes. Do you believe in the prophets? Yes. Bible? Yes.
Old and New Testaments? Yes.
Do you believe Jesus was a prophet? Yes, as was Abraham etc.
Does a prophet of God lie? No.
Jesus said NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through HIM.
(At about this point I feared losing the deal, my __ walked out of earshot)
Him: I believe you.

A very abridged version. We ended up waiting for hours and it took the rest of the day to complete the vehicle transaction. I gave him your “business card”.

Me: Please, when you see these soon to occur events, that you remember that you spoke with me under this tree; so that you will KNOW of the things Jesus foretold us, that we may discern what is of Christ and what is antichrist.

In short, I was prepared to lose the deal, but not the opportunity to perhaps be the servant who announces salvation through belief in Christ and thus the avoidance of the second death.
The Spirit gave me recall of much of your writings. You are right in assuming I was not as willing to stop when also prompted by the Spirit.

No need for a response on any of this. Again, it is mostly to keep you in the loop (I know you have STACKS on your plate). I am most grateful to you and your good works. I am hopeful that a few souls will be grateful for my sharing with them (including mostly from your excellent teachings)- not for my praise, but for the salvation that comes ONLY through faith

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your student

Response #10: 

Good for you!

People who do courageous things even when it is hard for them and intimidating are the truly courageous ones.

I'm pleased to know you, my friend.

And thanks for the prayer (keeping you daily in mine as well).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Dear Teacher

Thank you very much, Sir, for continuing with those questions. These last ones certainly remind me of how much work I have to do.

I thank the Lord for your recovery. I prayed for it. I am going to pray for you to get back to full working health too.

I saw the CC, Sir, and am both grateful and honored that you thought of me. I hope that I can help him. So far, I have been working on remaining consistent with at least personal Bible reading daily. Greek has been on hold longer than I want (that is something that one of your answers on Luke 16 awakened me to. Truly, unbelievers are far better at cost-benefit analysis than I have been!). I've been working on getting back into Greek. I think that I might take a break from Nairaland for a while. I may work it out so that I stop by periodically but far less frequently than before.

I am attaching my message to him below.

Your student in the Lord


Dear ___

From your name, I imagine that you are from ____, is that correct? I've been studying under Ichthys since 3 October 2017 and I am absolutely delighted to have you join and show this much consistency and commitment. It's always a tremendous joy and encouragement when another believer begins to take things this seriously. There are few enough who do, so every addition to the number is a significant encouragement.

Forgive me for only just weighing in. I wasn't sure what I could possibly add to what Professor Robert said in response. Even now, I worry a little that I am taking a liberty but since I have been invited into the conversation, I figured that I should at least participate.

Regarding your questions, I can't really speak to what people say that God has told them. What I know for sure is that when the Holy Spirit leads us in any direction, we will never find that obedience violates the Word of God. So, the question always is what the Bible says. If it is a matter on which the Bible is silent, then we are best served to follow our conscience.

Bible-teaching is really a full-time job. At least, it has presented itself as such to me. There is a significant demand on your time and energy to develop material and also address questions that come your way. It involves a lot of research and deliberate and consistent production. Then, there is also the deliberate attention given to prayer for those to whom you minister. The Bible calls the job "shepherding". That is a legitimate clue to what exactly it is about.

The shepherd is responsible, first and foremost, to feed the flock. The quality of the food he provides them with will determine their health and productivity. But he is also to watch out tenderly for them to ensure that they are safe and unharmed. It is also to wrestle with whatever attacks them and gently deliver them from such things.

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NIV1984

I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:27-29 NIV 1984

The above passages are very good illustrations of a good shepherd. Then there is the great example of the Good Shepherd Himself:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:11 NIV 1984

As we see in the next two verses of John 10, hired hands only flee when there is a sign of trouble. Shepherding is sacrificial.

This is why it requires dedication. So, there is something to say for devoting oneself fully to ministry without seeking any other job or career:

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
Acts 6:2-4 NIV1984

But given that there are so few who really care about the Truth and are willing not only to commit themselves to one teaching ministry but also to support it with their own material resources, the Lord's command in Luke 22 is not to be toyed with.

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: `And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."
Luke 22:35-37 NIV1984

If one can actually manage it, it is best to focus on the job of pastoring the Lord's sheep. There is great reward in doing the best job of it that one can. But it may not actually be feasible. So, if one has some other means of earning to support oneself and fulfill one's responsibilities and obligations, it may be wise to continue to use that means.

Paul himself did accept material help to allow him to devote himself to ministry too (compare Acts 18:1-5 with 2 Corinthians 11:8-9). So it is not as if his example was that we all should work at a career apart from ministry. If anything, it tells us to properly understand the cost of ministry. Teachers are special targets for the enemy, so we are not only to thoroughly prepare ourselves in the Truth to serve, but we must also possess common sense and use it. Paul had every right to receive support from the churches in Achaia but he chose not to because he understood them to be too weak in the Truth to understand their role correctly and because he wanted to make a clear difference between himself and the opportunists that were spiritually harassing them too (2 Corinthians 11:8-13).

In our days, not only are such opportunists everywhere and ruining the genuine reputation of Bible teaching, there is also the lack of interest on the part of believers to learn the Truth in any depth. These things mean that we are responsible to "take a purse" if we have it. If we do not, for some reason, the Lord is able to provide abundantly for us. But we are not to act irresponsibly about this.

As for being mavericks, spiritual growth is difficult business. This is deliberate on God's part. Each believer has to demonstrate just how much they love the Lord and wish to submit to Him. What better way to demonstrate it than to strive against odds to learn about Him and adapt ourselves to Him? But we must have alternatives too if this is to be a true choice. Therefore, rather than actually pursuing spiritual growth and production, we do have a real alternative in what I sometimes think of as "Sunday partying". Believers can choose to waste their time tickling their ears and enjoying music and socializing rather than taking the trouble of actually trying to understand Who God is and what He wants from us. And the vast majority in our days have chosen that alternative. In my experience, I have been a pariah all my life for actually treating the Bible both like something that believers should understand and like we should actually try to obey it. I began to experience that in my own home where I grew up among very visible and loudly-self-announcing Christians. Both parents and siblings were in large part very visible in every Christian community they got into, whether local churches or campus fellowships, sometimes rising to the top ranks in them. Yet, I was a pariah among them. It's not better today. I am just less concerned or troubled now about it. The same is true nearly everywhere you find Christians. They are concerned with just about anything except what the Bible actually teaches. So, you will find that the deeper you go with the Truth, the more unique you are likely to find yourself among other believers. This is the age of Laodicea when the Church is overrun by lukewarm believers who think that loud and exuberant talk and energetic activity is synonymous with spiritual progress.

