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Ministry and Preparation for Ministry III

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

I would like to be a teacher. However, I don't believe I am virtuous enough to teach Scripture.

Response #1: 

It takes the gift and the patience and the discipline. The last two are virtues of a sort, I suppose, but they are necessary for all effective ministry.

It depends what the Lord has for you.

Question #2: 

Last night I was thinking about it. James says that not many of you should desire the gift, because pastor-teachers will be held to a stricter standard of judgment. But I decided that a stricter judgment is worth getting to know and believe the truth. I prayed to God that the Holy Spirit may grant me the gift of pastor-teacher.

FWIW, I'm gifted in languages.

Response #2: 

I suspect you already have it.

This is a reliable saying: "If anyone desires the office of overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher), he is seeking [to do] an honorable work".
1st Timothy 3:1

Here are a few links:

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry II

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?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear Professor,

It is also very wonderful to hear from you too. No need to apologise at all, we all lead busy lives. Yes I actually spent my whole Sunday morning reading through last week’s posting and I did notice one or two of my emails on there. It served as a poignant reminder as to how the Lord truly delivers and guides us onto the path He wants us to take, if only we are willing. The postings also served as great motivation for me to persevere onto ministry. It made it seem much more real to me than it ever has done, particularly with all the considerations and choices one needs to make, and time is ticking. Though it does feel like I have a mountain to climb and it is sometimes disheartening to see how far away I am from producing, particularly when looking at the preparation honourable servants such as yourself, Curt and our mutual friend have put in. Nonetheless, I know that my mission today is the same as it was yesterday, namely to grow in grace and knowledge and serve our Lord.

Your comments on the fact that we get much more done when we face pressures than none at all are right on point. I can see that in my own walk, once the pressure lifts I have a tendency to want to take my foot off the gas so to speak. I am currently under a few financial constraints (have been for a while now), and even though worry does creep in from time to time, it is a good test of faith for me to put everything into the Lord’s hands. During times like these, the only real thing I want to do is come back to the Word and reorientate my focus towards virtue thinking.

Yes I do keep in regular contact with our dear friend. He is a great encouragement to me and imparts great wisdom into my life through the witness he provides to me. When together, we often spoke about you and your studies with fondness of heart. Those were the best evenings and ones I shall always cherish.

I had my brother visiting the last few days. I had been praying fervently for him in the last few months. He has found a routine and is now also listening to Curtis Omo’s teachings in addition to yours. It is truly wonderful to be able to speak about truth and the realities and promises to come. It is up to us to take hold of these truths and believe them over the pseudo reality that is the cosmos, which ultimately manifests itself in the moment-by-moment choices we make through faith. I would really appreciate your prayers Professor for his spiritual welfare and that he continues to gain momentum to grow unto maturity.

Lastly, I have just recently created a resource intended to help those who spend lengthy times at desks studying (link). It was primarily created for my closest friends and family. I had a chat with our friend and he suggested that it may be of good use to Ichthys readers and maybe even yourself if you thought it to be worthwhile. Ultimately, I am fully aware it is about the spiritual growth, not the physical. However since incorporating this and developing a routine, I have found concentration and productivity to be much better. I have attached it below if ever you get the chance to have a look through - I have filmed all the videos by clicking the pictures/diagrams too.

I will be in touch soon with a few questions as I go through the Satanic Rebellion series.

For the glory of Him,

Response #3: 

Great to hear from you, my friend! Thanks also for the update about your brother. I am very happy to hear of these developments and will definitely incorporate this info into my daily prayers for him.

I am also much encouraged by your determination to persist in preparation for and eventual engagement in ministry! I'm certain that the emails between us posted the other week were very encouraging and insightful for all who did or will read them. Don't be discouraged by where you are at "on the mountain". Consider, there may be climbers above you, but there are climbers below you too, and wherever we are on the mountain we all got there the same way, climbing up one step up at a time. And it doesn't really matter where others are at: it's just as much of a trap to allow oneself to be discouraged by higher climbers (as if you can't get there too – you can, if you keep moving) as it is to become over-confident because others are below (as if they can't catch up and pass you – they can, if you stop moving). The only thing that matters is where you are at yourself and whether or not you are climbing as fast and effectively as you can. If you are, that is what pleases the Lord, and you have a right to feel good about it. In fact, it is important to feel good about it. Because as the evil one hurls down rocks and avalanches at you it is easy to forget what you are doing on this mountain in the first place and how important it is to keep moving upward. We will all get to the top in due time and in God's good time if we persevere in our good efforts – and then we can relax and rejoice in the Lord's presence. But that is the "summit", when we see Him face to face. Until then, keep moving up, one step at a time – that is the way of eternal rewards (see the link).

