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Ministry and Preparation for Ministry II

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Question #1: 

Dear Professor,

Firstly, I was very happy to read on the special prayer request page about the deliverance that God has brought for you. I know you've been waiting for it for a long time and it is a reason for true joy for me also.

Today is a different day and the study has already been much more fruitful than in many recent days. The testing never ends and every day, from the time I wake up until the time I fall asleep I need to put the truth and the Lord above everything else. Every distracting thought has to be fought with Spirit's help at its very inception. As you know far better than me, truth needs not only to be known, it has to be believed and applied, it is our choice for the truth to be placed above all else and to overcome all the earthly dross. This choice is the exercise of our free will which takes effort at times, but this effort is what our Lord expects from me, from all of us who are His. There is no coincidence that today I was going through Matthew 10:37-39 when reading the gospel in Greek.

I thought that time perhaps might be ripe for me to apply what you said to me some time ago regarding ministering to others. Maybe I should set the objective of starting to minister, at least in a very limited scope. So far I've not even considered the commencement of teaching as possibly occurring any time within the next few years. Through my often misplaced perfectionism I've been a candidate to be forever preparing and never producing. There is nothing anywhere near as important as ministering and the gravity of the task, combined with seeing the disastrous results of teaching by those who are not prepared for it I have always found very sobering and motivating to most diligent study. But, as you said, at some point one has to hit the beach and accept that things could always have been done better, something I have always struggled to come to terms with.

Ministering, being responsible for others' growth and, ultimately, fulfilling the task the Lord has set for us is the greatest source of motivation in this daily battle and one which I have realised I have been missing. I know that one has to gather materials for construction before commencing the building process, but for me this gathering has become a purpose on its own. Preparation is necessary and it shall certainly not cease now, it has to in fact be even better than it has been, but I need this objective in front of me. I need to remember that it's all done with the purpose and the purpose is to give glory to God by serving the body of Christ. As you said, it's not about us.

My preparation so far could have been much better than it has been, with our sinful nature resources, time in particular, are wasted so easily when one strays away from the truth. But with the Spirit's help, and I have no doubt that He has guided and empowered me in this process, your prayers and support helping me throughout, some progress has been made. Through more than four years of reading your teachings and our continuous correspondence I have attained to a level of understanding of biblical doctrines. And after about three and a half year of study I am now able to read both the Old and New Testament in original languages and I have to say this reading has been going well, I understand what I read and both texts do seem manageable, although I'm far from competent. Firstly, all this has been possible only through God's grace and your support has been invaluable. Secondly, although I'm aware that so much is still lacking, I probably cannot even dimly comprehend how much. But I'm willing to keep pushing with this and daily adding to the armoury.

As always, Professor, your help and guidance will be much appreciated. I've got some ideas for potential studies and I have already been asked questions by people I know that required more detailed responses. But in order to arrive at a better structure, the plan I have been thinking of was to start re-reading all your studies, this time with the purpose of putting notes, drafts and outlines together. I'm going through Curtis Omo's lessons too and these are also very beneficial, his order of lessons I have also found helpful. My background in Roman Catholicism and understanding of its traps could also help when ministering to Catholics and fellow countrymen.

In our Lord, whom we need to put above all else and serve with all our strength,

Response #1: 

I'm happy to hear that you are beginning to put yourself into the attitude of service. I have to say that when I first did so, it still took many years before the opportunity developed and many more until it blossomed. However, if I had been more diligent and single-minded, it all might have happened earlier. I've probably already mentioned the famous quote by L.S. Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and the mentor of Col. Thieme (whose teachings were instrumental in my spiritual development). He said that even if a man knew he'd only have one year in the ministry, a ten year course of preparation would not be out of proportion. The bottom line of course is that all ministries belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the One who assigns them (1Cor.12:5). Still, if we are not ready, we're not going to get the kind of assignment we want – and if we are not willing we might end up letting a good opportunity pass. The Lord has all these things in hand, of course, so we really do need to relax and let Him work things out, being mindful to the guidance of the Spirit for whatever might turn up that might really be from Him, even as we continue to use the time we have been given to continue with our own spiritual growth and progress, preparing to serve others in due course of time.  Here are a few links:

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry

Ministers, Ministry, and Preparation for Ministry

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.

Communication Gifts (in BB 5)

Ministry and the Ichthys Ministry II

Ministry and the Ichthys Ministry

Should I go to Seminary or not?

Please don't be too hard on yourself. I've preached that sermon to you before so I won't belabor the point. There is a sweet spot between being overly satisfied with our own performance and overly critical. As human beings that performance is like a car swerving from the far left to the far right of the road (especially before we get comfortable with driving). As long as we don't go through the guard rails on either side, we are probably doing OK.

Keep running your good race, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Master, the Savior of our lives eternal.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hello Professor,

I also feel that I am many years away and that I need to be more diligent and single-minded. I remember the quote from Col. Thieme and having undertaken the task of preparation for the teaching ministry and having understood how much study it requires I agree with it. This is further reinforced now that I clearly see how unprepared the ministers are, but, as you often say, the fault lies both on part of the teaching and the taught, neither of whom are really interested in the word of God.

When I wrote to you about my objective to have something ready I of course didn't mean a wide range of studies (I hope that becomes a reality at any point in the future, it hardly seems achievable), but rather some sort of a basic resource, perhaps not too dissimilar to some of the responses I sent to my friends to the questions they I asked me which I have consulted with you. But I will do well to remember that His preparation for perfect, whereas mine - exactly the opposite, I have in fact only been a believer for about 4 years now. It is as you say - this assignment will only come if I'm ready, so I will do my best to be ready and maybe something will happen. It is still not impossible that I could be actively engaged in translating your resources into Polish, although no real prospects have presented themselves so far. I have completely lost contact with the person who I thought could be instrumental in this task, a highschool friend of mine. Nothing has appeared on the horizon since.

I'm learning to find a good balance between the two extremes and in particular to apply the short memory lesson from you. It is something I have needed to do for a long time.

In Jesus Christ, our Master,

Response #2: 

I'm praying for you to work into this in just the right way, my friend, and for your situation to develop into the ministry I am sure God must have for you.

Be encouraged: the Lord has had this all planned out for you in detail since before He made the universe, and He will bring it to pass in just the right way and at just the right time.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Doc.

Remember how I read your whole site in a matter of a month or so then re-read it all again over and over and managed to memorize near all of it? I have ___ . And so I've been majorly depressed these last few days yet relived, because it really does explain much I've never understood. As for medications, nothing typical works because my affective stability is always, literally constantly shifting and they only suffice in certain phases, then become not only worthless but actually depersonalize me worse than my natural state.

As for my hope of teaching God's Word, I have to say this has effectively killed any notion I'd ever be able to do so. Before I started medicating, people couldn't stand me, and can barely take my toned down self because, though many of my ticks are calmed, I still can't help but either tell the full truth (and offend them) or say nothing because I know it's pointless.

I know this knowledge came from The Lord because the last 3 years have been the hardest of my life but now, even knowing my challenges, many facets of life are clearing up. I've always had job trouble because of all stuff, but have none now. We had no home of our own before, but do now. I was blind about myself and what's going on, but am now not so. Satan was trying to get me to blame The Lord and leave under my ignorance, but I stayed, crazy or not.

So, it seems I'm a warning. I will tell someone the truth, they usually reject it because they see me and not the source, but clearly know they're in the wrong as far as God's truth is concerned. I'm still constantly put into situations to tell the truth and explain it, but am usually rejected (the usual as you know), but that's my whole life, so I'm trained for it.

I don't know what else to do with myself at this point other than keep on, however sad this is for me. I always felt I had no chance of normalcy, now I just know what it's called.

I hope you are well, and still on top of what you do; you're indispensable and I'm jealous

Trudging on,

Response #3: 

I'm no psychologist. I have noticed in myself and in others that it's harder to stay disciplined and keep whatever less than stellar tendencies one might have in check just after major victories and in a time of relief from pressure than it is when one is "under the gun"; sort of like how a person seems to manage to get it all done where there are dozens of balls in the air at the same time but is less productive whenever things calm down. So I rejoice at the good things you report, and choose to remain confident that your struggle with these challenges you face will continue to yield to your persistent spiritual growth, just as has been the case in the past. On any long distance run, there are moments when the weight of it all can seem impossibly oppressive, but if the runner will just hang in a little while longer, he/she often can settle back down again, getting back into the proper pace. Keep hanging in and hanging on.

As to ministry, from my point of view you have a great deal to offer. What you and I can't necessarily know at this point before it happens is precisely how the Lord will employ your talents, preparation and dedication. He does use those who are prepared; that much we do know. So it is important that you continue to grow and hone your skills, waiting on Him for the proper opportunity at the proper time. You are already realizing certain critical things about yourself as you report in this email. We certainly can't say that a no-nonsense ministry characterized by confronting people with the undiluted truth is out of the question. We are all different in many ways, and the Lord makes use of those differences . . . just as long as we are willing to be used.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
John 1:47 KJV

As to being indispensable, there is no such person and no such thing. Anything good which has come of this ministry has been done by the Spirit, and we know that the Lord can raise up rocks to sing His praises in the absence of people willing to do so (e.g., Matt.3:9). Being used of Him is a privilege. If He can use a dull axe such as myself (Eccl.10:10), I know that He can use you too – only be patient and persistent, waiting for the right thing at the right time.

Your fellow Christian warrior and servant of Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Bob,

Our Bible Study had our last meeting for this semester today; we won't meet next week because we have finals. Despite somewhat slow progress, we successfully completed our study on James, wrapping up today with some of the difficulties in translation and interpretation of James 5; specifically, having elders anoint people for healing (back then, but not today), and the idea that we should "confess our sin to one another" rather than describing our particularly divine-discipline-causing sin to elders who are praying for us that their prayer might be more effective in rooting out the primary cause of the issue (sin). I also mentioned that it is somewhat ambiguous if this situation even applies today since one has the problem of exactly who "the elders" are in many churches (and if they are qualified to be such), and the fact that God may not use such things outside of the particularly Jewish context of James' letter (which doesn't really exist any more). Of course we should still pray for others though.

We are planning to "open up" our study to other members of our particular small group (about 20 people as opposed to the 3 of us) next semester when I am working off campus. By not having homework constantly looming over my head, I'm planning to spend more time in the Word and with others discussing it (on evenings and weekends). We discussed the possibility of spending some of the time we are with the less mature in our group on "questions" they have rather than dragging them through the sometimes erudite study that we have been pursuing (i.e., trying to make some of the study practical for people who aren't necessarily ready for a discussion of hermeneutics and finer theological points). Of course the point wouldn't be to "tone it down", but rather try to reach some of the people we know who might not be getting ANY real teaching from anywhere else (including, unfortunately, the church that runs these small groups).

We haven't finalized much, and they are both kind of relying on me to make the decision since I am the one organizing and effectively "teaching" in the study. I will see what works when I try to balance work and ministry next semester, and hopefully such a perspective will give me insight in the other related issues we've already talked about.

In Him,

Response #4: 

Good for you!

I'm well aware that any ministry of substance requires investing a good deal of time and energy, and that such is always in limited supply, especially for a college student who is also vigorously pursuing spiritual growth and personal preparation for ministry. I know that the Lord is well aware of it too. Your commitment to Him and to the truth are certainly an encouragement to me, and I know that He is using you for the sake of His Church – and without doubt has plans for you going forward as well.

Best wishes for a solid finish to your semester and a well-deserved rest in anticipation of all the exciting things coming down the pike in the Spring.

Your fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Why does Japan, which doesn't, to my knowledge, stone people for apostasy, have fewer Christians than some Muslim countries that do? Are the Japanese like Biblical Edom, which was cursed and hated by God? ("Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.") Did Western Christians fail to teach Christianity to them? (Contrary to popular belief, you can't just plop a Bible in front of people and expect them to believe.) Is the Word of God simply not powerful enough to convert the Japanese? Or is freedom of religion, despite being de jure, not de facto due to complex social rules?

It should also be noted that the decision of Japan to legally allow Christianity coincided with the advent of Laodecia.


Response #5: 

You are far better versed in this culture to explore such questions than I ever will be. The only thing I can say is that it is always important to remember that salvation is a personal thing, not a collective or cultural thing.

And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation."
Revelation 5:9 NIV

When I was still a "tween", my parents (dad was a Presbyterian minister) hosted a couple on furlough from their mission in Japan. They and their kids were wonderful people. I don't remember attending any of the events where they described their work, but if their general attitude and personality are any indication, they must have given a really good witness of Christian love at the very least.

I suppose it is true that one can generalize about races and nations and cultures to some degree; however, God treats us all as individuals, unique persons having been given the image of God, and for each of whom Christ died that we all might be saved. Some mission fields might be more fruitful to human eyes than others, but I know that God has specific plans for each and for each individual therein. Not even a cup of cold water given in the Name of the Lord will lose its reward, regardless of the response of the recipient. And if there is no one to offer that water of the truth, how then can there be a response?

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Romans 10:14-15 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Bob,

One of the biggest problems with Japanese culture is that their underlying philosophy doesn't see anything wrong with logical contradiction. To give an example, there is nothing wrong in the underlying Japanese philosophy to say that there is no God and that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. We westerners correctly identify such a proposition as absurd and it deeply bothers us, but it doesn't bother the Japanese.

In cognitive science, there is an affective state called "cognitive dissonance," which is a type of anxiety and grief that happens whenever someone believes in a logical contradiction. Westerners have a very strong sense of cognitive dissonance, but it is nonexistent in Japan. I had a half-Japanese friend (although he was only genetically half-Japanese, culturally he was entirely Japanese) who said that the sharp division in America between fundamentalist Christianity and hardcore materialistic atheism was absolutely alien and very disturbing to him. The idea of there being such a strong separation between truth and false simply was foreign to him.

Relatedly, it is impossible to estimate the level of penetration of Christian truth in Japanese culture, because the truth and falsehood have no problem mixing. In some ways, something similar to the situation Japanese culture is the logical end state of Laodecia, much like it is impossible to estimate the level of Christian truth in today's churches.


Response #6: 

You certainly have a good feel for this culture, and I would imagine that this means your future ministry will have something to do with serving the people within it. It's always important to remember in doing so that one is dealing with individual human beings for whom Christ died individually. One on one, no one is a perfect reflection of their cultural background or group. We are all unique, even if at times we seem to conform rather closely to stereotypes.