About your question for language training, you could look at the links on the following page: http://ichthys.com/Bible-Links.htm. Ancient Greek Tutorials is at atticgreek.org now. I find it very useful for learning pronunciation. Smyth's Greek Grammar is online. That is very great help. The materials I use were sent to me by a dear brother who also studies Ichthys and they came recommended by Professor Robert as well. They are the Reading Greek volumes (Text and Vocabulary, Grammar and Exercises, and An Independent Study Guide) as well as James T. Allen's The First Year of Greek for Greek. Then I have Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew and Weingreen's Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew among others.

I am sure that Professor Robert will cover my lapses here and give you even better answers.

Again, it's very good to know you.

Yours in the Good Shepherd our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Response #11: 

Great work, my friend! It's really first class.

I don't know if you've ever corresponded with our friend or not. He's the college student who's preparing for ministry in Georgia. Recently, he started another Bible study and our latest correspondence had to do with how to handle "questions" which may really be more than that. I'm going to send him the link to your piece on that. Also, it occurs to me that you would be great in a face-to-face setting at being able to establish your teaching authority firmly but with humility. You are very well versed in the Word of God and in all principles of truth. I can see from some of the background you include in this discussion that the Lord has used your diverse education to prepare you for ministry. It's the Lord's call as to when we are ready and where to put us, but I wouldn't be surprised if He put you in a group / church soon. You certainly seem to me to be more than capable of feeding your sheep consistently and in more than enough volume of the truth (once again, I personally benefitted from some of the great insights you have shared here; the part about human daughters vs. sons of God is an excellent point, e.g.). It also seems to me that you are worthy of being supported in such a capacity. Of course, there is the problem of willingness in the hearers and sufficient numbers to create a "going concern". It never turned out for me, but I don't regret the way the Lord has been graciously willing to employ me. I'm wondering, however, if that's not what He has in mind for you. We have to be ready for whatever He wills.

So keep doing what you are doing, my friend. There's no such thing as too much preparation or getting too deep into the Word. Everything we do in this regard is all to the good. I am looking forward to seeing how the Lord puts you to work in edifying His Church. I'm confident that you're going to do very well – and earn a wonderful reward.

Keeping you and __ and your families in my prayers daily (thanks so much for yours!).

In Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Dear Teacher

Your email was a big shot in the arm for me. I was very happy to learn that I did well and that you found the document to be a blessing. And your words about ministry were most welcome. I had been very concerned about my difficulty with writing up the series I planned. It made me acutely aware of how much more work I need to do to prepare. And that saddened me. But to know that I am getting something right is extremely encouraging. So, thank you very much, Sir.

No, I have never been in correspondence with him. Is he the one who switched from a possible career in Classics, I think, to another in engineering?

I am trusting the Lord for the future. I am not sure how things will turn out but I find that I am more adventurous everyday now. I seem to be more fluid about things now than I used to be. It would be delightful (but quite intimidating too) to be able to just study and write and talk to and encourage other believers in the Truth. I have always wished to be just like Paul (and incidentally, you are the same) but I trust the Lord to work things out according to His Plan.

Thank you so very much, Sir, for your encouragement.

Your student in the Lord

Response #12: 

You're most welcome, my friend.

Yes, that's the fellow. You've probably read emails to and from him on the site (he is very detailed and analytical in his questions).

Trusting the Lord is the only way to go. There are great advantages to doing things the "Paul way", but there are disadvantages too. It's somewhat easier to do a job when one has to show up and "stand and deliver" at a regular time and place, and seeing the faces of the people you minister to is no doubt also an encouragement and a motivation to do well for them. Also, the "Paul way" in the modern world generally requires giving Caesar a whole lot of time and energy. And especially if one has family obligations, it's difficult to find a type of job/slot that allows the time and energy to do a good job in ministry and still be able to earn enough to support oneself and one's family. I was VERY blessed to get the job I've got. If things had turned out differently (i.e., had I got something at a more prestigious school that required a lot more research), this ministry might never have developed. As a much younger man, I had some unrealistic expectations about what professors have to do to "make it", but God worked it out. And that's the bottom line always. If we are willing to follow Him down this road, He takes care of all the twists and turns, and leads us into just the right place. That's certainly my prayer for you – and I'm confident that it will happen. Just keep on growing and preparing. That's the thing. We have to be ready to do whatever it is the Lord wants when He gives us the call.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Good morning,

May I ask you if this way I am thinking about Scripture is correct? For along time I would take a verse as by the letter, but I have recently been thinking it is more of a guideline (or a handrail keeping you from going overboard on one side of the path)/or warning of moderation. So, for example, when it says to hate your father and mother, it just means don't worship them. Or when Peter says to dress respectably, not to go to far in the modest for the sake of it direction (I mean unless there are extenuating circumstances). Specifically on the verse to by wise as serpents, but harmless. To me this is kind of like if the military said to only use deadly force when necessary, but refused any training because that is too close to the real thing and they are adamant about 'only when necessary' and when it is a dummy it isn't necessary to use deadly force. Sorry, but to even understand any of the workings, you do have to be a little experience in it. So I think this is also a warning from extreme. More like not to go too far with it (the cunning and politics, and etc). And they do mean to use it sometimes (like with the midwives and Pharaoh).

Just like with obeying laws. I have found you are expected (or it is normal) to ignore laws except in certain circumstances (or maybe it is the other way around). So even the law is a guide post. What do you think? (Previously I saw it as a to-the-letter thing).

Response #13: 

I couldn't recommend ignoring laws (e.g., Tit.3:1). None of us is perfect (can't say I've never broken the speed limit, e.g.), but everything we believers do, say and think is a witness, one way or the other.