Thanks much for your attachment! I think it's wonderful. With your permission I will post it at Ichthys and recommend it to friends (link). Knowing myself well, I doubt that I'll get to all or even most of what you recommend, but I'd like to incorporate a good deal in my daily routine – it's excellent advice! And, after all, the apostle Paul, a great walker (Acts 20:13), loved to compare the Christian life to an athletic struggle (which is very close to mountain climbing, after all):

Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

(3) Endure hardship with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No one on military campaign becomes involved in the affairs of normal life. [He avoids such things] that he may please the one who enlisted him. (5) Likewise if anyone engages in athletic competition, he does not win a crown if he fails to compete according to the rules.
2nd Timothy 2:3-5

(1) Since then we too [like the believers of chapter 11] have such a large audience of witnesses surrounding us [both men and angels], let us put off every hindrance – especially whatever sins habitually affect us – and run with endurance the race set before us, (2) turning our gaze unto Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the shame of the cross, treating it with despite, and took His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

(12) Therefore (going back to the race analogy of v.1), pick up those hands hanging slack at your side, put some strength back into your weak knees, (13) and make straight tracks for your feet, so that, [even though you fell down,] what you sprained might not be twisted completely out of joint, but might instead work its way back to health.
Hebrews 12:12-13

Your friend and fellow climber in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Dear Professor,

Thank you so much for your prayers and for my brother - they continue to fuel my growth to maturity.

Your email serves as tremendous encouragement and one that resonates very well with me. I shall keep the picture of where I am on the mountain in mind and strive to keep the posture and position in my “cube” (another analogy you had once provided in one of your email responses) pointing and moving with a forward orientation and not getting too caught up on where it is in relation to others. I will push on towards the prize that we have been called towards in Christ Jesus.

Thanks also for your very kind words about the resource. I would be delighted if readers of Ichthys could benefit from it so please do go ahead (this was actually one of the main incentives for doing it - providing that it had your approval of course). Being so heavily involved with athletic preparation as part of my daily job, these verses that Paul provides us with really are a sobering reminder of the divine parallel. I must admit Professor, it does really sadden me when I see a lackadaisical attitude towards the truth from some of my closest friends who I think are genuine believers. As I am yet to read your Coming Tribulation series, I know I will learn more about the era of Laodicea as I go through your studies. Looking back to when I was first introduced to your site by our friend (2012), one of the realisations that soon occurred to me was that I was spending 4-5 hours of training per day, yet was neglecting my spiritual growth. How could I really say that Jesus is the most important Person in my life when my actions and behaviour did not support this? This was one of the initial drivers for change. Now, a few years on, the same challenge remains with training substituted for professional work. I am yet to see this kind of faith-response in my brothers and sisters apart from our friend and my brother. A lot of it unfortunately does seem to stem from a complacency to the truth, a recipe for deception from the evil one.

I look forward to keeping a regular correspondence with you Professor. I will prepare some questions and send them your way. Thank you once again for your wonderful teachings and friendship in Christ.

Response #4: 

It's always a great pleasure to hear from you, my friend. Thanks much for the permission to post. I have done so: it's on the special topics page, subject index, and also in Culture and Christianity VII where the topic of exercise comes up (at the link).

I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Word of God, my friend! Hold onto that attitude, remember the reward, and you will go far. I can tell you that this posting you have shared is a definite testimony to your abilities as a teacher. I have no doubt that your efforts in that regard will be very beneficial for the edification of the Church once you get to the point of ministry opportunities of your own. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what develops!

It is of course sad when others don't have the same enthusiasm for the truth that we do. When I first got "red hot" for the truth, I remember I thought it was only a matter of getting people the materials – that was a mistake. Obviously, anyone who is ever really interested in the truth will have it provided. We only need to be persistent in knocking. The reason why there is not more truth more widely distributed has a lot to do with a fundamental lack of interest. It's all about free will and the choices we make with it. And that is why we are here, to test and to demonstrate what is really important to us. Praise God for you good desires and decisions! And thanks again for sharing this wonderful piece.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dear Professor,

Thank you so much for posting the Desk Breaker resource onto your website. I feel it is a true privilege and I am delighted that your readers (and maybe even yourself!) can benefit from it. Thank you.

Your comments on my potential abilities as a teacher gave me much encouragement. It has actually been on my mind most of the weekend. As I think I mentioned in one of my previous correspondences I am eager to discover my spiritual gifts. I know that this becomes clearer with maturity, which is what I am fully focused on pursuing - climbing that mountain step by step. As I work as a coach (strength and conditioning) in youth sport, I often have to draw upon pedagogical principles to convey my thoughts and ideas. My personal view is that coaching is not much different from teaching and there is a lot of overlap. I have often debated with myself whether I would be ‘adequate enough’ as a Bible teacher - a path that requires serious consideration and not to be taken lightly as I have learned from yourself and what the Bible teaches us. Of course, with growth, maturity and operating under the power of the Spirit, God can utilise even the dullest of axes. In the last few years I am also coming to realise that I may “have something" along the lines of encouragement. I have many close friends who feel comfortable confiding in me and have often remarked how encouraged they feel after speaking with me. All praise be directed to God! All this has got me wondering that’s for sure. There is much more growth to go before I come close to realising the ministry that has been prepared for me from our Lord. I trust that God will provide me with the opportunities that will lead me down the path He wants me to go down, so long as I am willing.

It seems like I followed the very same thought process of you with regards to thinking it was only a matter of getting people the materials… I have often sent and explained the Ichthys website and your ministry to many of my close friends who I thought would have an open heart. I often ended up with little or no response. As you rightly said, God will not withhold truth for those who are seeking. And as I think you have often said in your correspondences, truth repels or attracts those who come into contact with it. Truth is divisive.

Professor, I have attached a list of questions from my latest study of Satanic Rebellion Series. There is no rush in answering these - whenever is convenient for you. I have also spotted a few references that didn’t work and have included them in the question list - hope this is ok. Going through this series has brought great joy to my heart and I feel I have made steps forward spiritually since I started the series.