Just finished reading volume 2 of Ian Toll's treatment of the Pacific war. Mentioning it here because he has very interesting things to say about the psychology of the Japanese under the stress of that conflict, and from a variety of levels (political, army, navy, individual soldiers and also civilians). I'm no expert on the culture; it does seem to me that more than any other major culture of which I am aware the Japanese have had a tendency to "reinvent themselves" at critical points in their history. Of course, again, they like we are saved one person at a time regardless of historical niceties or cultural trends.

I'll be out of town for a while visiting family, so apologies for any delays in response on new emails for a bit.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

Ever since I set my heart on learning Japanese, I feel like my life has been going downhill and my mind has been ruminating on fears. Is this a warning from God, or a test of my faith from the evil one? Anyone who hopes to progress to his or her ministry must overcome trials and tribulations, but at the same time, nothing is worth sacrificing eternal life over. I am afraid that if I go to Japan, I will be making a choice to live with a population of unbelievers. However, my intention is to help others grow in faith in the Lord God.


Response #7: 

Thanks for your patience. Emails received after working hours on Fridays are seldom up in the queue until at least Sunday (Saturday posting can be time-consuming).

Never take counsel of your fears. If the only reason not to do something is that you are afraid to do it, that's not a good reason not to do it – and it may be an indication that you ought to do it. This is especially the case if your fears are unfounded. I don't really think I have to tell you that all believers are saved, and that only unbelievers are not saved. Therefore peripheral issues like this are only of any import to the extent that they are capable of affecting the whole. Now if a person is susceptible to sex and drugs, I would not recommend that said person move to Bangkok's red-light district out of the blue for no apparent reason. No doubt those people need the gospel too, but a person overly susceptible to the temptations a potential mission field may offer ought to stay home or find another venue – just like a person with sickle-cell anemia might want to think twice about ministering in a tropical country where malaria is rampant. This is not fear; this is exercising spiritual common sense.

As with all such decisions, it is always best to get the emotions completely out of the picture. That can be hard to do under the best of circumstances. No one should ever consider becoming any kind of a missionary before achieving a solid measure of spiritual growth, and also before being tested in some way and coming out with faith strengthened on the other side. Think of all Paul and Barnabas went through before their first missionary journey; remember that there were even more difficult days ahead on future journeys, and also that John Mark was unable to hack it the first time out, in spite of being in such august spiritual company (he certainly earned his spurs later on – when he was ready). The Lord is certainly able to put you into service in the right place and in the right way and at the right time.

I can't tell you what to do about this particular decision. I would hope, in terms of the timing, that before going you would have yourself physically and mentally recovered and ready for whatever testing might come. Going overseas on what amounts to a missionary journey (even if there is a business aspect of it in order to pay the bills) should not be thought of as a "fix" but something that will be most profitable and productive once everything is already "fixed". It is true that young people often do things like join the armed forces when everything seems up in the air. That's not a bad route to go – it certainly was instrumental in helping me. But there we are talking about a very structured organization wherein other people with similar stories and ideas (as well as even more with completely different backgrounds and points of view) are mixed together in a mission-based structure. Going it alone is very different. Even Paul didn't "go it alone", and he was probably more capable of doing that than anyone I can imagine.

As I said before, I do think that discipline and routine (which can be applied through a full-time job and a regular exercise regime) are usually very therapeutic in recovering from emotional stress and trauma. I'm certainly no expert on the other medical problems you have, my friend, but it would seem prudent to address these completely before worrying about moving overseas alone. I wouldn't let fear stand in my way, but I would be prudent and realistic in considering the challenges ahead and the prior preparation necessary to make the venture profitable, spiritually speaking.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Psalm 90:
15Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil. 16Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children. 17Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Bob, is this Work really an internal one (where hands represent ‘attitudes’ among other psychological/spiritual factors) and is this what Jesus meant when he said: John 5: 17 But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working"?

Response #8: 

I would agree that "good work" in scripture is much more than what is usually imagined in our culture where, thanks to the pernicious influence of salvation-by-works Roman Catholicism over the centuries, people think of giving money and a few other charitable activities and "work" at "church" as constituting all such "good work". However, "good work" is not limited to such things alone. Doing the "work" of "my Father" is, as Jesus tells us, "to believe on Him whom He sent" (Jn.6:29), and that is individual and "internal". However, while salvation is not of "works" (things done by human effort rather than in the power of the Spirit"), we are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10 NKJV), and so we should "not grow weary while doing good" (i.e., the works we have been created in Christ to do), because, "in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Gal.2:9 NKJV). Therefore we should "strive all that much more" so as to make our "calling and election secure through these good works".

What are genuine good works then? They are everything we "do" with heart and tongue and hand for the sake of Jesus Christ – in other words, spiritual growth (internal mostly but impossible without external engagement), spiritual progress (application of internal spiritual character developed by growth to the circumstances in life – the "works" of Abraham in Jas.2:21-24), and spiritual production (deploying our spiritual gifts and abilities for the edification of the Church of Christ in the various ministries to which we are led). This last category in particular is often confused and relegated to what is "traditional", but in fact there are numerous gifts and innumerable combinations of gifts and talents in the Body of Christ, all mixed in perfectly by the Spirit for the growth of the whole according to specific ministries assigned by Christ our Lord Himself (1Cor.12:4-5). If the Church were willing to respond to these blessings, there is no end to the spiritual wonders and blessings that would result.

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

(18) Let no one gain control over your life, desiring to [enslave you to himself] through a show of false humility and the adoration of angels, basing his approach on what he has [allegedly] seen while puffed up by his own fleshly thoughts, (19) yet not embracing the Head [Christ]. For it is from this Source that the entire body [the Church] is [truly] supplied and instructed through [all] its joints and sinews, and [thus] produces the growth that God has given.
Colossians 2:18-19

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Dear Bob,

After reflecting/praying about the future prospect of belonging to a local church (for me and a few close believers) sadly it seems very unlikely.

The village I live in the UK and surrounding area all have churches - all very busy but ironically none which we could attend without not feeling like we are being unfaithful to Christ! It is bizarre; it is like being in a movie. We have a selection of Church of England / Methodists / evangelical - but all seem to be happy working alongside Roman Catholic churches and even in those rare churches that don't want ecumenical ties they often promote Calvinism and amillenialsm - which we just can't overlook.

I recently attended a friends funeral at the Church of England and I had to hold my tongue while I had to listen to the false teachings that came from the vicar (i.e., " we are all going to heaven" as he spoke to a bunch of unbelievers - terrible). I am quite quietly losing my rag - so to speak!

Anyway, the point of my question is that we have only been believers a few years and yet have met soooo many Christians 30 years old in faith that do not find anything wrong with the churches in the UK. But we do and it is so difficult because we are new believers in their eyes and yet we have had to seriously question elders/teachers and it gets embarrassing after a while because we have to say that what we read in the bible is not what they seem to be teaching (but they have been to bible college). We have had replies such as: it depends on how you interpret the bible; you're too academic (which I think is an excuse); we have to show the world we can work with the catholics; I just feel God says this is right (even when the Word says opposite); we are able to lay down our differences for friends.

In your opinion, have we been born-again into the prophesised 'apostasy of the church' and is God calling is stay away from them OR are we seriously doing something wrong somewhere? I don't mind sticking/standing to the truth - as long as we haven't got it wrong.


Saved by the blood of Christ!

Response #9: 

Very good to hear from you again, my friend. As to your testimony I can only say that on the one hand your experience, far from being unique, is the norm among believers who are truly born again and genuinely interested in growing spiritually through the truth of scripture; and on the other hand I believe it is a testament to your faith and determination to do things the Lord's way in spite of the lukewarmness that surrounds us in this age of Laodicea, the last era of the Church (please see the link). The Great Apostasy will not commence until the Tribulation does (though we are not so very far off at present). But the spiritual torpor and compromise you chronicle is surely a prelude to it.

What can be done? While there is nothing we can do as individuals to change the church visible from the inside, we can certainly determine to use this life the Lord has given us to do what He wants us to do, namely, grow spiritually through the Word, walk ever more closely to Him day by day in applying that truth to the trials and troubles of this life, and help others do likewise through the individual ministries to which He calls us (1Cor.12:5-7).

For the very good reasons above, I don't recommend churches unless I can be sure they have it right (and those are very few and far between; 1Cor.11:17; cf. Amos 5:21-23; Is.1:12-13). What I have taken to saying is that "Ichthys is my church", and you are certainly welcome to everything posted here anytime. I do also recommend Pastor-Teacher Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy" (at the link), especially for those who want to "hear and see" as opposed to just "read" the teaching of the Word.

Best wishes in your noble quest to earn a good reward and a good report before our Lord on that great day of days to come! Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Bob,

I have one matter of application, and one question. Let's get right to it.

The matter of application deals with IRAs – the retirement accounts that you can pay money into for tax benefits. Pulling money out early comes with a 10% penalty, on top of all the taxes that you got to avoid in the first place (depending on the type of IRA). So generally, you don't want to pull money out early. My question is simple: despite earlier reservations, through study I have come to believe that the Bible teaches the 7 millennial days, and thus 2026 as the likely start year for the tribulation. Obviously, the best preparation is spiritual growth. Also obviously, most material preparation is essentially pointless ("Let's go stockpile food and guns in Montana!"). So, this being the case, should I plan for what I believe to be true and keep my assets relatively more liquid (in the hopes of having resources available in that trying period), or submit to my parents advice and open an IRA in expectation of normal retirement planning? I am attempting to not view this as a matter of any spiritual import, but it seems best to handle things in an orderly manner nonetheless.

Now, my "real" question deals with Christian fruit and the overall substance of our production. In the Bible study I led last semester, we came across James 3:11-12, and though I looked at various translations, I still couldn't make sense of exactly what James was getting at (and, not wanting to lead others astray by pretending to know something I didn't, I told them to set it aside and we moved on in our study). Verse 9-10 I understand: it is not proper for us to sing praises to God in humility and then in the same breath curse our brothers and sisters in Christ. The fact that we do so at times is a testament to the lack of control we have over our tongues, which are "set on fire by hell" (which I take to mean empowered in evil by the devil).

The thing that we got stuck on in James 3:11-12 was the strong wording and the "logic", so to speak, of the imagery. It sounds as if James is saying "springs cannot pour forth both fresh and salt water, fig trees cannot produce olives, grapevines cannot produce figs, and salt ponds cannot yield fresh water; therefore, you, who curse others, are not in fact 'actually' blessing God because if you were you would not be cursing others." However, Christians are obviously not sinless (1 John makes this very clear, e.g.), so we cannot interpret the passage in this way because it conflicts with other scriptures.

The next thing I tried was comparing similar verses in the New Testament, and Jesus' "Fruit Test" from the Sermon on the Mount came to mind (Matthew 7:15-20). Looking at what you have written on the subject (in CT2A), my fundamental confusion still isn't cleared up. I understand that Jesus tells us specifically to identify people by their fruit and not appearances because appearances can be deceptive (a bad tree can appear to be good, e.g.) but you can't fake real, substantive teaching. This makes sense. But in a similar vein to the mental roadblock with the James passage, I'm getting stuck on Matthew 7:18 – "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." Read plainly, we again run into the issue of sinlessness (and the fact that bad people sometimes actually do "good" things, though certainly not out of proper motivations), which is in conflict with 1 John 1:8ff., as already mentioned.

As to what I have come up with on my own (without Greek), I have 2 observations. Firstly, these verses (particularly Matthew 7:18) may be describing a "general pattern" of behavior and production rather than an absolute. We will be able to identify good teachers because their fruit will be "mostly good", and bad teachers because their fruit will be "mostly bad." This seems a bit hand-wavy to me, but it would clear up some of the contradiction. Secondly, these verses (particularly the ones in James) may indicate that one cannot simultaneously bear good and bad fruit. For example, just as an object cannot be both "red" and "not red" at the same time, nor a man "drunk" and "not drunk" at any given moment, so too can we not be bearing good fruit and bad fruit simultaneously. Quite simply, we are either following God and his Will at a given moment, or we are not.

So, in summation, I would like your thoughts on how one ought to interpret these verses, knowing already from spiritual common sense that they are not in fact absolute, even though they sound that way.

Update on the personal side: I am still grappling with indecision about ministry calling and vocation. My internship starts on Monday, and instead of feeling great enthusiasm I feel a bit trepidatious – not because I think I'm going to be horrible at it, or terribly bored, or what have you – but because it might not really help me decide very much. I have had several moments of what I might term clairvoyance where I was all but convinced that I am supposed to be a pastor in the rigorous sense of it, but then I second-guess myself, look at other avenues, and lose the feeling. I quite enjoyed the email posting from today (pertinent indeed!), and it is interesting seeing myself from an older, slightly more mature perspective.

Something that has worried me a bit is my lack of caring. By and large I am to the point where I know what I should be doing, but sometimes I just don't want to do it, and apathy gets the best of me. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I set hugely unrealistic goals for myself over breaks from life's normal obligations, and then never realize said goals. However, it is more pathogenic than this. I tried to sit down and make myself evaluate my spiritual progress and how I'm doing, and couldn't seem to hold my thoughts in place to be honest with myself. I know that I'm not ready to pick up the mantle of teacher though, that's for sure. Sometimes I fear that my lack of past success in personal study is being a roadblock for progress and even maybe preventing me from accepting a call to ministry because I feel unworthy and ashamed. Despite several attempts to read the Bible all the way through, I've never kept up a reading plan for much more than a couple weeks. I've read probably at least half of the NT piecemeal, and some parts of the OT (at least half the Psalms, all of Proverbs, the Pentateuch and Job, I think), but other than that, there's much of scripture that I've never even gotten to. Despite similar goals to "really" study all the series you've created, I still haven't even finished the Peter series all the way through (I got to something like 15 or 16 then stopped for some reason). I've read other parts of different series, but it has been ephemeral and as fancy takes me, not disciplined and structured as study ought to be.

In short, I feel somewhat out of it. I talk a good game, and many people in my Christian circles think of me as some sort of encyclopaedic Bible-guru, but I know I'm not living the life I'm supposed to be. Some of it, unfortunately, probably is Pharisaical whitewashing of the sepulcher, and some of it is less intentional and more just weakness of the flesh. I'm arrogant at times, and get puffed up about the puny amount of knowledge I have because most people are in even worse shape than me. It's almost pathetic really, and sometimes I catch myself brooding over my hypocrisy in self-hate. I know this isn't how it's supposed to be. I know the fact that others have little care for Christ and his workmanship in them shouldn't impact my own view of the matters. But sometimes I feel like the only one around me who really cares about the pitiable state we are in, the only one who is fighting the apathy instead of embracing it. I am grateful for all that you've written, and, frankly, though I've come a long way, believe that without Ichthys I'd be in a pretty bad state by now, because I certainly don't get any substantive teaching from places in my vicinity.