On interpreting scripture, pastor-teachers are told to "rightly divide the Word of truth" (2Tim.2:15). It takes the spiritual gift of teaching and a lifetime of study and experience to become proficient at this. I would say that some scriptures are so clear that any believer ought to be able to understand. When it says, for example, "don't steal", there's no wiggle room there, and reading the Bible regularly will certainly confirm the simple and straightforward meaning of that commandment. When we are told to be "wise as serpents" but "harmless as doves", while in my book that is also fairly obvious as to the meaning, it does need to be explained by a teacher so the the applications Christians listening to him make will be more likely not to be misapplications. We are not serpents or doves, after all, and the areas where this scripture is to be applied are limited (dealing with people, and with circumstances in the world where people are involved; cf. Jn.2:25).

The area of study dealing with how scripture should be interpreted is called "hermeneutics", and there are many books which have been written on this subject. Some principles are obvious; others not so much (for example, there are special rules for dealing with prophecy; see the link: in CT 1: "Hermeneutic Issues").

There are many other ins and outs here, and needless to say there are many passages in scripture where scholars and teachers and denominations have disagreed vociferously about the meaning. The truth is, every scripture "means what it means", and there is not necessarily an easy way to go about finding out what that meaning is in the very many cases where it is not so simple a problem to solve. Happily for you and for every other believer in the world, the Lord has provided pastor-teachers in the Church for this very purpose, namely, to "rightly divide" the Word, bringing out the truth, and presenting it in a manner that is edifying for the Christians listening to him. The pastor teacher is like a "cook", and the scriptures are the food source. And just as with foods there are some which are pleasing and edible without much preparation, but most of what we need to grow and thrive has to be properly selected, prepared and presented, so it is with the Word of God. That is the way the Lord set things up to establish the authority principle. And while that authority has been severely abused so often (think of virtually any denomination and especially religions which claim to be Christian but are only nominally so), the principle is sound: in order to grow, Christians can't depend of just reading the Bible for themselves. If they really want to set roots and grow tall, they will need a good teaching ministry.

You are welcome at Ichthys any time!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Well, sometimes it feels hopeless to understand.

But speed limits is an interesting example given that we are supposed to go faster than the limit when everyone else is (not impede traffic), even though the wrong cop might still pull you over and give you a ticket. A good example of what I mean of the apparent flexibility of obeying laws.

Thanks for your help though. Last thing: I guess I feel that I have some of the good answers that I do because I didn't just take a pastor's word . Whether it be my ___ (who was difficult for me to communicate with) or at the Home (honestly there they would just say they didn't know). So I search and learn and read on my own, and thank to that I have a lot of information and answers and possibilities in my mind I wouldn't otherwise have. I will admit sometimes I think it has negative effects on me. However it is the path I have. You may even say that is how I happened across ICHTHYS. And while I do really respect you, and wish I had your knowledge, and though you are wonderful, sometimes you don't give answers either. Which is fine, (and I know I can come across negatively and be difficult moreover), but so I look. I wouldn't have any idea of many of the things I am aware of now if I didn't. And certainly think I would be in a dark place.

I also had a college friend from India (born and raised) and he said that bribes were the norm and you had to really work at not having to give a bribe to do anything with the government. We are not like that here, just thinking as an expression of what I was saying before, in such a society, you would be breaking moral and secular law, but that is how it is. I don't know. I mean the government workers would expect them, that is why you had to work at not giving them if you wanted to drive or get documents, etc.

Response #14: 

There's a difference, often, between what we do and what we know we really ought to do. We all have sin natures, and oftentimes the easier way is the way we take. But we all know what's right and what's wrong. Doing what's right often has a cost attached to it, as in the examples we've used. E.g., if I don't speed, I may be late for work (of course, I probably should have left earlier). What we know from scripture and from the faithfulness of our God, however, is that in reality we are always going to be better off doing what is right, even if it hurts. Because even if we have to pay a price here in the world and in the world's terms, being right with the Lord, close to the Lord, and moving forward with the Lord is the whole reason why we are here: we love Him more than we fear the world. There are certainly degrees of this, of course. Going a few miles over the speed limit is not as bad as doing 100 past a school, or lying in court out of fear of repercussions, e.g. When it comes to simple things, however, none of us is ever going to be perfect. It's not so easy never ever to tell even a very small "white lie" to avoid hurting someone else' feelings, for example. The problem is that if we seek to justify such things, even small things, especially small things, we will end up seeking to justify everything we do that's wrong, and this will lead to us doing more wrong things and less right things. We always have to stick with the truth. If we make a mistake, if we sin, if we do what is wrong, the first thing thereafter is to confess to the Lord. But if we want to say "no, I haven't sinned", then John is very clear that we are "making God out to be a liar and His Word is not in us" (1Jn.1:10). So what you say about people "accommodating" to difficult circumstances and pressures is true enough, and none of us perfect in this. But we all need to realize that we are wrong when we are wrong and not be tempted to say that somehow we are right. If we cease being honest with ourselves about what we are thinking, saying and doing, then we are standing truth on its head – which is exactly the road the devil took. This is the fastest way I can think of to alienate ourselves from God. We love the Lord – or we should – more than anything else. And He is not fooled if we are doing wrong. The worst thing we can do is pronounce ourselves right when we are wrong, because that subtly suggests that He is the One who is wrong – and there is no more dangerous type of thinking than that.

When the Tribulation begins not many years hence, there will be tremendous pressure for believers to "accommodate", and during the Great Tribulation, the pressure to take the mark of the beast will be immense. It will be all to easy for lukewarm, marginal believers to convince themselves that it's "not such a big deal", especially since ostracism, prevention from buying and selling, imprisonment and even martyrdom will be the alternative. But what does scripture say?

"If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name."
Revelation 14:9-11

This may seem to be an unfair analogy because, clearly, in this latter case the stakes are so high. But consider: if we are unwilling to do the right thing where the stakes are very small and the cost insignificant, how do we expect to develop the moral courage to do what is right when the pressure is astronomically greater?

As I say, I'm not defending legalism or suggesting in anyway that it's possible to live sinlessly perfect, nor that I am somehow not compromised when it comes to the small sorts of things we've mainly been discussing. But I can tell you that even when what we do wrong is very, very small, we need to be honest with ourselves that it IS wrong, and not try to justify our behavior for any reason. If our consciences are legitimately bothering us, then we should acknowledge to the Lord the wrong we've done – He will freely forgive us (1Jn.1:9), having already died for all of our sins – and then should consider trying to avoid such behavior in the future (whatever it may be we're talking about that's bothering us).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

May I ask in a situation like apparently it is in India, would you give bribes to get by if that was the way it worked, and you weren't likely to do much in society if you didn't?