I continue to keep you and your ministry in my prayers every day.

Response #5: 

First of all, let me say that the privilege is mine. I also shared this directly with a number of friends and family who could surely benefit from it. Also let me say that I am delighted to hear that you are giving serious thought to the ministry of the Word. I think coaching is teaching. It's just a question of subject matter and tactics. I can imagine that you would be a wonderful "face to face" Bible teacher. I'm sure that most Christians could benefit from your exposition of the truth and personal encouragement right now. Still, God is control of these things, and we have to have the patience to wait for His call to employment in that regard. Sometimes it comes sooner, some times later than we would like or expect, but when the call does come, it is always seems to be the case that we end up wishing we were a bit more prepared and experienced no matter how prepared and experienced we might be. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what develops, my friend!

Thanks also very much for the editing. I always appreciate the input. We all need editing, and especially in a ministry such as this which produces a pretty high volume. Also, I've never been good with numbers, so I often make mistakes in verse citations – thanks for anything you find!

I'll try to get to your questions this week, time permitting – but I will get to them.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Peace be to you my friend. It's been quite some time since we last spoke, therefore I wanted to check-in with you to see how you and your family were doing. I trust all is going well with your teaching career, and/or any of your endeavors? Due to some personal matters I never ended moving back south so I'm still up north. By the way, I recently bought a grammar book for English, for the first time I've actually been able to understand the material, so I give thanks to the Lord Jesus for His help. To be honest, I'm pretty amazed by how easy grammar becomes once one has a fundamental understanding of the logic behind its rules. After gaining a better foundation in English I will then, Lord willing, move on to other languages. By the way, may I ask you something regarding Systematic Theology? Sometime back I downloaded your series entitled, Bible Basics. May I ask, would you categorize this series as a Systematic Theology of sorts, or as something different? Also, might you have any suggestions for other good Systematic Theologies, maybe a list of the best ones available? Last but not least, is there anything, or anybody, that you would like me to pray about? Once again, I hope you are well Dr. Luginbill, I appreciate your friendship and all the help you have given me over the time we have corresponded, you are a blessing my brother!

Sincerely in Christ our King,

Response #6: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend! I'm sorry (or glad?) to hear that you have cancelled your move. I trust everything is going well and the personal matters are not anything of a serious, negative nature.

I'm also glad to hear that you are having success with English grammar – I think learning Latin is the best way to tackle the problem myself.

On the question of systematic theology, yes indeed that is what the Basics series really is, and, even being incomplete as yet, a good deal longer than many standard systematic theologies. That is the way it worked out. I had originally intended to be done with the series decades ago and to have it amount to less than a hundred pages in toto. But this is the way it has worked out and I can't say I'm sorry (except that I do wish I was already finished rather than still having years to go before it's finally done).

On other systematic theologies, they are good for prospective pastor-teachers to read, but not necessarily at all helpful in learning anything beyond the way other people have done this sort of thing in the past. The best / most helpful (but tediously long) is that of Chafer, and you can find more about that one at the link: "Bible Study Tools and Methods".

Thanks for your prayers! They are very helpful. I don't wish to get into specifics at this time, but believe me I do appreciate your help. I will keep you in mine day by day as well.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Sir,

Its good to hear from you as well. Glad to hear about the Bible Basics series, I've noticed that it grows larger over time. I was going to download each of the PDFs but I figured I'd wait just in case you ended up changing some things, then I would end up having to download all new PDFs again, ha-ha. I appreciate the link for information on Chafer's systematic theology text. I've certainly heard of his text though I've never read in it. Below are the systematic theologies that I currently have access too, maybe you are familiar with them? The text by the late Derek Prince is a little bit more oriented towards practical day to day theological matters . There are a couple of other texts I plan on getting in time.

1. An Introduction to Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

2. Systematic Theology by Norman L. Geisler.

3. Christian Foundations by James Boice.

4. Systematic Theology by Charles Ryrie.

5. Foundational Truths for Christian Living by Derek Prince

6. What The Bible Teaches by R.A. Torrey

7. Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology by Arnold Fruchtenbaum

As always, it's good to talk with you my brother, may God be with you and yours through Christ our Savior!!!

Response #7: 

It's also the case that I have a lot of information about the three as yet unpublished BB installments on the website. Some of the more pertinent files are listed as links at the bottom of the article stubs for parts 6A, 6B and 7.

As to your listed works, Geisler is famous and his book is fairly long (originally a four volume work). I've not read it, but judging from his background and the contents of the volumes it's a pretty standard approach. He and unless I miss my guess here everyone on this list will be pre-Trib (so there is that false issue to contend with) and also traducianist (so there is that problem too), and Augustinian when it comes to matters of sin (perhaps the biggest problem of all). In other words, I don't think you'll find any of these any advance on Chafer, even though they may be written more succinctly (Ryrie's book is very short). I'm sure Furchtenbaum would be interesting but I can't recommend his approach. I don't know Prince; Torrey is very old yet without being a classic like Ryrie or Strong (not on your list but a very good one-volume treatment) or Hodge (also not on your list). I've heard of Boice but I have not read him; judging from the table of contents he's very traditional with all the good and bad that goes with that (as with Geisler discussed above). Anything you read can be of benefit, especially as a prospective pastor-teacher, but that is different from growing in the Word (just FYI).