On a more positive note, I've finally picked up a couple hobbies that captured my interest and stuck (if you recall, I effectively had none and was a bit legalistic in choosing... "operation guitar", for example). Recently, I became interested in fountain pens and improving my handwriting (which is very much an engineer's handwriting). This actually started me off exchanging handwritten letters with my grandparents (specifically my grandmother), who I fear may not be much longer for this world. Having grown up a bit, it saddens me to think of all the wasted time of my youth when I could have been getting to know them as fellow members of the body of Christ. At least there is now, however, so I ought to count my blessings and enjoy their wisdom while it lasts. I also became interested in stenography -- the machine shorthand that court reporters use to transcribe speech at 200+ WPM, and this doubles as being a very useful skill to have to be more time-efficient in composition and everyday tasks. Similarly, I've been working on designing my own keyboard layout (as opposed to QWERTY), optimized for several parameters and a textual base of Bible studies -- what I plan on typing in some form down the road. All of these have given me a measure of satisfaction, and are useful in some capacity for future ministry -- something that I am grateful for.

I don't mean to take up much of your time, but I find relating progress reports from the front helps me keep a more level head. I've also found your insight immeasurably helpful in the past, so if you have any thoughts, I'd be grateful to hear them. Of course, I'm also grateful for prayers, and am keeping you and yours in my own as well.

In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,

P. S. I received a book called "Learn New Testament Greek, by John H. Dobson", and was wondering if you've heard of it. It was a gift, but when I saw the statement "start reading meaningful verses from the Greek New Testament after just ONE HOUR of study!" on the cover I cringed a bit. Is this at all useful, or is it mostly rubbish? I am interested in learning Greek at least a little bit this semester to see my reaction to it (and to help me make a better decision), but if I ought to go with something else, I value any recommendations you might have (if there's any single "must have" introductory grammar, e.g., I'd like to know about it).

Response #10: 

It's good to hear from you, my friend. I have indeed been keeping you and your situation in my prayers, and was obviously thinking about you a lot in putting together yesterday's posting.

On IRA's, money is a tool, one which even Christians need, but while it can be a useful servant it is a dangerous master. In this culture, it's very difficult not to get sucked into the idea of a fantasy retirement where a person has more money than he/she knows what to do with. Going down that road has a tendency to put money in the driver's seat, so to speak. And pointlessly too, since the reality is that old age brings problems (that is, even more problems than we experience before being old), and money is incredibly uncertain.

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Proverbs 23:5 NIV

Not there is anything wrong with saving. It may even be prudent. But in my observation and experience thinking about money in terms of planning to amass it in an obsessive way can be a terrible trap (1Tim.6:5-11). As Christians, we are striving to live one day at a time. We also strive to have the mind-set not of greediness but of helping our brothers and sisters who are in need. This is very hard for some people – probably hard for all people in this culture but harder for some than others. So if we can avoid things that lead in the direction of putting Mammon in first place in our thoughts and efforts, that would be for the good. Putting money into anything long-term of necessity affects how we think about that "stash" – why are we doing it? If it's merely a responsible thing about which we give little real heed, well and good. But life is a funny thing and the needs that spring up out of nowhere can often run at cross purposes to all such long term "planning". God has a plan for us. We find it out mostly one day at a time. My advice would be certainly not to pass up "free money" of the sort that many companies offer in 401K situations (and for that you may have to contribute a small amount). Locking up long term other funds you might need for something else before you're 75 strikes me as problematic, however. But it's certainly not my decision to make.

On James and "fruit", I think that you have this all correct. It is most certainly troubling whenever we have to accept that the Church and our brothers and sisters and most especially ourselves are not living up the clear standards of scripture. On the other hand, we do live in the world and need to be careful about applying overly rigorous standards which come from science rather than human experience. A person has a ministry; we evaluate it and find much there that is troubling, and some things we clearly see which are wrong and dangerous: bad fruit. A person has a ministry; we evaluate it and find much there that is helpful, and some things which we clearly see are right and correct: good fruit. That doesn't mean that there is nothing in the bad-fruit ministry that is correct doctrinally or somehow beneficial to some people in their estimation. It also doesn't mean that there will be no warts on the good-fruit ministry, or that we will agree with absolutely everything it teaches (whether we are right or wrong in our evaluation), or that we will be pleased and without qualms about its every procedural approach.

Take any fruit tree. They all will look like trees at first glance, but if we sample a dozen or so apples and they are all sour, we will know that it is a sour apple tree (no thank you), even if a few are well formed and not as sour as the others. Another tree has pleasing looking apples and they taste pretty good (a few taste even better than others, though one or two were not as good as they looked). There is no perfect apple tree in the real world; there was no such tree in our Lord's day or when James wrote, and the people they ministered too lived closer to the land than most of us do today. So while the standard to which we are held is clearly that of perfection, it is also obvious that in the world in which we find ourselves, just as we ourselves are aware of our own imperfections, so also we should avoid treating these valuable and absolutely true teachings in an unrealistic way. Common sense (spiritual common sense) tells us that just as there is probably no false "ministry" which cannot present something in what it says or does that will at least give a reasonable appearance of "goodness" (e.g., Mormons and Roman Catholics do say good things about Jesus, after all), so there will never be a church or a Bible teaching ministry that is spotless and pure if placed under the microscope. Rather than leveling all such into one category (because on one level they all share some good and some bad), the fact there are some actually good churches and Bible teaching ministries – in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil – ought to be a great encouragement to us and we ought to prize them like the pearl of great price; and the fact that there are many "ministries" which are sorely lacking ought only to make the contrast between mostly good on the one hand and not nearly up to that level on the other all the more striking. So I think that there are two essential points to be derived from these teachings, one objective and one subjective – and getting the two mixed up can cause problems.

Subjectively, we ought to take the teachings to heart and do everything in our power to produce only good fruit, to pour forth only good water, to be a Christian and a minister of the grace of God who is in every aspect of life and presentation holy and loving and productive for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters in Christ; objectively, while doing so we need to take care not be deceived about the fact that perfection in this body and in this world is not entirely possible – but that should motivate us to do better because there is so much room for improvement rather than to slack off because absolute perfection is impossible. If we were having lunch with Jesus Himself this afternoon, wouldn't that be what we want to present to Him? Wouldn't that be what He would expect of us? Not the impossible but the practically doable for Him and for His? The issue of false perfectionism is a sneaky sort satanic attack, because on the one hand, if we are not looking at the issue the right way, it can strip us of our motivation when we realize we can't be perfect and are unwilling to be hypocritical about that fact. And on the other hand, if we want to be perfect anyway, it can lead us into all manner of legalistic hypocrisy and self-justification. Both overreactions are pointless, however, because any other Christian with a modicum of spiritual common sense will look at us in a realistic way, understanding that we are not going to be perfect, but appreciating pretty quickly whether or not we are truly walking with Christ; and if we are ministering the Word, the quality of our content will also be evident on balance – for those who are looking for godly, substantive, biblical, doctrinally correct content (even if not everything comports with expectations).

Objectively we recognize that just as we are not perfect, so also no other Christian can be expected to be perfect and no ministry we evaluate will be blemish-free either. That doesn't mean we don't or shouldn't have very high standards when it comes to choosing with whom to associate, both personally and in terms of any ministry to which we will be giving our attention. Just as we can tell pretty easily the quality of a fruit tree or a spring by sampling its offerings, so also in terms of acquaintances and also where ministries are concerned it doesn't take a lot of digging to find out whether or not something is to our taste. If we approach this process in a realistic, godly way, and if we are genuinely searching for a good source of the truth (or Christian companions who are worthy of our company), we can trust the basic spiritual common sense the Spirit empowers in us through the truth we have learned and believed. This process gets better and more effective over time as we grow, just our judgment in all other things in life improves as we learn and grow – or should (Heb.5:14; cf. Phil.1:9-11).

Since these principles are so obvious, it may seem a bit strange to have them in scripture, but that is explainable by the fact that there is a difference between physical and mental maturity on the one hand, and spiritual maturity on the other. If when we became Christians our spiritual maturity immediately matched our physical/mental maturity, these obvious teaching would be less necessary. As it is, however, many Christians are less spiritually mature than their stature, age and intellect suggests. That means they can be easily deceived in all things spiritual, and for that reason it was important for our Lord (and James and others in scripture in various ways) to include warnings about assuming that just because "you and I" love the Lord and act in honorable ways, that for this reason everyone else out there who claims to be a Christian will also be doing the same. We understand (the subjective angle) that we personally are in need of improvement in our behavior in many ways, and are (or should be) addressing these matters day by day in light of the perfect standard to which we have been called. But it is very easy – something even for not completely immature Christians – to be taken in by others who do not truly have their best interests at heart (failing in our objective analysis of the world in which we must operate).

Christians very often have less trouble being "innocent as doves" than they do being "wise as serpents". And while good-hearted Christians tend to be almost overly concerned about their own failures to meet the perfect standard, they also tend to be easily convinced by a veneer of "goodness" in cases of false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing – precisely because they tend to give others the benefit of the doubt out of love. That is not wrong or even a problem . . . just as long as the fruit test is consistently applied to others as well as to oneself. A false Christian up to no good or a bad-fruit ministry may give an initial impression of "good fruit" or "good water", but the proof is in the pudding. All Christians will be well-served by the principle of "taste first" and "trust later". If we "trust first", we can be convinced of all manner of things. If we "trust first" based upon externals, we are essentially abandoning our spiritual common sense, and if we do that it is amazing how easily we can convince ourselves that "bad taste" is really "not so bad".

These calls to evaluate with a workable, clear standard are thus neither suggestions that there is in this life a set of absolutes which we can either find or produce ourselves, but very practical helps both for evaluating ourselves and also the work/ministries of others.

On personal matters, speaking of standards, while the apostle Paul was not perfect he is a difficult person to emulate. Not that we who are engaging in or weighing the idea of ministry shouldn't seek to emulate him, just that we are aware very easily and early on in doing so how far short we fall. But just because you are not the apostle Paul (neither am I) is no reason to get down on yourself or pronounce yourself selfish. The Lord has given us free will and a great deal of latitude in how to proceed with our lives. It's all about what we choose, and we have to be realistic about who we are and what we can actually do. If we are unhappy with our personal applications, we can do better; but if we are being unreasonably down on ourselves when we are doing pretty well, that will only cause us to falter all the more. It's better to take things one day at a time and not to spend too much effort on introspection and postmortems of how we performed in the past. We can't change the past nor do we get any benefit today from doing well yesterday if we don't keep it up today. It's all about today. One thing I always try to stress at these times is the importance of consistency. If we are faithful in what we take on, that is wonderful. And better (in my view) to be faithful in a little than to take on a lot and not stick with it. We can also build on the good efforts we put together in a consistent way. Once we have gotten to the point of walking a mile consistently day in and day out, we can try to stretch the distance . . . and some day maybe we can even get to the point of running. But to try a Marathon the first day out then beat ourselves up when we don't finish or when we stop running altogether thereafter is not helpful. And being consistent in spiritual matters is harder than in the case of worldly things (even difficult things as in physical exercise).

When it comes to the question of "what ministry", that is something only the Lord knows the answer to, and especially in this late day in which we live. The world is changing ever more rapidly, but that will mean greater opportunities down the road too, even if they can't be anticipated as to form and function. What I do know is that the Lord honors the good preparation we do in anticipation of serving His Church. The fact that you are looked upon as a spiritual "answer man" says to me that you are indeed preparing yourself for ministry (just don't let your head swell – and you are clearly not doing that). And the more you grow, the more you learn, both in terms of biblical truth and the associated fields of knowledge necessary to mine it from scripture, the more personal tests you pass by relying on the Lord and His Word, the better able you will be to enter effectively into the ministry He has in mind for you when the time comes. And you already are ministering and growing and progressing! You are already doing "good things". Keep it up. If you can do more, do more, but don't get down on yourself because you are not doing all that is theoretically possible. This is not theory. This is real life. Most Christians never get to where you are now. You can and should be satisfied with what you have accomplished, only not so satisfied that you stop or stop improving. Somewhere between completely abandoning the advance while resting on your laurels on the one hand and devoting every ounce of energy and waking moment to the cause of preparation on the other is the perfect "sweet spot" of doing what you can do and are actually able to be willing to do. We can do better, but we can also do worse. Do better if and when you can, but don't let not being a perfect apple tree get you down to the point of doing worse because you are unable to do as much better as you would like.

I'm not familiar with the book, but it's a good bet that the paradigms are correct (otherwise it's hard to see how it could have gotten published), and forms are forms regardless of the book. So I don't think it could hurt (along the lines of there being many algebra books and some better than others but algebra is algebra).

Thanks for all your prayers and encouraging words. I'll be interested to hear how your semester goes.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your helpful insight.

On IRA's, like I said, I'm trying not to think about this with blinders on, knowing that if I'm still around in present physicality when I'm 75 the world will be a much different place. It seems to me that what you're saying is to stick to the middle path (and apologies if I'm getting this wrong). Naively trusting in money for deliverance, especially anything that does come to resemble a "stash", as you put it, is foolishness. Money cannot save us or deliver us – only God can. On the other hand, getting to the point of old age where problems do arise and self-sustenance through work ceases, it seems to me that failing to account for a very basic level of living (i.e., no "glamorous retirement" with vacations and such, but a simple lifestyle) makes you a burden for others, especially your family. In my estimation of it, this is not failing to trust God, but trying not to test him impudently. A proper amount to save before retirement will depend on circumstances, of course, but saving to make yourself not a burden (no more, no less) seems to me a Godly course of action. The matter of first Biblical importance in this matter is serving God by helping others, including with our monetary resources. If we are not doing this we have no business laying away money for ourselves (much less buying stuff we don't need like our materialistic society tells us to). The caveat being that we ought not bankrupt ourselves "helping others" only to become a burden... especially when "helping others" has little to do with true good works, as Paul defines in Ephesians 2:10 and James makes clear in the examples of Abraham and Rahab. Like with most things, as you often say, the true path lies somewhere between two extremes.