I was doing that though; starting to say this and that bad thing were actually fine. And it does leave a hollow feeling in the heart, like I am treating God callously. May I also suggest that for someone people, they will have a hard time with knowing right from wrong due to lack of guidance. And if that person formerly went the legalistic and ascetic extreme, any accusation that could be thrown when they let loose is a bit like someone who did something really bad mentioning a bad facial expression. Not that I haven't sinned anyway. Just saying that these things are complex. Especially without guidance. Or, as a woman: a bit like elderly women complaining when the younger women dress attractively and the older women's husbands notice and the elderly women complain. And then you find out those elderly women did far worse when they were younger.

What am I supposed to do? What does He want from me? How can I know unless I am told and I have no one to tell me and No One to tell me. It isn't like I haven't tried for decades. And I am not going to listen to condemnation to those who have done far worse than me, because I am not even confident it is possible to do otherwise since they are apparently so knowledgeable and godly and they couldn't manage.

I got angry earlier and I am sorry. But would you please tell me whether you would do the bribe or not?

Response #15: 

I think we're talking about apples and oranges here. In terms of, e.g., optional dress code, first, this is very different from following or not following the laws and regulations of the state. As I often say in this latter regard, Peter and Paul both affirm in no uncertain terms that it is our Christian duty to be good, law-abiding citizens – even they were both terribly abused by the Roman and Jewish authorities. The only time we have an example / authorization to do otherwise is when/if we are told to do something fundamentally wrong (like worship the beast) or told to stop doing something we are required to do (like praying to the Lord – just as Daniel refused to stop doing this in spite of a "law"). Otherwise, just because something is inconvenient or seems to put us at a disadvantage, I don't find any scriptural mandate or allowance to ignore state authority.

Let me point out, however – and this is apropos of the "oranges" you've brought in here as well as the "apples", that I do not make it a policy to judge other believers or their application of the Word of God, especially in "disputable matters" (Rom.14:1). I have indeed been asked about this corruption bribery issue before, and I counseled those speaking with persons in such a dysfunctional state to be careful not to set up specific standards for others. That is bad enough in normal situations, but a really bad idea for someone not even personally familiar with the environment the other believer is in. We have the principle: obey authority. We apply that principle to our lives as we bump into things, and circumstances may matter. I would not run a stop sign at 60 mph – unless I had an accident victim in the back seat bleeding to death. Whether I would be "technically right or wrong" can be debated; but I know what I would do in that circumstance. If I lived in a third world country where things worked differently than they do here, I would do my best to apply the principles in the Word as best I could to the situation I was in. Speculation beyond that is futile.

As to getting in someone else' face and telling them they are not dressing right or other such legalistic behavior, if you have read the articles on the website I'm sure you know my position. I am flat out against legalism and also flat out against taking over another believer's free will. Trying to micro-manage another believer is a horrendous thing, in my view, and in this I believe I also have the Spirit of God. There may be exceptional times when a particular believer's behavior in one area or another is so out of line that it is harming others, that cautious intervention in the form of a godly suggestion might not be wrong. But this is a nuclear option, not a daily legalistic practice for those of us who are truly seeking the Lord through His truth.

Every believer – in this country, at any rate – has a choice as to whom to listen to to grow in the Word. If ministry X is insufficient, ministry Y may be better . . . or a search can be made for ministry Z. God provides for all who are truly interested in learning the truth and living the truth. When a good ministry is found, listening and believing and applying and living the truth will result in growth (assuming the truth is actually being taught). Not listening, not believing, not applying and not living the truth will not do so – even if the ministry is first class. Any good teaching ministry will embrace all the truth of the Word and every aspect of Christian doctrine . . . eventually. Believers have the right to ask questions (in my opinion, though not every ministry has that perspective), but they also have to be patient sometimes until the ministry gets around to the issue at hand. Also, it is certainly the case that "the answer" to problem/question/concern A/B/C may actually require understanding all manner of principles of truth that do not at first glance seem to be directly applicable. The TRUTH is a complete and wonderful whole, and to have its intended and complete effect it has to be completely and wholly embraced. No "Smorgasbord approach" will ever produce great results.

So my advice is always the same. We are all individuals and the Lord loves us all individually. We are here for Him. We are not here to pick our own way (though we do have free will indeed), but to listen to His Spirit and let Him guide us into the way He would have us go. The plan for all in essence is spiritual growth, spiritual progress in application and living and test passing, and ministry to others. There is overlap but also sequence involved in this process as we get better at all phases as we continue to grow. Whatever questions and concerns we have about anything related to the truth, the Lord will provide everything we truly need when we need it. It is a trap to become fixated one issue or another (another Laodicean trend which I call "hobby-horsing"), because that tends to sour us on everything else.

In the New Jerusalem, we will be one, united in a glorious way which at present we cannot fathom. But we will all be distinct as well, and part of that distinction will have to do with the rewards we have earned in this life. Those rewards glorify our Master and He wants us to use the life He has given us to win as many as possible. That is why we are here. Everything that compromises this purpose or distracts from it is a stumbling block best tossed out of the way.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

PPS: Do you remember a couple of days ago I was talking about whether, under certain environments, it was fine to not always obey the law (such as, in an environment where the whole society does it, and you have to live there)? The thing is that I have more than enough money for necessities, but only just there. I mean, compared to the average person in the US, I can't afford basic things (I can't afford a haircut, or to get my nails done, for example), but I can have a candy bar many days. I was telling myself to skip having car insurance for a while to pay for some stuff, using the logic I mentioned before. But I was thinking today, what if this was some sort of test (not saying it is), and I would be failing it taking the easy way out and sinning. So I won't skip. I just have to keep in mind that deprivation (and I do consider it that when the norm is to have all those things without even thinking about it, and it is actually not just those things, but a list...) will only last a limited time (several decades max most likely), and it is more worth it to not sin.

Response #16: 

You are right – it's always better to do what's right. There are other issues with this particular test, however.