Always good to hear from you, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

In a class at church today the teacher attempted to make a case for women deacons (as distinct from elders who are to be exclusively men). He adduced two reasons for why he thought this was the case:

1) In Romans 16:1 diakonos is used of Phoebe instead of diakone. He claimed that this means that it is being used in a technical sense to refer to the office of deacon (rather than a servant in general), and thus that Phoebe was a female deacon. I checked the text and the masculine form does seem to the one used. What is the proper conclusion to draw from this fact?

2) In 1 Tim 3, Paul does not mention women (wives?) directly after listing qualifications for elders, but does after listing qualifications for deacons (1 Tim 3:11ff.). He said that for this reason, it is more natural to interpret gynaikas as women deacons than as wives of the deacons – the idea being that it would be strange for Paul to talk about the wives of the deacons without mentioning the wives of the elders. Is there any reason why we could not take Paul's comments in 1 Tim 3:11ff. as pertaining to the wives of both the elders and the deacons (rather than to women deacons)?

In Him,

Response #8: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. Hope your classes are going well!

As to your question, there is no doubt that at Romans 16:1 Phoebe is called a "deacon", that is, a "servant" of the church in Cenchrea, and a "servant" or "minister" in the official sense. She had been commissioned for this job by the church. That is what a "deacon" is – in the Bible.

As I'm sure you know, the only post currently out of bounds for a sister in Christ today is that of teaching the Word to the entire congregation (whatever name one wishes to put on that, pastor, teacher, elder, etc.). I would of course want to add the caveat that what a "deacon" is in the Bible is not necessarily what a "deacon" is in a present-day denomination or church. Any sort of official position in the church which is not directly responsible for its governance and teaching (the elders) would be a "ministerial" position (i.e., that of deacons, biblical understood) – as opposed to someone helping out with, say, the finances or the building upkeep or any other of the myriad admin details necessary to run a church. There is no reason why women shouldn't hold such official positions (i.e., "be deacons"). The details in 1st Timothy chapter three regarding qualifications for deacons would thus apply equally for women who occupied those roles. In that passage, Paul's description can easily be taken to see this office as male-only, but he never says so directly. This reflects the fact that in those times it would be on the rare side for a woman to have the time and opportunity to serve in this capacity, and also the fact that women were not generally allowed into the official administration of the synagogue (from which the bare-bones local church admin structure is of course originally derived). I do not think, however, that verse eleven is speaking about women deacons as opposed to male deacons, but that it is instead speaking about their wives (read "husbands" if applying the passage to women). The accusative case parallels what we have in verse eight where we supply something like "I want"; therefore the most likely rendering for verse eleven is "I want [their] wives to be . . . ". I think we would have the word diakonos repeated in conjunction with gynaikas in verse eleven if that were what Paul was talking about.

To return to Romans 16:1, it is true that the word Paul uses there for Phoebe is actually the masculine diakonos, not the hypothetical diakone. I take that to mean, when put together with what he says to Timothy, that the office is generally to be held by males but that women are not prohibited from also being deacons if they are particularly qualified and eager (as Phoebe certainly was). In other words, the situation is both less than what modern liberal sensibilities desire it to be and also less than what traditional conservative sensibilities desire it to be. But it is what it is, and what it is is the Word of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

One of my neighbor's husband died. She is overwhelmed with grief, and looking through the Bible for answers. I have free time on Friday, so I ask that you may petition the Holy Spirit for the spiritual gift of mercy.

Response #9: 

I have said a prayer for you on this, my friend.

Question #10: 

Today I visited her and provided her comfort. I dispelled some false doctrines and explained to her God's principle of never giving her more than she can bear. She said I needed to start a church!

Response #10: 

She no doubt has a point (especially making allowances for what "church" can mean).

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

I've reached a point in my faith where English Bible translations are not doing enough for me. Just as the word translated as "glutton" is misleading as you pointed out (link), the usage of epiousios in our resurrected Lord's prayer, and the complex Greek language in Paul's writings do not admit a fair English-only analysis of all the issues, I need to study the originals for myself.

Currently the best "mainstream" Bible teacher is John Piper, but even he screws up a large number of important issues, especially on charismatic gifts. The others are even worse, which is saying something significant.

It is very tempting for me to become a contributing writer on Desiring God, but the acceptance of mainstream Calvinism doctrine is a severe hindrance, as the "false convert" theory of apostasy fails to square with Peter's warning that false teachers "deny the master who bought them." It looks like I will have to go off the beaten path.

I also have a strange, unresting desire to go to Japan. Several times I have fought it, as being a research mathematician is a very good career path, but it comes back stronger than ever before.

Response #11: 

Always a pleasure. No one can grow past a certain basic level by reading the English Bible; even for those with the gift of pastor-teacher, English-only is a limiting factor (like a section of quarter inch pipe blocking the flow in the middle of an otherwise one inch main). Also please keep in mind that I've been at this a minute. Speaking of pipe, when I went with my friends back in seminary many years ago to see our mentor who was holding a Bible conference in the area, the dynamic presentation I witnessed made me think seriously of giving up this idea of being a teacher myself (knowing I could never do what he was doing the way he was doing it) and becoming a plumber instead. I wouldn't have made much of a plumber. I hope I'm a little better as a Bible teacher.