The main thrust of my question actually had to do not with saving in general (which is wise in the sense outlined above, from my reading of scripture), but saving keeping the 10 short years we have left in mind. It seems a bit foolish to me, even more so than usual, to put money away "for retirement" if the world we know won't exist to retire to. While this has always been the case (i.e., times change), how much more so now when the difference will be between our corrupt present and the millennial rule of our Lord! (If it is our call to endure until the end, instead of being martyred, that is). I'm walking the fine line here of believing this strongly while trying not to frustrate my parents who do not agree with me on these matters. For example, a common remark at the dinner table goes something like this: "Look at all the people who have predicted the end of the world in the past. What makes you so sure that this time it's for real?" A typical response by me: "It's not a 'prediction' but an interpretation of significant Biblical evidence that integrates perfectly with God's complete plan for human history from Adam all the way until the second advent. Reading the materials God gives us and drawing textual conclusions is far different than making wild predictions and then trying to manipulate people with said predictions for selfish gain..." and so forth. This is a case of me choosing my battles to some extent, and I didn't particularly want to make this a large point of contention – since my parents really do mean well in recommending that I make wise choices with the money I am earning. Especially if I do decide to change schools and forgo economic stability (engineering) for spiritual advancement (Greek and subsequent teaching ministry), I already know money is going to be a subject of disagreement, and I was hoping to handle this with integrity, demonstrating that I respect their authority, but putting my foot down to an extent too now that I am an adult and capable of making my own decisions. Hopefully that helps clarify a bit what I was asking.

On Christian Fruit, I think I understand now. It occurred to me when reading your response that many of the problems I was seeing in the text were coming from me "playing games." For an example of the concept, think of the philosophers who consider themselves so very clever for asking "Could God create a rock so big that even he could not lift it?" Such thought has no point. In the same way, all my abstraction and over-analysis confused the issue. Good fruit is good fruit, and we will know it is good because the Holy Spirit makes it clear to us. Bad fruit is bad fruit, and we will know it is bad because the Holy Spirit makes it clear to us. It is not complicated in the slightest. Thus, pointing a finger at Matthew 7:18 and saying "Look, some Christian did something wrong" or "Look, some charlatan got something right" is entirely missing the point. Good Christians do not produce bad fruit – not that they never do anything wrong, but that overall, if evaluated fairly, their production is "good". Charlatans do not produce good fruit – not that they never teach anything that is true, but that overall, if evaluated objectively, their production is "bad". That clears up the Matthew verses...except I am a bit confused about how you are using the words subjective and objective. I'm assuming you are referring to a grammatical application of the terms (so subjective means taking oneself as the subject of the verses and objective means taking others as the objects of the verses?), but I am really not sure. Could you explain this "as if I am 5"?

On the James verses, the more I sat there and thought about it, the more I became convinced that I am trying to force these into a context of Christian Fruit, and that they really do not belong in this context. If we look at what comes before this segment, we have a discussion of controlling the tongue. If we look what comes after this segment, we have James' discussion of wisdom. Nowhere is fruit or spiritual production mentioned (other than the allusions to figs and grapes in his examples). If he had wanted to make this point – and he certainly could have after all, since Jesus does unequivocally – it seems to me that he could have done so much more explicitly. After pondering these things for a time, here is what I came to:

James 3:10 says "My brothers, these things ought not to be so." What if what James is doing in verses 11-12 is just giving natural examples of how things ought to be – of one disposition? James is comparing the obvious contradiction in their behavior (blessing God but cursing others) by comparing it to natural phenomena. Springs only pour forth one type of water at a time, fig tress only bear figs, and so on. It is a form of reductio ad absurdum:

(1) Assume P is true.

(2) From this assumption, deduce that Q is true.

(3) Also deduce that Q is false.

(4) Thus, P implies both Q and not Q (a contradiction, which is necessarily false).

(5) Therefore, P itself must be false.

In this case, I believe what James is saying is this:

(1) Assume that it is proper for Christians to bless our Lord and Father and curse people, who are made in his likeness. [Obviously not so, but assumed for argument]

(2) From this assumption (i.e., taking (1) to its natural conclusions), deduce that it would also be proper for a spring to pour forth both salt and fresh water, for a fig tree to produce both figs and olives, etc.

(3) Deduce from natural observation that in fact a spring can only pour forth one type of water, a fig tree can only produces figs, etc.

(4) Thus, assuming (1), (2) and (3) must both be true, a contradiction that is necessarily false.

(5) Therefore, (1) is false. It is not proper for Christians to exhibit this duality of behavior (cf. verse 10: "these things ought not to be so").

Of course, James did not set it up so explicitly (when we use this argument in everyday life we do not do so either, to be fair), and he stated his conclusion before his examples for emphasis. But I am fully convinced now that this is what this passage means. His audience would have picked up on it immediately: James is pointing out the hypocrisy in thinking that we can bless God but curse others by showing it up as the absurdity that it really is. This again goes back to that common sense that has permeated our discussion. This point is very obvious spiritually. But James is driving it home with logic, because, as you say, there is "physical and mental maturity on the one hand, and spiritual maturity on the other."

What do you think of this interpretation?

In Him,

Response #11: 

I commend your efforts to be respectful to your parents even as you insist on making your own decisions in matters of substance. That is indeed the fine line we are called to walk. Of course, anyone unfamiliar with the teachings of this ministry is going to find anything that even suggests a prediction about things to come as "crazy". And since it is an interpretation, as you rightly point out, it is open to interpretation. Mind you, I would be happy to have the Tribulation put off a hundred years (ten or twenty in my own case would seem to be more than enough), but from what I know of scripture it would be irresponsible for me not to put out there what I see as just about as certain as one can be in interpreting scripture (even if it makes me look "crazy"). So on the one hand I am sensitive to the argument in favor of prudence in light of uncertainty of the future. On the other hand, what I was trying to get across though perhaps not too effectively was that this very uncertainty of the future makes the sort of planning involved in retirement savings seem potentially imprudent to me personally. If a person dies before they can spend the money, and has suffered privation for saving it, what was the benefit? Who knows "who will get it?", as scripture warns in many places. And who knows if the investments will pan out or be so disastrous as to be no better than throwing the money away? Millions lost everything in the 1929 crash, though at the time it seemed "nuts" not to take advantage of the ever inflating prices. And I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times in the twentieth century when societies/countries were so disrupted by war and social unrest that many if not most investors were killed and most if not all investments were voided. In other words, prudence is fine, but a point of view that assumes that money put in an IRA will of necessity "be there" in twenty to forty years is fantasy (from the perspective of world history). That is also a "prediction" based on an "interpretation" of what those making the prediction think is likely to happen. But no one knows what will happen. In fact, we who believe scripture have a much better idea of what will happen than those who are flying blind based upon contemporary sentiments (twenty years ago people were talking about "the end of history"; today things look worse than they have in a century). Finally on this point, perhaps the most important "unknown unknown" is personal. If I am going to work at the same job for forty years and retire to Florida, then such a strategy makes sense. On the other hand, if I am going to quit my job and go back to school in five or ten years, having all my assets tied up where I can't get at them absent a loss so great that I would have done better just putting the money in my mattress, where is the benefit? And maybe I don't know yet exactly how my life is going to turn out precisely.

On "fruit", I think you have this just right. James is different, yes. It does have an application for the "fruit test", but the thrust is more along the lines of the perfect standard of behavior found throughout scripture, e.g.:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:5 NKJV

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:9 NKJV

So 1st John is not the only place where one runs into this. What lesson do we draw from this? That we should strive to be perfect in every way – not that we ARE perfect or can achieve perfection in fact (and certainly NOT that if we ever sin we aren't Christians at all).

So, yes, I think your take on James is exactly right. I don't have anything to say about the logic (formal logic always leaves my brain hurting), but the conclusion is one with which I absolute agree – this is the thrust of what we are to take from the passage.

Subjective: how we apply these truths to ourselves and our own personal behavior and situations (occupational hazard: unreasonably expecting the achievement of actual perfection).

Objective: how we apply these truths to others in evaluating the world around us (occupational hazard: unreasonably believing false claims of actual perfection).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Gradirei sapere se si possono avere tutte le serie di studi in lingua italiana. Tanti rallegramenti e felicitazioni per il Dott. Robert e che Iddio lo usi ancora per aiutare gli altri credenti.


Response #12: 

Very good to make your acquaintance!

I regret that Ichthys is a "one man show", and that therefore I do not have any resources other than my own devices. I am always encouraged to hear it when readers whose first language is not English are interested in having these studies translated. Regrettably, I am not able to do this myself (I can barely read Italian) or to have it done. However, I am always open to the possibility of others who are willing to do so to "have a go".

Thank you so much for your interest and for your kind words.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

"Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you."
3rd John 1:5

What does John mean by "even though they are strangers to you?"

In Jesus,

Response #13: 

This is referring to the support by the recipients of this epistle of missionaries sent out by other churches. They/we are all "brethren" (adelphoi), even if we have never laid eyes on each other before we first meet. On that great day to come, when the Church is resurrected and assembled in the sky, we will all be one forevermore, knowing even as we are known, in the presence of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the meantime, "we ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth" (3Jn.1:8).

In anticipation of that great day of the Lord.

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I recently got a mail and it was from a Methodist. They are celebrating Good Friday, and they will be a preaching is from Reverend Deborah. From my knowledge, it's not biblical to call anyone Reverend, nor should a woman preach. But then again, I'm not quite sure. So is it biblical for a woman to preach to a congregation and for her to be called Reverend? And what are the main beliefs of a Methodist? Thanks in advance!

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #14: 

I think you have the Spirit of God when you take issue with women teaching the main congregation (1Tim.2:12). However, most denominations don't "teach" anything in the first place, so it is pointless to get upset about the gender of the person who is NOT doing any real teaching when the real problem is that there is no teaching. Spiritual growth requires substantive, orthodox, in-depth teaching of the principle of truth contained in scripture. Most denominations have motivational "sermons" in place of teaching; they usually call this "preaching"; but the point it that they are not edifying the body of Christ, even if they arouse it emotionally with some engaging stories. Most often, by the time a church or denomination gets to the point where they are allowing women into the pulpit, they have long since abnegated their true role in God's plan to edify the body of Christ.

As to the title, "reverend", that is a man-made appellation nowhere found in the Bible which strikes me as running afoul of our Lord's words about giving fancy titles to our brothers and sisters in the Church who are just doing their jobs according to their spiritual gifts and preparation (Matt.23:7-11). The word is a Latin gerundive, and means, literally, "one who ought to be respected". In my experience, true respect is something that has to be earned; it cannot be conferred by a title.

As to the Methodists, I am not an expert on that denomination. I do know that, as with all of the mainline denominations, there are today various divisions that trace their roots back to the denomination's founder, John Wesley (more than two dozen or so in this case), so when it comes to "official doctrines", it could make a difference which type of Methodist church you are talking about. They tend to be Arminian (i.e., not Calvinist), and to embrace the social gospel (among other things). But again, it would depend on the "flavor" of the particular group in question, and since, as mentioned, by now most main line denominations are merely traditionalist (i.e., they have a creed but really don't "believe" much of anything and they teach nothing [true]), there's not much point in worrying about it. The development you mention seems to me to demonstrate that there is by now for this group little essential connection between what they say and do on the one hand and what the Bible teaches on the other. Here are a couple of links:

A note on women preachers

Women Preachers

More about Women Preachers

Should Women Preach?

Women Teachers - Women Preachers

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

In https://ichthys.com/mail-Church%20Polity%202.htm you wrote:

In some respects, all of this is really very easy. The three criteria necessary for teaching the Word of God are 1) the gift, 2) the preparation, 3) the call.

What do you mean by "the call"?

In the same email response you refer to reader's opinion on woman preachers and relate to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NASB)
34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

I wanted to ask - should these verses be taken literally with women not being allowed to speak?

Response #15: 

As 1st Peter 4:10-11 makes clear, all genuine ministry is of the Word or service in support of the Word (directly or indirectly – one can't lose sight of this main point). For that reason, assembly, while essential for spiritual encouragement through the Word (Heb.10:24-25), "does more harm than good" when nothing true is taught (1Cor.11:17; cf. Amos 5:21-23; Is.1:12-13), or when things are not done "decently and in good order" (1Cor.14:40).

To take the second part of your question first, women are not allowed to teach men (children and young adults of all genders can benefit greatly from the teaching of women, however, since women are great natural teachers) . . . but then no one who does not have the gift of pastor-teacher or the preparation for teaching should be teaching. This excludes women by biblical definition – since no women are given the gift of pastor-teacher by the Holy Spirit, but it also excludes most men: most men are not given that gift either, and of those who are, few are prepared to teach. Moreover, no one should be talking and asking questions of their neighbor while the Word of God is being taught – it's not only disrespectful but it also hinders the ability of those in the vicinity of the unauthorized conversation from hearing the teacher. As I have said before, this is a very clever (Spirit inspired) way for Paul to correct the entire Corinthian congregation. Women may have been the main offenders on this score, but they were certainly not the only ones; but addressing his remarks to the women, Paul no doubt made the men guilty of this bad behavior even more ashamed. In our contemporary society many people have taken great offense at this inspired scripture – but they shouldn't (and they definitely shouldn't let it become a stumbling block to learning all the wonderful truths the Spirit has placed in the epistles of Paul).

On the first part, what I mean is that the Spirit has a way of making it clear to us, through the life experiences we are given, through the way we are given to interpret them, through our realization of our gifts as we grow in the truth, and through the opportunities He opens up, where we ought to deploy our efforts in exploiting the gifts we have been given. The Spirit gives gifts to every believer, but only some men are gifted in the area of pastoring and teaching. For those who are, we learn about this in the course of our lives by the revelation of the "natural" and supernatural talents we can see clearly enough that we have (or don't have). As with any Christian who begins to become serious about God and His truth, and in due course conceives the desire to serve the Church of Christ as he should, those who realize (or suspect) that they have the teaching/pastoring gift will need to do something about preparation – and in the course of preparation there will be ample time and opportunity not only for the gift to be confirmed (or the opposite), but also for having one's motivation tested to see whether or not said person really is willing to do what it takes to have a successful ministry.