One day – can't remember the reason why – my favorite seminary professor in the middle of class told us, "gentlemen, it is a false economy to let your car insurance lapse". He went on to tell us how he was hit by someone who was obviously in the wrong, running a red light. When the officer showed up and my prof. did not present an insurance card, he said to my prof., "Oh PLEASE don't tell me you don't have insurance!" Nothing my prof. could say. The officer then explained that because of the laws in the state uninsured motorists are automatically declared responsible for the accident – and thus liable for damages and injuries to the other car and passengers – even if they are clearly in the wrong.

Skip the candy bar – pay your auto insurance . . . or walk and DON'T drive.

It took my prof. years to get out from under that mistake, I gather . . . and it could have been much, much worse.

Looking out for you in the name of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Dear Teacher

Here are some attachments.

I meant to mention that I know it's posting day for you so I don't expect an answer until Monday.

It occurred to me after my last email to you that it might not necessarily be the right attitude to want to be independent of other believers' help. Paul's words in Philippians 4:17 brought the idea to mind for me. I always feel like I'm doing something wrong receiving help from other people.

It is my history that also contributes to my disinclination to full-time ministry. It isn't the only thing though. The desire is not as strong anymore but I always wanted to be able to say that I am just as good at (insert some respected profession) as I am at Bible-teaching. I didn't want to be thought of as one of those who got into "ministry" because they failed at everything else.

Your student in the Lord

Response #17: 

Wonderful stuff, my friend! I'm always ministered to in reading your materials. I know that the Lord has wonderful things in store for you, so keep plugging away. All three pieces posted to your page.

Interesting other email. I've never been good at asking for things, even when they were needful. Not that I've got some sort of perfect self-reliant track record. My parents, in particular, were generous with me to a fault, and bailed me out many times. I never would have been able to go to seminary, e.g., without their help and support.

As to supporting ministry, what you say is very true. In practical terms, however, we have to be realistic. People are stingy. People love money. Even those who have plenty of it – and in fact more so it seems if they do. There is plenty in the Bible about that. We don't know how the early churches supported their teachers – or whether they actually did do so. Paul tells them that they should, but if anyone was worthy, he certainly was, and here is what I read in scripture:

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
Philippians 4:15 NKJV

Quite a statement. And we know that Paul lived humbly and frugally.

In my humble opinion (speaking of humility), you are most worthy of being supported by a church blessed to hear your teaching on a regular basis. But I am no prophet. I can't tell you that it will work out that way. It did work out that one for one of my seminary companions, but not – in the end – for any of the others. I refused to go down that road with the denomination I had grown up in (the Presbyterians) because I could not reconcile my conscience to it. And in the recent history of the church-visible, the vast majority of men who've been supported to minister (I'm reluctant to say "teach") have done this in traditional formats, whether denominational or not. My mentor, Col. Thieme, took over a small independent Bible church out of seminary (before he'd gotten to his doctoral work), and was supported – but to hear him tell it, if he had not had his own independent means of support this would not have been sufficient. It took him years to transform that church into a place where the Bible was taught unshackled by false predispositions. It was a rare thing, pouring this new wine in and not busting the skin – but it didn't happen painlessly or quickly. I wonder if it might not have happened anyway if he had not had to do it the way he did. One of my seminary mates has a church based on Thieme's teaching; this makes it virtually impossible, I believe, for him to reject, e.g., the "rapture" (not that I get the impression he's at all inclined to); another one had a church but it didn't work out – I believe for reasons of teaching the truth. I never attempted that route, but I also was blessed to have a good job to pay the bills.

I certainly hope that things will work out for you to have the kind of church we all dreamed about back in seminary, a collection of believers who want the truth above all else and are willing to support a teacher in modest fashion who's willing and able to give it to them.

However and wherever and whenever things work out, I'm confident that they will – because our God is the God of working things out – for those who love and serve Him as you are doing, my friend (Rom.8:28).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

[despairing over health, family, and economic burdens of a crushing nature and feeling unable to continue to prepare for ministry]

Response #18: 

You certainly have your challenges, my friend.

The Lord has given you a wonderful family, a place to live, and a way to make ends meet. He's also given you a gift and a way to prepare. I understand that there are serious road blocks to doing what needs to be done, not to mention all you'd like to do, on all of these fronts. I'm also not trying to minimize the pressure you are under. But the Lord is sufficient for all of our needs. Even if the roof leaks. And in my life experience and observation, the roof ALWAYS leaks . .. . sooner or later.

I am praying for the Lord to let a little sunshine through the clouds for you. I know that He loves you and has a specific purpose for you. With this kind of pressure, I'm guessing it must be important, otherwise you wouldn't need this level of preparation. Be pleased to trust Him, remembering that He does have the perfect plan and is carrying it out in the perfect way. Hard to remember when being dripped on in your bedroom, I understand. But it is the absolute truth.

Know that I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers every day, my friend.

Here's hoping you can find a way to hold onto the peace that is your heritage in Jesus Christ as a future resident in New Jerusalem. The roofs don't leak there.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Hello Professor,

I do hope and pray the Lord is keeping you firmly in His very safe hands. I have continued to take lessons from ichthys.com; it is my daily companion. I thank the Lord for the great gift that He has granted you which has enabled you to learn and teach His Word so effectively. Thank you for the volition and the great effort on your part that this has entailed.

Now, three weeks ago a very good friend from my past (we parted ways about 6 years ago) contacted me. She has been through much pain and heartache – a divorce included. We were neighbours in a town to the north of where I live now many kms away. We had been catching up for about 3 days – via Whatsapp, phone – when she told me she has accepted the Lord – great news. I sounded her out on her understanding of the salvation doctrine and she seems to be conversant with it. Then the details emerged. She has been church-hopping: from RCC to Pentecostals to Evangelicals, always looking for a place where she can get some proper teaching of the Bible, where this "teaching on salvation" would make sense, because she has been so confused by all the churches she has visited. Like everywhere she went, they demanded that she be "water-baptised anew" by them! Frankly, she is thirsty for the word, but mighty confused and disappointed by the whole experience.