I don't want to weigh in on Japan one way or another. It clearly has a pull for you. You have to be the one to figure out whether this is from the Spirit or merely emotional. I will say that just because something is exciting, interesting and desirable does not make it the wrong thing to do. But just because something is hard, challenging and a true sacrifice does not make it the right thing to do (to cite two of the main mistakes Christians are prone to make in determining God's will). I would also like to point out that perhaps the two things are not mutually exclusive. I'm sure they have research mathematicians in Japan (the even have Classicists, though not very many). Paul famously made tents to support his ministry. I'm teaching Latin (mostly). Given your very typical experience of finding yourself "off the beaten path" . . . because you are actually interested in pursuing the actual truth . . . it doesn't take a research mathematician to figure out that any future ministry along these lines will likely have to be self-supporting. In such cases, doing what you are good at to accomplish that is not a bad strategy – and if you could do it where you may possibly feel called to do it . . .

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Bob,

In my time as a Christian so far I've mostly studied parts of the Bible as they caught my interest (that is, in a rather unorganized fashion). I'm still working on my first complete read through as well, but I don't go as deep in this time. (I try not to hurry through it just to check the box, but it is not as in-depth as the "study time" mentioned above).

Several folks I've talked to recently (as well as others in the past) have suggested that I focus my first efforts at a systematic study of the Bible on Romans, the gospel of John, and the Psalms, as these are some of the most theologically dense and important books in the Bible. Obviously, everything else in the Bible is important too, but the reasoning seems to be that these are the best places to start a systematic, focused study.

1) Do you think it's wise to separate "study time" from "reading time" in the first place (with both being distinct from accessing Bible teaching from an in-depth, orthodox teaching ministry)?

2) Do you think making a in depth study of Romans, John, and the Psalms is the best course of action when starting to structure Bible study more?

It strikes me that what I ought to be doing might be different than what other non-teachers-in-training ought to be doing (and I'm sure this will be the case even more when I get more Greek and Hebrew under my belt), but I'd be happy to hear about your views on what sorts of approaches both classes of people ought to adopt.

Yours in Christ,

Response #12: 

Good to hear from you my friend. I hope your classes continue to go well and that you are "enjoying the ride" as much as possible.

As to your questions, let me start by saying what you can probably guess I'm going go say, namely, that there is no "one size fits all" approach to this sort of thing. Clearly, you'll want to know the Bible as well as you possibly can know it before you start a formal ministry, and whatever advances you toward that objective is a positive thing. But it's a never-ending process. Even today I read my English Bible daily. Of course I also read it in Greek and Hebrew every day, because one gets a different impression from these different approaches, both of which contribute to understanding the truth. I am still learning things and still becoming more familiar with scripture day by day.

The corollary to the above is that you'll probably never get to the place where you have totally understood and/or digested any book of the Bible. And since every book, verse, principle of scripture illuminates every other one, it's a bit of a false perspective to think that there is any sort of ultimate, in-depth study a person could do on any individual book or books that would be foundational in nature. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with a special focus on a couple of important books – as long as it doesn't result in the others being neglected. Romans is obviously very important, but it is illuminated by all the other Pauline epistles, which are illuminated by all the other epistles, which are illuminated by the gospels, which are illuminated by the Old Testament. And the same truth is present throughout. I am always finding parallels in the OT to the gospels and epistles which I didn't notice the first several hundred times I read them.

I suppose the main question I would have would be how an in-depth study would differ from reading the books themselves in a "normal" way. If this means reading what scholarly "Introductions to . . ." have to say, that is not a bad thing to do (indeed, I recommend reading certain books of this nature), but it won't really tell you what the books themselves really "say" – because scholars are generally approaching them as literature rather than as the living, breathing Word of God (and, also, because many of the issues dealt with in such books are often less than critical for our purposes: e.g. whether or not Paul wrote Philemon from Corinth or some other place doesn't really have a lot to do with the truth the epistle contains). If this means reading grammatical and/or theological commentaries on, e.g., Romans, that is not something I would advise. There's nothing wrong with this approach, but it is very time consuming and doesn't necessarily contribute to a person's understanding of Greek . . . or even of Romans (given that so much of what commentators say is either beside the point when it comes to the true meaning or often also dead wrong). If it means reading a certain book over and over again, that is a valuable thing to do, but I have found that it is more profitable in the context of reading all of the books of the Bible over and over again (in English, varying the translation, and in the original languages). Bottom line: while this approach sounds good in theory, the specific method would be the most important consideration.

That brings me to question #2. The Bible is the Word of God. So while I do understand that many people draw a distinction between recreational reading of scripture on the one hand and a detailed, grueling study of it on the other, I think that is a mistake. I don't think there should ever be a time when we are reading the Bible (in English or in the original) when we are not giving the most careful attention in the Spirit to what it is we are reading, trying to understand it as best we can, and storing up questions in our heart for all those many times we don't think we have a complete grasp of the depth of a particular passage; we are never going to be perfect on this score, but that ought to be our objective, viz., spiritual understanding and enlightenment. As to study, while it is true that if we are trying to translate a verse into English, or read it in the original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, or prepare a lesson based on a particular passage, then we are often going to make use of certain resources (such as lexicons, grammars, concordances, commentaries, etc.) which we well might not use when we are "just reading through" in English, we should nevertheless never lose our joy for the Word in so doing, nor should we ever let slip from our mind why we are doing this, namely, to learn what the Lord is saying to us through His Word, and to find the greatest joy in that. In other words, these two approaches, to the extent that they are different at all, really ought to have more in common than be thought of as disparate exercises.