Once prepared, the "call" can come in any manner of ways. This is the traditional way that the issue is phrased based in part on the biblical pattern: e.g., "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God" (Rom.1:1 NIV). Of course Paul was literally and miraculously called by the Lord Jesus. The rest of us generally do not receive any such epiphany in leading us to the ministry Christ has for us. But we do know that just as the Spirit assigns us our gifts, so the Lord Jesus Christ assigns us our ministries (1Cor.12:5). How does He do so? This is a personal and individual thing. Some horses need to be spurred; some need to have the reins held in. Jesus knows just how to direct the lives of those He wants to serve His Church so that they will not only prepare but also move to take advantage of the ministry opportunities He offers when He offers them. We don't want to be too reluctant to serve when the opportunity opening up in front of us is clearly from the Lord (e.g., Ex.4:13-14). We also don't want to go rushing in and force the issue when it is clearly not in the Lord's timing (e.g., Num.14:39-45). The sweet-spot will be found by being patient without being overly hesitant, by being measured without being rash. And we can count on the Spirit's guidance if we are following the Lord closely.

Question #16: 

Again I would like to say how much I’ve enjoyed your kind and inspirational letters, they mean a lot to me, as well as the effort that you’ve unselfishly devoted so much time to the ministry that you have imparted to so many and I would imagine that many in other countries are also enjoying them as well. I sincerely hope so.

My wife is beginning to read them too and she is also enjoying them and I am hoping that through hers, and my own efforts, our children will come to love them as well. If ever anyone who is interested or perhaps sees something in me that they might want, or enquire I gladly tell them about ichthys.com in the hope they too will be inspired by them.

I will keep this short so that I don’t take up too much of your time but I would like to send you one of my favourite Hymns. It isn’t the original version, which I loved too, this is a modern rendition of it with some of the original words changed to this. Quite often when things get a little pressing I listen to it and sing it as well – I’ve never been able to hear it without tears streaming down my face. I’m sure you know it, perhaps in the original version and if you haven’t heard this version then I hope you enjoy it.

Your brother by His mercy,

Just as I am: https://youtu.be/460vFWX3ccs

Response #16: 

Thank you!

I appreciate all your good words.

p.s., I like "Jesus loves me" (but only the chorus and the original first verse).

In Him,

Question #17: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I am so sorry to keep you wondering about me! I am really going to work on keeping up my correspondence with you. I was overwhelmed this fall with many things, but that is not an excuse - It was rude of me not to email you back sooner. And, I remember, you asked me if you could post my testimony on Ichthys. I am definitely OK with that. I have benefitted so much from the other readers' emails and your responses to them. I hope that anything you can use from our correspondence will help others to grow.

I am glad your mom is doing well. I will definitely keep you, your family and everyone [on the Ichthys prayer list] in my prayers. I am still listening to Curt's Daniel series - right now I am on lesson 19. If he adds audio files or MP3's of his lessons onto Bible Academy that would be awesome. I know it's better to watch the You Tube videos because of the visual aids he uses, but I do sometimes convert his lessons on You Tube to MP3's. Then I can listen to them on my headphones when working out or burn them on a CD for a long drive. There are free converters available to download online. I think the one I use is simply called "You Tube to MP3." I usually just plug my headphones into my iPhone and watch them that way, though.

I have managed to gather some of my thoughts this week to ask you a few questions:

1) This came up when I was reading your response to the reader in your email posting from a couple of weeks ago: "Eternal Realities: Real Heaven and Real Hell." I think your correspondence with this reader starts with Question #8. You were giving him evidence from God's Word that unbelievers do burn in the Lake of Fire forever and he was trying (and failing) to prove that God destroys their spirit instead (takes them out of existence). You used a lot of different verses from the Bible, including a few from Genesis. You mentioned Genesis 2:16-17. You also mention this verse answering a question for a reader under the posting "Biblical Anthropology III: Soul versus Spirit, "Soul Sleep", and the Interim Body" (Question/Response #16):

"When they sinned, they did indeed die (spiritually); and as a result of their sin and spiritual death, Adam and Eve would not live forever on earth as they were but would (and did) die physically. Finally, absent salvation, they would have faced the second death as well. The Hebrew actually says, "dying, you shall die" (Gen.2:17), the infinitive absolute in Hebrew being coupled with the imperfect to express emphasis (KJV: "thou shalt surely die"). Thus, disobeying resulted in a death of threefold nature and intensity, and that death commenced immediately at the point that they ate (spiritual death), ensured that they would not live forever in their bodies as they were (physical death) and also threatened an eternal damnation (the second death) absent the gracious intervention of God. Everything God told them was, therefore, absolutely true. Satan very often mixes into his appeals things which appear to have a grain of truth – the better to deceive. And it was true (in this case a "half-truth") that Adam and Eve did not die physically the moment they partook of the fruit. However, that was small comfort in the face of the whole truth, perceived and understood completely after having sinned: not just physical death awaited disobedience, but a three-fold death with eternal consequences. Blessedly, Christ died for them (and for us all) to open the door of salvation out of the second death for all who believe."

When I looked up Genesis 2:16-17 verse in Hebrew on Biblehub.com, I recognized moth as the infinitive absolute expressing emphasis. But I was wondering if it had a dual meaning: 1) Adam and Eve will surely die and 2) that death will be continual. When our Lord said "dying, though shall die" was He also expressing the idea of a drawn out death - a life on this earth spend slowly dying followed by a continual death in the Lake of Fire experienced for eternity? Even though we are alive in these bodies and breathing, our bodies are in a process of dying (we call it aging). Unless we are born again through belief in Christ, God sees us a being dead, just like when Christ said "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." in Matthew 8:22. And unbelievers will eventually find themselves forever experiencing death in the Lake of Fire.

I am just trying to get a handle on how to understand Hebrew vocabulary and grammar and how they are used. I know you have mentioned in previous posts that a lot of verses in the Bible are "loaded" with meaning. I just want to make sure I am getting that meaning right.

Also, going back to your responses to the reader arguing with you against the idea of eternal damnation: He mentioned that he did not think his unbelieving parents were going to be punished eternally. I am not sure if that statement made by him had anything to do with how tenaciously he was clinging to his views, but it stuck out to me. My other question is, what is the best way to respond to other Christians and unbelievers who are struggling with the idea that a parent/child or loved one passed away without accepting Christ? Is there any way to comfort them? I am blessed in that my mom, dad and sister, those I am closest to are believers (I am pretty sure). I know we all have free will and could someday make the choice to apostatize, so it is something a lot of Christians worry about. Knowing a loved one died without being saved is a nightmare to me.

I am asking because I do see this as a stumbling block for a lot of people, especially those who come from families that are not Christian, or weren't raised Christian. I am uncomfortable talking about it, but I need to find a way. I mentioned the Holy Spirit was leading me into my ministry and it is definitely a ministry of evangelism. He is prodding me to become confident in talking about my faith, even bold, and He guiding me to empathize with all types of people from different backgrounds and systems of unbelief so I can guide them to Christ. This is just a hard one for me to approach.

Again, thank you Dr. Luginbill for your guidance. If you already answered these questions somewhere on Ichthys, just point me in the right direction. And, you don't have to answer my questions right away - I know you are really busy!

Response #17: 

It's always good to hear from you – no worries! Thanks so much for your prayers, and for your willingness to let me post our correspondence (it may be a minute).

I'm thrilled to hear that you are continuing to prepare for and begin an evangelizing ministry. That is a wonderful thing! I look forward to hearing from you about how that develops.

On the question of Genesis 2:17 moth tamuth, this is a BH idiom of intensity where the infinitive absolute is added to the imperfect to express a certainty. The "death" that was sure to come was certain and multifaceted (threefold, in fact, barring divine intervention in grace accepted by faith), but the nature of the death (and its duration) is not specified in this verse by the Lord, and deliberately so (Adam and Eve needed to trust Him without a long-winded explanation they were as yet incapable of understanding anyway). So I would be reluctant to put too much weight on the syntax here for the purpose in question. One thing that I have found over time in conversing with people who don't necessarily agree is that they tend to fixate on any weak point. If an argument is presented for the truth on any subject but there is any part of it which is deficient or suspect in any way, people who are resistant often seize on that one thing as if it negates everything else being said. Since I don't see the connection here as necessary, I would for this reason be reluctant to advance it as a proof. Whenever we stand on absolutely certain ground of which we ourselves are also absolutely sure, it makes more of an impression than adding a dozen other arguments which are not as solid might do.

On the question of people not wanting to accept the possibility that departed loved ones may not be saved and may be condemned, that is a difficult question but it does put the issue of evangelism in very stark relief. We have to tell people the truth, whether they want to hear it or not; we cannot tell them things that are not true, just to make them feel better. That doesn't mean that we cannot or should not be sympathetic, empathetic, kind and considerate – we certainly should be. We don't have to "preach fire and brimstone", but we do have to be clear. First of all, this is a matter of individual responsibility. It doesn't matter if others never heard; "you" have heard. It doesn't matter if others failed to respond; the question is will "you" respond? Unbelievers fortify themselves with all manner of armor against the truth from all manner of motivations. The critical thing for those us trying to get them to see the truth is to present that truth in as clear a fashion as possible. What their loved ones did or did not do is to a large degree unknowable since only God really knows the heart. But what "you" do is within the power of your own free will, having been made in the image of God. "You" have to choose whether you want eternal life with the Lord or not. Nothing that has happened before or will happen in the future can change the fact that we are all here to make the fundamental choice. So if others chose wrong in the past, that is all the more reason for us to choose right now. For if we choose wrong too, it will only harm ourselves; it will not help those who perished previously. And that really is the fundamental point. Denying the reality of the consequences of our choice of own eternal future doesn't change that reality; it merely leads the person who is reluctant to choose for the Lord in the wrong direction. I would always wish, therefore, to turn the conversation back to the love of God. Jesus died for every sin the person we are speaking with has ever or will ever commit – and also for the sins of those they loved and whose eternal situation they profess concern for. He died and suffered so that they all might be saved, and only by refusing such inimitable grace were their loved ones lost, if lost. That God cared enough about us all in such an ineffable way to pay for everything we have done, with the life of His one and only dear Son, is gracious beyond comprehension – and not something to be spurned. Imputing false or evil motives to Him or complaining about our lot – when He has paid the ultimate price to save us from that lot – is foolish in the extreme:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2nd Corinthians 5:20-21 NIV

I'll be keeping you in my prayers on this!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for answering my question about Genesis 2:17 and my question about how to talk to an unbeliever struggling with the fact that their departed loved ones may have not been saved. Your answers are very helpful. I hope you and your family are doing well. I have been praying for you, Curt, Guarav, Yuhanna and Mike and your families. Please let me know if there is anyone else that need extra prayers!

In the Hebrew textbook my class was working with, the authors called the infinitive absolute the "infinitive of emphasis" and I have also heard it referred to as the "infinitive of intensity." It amazes me, that after only a year of taking a Biblical Hebrew class how much I can read and understand when I open up my Hebrew-English Tanakh. We only met one night a week for a 9 month course, and I had home work assignments each week, but all of that practice paid off. I just need to keep up with it.

I asked you about Genesis 2:17, because a lot of the time when I read scripture I feel like I might be reading something into it that is not there (and I was in this case). Also, your advice/warning about people pouncing on the weak points of an argument was also very helpful. Just from reading your email responses every week, I know that you are a pro at defending the Word of God in a calm, rational, patient and loving way. I am learning so much not just from your Bible series, but the way you correspond with Christians and unbelievers.

I want to give you a little background on how the Holy Spirit started to lead me into my ministry, because it will probably help you understand why I am asking certain questions. A lot of my questions I have right now are about my relationship with God through His Spirit and how to talk to other people about the Holy Spirit's ministry. This email is probably going to be long!

I think I told you that I started reading your studies on Ichthys.com several years ago. So, basically I was devouring your studies and growing closer to God. Around this time I started to have very personal experiences with the Holy Spirit guiding me. He made sure that any question I had in my head/heart about God's Word got answered, very specifically. He would lead me right to it, in my reading of the NIV study Bible or through your Bible teaching. He encouraged me to keep reading, keep learning in completely supernatural ways that I consider to be little miracles. He still does this with me today and I am growing more accustomed to it (it used to scare me), but I will probably never get used to the wonder of it. The Holy Spirit also started giving me signs letting me know He knew exactly what I was thinking at any given time and that He was always with me, in me. It's one thing to know and believe that God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. It's quite humbling and amazing to actually experience proof of it in your own life.

Also, throughout this time I kept praying. I pray to God a lot, all throughout the day. He answers a lot of my prayers for my spiritual growth and things I ask for in Christ's name for other people. I've never had a problem knowing how to pray - even though I need to do it even more. Sometimes I just talk to Him without asking for specific things and share my fears with Him about what is going on in this crazy world, or something I read in His Word. And I always try to remember to praise Him and thank Him in Christ's name for what He has given me, and for things that He has created and done that I experience and enjoy everyday. The Holy Spirit also guides me to know what to pray for, if I am not praying for the right thing. He comforts me and encourages me when I start to loose faith and when I am going through something difficult. Some people say they can hear God talking to them. I never actually hear the Holy Spirit, but His ministry is so effective and sometimes God answers my prayers and questions so fast it seems like a conversation.

After about six months of devouring your studies on Ichthys and starting to read my NIV study Bible, the Holy Spirit asked me to make some major changes in my life. I can't remember if I told you this, but I have a degree in Illustration. I have always been able to draw well and went into it as a career. I started off majoring in animation (I wanted to work for Disney as an animator), but then switched to illustration because there are so few jobs in animation and it is almost all done on the computer now. I took a few computer animation courses in college and realized I disliked animating with a mouse and a keyboard instead of a pencil. Switching to illustration offers the flexibility to work in the animation industry as a concept artist or character designer, but I could also write and illustrate children's books (writing/storytelling is also another passion I have always had). I did well in art school (graduated summa cum laude), but it was very difficult for me due to some health issues and completely burned me out, not to mention saddled me with a lot of student loans (something I am sure you know a lot about). After art school I got a really nice day job in the sales department of a book fair company. It was perfect, because it allowed me to work in the publishing industry while I worked on my own book, a young adult novel I had been developing in my head since the end of art school. I was so burned out on art that I focused on my writing after graduating. Up until I found Ichthys, I had been pouring my heart into this novel and was very passionate about it. I was completely in love with the characters and thought it had a great premise. When I wasn't working, I was busying myself with research for the book and developing the plot/characters. It was a labor of love and brought me so much enjoyment, more fun than any project I had worked on in college. I really felt like it was my life path to write this book.