So, I have straightened her out on the basic salvation teaching, the necessity of daily confession of personal sins, daily bible reading - sent her the daily bible-reading log, prayer - for self & others, the necessity of daily taking of lessons on doctrine. I have translated a document on Salvation from our friend - about 15 pages - into Swahili and will soon send it to her. And this is the issue: her English is not good enough for her to take on the lessons at ichthys. The English you write your lessons in is a little too "dense", for want of a better term, for her. All this means I will have to guide her through bible doctrine. I have already consulted our friend and he has kindly provided me with a tentative "programme of instruction" that I can follow, from Salvation, onwards. I do have some other texts in Swahili that I have prepared in the course of studying through ichthys. She seems to be keen on learning the bible and wants to start serious study as soon as possible.

Now, since last May I have been translating your Peter Series into Swahili. It is slow, painstaking work - though a lot of fun! I have reached page 13 of Lesson #27, as of this past week. I did this with the intention of asking you if I can use the translations as a teaching aid on my country-men and women, most of whom are not English proficient. I had planned to use the Peter lessons as a reference while teaching. I was also planning on adapting the lessons into longer, expanded lessons into simple Swahili (for young adults), OF COURSE GIVING ALL THE CREDIT FOR AUTHORSHIP TO YOU. I, however, have read your Copy Policy on your work, and seen the clauses on "not selling them" which I would comply with; "not to fundamentally change them" - this is where the nub is: does translating constitute "fundamentally changing the lessons?" IF, Professor, YOU TELL ME IT DOES, THEN I WILL IMMEDIATELY STOP, AND NEVER GIVE THEM TO ANOTHER PERSON.

Well, Prof, it has been a long time and I wanted to keep you abreast of this (to me) important event that has come up. Events are forcing my hand into doing some teaching that I am not sure I am ready for. Last year I did contribute several articles to KanisaForum.com, a Swahili local evangelical discussion-board; I did that as a sort of trial run (self-test) of whether I can stand the heat of being queried on questions about Christian doctrine. I think I did OK! (Even though I say that myself!).

I wish you a BON WEEKEND!

In Jesus our King,

Response #19: 

Great to hear from you, my friend!

Thanks for the update, and for all your good words of encouragement. I need to point out that the Holy Spirit is responsible for whatever good you find in these materials (Ps.115:1). What I find most encouraging is your courageous hard work for the Lord and on behalf of friends and others who are seeking the truth. Of course you may do whatever is necessary to make these materials available to others! The purpose of that statement in the copy policy is to head off individuals making doctrinal changes and attributing their false teaching to this ministry. When you say my English is "dense", you have hit the nail on the head! If you can simplify these materials so as to communicate more effectively, well, that is what good teaching is, after all.

You have brightened my day considerably, my friend! Please do all the Lord has put in your heart to do. I have been praying for you and for your circumstances, and also for the Lord to bring you into just the right ministry. It seems that He is exceeding my fondest hopes – and He clearly has good material to work with in you.

You are fighting an excellent fight, and that is inspiring to me – so you are ministering to me as well.

Keep up the good work, and thanks again so much for sharing all this with me. I look forward to hearing about how all this develops.

Your fellow worker in the vineyard of the Lord Jesus Christ whom we love more than life.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

I agree very much with everything our friend just wrote. I think he put things better than I did. I had not really thought of discerning one's ministry as a certain mark of progress, but now that he put things that way, I can see exactly why this is rational. I'm happy accepting his analysis of these things as our basic approach for the foreseeable future, since I think it makes a good deal of sense. Bob, what do you think?

I have now gotten positive responses from the other and told them that I'd be sending a group email in a few days. I do not know __ so it would probably be best for someone who does know her to contact her.

I have a busy week coming up, so I'm not sure exactly how much I'll be able to do the next few days. I'm excited at all the people that have expressed interest.

In Christ,

Response #20: 

I haven't spoken to anyone about this outside of the two of you yet. I have other possible invitees to consider when it gets to that point. I think it would be helpful for everyone to provide a short intro/bio (along the lines of what you sent) to cut some of the ice in terms of those unknown to each other at first.

There's another point to consider on the side of the restriction protocol. In the Church of Jesus Christ, there are sheep, and there are shepherds (1Pet.5:2-4). One of the reasons I'm so excited about this idea is that, if it pans out (which I expect it shall), it will give you fellow shepherds and prospective shepherds a way to communicate mutual enthusiasms, challenges, successes, problems, frustrations, et al., to fellow shepherds with whom you are on the same level on the one hand (i.e., saying things and broaching issues which you might be reluctant to speak with me about one on one – and also getting answers and perspectives about mutual experiences which are contemporary and not forty plus years old), and, on the other hand, it is also true that what you can say and how you can express yourselves to other shepherds is necessarily different from what you can do/say in the presence of sheep.

Let me put it this way, I used to talk with my seminary compadres about all manner of doctrinal issues, sometimes in mock advocacy, but always genuinely searching and pushing up against the limits of what this teaching "really means" and what this verse "really says". That is appropriate, one shepherd or potential shepherd to another. But for sheep who don't have and never will have teaching ministries, ministries which carry the responsibility and authority of the Word and its expounding, being exposed to such discussions is a terrible idea on any number of levels.

When you are teaching, you teach the truth. If it is not the truth, you don't teach it. If you're not sure, you don't teach it – unless and until you are sure. Can you be wrong? Anyone can. But expressing doubts, possibilities, alternatives, while helpful and beneficial for men (and women who'll be evangelizing and/or teaching other women) involved in shepherding through the Word, is not conducive to spiritual growth for those who are not gifted with the ability to handle these pressures or charged with the responsibility of rightly dividing the Word (2Tim.2:15; cf. Jas.3:1). In other words, we bring the meal from the kitchen well-presented. We do not need for our diners to see every aspect of how it is prepared as that could prove most unappetizing in many situations.

Of course we have feet of clay, but it is not hypocritical to state that the sheep, those given to our charge, have a right to get the teaching straight from us in a straight way after we have with the help of the Spirit "figured it out" so as to be able to present it dogmatically and in full confidence.

Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Titus 2:15 NKJV

Because, after all, it's not about us – it's all about Jesus Christ and the sheep who belong to Him. Our job is to treat them right. Letting them see such inner-workings can on the one hand create doubts and on the other hand instill arrogance. In terms of the former, noting that pastors ABC seem to be unsettled about doctrines XYZ can be spiritually corrosive – because, after all, doubt is catching, and only what is believed is usable by the Spirit and contributes to spiritual growth; and while a pastor by spiritual gift "packs the gear" to deal with this issue of uncertainty and the wherewithal to push through it precisely so as to get to the truth – and then believe that truth and teach that truth – sheep have neither the gift nor the training to handle this dissonance. In terms of the latter, seeing pastors debate and discuss with authority naturally leads less stable souls to figure that they too have a right to be involved in "deciding" what's correct and incorrect – when in fact engaging in this sort of deconstruction / reconstruction in order to make sure one understands one's own theology from the ground up, while most beneficial to a teacher, can only be totally destructive for someone without the gift and without sufficient training in the Word. Are there some believers out there without a teaching gift who might be able to witness such discussions without being ruined? I'm sure there are, but I still can't help thinking that it would do them more harm than good in the long run.

Now I suspect that you have both probably intuited all this already – or surely would have once it was time to say something in this group if you knew it included some individuals who were not pastors and who didn't have a teaching gift and who were therefore dependent upon teaching from men such as yourself for their spiritual growth. As a result, the group/forum would not and could not function as originally intended – because you couldn't say the sorts of things that you might wish to if only other shepherds were listening.

Men who are responsible for teaching others feel this responsibility heavily (or should), and that influences everything they say and do.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
1st Timothy 2:7-8 NIV

That includes "rightly dividing the Word of truth", and in turn that means both confidence in presenting what one believes to those who listen, as well as seriousness in searching when discussing the Word and its meaning with others who likewise are bearing this same yoke.

In the military, there are those in command and those not in command. Being in command is very lonely, because the commander is responsible for everything. He has the authority and makes the decisions, but those under him neither have that power nor do they face the consequences for making command mistakes. For that reason, commanders rarely share their thinking – except with others who are or have been in that role. Letting all the enlisted men in the battalion listen in on what their commander is sharing with the other battalion commanders would wreck any unit. Because, on the one hand, the men would be appalled that the commander even had "questions" about the right or wrong way to do something (even though daily they no doubt blame him for not having a clue about this or that); and on the other hand they would begin to imagine that their opinions were just as good and just as important – even though they lack the training and experience . . . and don't bear any of the responsibility.

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop (i.e., shepherd-teacher), he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
1st Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV

So it's a noble fraternity you belong to, but it is also a restrictive one. That is surely all the more the case in the waning years of Laodicea where the number of men as committed to this important task as you two are is very, very small. This group then, in my opinion, should be "for you", a treasure that ought to be safeguarded.

As our Lord said, "the poor you will have with your always". If you wish to set something up for a wider audience and, to my mind, a different purpose in many essential points, that may be done in the future. In the meantime, having a group of like-minded individuals to consult who are also finding their path toward teaching the Word of God will be invaluable.

In Jesus our dear Savior and Chief Shepherd of the sheep,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Dear Robert,

I will knock at your door for help.

It has been years since I am thinking about beliefs and/or doctrines that have been incorporated into the Church system, as truth; with no Scriptural authentication or given as a command from God. An example: Mark 10:1-12 as related to divorce. Moses gave permission (as from a person of authority) for divorce, which is not a command from God as explained by Jesus. The permitted certificate of divorce would then carry a consequence (v11-12). This then I would term as ‘Permissive Theology’, as in the case of the certificate of divorce. Any matter with no clear substantiation as a God directive could then fall in the category of ‘Permissive Theology’?

If the source of any matter originates from man and not God, is therefor Permissive Theology. This methodology incorporates leniency to accommodate.

A further deduction could be that such a scenario could fall under the Permissive Will of God. If God did not decree it to occur, nor is it His will since it is not in accordance to His moral law, He then allows it to come into practice because of His Permissive will?

Blessings in Christ,

Response #21: 

I'm not sure I would be willing to create such a category. One reason for that is that it is all too common in theologizing for theologians to create categories or construct definitions or build theoretical doctrines . . . and then draw conclusions from such man-made structures. In fact, that is what scholastic theology is all about. In the end, it's very unhelpful and can lead astray.

The other reason is that my own method is, as much as possible, to proceed from what scripture says and only be concerned about doctrinal constructs when that seems to be a necessary or helpful thing to do. I don't see that here. After all, life itself for all of us with the image of God is "permissive" in that sense: God gives us the opportunity of using our free will to respond to the Gift of gifts . . . or not. We know very well that He wants all to be saved, but only the few are. And when it comes to believers, most of what we struggle with in this life (if we really do love the Lord, that is) is how to use the resources He has given us to further His plan for our lives. We have time, and we can use that for Him . . . or not. Few of us sinful human beings are capable of coming as close as Paul did to a 100% for the Lord mode. And in all of these matters, we should all want to be perfect; we should all want NOT to be on the wrong side; but for those of us on the right side, we will be on different parts of the spectrum when it comes to our "grade".

The Lord gives us a LOT of leeway in the way we order our lives. Sometimes things which are important or might be otherwise confused are spelled out (as when Paul is given to tell us that we don't have to get married), but for the most part these things are left to our personal choice to be weighed in the Spirit with spiritual common sense that grows as we grow – and in the end our level of response will be a mark of our love for the Lord, whether great or small.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22: 


Your response highlights directives that makes sense.

How would you term Moses' response via the certificate of divorce, to marriage? In violation of God's direct opposition to separation. His appeasement to favor the peoples hardness of heart.

I am not sure that Scholastic Theology would accommodate this notion. The rationale behind Moses' violation of the marriage status by permitting divorce, usurps the whole purpose objective obedience. Just an idea.

Thank you for shooting straight.

In Him and thru Him.

Response #22: 

On Moses, to be honest, I don't feel the need to categorize this. The verse in the Law says what it says and the Lord says what He says about it. As mentioned, there are plenty of things we CAN do in this life which may not be a good idea. In ancient Israel, it was possible to marry more than one wife – but that always turned out to be a bad idea (from every example in scripture, at any rate). It was possible to have slaves. This "institution" has many problems associated with it was well. It is possible to drink alcohol without sin; but it is very easy for some to slip not only into sin but also self-destruction in so doing. So for things that are totally out of line, there are prohibitions; for other areas of life, the Lord sometimes gives us some guideposts. And with all truth coming from the Lord, even commandments and regulations, if we are seeking the truth we will begin to see the bigger picture emerge from the smaller details. That was what our Lord was doing in the case of the Pharisees who referred to this regulation. They didn't "get it" (because they didn't want to); and even today on that point it's amazing to me how many Christians are confused about what our Lord made very clear.