As I say – no "one size fits all". You will find the best method for you to get on a path of knowing scripture better. The three main points I would wish to make are 1) more scripture reading, of whatever type, is better than less; 2) it is the actual reading/understanding of scripture for yourself in the Spirit which has the greatest benefit (not what someone else has to say about it or its nuts and bolts); 3) this is a life-long labor of love which will never cease to pay spiritual benefits as long as we keep doing it consistently and with the proper attitude (rather than a temporary task of a few years to be endured until we "arrive" – the only true arrival is when we see the Lord face to face).

I do think "this" is different from what most people do, but I also know it provides very good results.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

I just thought I'd give a progress report now that I've been in classes for a little while. So far I've done really well in everything, including Greek. After I aced the first test, I thought perhaps I'd be able to get a little bit of time to breathe and really dig down to make sure I'm developing good habits (actually reading the Greek rather than jumping into "translation-puzzle-English mode", e.g.), but instead the class really ramped up and now I'm finding myself struggling to keep my head above the water. The quantity of new information (particularly vocabulary) thrown at us every day seems to be almost unmanageable, akin to drinking from a fire hose. It's a little bit frustrating: I know that I'm making progress, but I always seem to be a step behind, studying frantically for the ceaseless quizzes rather than learning the material as deeply as I'd like. As I said to a friend earlier today "I don't want to merely survive Greek; I want to learn Greek".

I've also been struggling to keep myself moving forward spiritually. I'm a bit lonely, both in the sense of meaningful spiritual relationships, and in the sense of, well, 1 Corinthians 7 relationships (girls).

Anyhow, not meaning to unload on you, just thought I'd try to keep you in the loop. Prayers are always appreciated, as are suggestions. I'd be happy to have you merge the prayer requests that concern me, and update the net request to something more along the lines of "prayers for strength and comfort in preparing to minister to the body of Christ" (prayers for my family are still needful).

Hope your semester is going well, and that you are finding peace and joy in our dear Lord and Savior.

In Him,

Response #13: 

Good to hear from you as always, my friend. I have added your prayer concerns to my personal list and have modified the entry at Ichthys (happy to change it to whatever you may think best).

I do understand the unique set of pressures you are under. For one thing, you are in the "big leagues" now. From your description I can tell that your Greek professor doesn't have to worry about enrollments, but does want to pass on to the next prof. the best prepared class he/she can. I understand that point of view (I pass students along to myself); it's also true, however, that most college students today don't have any deep prior experience with anything as mentally rigorous as Greek. There are plenty of difficult subjects out there but, well, they're not Greek, are they? So I try to bring the first semester along at a do-able pace, but I think many professors (even ones much younger than myself) have a tendency to forget what it was like when they didn't entirely "get it" right out of the box either. Also, Classics has its share of geniuses who did get it "right out of the box" – these types make notoriously bad teachers. The good news is that, just like boot camp, I'm sure that the experience is doing you a world of good on many levels, even if it hurts. Hang in there and you won't regret it!

I also understand that when the workload gets too great, it becomes increasingly difficult to "find the joy" in something which really ought to be entirely joyous. That is a fight I suggest you do try to fight, might and main. Try to enjoy everything you can about Greek, even when it is coming at a price. If we were staying up until 3AM playing some video game, it might be equally physically and emotionally wearing, but we might be enjoying it so much that we'd have to tear ourselves away to get some sleep. That is harder perspective with something like Greek, it's true, but then we also have some advantages: we are doing this not in self-indulgence but to prepare to minister to our Lord's Church in search of the great rewards He wants us to win. So both in the near view and the long view, there is ample fodder for motivating ourselves; it does take no small effort of will to do so sometimes, however.

I also understand very well about feeling that one is on a island, coming to a new "flagship" university and not being part of "the class". I came to the U. of Illinois after Okinawa, and did mostly language classes. I did make a bit of an effort, but had nothing in common with the (at the time it seemed very much) younger unbelievers I met; and the few believers I met in the biblical Greek sequence were of the "nutzy-cracksy" variety: I still had some pretty rough edges too coming out of the USMC, and Col. Thieme's approach was not exactly "warm and friendly", so I shudder to think what they thought of me! Long story short, it was pretty lonely indeed, and when a young man is lonely, well, it's a natural thing to "think" (not sure that's the right word) that a woman is the answer – when the wrong one can be anything but! A strict and disciplined approach with a generous measure of relaxation (going home or the like whenever possible is not a bad idea if only for the change of pace) will help.

Just know that you're not the only one who's faced these tests, and also not the only one who's facing them now (1Pet.5:9). It doesn't necessarily get easier down the road, but it does get different. "Problems" I hear about often seem to run in batches and themes. One of the things that has caught my attention and my ear of late is the difficultly that many men (who are already out there in the world working and who are either doing some preparation for ministry or else are trying to minister while working) are having in balancing work and the Word. I have no doubt that this is always one of the most difficult balancing acts to get right. Paul certainly did, but his solution did not involve "not working at all", nor did it involve "working exclusively until time is freed up for ministry". To do it right, one usually has to do both at the same time – and has to try to do both well at the same time. Also, if a person already has a job and a family, it's very easy to let "learning Greek" slide – especially if not in a formal course where otherwise one would have the "luxury" of having a professor hold one's feet to the fire.