All of that changed when I found Ichthys. Reading your Bible teaching that spring was starting to take up more and more of my time, and taking time away from the novel. I was very conflicted in my heart. I still had every intention of wanting to be an author/illustrator and I loved the story I was caught up in, but I was falling in love with God's Story more, the story about how His Son became human and came into the world to die for our sins and save us. All of the stories told through the lives of the believers, from Adam and Eve through the book of Revelation and how they all told the story about how God was working out our salvation through His Son amazed me. My beliefs and Christianity even started to spill into the work on my novel. I would actually think about my characters and how they would be different if they were Christian. The novel took place in the 1920's and I imagined different ways they would find God or come to know God. Basically I was digressing from my plot and using my imagination to evangelize these made up characters in my head. Around this same time, I kept experiencing feelings of guilt any time I would work on the novel instead of reading God's Word or Bible study. I was becoming very conflicted.

One day I was driving and thinking about everything I had been reading in the Satanic Rebellion series and the Coming Tribulation Series. I also thought about all of the ways the Holy Spirit had been guiding me, and I was just overcome with wonder at how intimate my relationship with God was, how much He loves me and cares for us. I asked him, while driving, out of pure joy, to lead me to serve Him. I told Him I would do anything for Him, go anywhere for Him - I just wanted to be closer to Christ and to guide more people to Him. For a few days I kept praying this, sincerely, out of joy. I asked Him if there was any way I could use my life as an author to serve Him. But I also had the sense that wanting to continue working on the novel was sinful, but I wasn't sure if that was just misguided guilt or not.

Then about a week before going back to work (we get a six weeks off in the summer) the Holy Spirit asked me to give up all of my plans to be an author. He asked to me abandon my novel. His message to me was "Walk in faith, pick one."

I was in turmoil for a few weeks and was definitely being tested by God, to see how I would choose. I knew it was testing because of all the Bible study I had read on Ichthys. I don't think God would have given me this test, or asked me to do this if I had not grown so much in His Word. I wouldn't have even known what God was asking of me if I hadn't been reading Bible study for the past six months.

It was really hard going back to work because everything about that job was part of my dreams to be an author. And now I realize why the Holy Spirit helped me get that job a few years ago: so God could test me further. Stories, authors and books are glorified within my company, the reason for its existence. I reviewed books in my spare time and asked that they take me off the list for manuscripts, so I wouldn't be tempted. I had a really rough time at our Season Kick Off meeting in August, when authors come and talk about how much good they do in the world with their books (and many of them do). That was another test - I could have justified being a young adult author instead of obeying God by telling myself I would be helping kids and teenagers. Again, your Bible studies gave me the strength to know the difference between doing God's Will and trying to change the world using my own power. My friends and family that knew I was working on the novel kept asking "How is the book coming along?" during this time and I kept giving them indirect answers, not sure how to tell them that I wasn't working on it anymore.

I prayed and prayed for help severing my love for this idol I had created in my life. God definitely answered my prayers. After a few weeks of struggling the Holy Spirit gave me a small miracle that showed me that God knew what He was asking me to give up and that He was The Creator. He validated my need to be creative by showing me my "creativity" was just a shadow of what He could do, that it wasn't sinful in and of itself, but it was sinful to place it before His Will. He showed me that He literally creates with a capital C, I just re-configure what He creates when I am making art. It was so amazing and I never realized how much God knew me and who I was until then. I then had the peace and strength to walk away from my novel. God took the crayon out of my hand, just like the little kid that I am, and showed me what He can do.

I had a deeper understanding of God's power and was so impressed, so blown away, all I wanted was to belong to Him completely. We really are His created creatures and God is Our Creator. The part of me that was resisting Him, that could not trust Him, I easily offered up now. I told God that I was giving up the story I was writing and the characters I had created because I wanted to live out His Story and share Christ's Story with others, the ONLY story that matters. I prayed to Him and told Him I spent most of my life wanting to sell my story and for my day job I sell the stories of other authors, but I wanted to devote my life to selling Christ's Story. I told Him I wanted to be His character, instead of playing around pretending to be a creator myself. I asked Him to change me, shape me and develop me just like I had been doing with my own characters. God was very pleased when I came around and the Holy Spirit encouraged this line of thinking. When I finally stopped fighting and gave my will over to Him, the Holy Spirit assured me that He would lead me and give me a new path. That really comforted me.

I think God did lead me to be an artist, to love stories and have a will to create and imagine, just so He could test me and also so I could appreciate who He is as Our Creator. And, though everything in God's Word is Truth and literal history, we still need imagination to see it unfold in our mind's eye. Through this experience (and many others since then), God led me to know that my ministry for Him would eventually be evangelism. He wants me to guide others to a love of Him and a relationship with Christ through a love of His Word. So, basically, I will be a sales representative for the rest of my life, but I'll be selling God's Book, not mine or any one else's.

I really should have emailed you around this time, Dr. Luginbill, and I have no idea why I didn't. The Holy Spirit just kept telling me to follow Him, to give it up, to have faith. I think I was ashamed that giving this up for God was so difficult for me and it happened so fast, I didn't know what to write. I know that I will need a lot of preparation before I can be effective at evangelizing. I jumped into the Hebrew course that fall to fill the gap left not working on the book, to have fellowship with other Christians and to get a good foundation in the language so I could further understand the Old Testament. Since then, the Holy Spirit has led me to make even more changes in my life - major changes in my lifestyle, health and appearance and learning another, non Biblical language (French!). I know anything that He asks me to do will help in my ministry, so I better do it, no matter how "out of the blue" it seems.

So that leads me to a question about the Holy Spirit's ministry. Through His guidance He is leading me to make all of these changes in my life. Many of them have been dramatic and my friends and family have definitely noticed. Almost everything I do now, I do for the Lord. He's given me so much to do, to accomplish each day, I don't have a lot of time for myself, and there is always more to do. I can talk to you about all of these things and I know you understand how the Holy Spirit guides us, but how to I explain all of these changes to my lukewarm friends and family? How do we talk to unbelievers and Christians with weaker faith about the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us?

My family gave me a lot of trouble when I told them I was giving up my novel, especially my little sister. I got accused of being a zealot and "going overboard" with my faith. They don't deny that the Holy Spirit guides Christians, they just don't think He is actually guiding me this closely, but He really is. They think I am deciding to do these things on my own. Most of the time I don't know what they think - I am just happy when they don't question me too much.

When I first started to recognize the Holy Spirit's guidance I would share every little supernatural encounter and synchronicity with my family, hoping to bring them closer to God. But, now I know nothing will bring them closer until they start reading His Word and engage in a teaching ministry. When they asked me why I started taking French lessons from a tutor I just told them the Holy Spirit led me to do it. I think any other answer would have been a lie. So, sometimes I think we have to talk about His guidance, since He is a major part of our lives as Christians.

The Holy Spirit has asked me to "veil" His guidance to me when I talk to others, to be selective about what I share, because, I think, my relationship is a personal one with God. He may not lead another person in the same way He leads me. I can see how sharing too much information about how the Holy Spirit works in my life might confuse another Christian or be harmful to their faith. Right now I am struggling between boasting too much and hiding my faith under a bushel. Do you have any suggestions?

As always, no rush in emailing me back. I know you are busy!

Always in Christ's love,

Response #18: 

It is a distinct honor to be able to count you as a friend in Christ. You're willingness to put the Lord first in all things is refreshing, amazing, and humbling. Your life and experience are a clear demonstration of what the Lord can and will do for a believer if he/she really is willing to respond with their entire heart. I thank God for you.

As to what and how much to tell people, that is a very personal thing, and I would be very reluctant to weigh in with too many specifics, especially in the case of one such as yourself who is so sensitive the Spirit's guidance. I will say that to some extent it probably should depend on the audience. If we are dealing with someone we know, then we most likely have a good feeling for how they will react to "less or more". On the one hand, we don't want to let expected negative reactions dissuade us from "showing the flag for Christ"; on the other hand, there's not much point in antagonizing people we care about to no purpose. "There is a [right] time for everything" (Eccl.3:1), so that in cases of those with whom we have a history, some times are better than others to address such issues when the opportunity offers. When it comes to those we don't know very well, I think you are developing your knowledge and your walk with the Lord in a wonderful way so as to "always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1Pet.3:15 NIV), and in just the right way.

I know what you mean about the Spirit leading in very specific ways. I feel that in working on this ministry all the time. I think this is your answer too for the empowerment and implementation of your gift.

On the question of art and creativity, it seems to me that you have the basic principles well in hand. A world without art is impossible; but art is not the truth. Then again, nothing is the truth besides the truth. There is art and creativity in just about everything we do; believers need to understand as you do that the particulars of this life and how we live it are of vastly less importance than the real reason we are here and how we respond to the Lord. That is to say, a person can write a piece of music without that being sinful; idolizing the process or the result, or letting either take control of one's life and priorities is another story. There is also the issue of content. No art can be perfect from a spiritual point of view; but lack of perfection is not the same thing as outright representation of things that are anti-truth or lead into sin.

I think there is no question but that many Christians over the centuries have found comfort, inspiration, and encouragement from "Christian" art and/or art produced by Christians. This is no substitute for scripture and the truth of scripture, obviously, and it can be a problem if instead of a playing a minor supporting role it pushes truth off the stage. More simply put, a person who is walking very closely with the Lord and living His truth day by day, step by step, is going to have different standards from a Christian who is just bumping along. That doesn't mean we should compromise our high standards for the sake of those who lack them – far from it; it does mean we need to be aware of the differences.

I hope I'm not being too obscure. What I guess I'm trying to say is that whatever a person does, the motives are as important as the thing done. If I make fancy furniture in order to pay the bills, it's not sinful (in my opinion) to do a good and even an "artistic" job doing it. Everyone needs to make a living in this post-Eden world. If, on the other hand, I am so wrapped up in my productions that it dominates my life and compromises my spirituality, then perhaps I ought to find another way to earn my keep.

We are all given at least one spiritual gift. It seems that the Lord has gifted you in many ways. The gifts we are given to participate in the edification of the Body Christ dearly loves are generally not going to support us financially. There are exceptions; but I'm wary of them for the most part. We all need to listen carefully to the Spirit as you are doing. I accept your conclusion that "God did lead me to be an artist, to love stories and have a will to create and imagine, just so He could test me"; I do have to remark, however, that in my opinion He probably gave you such wonderful talent in writing and illustrating for some other reason too beyond this.

I'd love to hear more about your specific plans for your upcoming ministry. I receive emails from many people struggling with how and where and when to prepare. I would also like permission to post our correspondence on this topic at some future point (anonymously of course), as I know it would be of great comfort, encouragement and inspiration to all who read it.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you and your attitude of sacrifice for Jesus Christ. It's an inspiration to me.

Please do keep in touch.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for getting back to so soon after I first wrote, especially with everything you have going on to get ready for the new semester. It looks like we both made it to Labor Day weekend! I will continue to keep you, your family and your mom in my prayers. It is good to know that you are both doing better. And, thank you for giving me ___'s email address. Being able to connect with other Christians is a blessing. Based on your description of him and his circumstances I recognized some of his emails and I know he is very dedicated to our Lord.

And thank you for looking at my study notes and answering the questions I had highlighted. I was afraid that I was being too methodical and detailed about the note taking, but your confirmation about my approach is encouraging. I was doubting myself and my study habits, because it now it takes me a really long time to get through a chapter in the Bible or through one of the lessons on Ichthys or Bible Academy Online. If I let my anxiety control me I want to rush through the studies, but I know the Holy Spirit wants me to be very discerning and detailed about what I am reading. I feel like I can’t get enough truth fast enough to be prepared for my ministry – it is a constant feeling that "time is running out."

This leads back to my question I had about the definition of Christian peace. I will definitely read the links you gave me (I think I may have even read them before, a while ago). Giving into anxiety and worry is a sin that I constantly struggle with, but God has been helping me learn how to find peace each day, no matter what the circumstances. I know the more time I spend in God’s Word the more peace I have. That is just one of the reasons, I think, the Holy Spirit has advised me to do the Bible study in the morning before I start my day. When I start the day in His Word, I am stronger in resisting temptation to sin and I have His Truth circulating in my brain and heart well into the afternoon and evening. I just keep "chewing" on what I have read which leads me to more understanding and even more questions to seek guidance on.

Also, if I don’t study God’s Word first thing in the morning, the demands of daily life have a way of keeping me from studying later in the day. I need to be better at putting God first and some weeks are harder than others. From reading the emails you answer on Ichthys, its seems like a lot of Christians, especially the ones being led into ministry, are having the same difficulties as me in balancing life and spiritual growth and ministry. It amazes me how many ways my sin nature and the distractions in my environment throw me off balance on a daily basis. I have no idea if these are direct attacks by the evil one, or just the mechanics of his world system working against me. Some days are very frustrating in trying to make progress for God – it feels like I am sinking in quicksand or fighting to defy gravity.

I will get into details in a later email, but God has definitely blessed me this past year. He is "heating things up" and changing a lot in my life and I know it is to support my ministry for Him. I want to make sure I use all of my talents and make the most out of what He is giving me. I don’t know exactly how it will all unfold, but I do know that my ministry of evangelism is going to be VERY public in some way and that a lot of eyes will be on me (young, impressionable eyes, probably). I have gone through some discipline this past year and a half and I know God is asking a lot of me and will be putting a lot of responsibility on me soon. The Holy Spirit has been preparing and strengthening me for this, but I am afraid of leading someone astray. It is going to take a very close walk with Christ to be able to accomplish the work He has prepared for me; I know I need to spend as much time studying His Word as I can spare to prepare. The Holy Spirit is definitely guiding me to "count the cost" and giving me hints at what it may cost me, at how hard I will have to work. He has let me know that I tend to be a coward (in general) but especially when prompted by The Spirit to share His truth (I may have a little social anxiety and am afraid of offending people). He is guiding/teaching me to be more bold and courageous when talking about my faith. I am finding that being SURE about what that truth is and my trust in Christ’s ability to lead me is the foundation of that courage.

I know, for sure, that my ministry is one of evangelism. There is so much preparation I have to do in His Word to be effective at this and I have so many questions for you and Curt. The first question, or topic, I need guidance on involves the boundaries of my ministry and my role being a female in Christ’s church. Being confused about this has been gnawing at me for a long time. Based on what I have learned from you and Curt is that evangelists lead people to Christ and Bible teachers help Christians grow up in their faith through feeding them God’s Word and leading/disciplining them. Many Bible teachers also have the gift of evangelism. Women are not given this teaching gift and only certain men in Christ’s Body have it. I know as a female in Christ’s Church I am not permitted to teach or exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12). I have read your teaching about this on Ichthys. Here are just a couple of the links I have read.