Another point for you to consider, since you say "appeasement for hardness of heart" here, is that regulations and commandments which are legal in nature rather than moral are significantly different. Israel was a nation. The Church today is not. Within a physical nation, there have to be certain rules and regulations in order to prevent social chaos. So each country today has regulations concerning marriage. For a Christian, it is our duty to comply with these; but we also are concerned for the even more important commands of our Lord and the power of the truth behind them.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks so much for your good advice and encouragement and you're right in everything you say. I do miss the routine of work (even though I used to complain about it too!) and I do tend to be hard on myself if I don't get things right straight away - so I'll try my best not to do that. The practice is always very busy but I'll take it steady to start with. It will be good for me - make me feel like I'm of some use again.

One thing that has been on my mind is that once I'm properly back at work I want to make sure I don't let my prayer, Bible study and your teaching slip. I know how easily this could happen with being busier and more tired. I think if you don't keep the momentum going it could be harmful spiritually. I've been very lucky (sort of) having so much time off and being able to devote so much time to it. I suppose when I'm back at work it's a case of having a routine and sticking to it.

The top priority is the Lord - prayer, Bible study, your teaching, spiritual growth. Then there's looking after the family and all the jobs in the home and then going to work as well. Say then you finally get to the point of knowing your spiritual gifts and ministry - how do you fit it all in Bob!? I'm not even very sure where I am on the scale spiritually. I wish it was all written down on some chart somewhere so I could see where I was. I'm not saying that in a despairing way but with a smile - I honestly haven't got a clue how far along I am, or how I'm doing. Maybe it's because I'm not around any other Christians so I can't gauge it. You're my teacher but I don't think you do parents evening or charts or anything like that to see how I'm doing!! I know it's only how pleased the Lord is with me that counts - just wish I knew how I was doing.

Thank Bob!

In our dear Lord Jesus

Response #23: 

The more balls we have in the air, the more we have to take care. So this will be a higher level of testing, I'm guessing. But the Lord knows what we can handle and what we can't. When it comes to taking on good things for good reasons, He is definitely helping us get to and through whatever it is that must be addressed. You have your priorities right. It's only a question of fighting a good fight every day. The thing to remember there is to be careful to take things one day at a time, and not to let yesterday's let down (we all have days like that) influence how we fight today (let alone tomorrow). I'm supremely confident that you will do well.

Even if I had lists and criteria and mounds of data, the odds of me being able to track where other folks are would be zilch. Blessedly, this is not that kind of (legalistic) ministry – a fact of which we both ought to be really very glad. People in those sort of weird cult-like churches pat themselves on the back for things that are not really even right, and beat themselves up over things that may not even be wrong. And what pastor and disciple have in common in such situations is that neither is advancing spiritually – if even saved in the first place.

But you are advancing! How can I tell? Trust me. When a person really loves the Lord and is really committed to doing what He wants done, it shows – and the opposite is equally true (1Tim.5:24-25).

We're all curious as to "where we are" from time to time. But think about it. Most people, if told they were doing really well would be tempted to back off ("I guess I don't really need to push this hard"); and most people, if told they were doing really poorly, would be tempted to do even worse ("all this and I'm still down at the bottom? What's the point?). It is true that some react appropriately to a "report card", but the Lord has many ways of encouraging us when we doing well and prodding us to do better when that is indicated. Finding out too much ahead of time could be a burden very hard to bear (1Cor.4:4-5).

From what I can tell, you are doing great! But be pleased to persevere in keeping it up. There is no finish line this side of the resurrection.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Hello again Dr. Luginbill,

I feel a need to support this ministry as I do not attend a Church. This basically is my Church. Do you accept offerings and if so, where would I send it to…. Prayers and Thank you!

Response #24: 

Thanks for the vote of confidence, my friend! It's truly appreciated.

However, for a variety of reasons, I don't accept donations (see the link for reasons and alternatives, Bible Academy in particular).

I am very happy for your prayers, however!

I appreciate your spirit in the Lord, my friend – this is my church too!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Good morning, I stumbled across your website and read some of your articles! So nice to find a brother who believes and salvation conditioned upon faith and post-trib position. My husband and I moved to Texas from California where we left a church home behind us that had both these beliefs. Since being in Texas, the Bible Belt, or maybe I should say the Baptist belt, we've been here for years and have yet to find a church and Body of Christ that we can fellowship with that share our beliefs! I'm reaching out to you and hopes that you know of a church in Austin Texas or near. Keep up the good fight, He is worthy! God bless you brother,

Response #25: 

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks so much for your kind words.

I've taken the liberty of forwarding your email to a good Texan friend of mine (pastor teacher Curtis Omo – he has a wonderful internet ministry himself based on the same basic principles: Bible Academy at the link).

Do feel free to write me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hi Bob,

I sent an email to the folks you referred to–it's below.

Hi, my name is Curtis Omo, pastor-teacher of Bibleacademyonline.com.  My friend and colleague Bob Luginbill forwarded me your letter regarding your search for a church in the Austin area. I lived there when I was single in the eighties and then again with my family in the mid-90's and have known many pastors there. I suppose we all could tell stories about the churches we visited and you probably have found the same thing we did when were there over 20 years ago.

One we attended, was fair but then the new pastor shifted his Sunday service to the seeker service, trying to add people through various means of entertainment and worship. We left disappointed and disgusted. After attending others, we gave up. The few that we found that did some teaching, it was shallow and always pre-trib. and believed in eternal security that I do not accept.

We went through this some while in Houston also but found the same things. I would never say we quit looking but there came a point where we just decided to home church and then I started my on-line ministry. If I knew of a church, I would sure tell you. My experience has been that if they do much teaching at all, they teach both pre-trib. and eternal security. That is the day in which we live.

Sorry I could not be of much help. I tell my listeners to always "Stay faithful!"

In His service and yours,
Curtis Omo
Bible Academy

Response #26: 

Great email! Thanks!

Would you mind me posting it when the theme comes up (I would take their names out)?

Hope you're doing well!

Bob L.


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