In short, having been there, I'm not saying you have it easy – I know better. Every situation has its own unique challenges for those who are running to win the prize. But the day will come soon enough when you will be working full time and probably have a family too. Trust me when I say you won't have "more time" then than you do now. So try your best to enjoy the ride now (that's also good practice for being able to know how to enjoy it later).

I hope you found this encouraging. We are striving for an imperishable set of crowns whose awarding will put all the troubles and hardships of this present, short life in the shade. Keep working at it, my friend. In due time we shall reap, provided we don't give up (Gal.6:9).

Yours in the Name of the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your very kind words. They mean a lot, even if my role was merely to compile your own teachings together so as to fit the particular question I received. It may not be the only direction in the ministry that I will engage in, but it is not the first time that I present the content of our correspondence and your studies to someone either currently or previously associated with the Roman Catholic Church. And in the first place - I owe you my very self (Philemon 1:19).

I really appreciate you taking the time to write these suggestions. I read this text several times and yet there is always something that escapes. Perhaps my only question would be about a reference I mentioned to you regarding the Sabbath day in the Old Testament as used for reading the scripture - do you know of any? I thought it could help to substantiate the point that Sabbath was about building the relationship with God and this is done through His word.

Now that I began to write on a more regular basis my daily schedule got even tighter. It has been hard enough to go through everything without it, but presently I really need to redeem all the time I have (Ephesians 5:16). I have some judgments to make every day and it is not always immediately obvious what is the right course of action. I'm learning not to be legalistic in all this, but we know that there is no progress without discipline.

I've just come back from Denmark and we again met with my friend about whom I told you after my summer visit there. This time I also met his wife. It really is so rare that one meets fellow believers hungry for the truth. I have again come back refreshed through this fellowship. We met twice and spent a few hours speaking about the word of God. I have heartily recommended them to start reading Ichthys and watch Bible Academy videos and I hope they will commence soon. They have been listening to Pastor Chris, I think it's Chris Oyakhilome, the Nigerian pastor of a worldwide ministry. I have doubts about him. It would be great if you could say a prayer for them that they might grow in the truth through scriptural teaching.

In Him,

Response #14: 

It's my great pleasure. I have been keeping your friend and his wife in my prayers since you mentioned them to me – I will certainly continue to do so.

In regard to "the Sabbath day in the Old Testament as used for reading the scripture", here is what Paul said in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia after the reading of the Law and the Prophets on the Sabbath day:

"For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him."
Acts 13:27 NKJV

And here is what James says at the so-called "Jerusalem Council":

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Acts 15:21 NKJV

We also see that there was a pattern of reading and teaching the scriptures in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Jesus' day, and this was most certainly based upon the application of the Law in His time (Lk.4:15-21; cf. Matt.4:23; 9:35; 12:9; 13:54; Mk.1:21; 1:39; 3:1; 6:2; Lk.4:44; 6:6; 13:10 Jn.6:59; 18:20); and this "synagogue as teaching venue" can also be seen in Acts (*Acts 9:20; 13:5; 13:14ff. [Sabbath specifically mentioned]; 13:27; 14:1; 15:21; *17:1ff. [Sabbath specifically mentioned]; 17:10; 17:17; *18:4 [Sabbath specifically mentioned]; 18:19; 18:26; 19:8).

In regard to the Old Testament in particular, we find this in the Law:

"Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation."
Leviticus 23:3 NKJV

So assembly on the Sabbath was part of the picture, and for what purpose would people assembly on this day set apart by the Lord if not to hear His Word? That certainly jibes with the picture we find in place in the gospels and Acts. It is also the case that the reading of the Law was enjoined for certain festivals – which took place on special Sabbaths (e.g., Deut.31:10-13; cf. Josh.8:34-35). Ezra chapters eight through nine gives us one such special occasion; while 2nd Chronicles 17:7-9 relates Jehoshaphat's commissioning of teachers to be sent throughout the land – and when would they be teaching except on the Sabbath?

So you are right to wonder about this; the Old Testament mostly just assumes that such is the case (i.e., reading the Bible and teaching the truth on the Sabbath). Teaching the truth was required (Lev.10:11; Deut.33:10; Ez.7:10:7), and the Sabbath, in "holy convocation", was the one time where it could be done regularly (although the truth was to be on this holy people's lips at all times; e.g., Deut.6:7; 11:19).

"For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge,
And people should seek the law from his mouth;
For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts."
Malachi 2:7 NKJV

As to your study regime in preparation for ministering the Word, all I can say is that I am most impressed by your prodigious efforts. I don't think I could have done this sort of thing when I was preparing. Maybe I had more time to waste than you do – the time is short – but what you are accomplishing is worthy of note regardless. I know that you are doing this for the Lord, and I know that He honors all such sacrifice. I have no doubts but that He has something very special in mind for you.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello Professor,

It certainly is a race now that I started to write some answers myself. Days are very short and I really have to make the best use of every hour. As you wrote, discipline is important, but so is the flexibility. I have now been somewhat disappointed about Meyer a number of times, because in places of difficulty he displays that his faith in the scripture is not absolute and some interpretations proceed from a low view of inspiration. And his commentary is a huge investment of time. I'm still working to gauge the right ratio between consulting resources such as his so that I do get some new insights (and I did get some from original language commentaries) and not wasting time on some pointless scholarly debates. Your prayers here would be greatly appreciated.