Even though women are not permitted to teach or exercise authority over men, are we permitted to teach children and other women? I am asking, because, I am pretty sure the Holy Spirit is guiding me to be a leader/role model for girls/adolescent/teenage girls and possibly other women. I am pretty sure He is going to use my creative talents in some way to do this (He is also guiding me to reach out to other artists in some way). In this last year, He has put me into situations and conversations where I can see/feel the alienation and distrust that so many people, especially women, have towards Christ – it breaks my heart and fires me up.

I think God has tempered me against so many of the lies that are alienating women from Him by guiding me to His truth after so many years holding onto feminist/new age/goddess centered beliefs. I know I am going to have to do some "teaching" of what God’s Word really says to battle the lies and ignorance that are alienating people from the truth, and this a big part of leading their hearts to respond to the Gospel.

If God is not leading me into a role to teach women and girls and I only have the gift of evangelism, as a female evangelist, how do I know when I am crossing the line and taking over the role as Bible teacher? Every time I speak with unbelievers and lukewarm Christians (men or women) about my faith and we start to get into a serious conversation about what we believe, they bring up some type of untruth or false teaching that they have latched on to. Or they question me on something very specific about what I believe. For example: I got into a discussion about my faith with a beautician I went to and she brought up the subject of tithing. She was appalled at how many TV evangelists "fleece their flock" for money and at how rich they were becoming from the donations. She thought that the verses on tithing in ancient Israel supported this behavior, so it was proof to her that God’s Word was morally wrong and gave her a reason not trust Him. I shared with her that these evangelists are taking those verses out of context and misusing them out of ignorance or lying to make a profit.

So, when does sharing and standing up for the truth of God’s Word become "teaching?" How do I know when I have crossed the line, since it is not my role to teach? Is it the way I present God’s Truth when I am sharing it with others? I am not sure if God will lead me to blog about my faith, but I have read a lot of blogs by Christian women online. Some women evangelists (like Joyce Meyers and Beth Moore) are billing themselves as Bible teachers, too. I keep running into Christian women and they mention they are in the middle of Beth Moore’s study on the Book of Esther at their church. Is this something that is lawful for her to do according to scripture? Since her Bible studies are sold in stores, she can’t really control whether or not men are learning from her as well as women, though, I think she markets her studies toward women.

I’ve looked into Beth Moore’s lectures and studies. It seems to be a lot of "self help" thinly disguised as Bible teaching. I guess that it might be strengthening the faith of these women, but I DON’T want my ministry to go in that direction: making money speaking, selling books as "Bible teaching". I just want to share the truth of God’s Word with people who desperately need it. I want to convince people that they NEED God’s truth, even if they don’t know it/realize it yet.

Also, you and Curt have both mentioned that one of the problems you see with evangelists in these days of Laodicea, is that they don’t guide the new believers to any place where they can grow spiritually. They just abandon them after they become reborn. I don’t want to be that evangelist and I have two AMAZING teaching ministries I can refer people to, but I need to communicate to the new Christians the reasons WHY they need a Bible teacher and support that with God’s Word (which seems to be "teaching"). Also, there is so much IGNORANCE about what the Bible actually says among my Christian friends and relatives, I need to be able to "teach" to help support and encourage their faith. My insecurity comes from the fact that I don’t know the difference between just "sharing truth" and "teaching." I feel like I need the intense training and preparation to be an expert in God’s Word, just like a Bible teacher, even though that is not my exact ministry. The Holy Spirit guided me to start learning Hebrew and I thought it was just for my own spiritual growth, but I can see how that knowledge will help me be a better evangelist. Unbelievers bring up "controversies" from the Old Testament a lot when attacking God’s character.

I know God has something very specific in mind for my ministry and He will continue to define it the more I grow with Him. I do NOT want to defy God in any way or let pride poison my ministry, trying to be something that God does not want me to be, but I want to be prepared to lead people to the truth on any issue that is separating them from believing in Christ. As I said earlier in the email, God is really changing a lot in my life and I feel like He will soon push me onto "center stage." None of us have a lot of time before the end. I am only going to be able to do so much, but I want to do as much as I can. I just want to make sure I prepare for my ministry and execute it in a godly way, no matter what the cost or what I need to do to prepare.

I pray to God all of the time for guidance on this and I know He will help me. Right now, I know the Holy Spirit is guiding me to seek your counsel on this!

Again, no rush in getting back to me. I hope your Labor Day weekend is peaceful and gives you a chance to rest!

In Christ's Love,

Response #19: 

Always great to hear from you! Thanks for your prayers (you and your family are in mine also day by day). Yes, we've got another day off before it all starts again.

On boundaries, the only thing that a believer is not allowed to do is to operate in an area for which he/she is not gifted. That seems to me to make pretty good sense. It is true that Paul specifically forbids women from teaching the entire congregation and also from "exercising authority" over men in the church. So this precludes women from being governing elders / teaching elders (these are not biblical terms and I'm using the distinction merely for convenience, not in the directive sense many denominations do). Women don't have the gift of pastor-teacher and that is what elders are, even if they leave it to one or two men to do the teaching – and of course in most churches there is no teaching at all.

So while I appreciate your godly caution, I don't think you need to be overly concerned about this issue. Women absolutely can teach other women and also children including male children until these become adults. And as you rightly surmise, it wouldn't be much of an evangelizing ministry if there were no element of teaching present. After all, the gospel does have an entry point – the information necessary to be saved – but no exit point: the "good news of the kingdom" encompasses everything about it. Evangelizing ministries tend to be itinerant rather than locally static because the idea is to bring as many people to Christ as possible, but they do not have as their primary purpose bringing these same people to spiritual maturity. Still, it is often hard to separate the two functions. Paul tells Timothy who is at Ephesus as the pastor-teacher to "do the work of an evangelist" (2Tim.4:5), meaning that even in a locally static ministry devoted primarily to teaching there should continue to be outreach for the gospel. And Paul, who was the all-time Bible teacher par excellence, went from city to city and church to church precisely to bring more and more people to Christ.

I do appreciate your concern and it speaks to your humility and your desire to put the Lord and His truth first. To give you a rule of thumb (my interpretation not the Bible), it would seem to me that you don't have to worry that perhaps some man will sneak into the venue where you are sharing the truth and that this will somehow invalidate what you are doing; making it clear that you are ministering primarily to women and children and not to men would be more than sufficient. Given the way things work in our society and what with the technological means for engaging in such activities, it may well be that men will hear and benefit from what you have to say. I don't think that is a bad thing as long as it is not the thing purposed. It's an obvious consequence of getting out there and engaging in any serious way. In all such matters, we need to keep faith with the principle, but we can't allow minor things of no particular consequence to keep us in a legalistic way from doing what we are called upon by the Lord to do. We can't let a lack of absolute perfection result in a complete dearth of action until such time as perfection arrives – because it never will.

I'm very encouraged and excited to see what the Lord is going to do with your coming ministry. I think the example you shared about tithing is a perfect one. People have all kinds of questions and misconceptions about the Bible. It's hard to imagine sharing the gospel without being able to field these concerns. It's also not realistic to think that if a person conducts some kind of open forum that there won't be naysayers who'll have be answered, those who are already Christians but who are looking for guidance and a fresh start or some encouragement, and those who have questions which will require some "teaching" to answer. I think, for example, if you were making a presentation of the gospel to a group and someone asked you about the relevance of the Law today, the best approach would be to dispatch that question quickly and efficiently and bring things back to the issue at hand, salvation through faith in Christ, just as quickly as possible. In the process, everyone would learn something (or at least they could), but the main purpose would still be served. This is all much easier said than done, and whatever methods you fix on initially will no doubt develop to fit your unique personality and circumstances – and most of all the specific mission field the Lord has for you.

I draw great inspiration from you!

Do feel free to write back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

I have been reading "Satan's Rebellion" on my mobile device and plan to read "The Tribulation" series. I would like to get printed versions of both of these series to give to my children. Is that possible? I will be glad to pay the cost for them if they are available.

I would appreciate it if you could get back with me about this.

Thank you.

Response #20: 

Thanks much for your interest in this ministry. I regret to inform you, however, that this is self-supporting ministry and thus for a number of reasons I don't have the capability of producing printed copies. Here are a couple of links which explain the policy and which also offer some other possibilities you might consider on this score:

Are these studies available in printed format?

A question about Ichthys books

Availability of Materials

Are these materials available for purchase?

Apologies for not being able to be more helpful, but I do hope that you will feel free to write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #21: 

I read and study your site a lot. I am a student of the word who rightly divides the word. I use

a KJ companion bible, a Strong's concordance and take the time to seek out the old Hebrew words, Greek translations. Its refreshing and spiritual to study the truth away from political correctness and people who try to tickle my ears. thank you for your years of study and insight, long may the light shine on you and you continue to water us with His rain.

Response #21: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words about this ministry!

Wishing you continued growth, progress and production for our Lord.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #22: 

From William Lane Craig:

"For I claim that God’s timeless existence, given that there is a temporal world, is possible only if a tenseless view of time is correct; whereas if a tensed view is right, God exists temporally in absolute time. Since I am firmly convinced that a tensed view of time is correct, I think that Lorentz was, in fact, right, and that God accordingly exists in time."

This is the most offensive thing I have ever read in my entire life, and considering the amount of insults I have received from atheists, that is no understatement.

The Bible, or more specifically the New Testament, explicitly teaches that God is outside of time. (II Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2). You have an extremely defective understanding of God if you honestly believe that he exists in time, and your god is really nothing more than a demiurge that works in a framework of existing time. Your god is unworthy of worship if you seriously believe what you're saying. By demanding us to go back to the ridiculous idea of God simply existing an infinite number of seconds before the universe began, you are the ultimate reactionary, Dr. Craig. It would be much more sensible for you to ask society to bring back slavery and end women's suffrage than to ask of us to go back to a childlike and pagan notion of god, as the former is only a few hundred years back in time, while the notion you're demanding for is two thousand years old, back to the days of pagan Greece and Rome.


Response #22: 

Nicely said. But take heart. There is a great difference between the church-visible (which is doomed) and the true Church of Jesus Christ, composed of actual born-again believers like yourself.

Keep fighting this good fight of faith on behalf of all those who love Jesus Christ more than life itself.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

I feel like yesteryear had far better philosophical analysis of theism than now. All the intelligent Christians are full of doubt (you excepted), and the ones that aren't hold absolutely insane ideas of God that nobody earlier would have taken seriously. Augustine did a better analysis of theism when he correctly recognized that God must be properly timeless and that time must be merely something that exists in creation. I feel like he would have dismissed Dr. Craig much like he dismissed the Manichaeist intellectual whom he found to be most unimpressive.

(Aquinas held that it was possible for God to exist in his own frame of time, but he was a better at explaining the natural world than he was at theology. He was also an Aristotelian, but Aristotle had an extremely bizarre way of categorizing causality. In his philosophy, causes were objects, not events, which is extremely different from how Kantians like you and me view causality, and the material that comprises an object was considered a separate type of causality (material cause) than the tool that assembled the object (efficient cause). Like I said, total weirdo.)

All of the church fathers would be hanging their heads in shame if they saw what Christianity has become.

Response #23: 

It's all the more reason for you to see how important the ministry the Lord is preparing you for is. And that should be motivation, if not encouragement, to continue growing and preparing. This is the age of Laodicea, so it should not be terribly surprising to find all this lukewarmness – even if it is somewhat discouraging. But be encouraged. It means that the fields are ripe for reaping and that there is plenty to do for a godly man who really is prepared. Apologetics as you are approaching it seems unlikely to bring in an income, so your continued perseverance in your academic field makes sense to me (this is what led me into Classics full time too). Things are going to get much worse before they get better. The presence in the public square of a sober voice such as yours will likely get all that much more rare as we grow closer to the time. But being considered odd by the world can be – and is in this case – a divine compliment. I expect that the Lord is planning something special for you, my friend. So keep on keeping on in your walk with Him, and in the good work you are doing for Him. That is the way to the three crowns.

Your fellow Christian warrior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

No church would accept me, since I no longer try.

Your messages make me think.

Praise God.

Response #24: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I like to say that Ichthys is my church. You are certainly welcome here any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the One who died for us all.

Bob Luginbill

Question #25: 

What a joke:   http://edyoungsermons.com/archive

Response #25: 

This is not surprising. It seems to be the homogenous trend in evangelicaldom – akin to having 200 flavors of ice cream which all taste the same (when people really need fruits, vegetables and solid food). It's the rule today to have good marketing and a "product" that will attract people, keep them coming back, and get them to be involved and give money. Sadly, teaching the truth of the Word of God in a substantive way appeals to very few in our late day of Laodicea. And I have noticed, even for many who recognize that the "meat and potatoes" of in-depth, orthodox teaching really is what they need and really is the only thing capable of leading them forward spiritually, that even so there is a reluctance to give up having at least one foot in this sort of "happy church" experience (and it takes other forms too, notable the resurgent ritualism of many mainline denominations or the emotional excesses of charismatic churches). The one thing that all these places have in common is a catering to the itching ears of those willing to come, work and give (2Tim.4:3), and an unwillingness (and mostly also an inability) to provide truly substantive teaching.

Of course your synopsis is much more pithy and right on the mark!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hello Professor,

I apologise for not writing back straight away. I got your attachment, I've gone through it and it has as always been helpful. I'm sending you some final clarifying questions.

I agree - it is very helpful to, as you put it, "cut my theological teeth" on these authors. I have some footing now and can better distinguish between true and false teaching. All this thanks to your unwavering support for these more than five years now.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated. I know that the tests will only be getting more difficult, yet what is happening now does feel like the final hurdle before the new chapter begins. Spiritually, I still have some important battles which are not yet finished and things to overcome. My study and prayer routines both need to be refreshed. I remember going to bed and looking forward to waking up when I would read your Bible Basics studies. Now I think about being able to complete my daily plan which has grown over these past few years, but in all this some of that inner joy of reading the word of God has been lost. In my misplaced perfectionism I became legalistic about all this and ended up being a slave of the routine I've designed. The same for the prayer.

Structure is needed both here and there, but it's not only a means and not an end in itself. I have to find a way to balance all these things out, maybe go through more verses but less additional resources (NIV SB, notes from the questions sent to you, etc.), maybe the other way round. Perhaps I should stop going through things over and over again too, or at least do so less frequently.

The same for Hebrew and Greek - it took more than 3 years of study to learn both and that, as you know so well, is a process that requires a lot of repetition of grammatical forms, memorisation, etc. And yet now when I finally can read both Testaments as they were written, instead of immersing myself in every word with the joy that a few years ago seemed almost unachievable, I am preoccupied if I can keep my daily chapter average and if things get longer than planned, then how will this impact on the study planned for the later part of the day. Clearly Professor, I've got a lot to learn.

And finally - I may be wrong here, but it is not impossible that there is the Spirit stirring me to apply myself to some teaching more consistently, something I've only done in patches.

In our Lord,

Response #26: 

It's no problem, my friend. I think that the experience of shifting from "joyous consumption" to academic scrutiny always causes some teething problems. Eventually, if we keep walking close to the Lord, we begin to take joy in the truths of His Word even as we also are applying scholarly tools to refine our understanding of it. I would note that losing joy entirely – which seems always to go hand in hand with losing faith – is the default setting of most academic theologians. When I did my second B.A., I met a number of these people. Since then, I have mostly scrupulously avoided them. I think for some people they are happy to accept the truth as long as it is somewhat of a mystery; gaining some control over the source, the scriptures, seems for some to produce a rot which eats away at their faith. But that sort of faith (if truly present in the first place) is not of the enduring sort. For those of us who love Jesus Christ more than life, the troubles, trials and tribulations of learning the academic nuts and bolts necessary to glean these things for ourselves are, in the end, refining; they cut through the surface rubble to lay bare the true core of desire for the truth. So please don't allow yourself to become frustrated. It's a different matter, you know, to sit at a corner table in your favorite restaurant while being served sumptuous fare. It's a different matter being in the kitchen frantically preparing it, trying to make both the deadline and also produce something that is truly first rate and also very nutritious. But for those of us who really love this life, that can be a very rewarding process too, even if getting to the place of feeding others in a manner that may appear effortless is really a difficult fight. Our Lord certainly knows the challenges involved, and I have no doubt that He appreciates your determination and effort on His behalf and on behalf of His Church.

You are on the good path. Be pleased to stick to it, and do your best to find joy in it day by day.

I'm keeping you in my prayers daily, and hoping to hear good news about the big transition ahead.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Hello Professor,

Since I became a believer my path has been gradually becoming clearer and a conviction has been growing in me that I'm doing what I should, a conviction I have been missing badly in my dark, pre-salvation years. And this also involves the academic aspect of Bible study. It so happens that through no merit of my own God gave me the capacity to study and comprehend things, capacity which I know finds its true realisation in the commitment to the scripture, a commitment I have thoroughly enjoyed and consider the true purpose of my life. I thought I should let you know about this in the way of reassurance, as perhaps I haven't explained myself in a clear enough manner in the previous message.

What has really set me back is my legalistic approach, my misplaced perfectionism and my smallness. Instead of enjoying every minute of study, parts of which I have awaited and worked towards for years, as it's the case with reading the scripture in original languages, I'm preoccupied with completing my daily plan, which, from being a means to structure the effort, has become an object. I need to balance things well and I need to balance them now, so that structure is present, but the purpose and substance never get lost.

As for smallness, it is evident in my approach to study and it makes itself known in my teaching attempts too - I'm so worried that every single word in every sentence is perfectly selected and that the form is flawless that for me to produce anything takes much more time than it should and I may have very little to show for my efforts. There are some areas where we all struggle and what I have always found difficult is to accept imperfection. No doubt not once or twice have I tested your patience with some formal corrections or questions on details whose meaning, in the grand scheme of things, is very small. My attention to detail could of course be helpful and still be a blessing for my ministry, but it can be a curse also. In the Lord, as we walk in the truth, you know far better than I do - all these things find their right proportion and shape and the dross is burned up. And I need to burn the dross here.

And it so happened that these problems became most costly as this Laodicean trial has ripened this past year. I have to say, Professor, that as we are approaching the end and as I have experienced these things recently, I'm genuinely surprised with how effective the satanic system is in making believers unproductive and I have clearly been taken by surprise. Having gone through trials where the difficulty was in itself much more evident, be it the loss of sustenance or illness, I have underestimated how dangerous and indeed, paralysing, the worldly, meaningless dross can be. Because there is, seemingly, no opponent. Seemingly. And things are not lost in an all-or-nothing manner, but rather piece by piece, minute by minute and often through things which on the outside seem different than they are - as everything last year seemed different to me than it turned out to be.

It is for all these reasons that I believe it is time for me to take a step back and live a life of undistracted devotion to the Lord. Your prayers are much appreciated and needed in all this.

In Jesus Christ,

Response #27: 

I do understand what you're saying. I think everyone gets caught up in this trap to some degree probably every day. Indeed, I imagine it's not too much to say when a person really does think about the words of the Lord's prayer, e.g., and take delight in what they really mean in having a real conversation with the Lord, that this is a very exceptional thing. Mostly we get caught up in the rote. And it's not as if routine isn't important. In fact, it's critical to getting anything done. And it's not as if setting up a disciplined system isn't a good thing. That is also a very necessary part of the framework of life we need to be organized and effective. And it's not as if details aren't important. They really and truly are. All roads have two sides. Running off into the ditch on either side is very unhelpful. Staying somewhere comfortably in the middle is the best way to avoid both extremes.

I greatly appreciate your help, my friend! I've always tended to stray a bit too far away from the detailed side of the road myself, so any blemishes you find, please continue to point them out.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Thanks Doc, and Brother for the comments provided thus far.

I totally agree with your response. Here is another one that I want to comment on:

Jesus' characterization of the spiritually dead "church-visible" of His own day gives us a very clear picture of what true believers will be up against once the church-visible of that future day makes a similarly clean break from the truth.


We are already living in the church-visible future day expressed by Jesus, as you well know.

In my own life, I preached a message concerning the Church of Sardis, and after finishing the message, I was approached by the Sr. Pastor, a young fella, and his comment to me was "you need to preach a much softer message, and tone it down a bit. A member of the congregation that we had invited, told me basically the same thing. I resigned from the Associate Pastor of that Church, some time later, as I saw and felt things that were not right, 20 minute worship, 20 minute a message, among many others. I subsequently submitted my retirement from active ministry. So, this is somewhat of how your statement has come to life even now. This was in 2013. It was a very discouraging time for me. Subsequently, we stated going to an AG church, and it wasn't two weeks, until I was accused to wrong doing by the Senior Pastor, huh. We left that church also, but returned a week later. Last year we were accused again of something brought up by one of the members, untrue, untrue. I confronted the Senior Pastor, huh, and nothing was done. We resigned from the church, but did not return this time. I could continue on at length at what Pastor's have done, or did not do. So this is how it is. People don't want to hear Sound Doctrine, it's a feel good that they want, so it's about them, not about God.

Been studying your The Hardness of Unbelieving Pseudo-Christianity (The Seven Woes)

I could not agree with you more, so many Pharisees and Pastor fit this category, I just need to be careful not to get any bitterness in my heart against them, and I don't believe I do at present, but I find it hard to forget what they have done in the past, I am a first hand witness and have seen much, which has turned me off with organized religion. Am I wrong in not wanting to attend an organized church? I do now, but don't really have the zeal for it as I once had. Thanks always for your encouragement and comments, they are a great help to me. I have been praying since I have started your studies that God would prepare myself and my family for what is coming soon.

Again, thanks for your response and all of your teachings, and I continue studying your excellent dissertations. You have been much help to me.

He that endures to the end will be saved. Looking for His return,

Blessings to you always,

Your friend and Brother,

Response #28: 

Apologies for the delay – difficult week here (and weekend).

Thanks for your testimony. It is certainly encouraging to me, even if it chronicles your own discouragement with the state of affairs in the church-visible here on the cusp of the end.

I'm not sure what to tell you about "going to church". As I have often commented, this used to concern me too, but I've come to view Ichthys as "my church" and welcome all and sundry here who want to learn about or discuss the truth of the Word of God. One would think that with a church on almost every street corner in this country, and with these churches being of all manner of denomination and flavor, differently presented inside and out, of all types and sizes, that there would be at least some places where a person could find the truth taught and be accepted when teaching the truth. But that is a very uncommon thing. It would be as if with all the different restaurants there are in this country, despite their supposedly different cuisine and other factors of differentiation, when one got served it was inevitable exactly the same colorless, tasteless, non-nutritious mush – and only a small dab of it at that. As it is, it's very easy to get a good meal in this country, but very hard to get a good spiritual meal, something to sink one's teeth into that will produce spiritual growth and progress when believed and applied.

Please feel free to write any time, my friend! And, again, apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Hope you and your family are well and standing strong in the Lord.

Was reading how Christ in His heavenly ministry spoke to Peter in John 21 about shepherding. He wanted Peter to be one with Him, so he and the others could shepherd others. So wonderful that the apostles, and our, ministry matches that of the Great Shepherd. I find that in my old age I am not flowing out enough . Bless you for the wonderful shepherding you do daily !

Love in Him,

Response #29: 

Great to hear from you!

A wonderful set of observations. We could allow afford to "flow a little more", after all.

Keeping you in my prayers every day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30: 

Hi Dr Luginbill,

I apologize for the delay in getting back with you! Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. Your response led me to a new, though as yet unformed, conception.

I have found my Spirit-led call to sales very helpful in my evangelistic efforts. It was the Lord who spoke to my heart to go into sales, which I admit made me scratch my head and think, "Me? Are you kidding? I don't have a sales personality at all! However, Lord, be it to me according to thy Word..." About a year later, He led me into my first dedicated sales position, and by His grace ALONE, I excelled far above my peers quickly and became a sales trainer. Anyway, one thing I learned is that absolutely ANY personality can excel in sales given the desire to do so. I feel the exact same way about evangelism. We are all equipped by the Holy Spirit to do it, however, as you stated there is no "one size fits all" approach. So it occurred to me that if led, I might develop something akin to the "Sales Dog Test," which is a fun but serious way to gain confidence in sales based upon about 5 or 6 different dog breed personalities, and mixes thereof. For instance, I test as a mix of both Golden Retriever and Pit Bull - basically very social and genuinely loving with lots of affection, but also a pit bull's determination to make the sale no matter what it takes (ethically only, in that first, I must believe my service or product is truly of great benefit to the prospect, and second, devotion to using persuasion, NOT coercion). I think, overall this idea may translate into an evangelistic context somewhat easily.

So that thought is kind of jumbling about in my mind. This would still not be a "perfect" approach, but I think it may have merit in that it is designed to engender confidence, the lack of which I believe is often a stumbling block to believers who truly desire to witness, yet feel they lack the courage.

Thank you again for your exhortations. I continue to refer people to your website constantly as, in my opinion, it is head and shoulders above all others for achieving deeper revelation of God's Word, outside our own direct studies of course. I'm not a huge fan of many modern day commentaries however, I have found your teachings invaluable.

Also, I have meant to ask if you have personally translated any full books of the Bible or perhaps even more. One of the greatest things I enjoy on your site are the passages of scripture you translate. Especially the way you are able to unfold verb tenses of the original languages into English, with great mastery in my opinion. I find English to be so inferior to the arcane languages as I can only imagine an expert must. I currently study Koine Greek and Hebrew in their transliterated forms, though I am contemplating, if led by the Spirit to do so, to learn to read them in there own form.

In any case (please excuse my tangential proclivities), if indeed you have translated larger sections of the Scriptures, I would be MOST interested to read them!

Love in Him,

Response #30: 

Great news! Congratulations on your success! I think that any sort of practical help for brothers and sisters wanting to share the gospel – help that is godly, biblical, and flexible enough not to try to build doctrine in the area of application – would be most welcome! Sounds as if you are well on the way to implementing your personal ministry for the Lord . . . and a wonderful reward!

As to your question, no, this is not my "mission". I have translated all of Revelation (since that book forms the backbone of the Coming Tribulation series), and I will at some point get through the Petrine epistles (still working on the second chapter of the first one in the Peter series at present, however, so it will be a while). I tend to rely on the multitude of translations out there where there is no issue of doctrine or point of emphasis that needs to be accentuated – if there is, I try to provide a helpful translation of my own (especially where the versions all miss the point). I think an entire Bible filled with my cumbersome prose and equally taxing insertions of explanations would get on almost anyone's nerves pretty quickly! It's a better technique for a short passage which is important to expand for teaching purposes.

Keeping you in my prayers!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31: 

Hi Dr Luginbill,

Again, thank you so much for your encouragement! It is so refreshing as I seem to be experiencing certain issues even with church leaders as though I am somehow unfit for ministry at this time. I'm not altogether certain if I have behaved pridefully unawares, or if it's due to perhaps an imbalanced view of complementarianism. I am prayerfully beginning to ask God if perhaps He is calling me to another flock, as He has twice in the past. However, those events weren't attached to any sort of division between myself and leadership or other members of the flock. Would you mind saying a prayer for me that God help me to understand and discern this matter? I would truly appreciate it.

Regarding the other topic, I did have somewhat of a witness in my spirit that translating the Bible is not your "mission" just as you said. I was just kind of hoping I was wrong, because as for me, the way I have seen your translations of various scriptures, I do not feel your method would be laborious to me at all! In fact, were it to be in your mission, I would probably fund raise just to make a translation by you available. I don't intend any unrighteous type of flattery in saying that, only great appreciation of and for your work. However, as most more "seasoned" believers know...we must endeavor only to do His will. I was very blessed to be taught very explicitly, as a young believer, that praying my own will is as the spirit of witchcraft. What an invaluable teaching that has been to me over the years. Anyway, I say that in order to say that I won't be praying my will over the situation!

In any case, thank you again for all that you do. I continue to pray for your ministry and, again, wish to impart my sincerest gratitude for your work in the Lord.

God bless you!

Response #31: 

Thanks again for your kind words. I am keeping you in prayer for effective ministry, and will continue to do so. Leaving a place where one has attachments is never easy, however there are certainly times to do so. Finding a good place to worship these days, a place where the Word of God is truly front and center of all that's done, is doubly difficult. But God provides for all who knock – one way or the other.

I hear what you are saying on the translations. If there were a hundred years left and if I had a contract for fifty of them, it might end up on the priority list. As it is, time is short, and other things are more important (especially since I'd never even come close to finishing even the epistles!).

We do what we can, and, one hopes, all that the Lord means for us to do.

Keep fighting that good fight of faith.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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