In all this, I am however very grateful to God for picking me up out of what was a difficult period which lasted quite long. I know trials await though, but I am happy, Professor.

I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

Would recommend any Greek Grammar textbooks apart from the one I've been using - "Reading Greek"? This is because once a week, or even a fortnight, I thought I would spend an hour or so on grammar revision. When it comes to the textbook knowledge, I feel good and and I don't encounter many problems when reading the scripture in Greek. But I like to keep all the forms and rules fresh in my mind and there are some which really need some repetition (ἵστημι with all its forms is a good example). Let me know if you think that's an advisable course of action (I know you also recommended other ancient Greek readings to progress the Greek) and if there are any resources you'd recommend.

I responded to two recent questions and I'm sending these attached. The one on salvation just shows how people can attend a service for 50 years of their life and not know the basic truths and in this case - how one is saved.

The other is on Exodus 22:29 and I've got two questions there. Firstly, not all commentators agree that the firstborn animals were to be sacrificed (this is what Numbers 18:17-18 seems to state). According to some these animals were just to be given to the Levites for their service and sustenance.

Secondly, as for the monetary value of the redemption price, was it to be given to the Levites? What I'm also unsure about is whether the term "Levite" and "priest" were used interchangeably? Is the same group referred to when either of the two is used?

In our Lord,

Response #15: 

Very well done, my friend.

As to priests and Levites, there is a distinction with the priests (descendants of Aaron only) receiving particular benefits that other Levites do not receive (e.g., Lev.5:13; 6:26; 6:29; 7:6; 7:8-9; 7:14; 7:31 [n.b., correct translation: not "but" but "so that"]; Lev..7:32; 7:34-35; 22:14; 23:10; 23:20; 27:21; Num.6:20; 31:29; Deut.5:9-10; 18:3; 18:28; Josh21:4; 21:13).

As to the redemption money itself, we find in Exodus:

"You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves."
Exodus 30:16 NASB

So while many offerings went directly to the priests (and some of the tithes went to all the Levites), this money went for "the service of the tabernacle".

Keep up the good work, my friend! I'm keeping your dad in my prayers.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

As for the redemption price - were these not two different redemptions - one for the firstborn (Numbers 3:40-51, 18:15-17) and the other for the census, which you're referring to in Exodus 30:16?

Response #16: 

You are correct about the redemption for the firstborn being a separate valuation from the census money which is for all (on that occasion)

Question #17: 

Are there any good books you can recommend to me to help strengthen my knowledge of the word? V/r

Response #17: 

It depends on the specific objective. Also, it would be helpful to know what you feel your spiritual gifts are and what your plan is to prepare to use them.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

I actually want to get stronger in my Hebrew and Greek. I truly believe it will definitely help me get stronger in bridging the gaps.

What about "The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Unabridged 2-Volume… by Ludwig Koehler?

Response #18: 

On Hebrew and Greek, the Lexicon you mention is not the best (in my opinion); but in any case, reading the Bible in the original languages is definitely a blessing and it opens up many things. However, it also takes most people many years of consistent effort to get to the point of being able to do this with any facility. Where are you at in your Greek and Hebrew? These are essential tools for a prospective pastor-teacher, if that is you goal. The best way to get better at any ancient language is to read more and more of it more and do so ever more consistently. The best way to grow spiritually is to access more and more truth from a good teaching ministry (the only exception being a man who is gifted as a teacher, have prepared himself to teach, and has gotten to the point of being able to feed himself and others through ministry). Believing that truth consistently and making every effort to apply it in life is also important. Also, the more time spent in Bible reading, in prayer, and in deliberate application of the truth and the divine viewpoint to one's life are key elements in developing a closer walk with the Lord. He is our peace and He is our joy, but to live that way requires prior growth and consistency in aggressively applying the truth we know and believe to all of our life circumstances.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Professor, I currently use my Strong's Concordance to search out Greek and Hebrew meaning of words. I've taken one Greek class and in Jan. I starting my second. I have a few hundred books dealing with prophecies and the Old Testament. I'm working on having my own voice. I have studied the majority of all of your teachings and have be fluid in most of them. If you haven't noticed I don't ask as many questions as I used to. I have been in the word since I was five and after coming across your ministry I know it was God's providence. I'm not ashamed to say that I sit at the feet of an anointed teacher. Your teachings have truly helped me bridge a great deal of gaps in my own personal wisdom and knowledge of the Word. Once again, thank you for your obedience and sacrifice.

Your humble student and brother in Christ! V/r

Response #19: 

Thanks much for you good words, my friend. I'm not exactly sure what an anointed teacher is, but it sounds pretty good. God uses us all through the Spirit He has given to us all, and we all serve the Lord Jesus through the ministries He has ordained for us (whatever those may be).

I am very encouraged by the fact that you are getting rapidly to the point of being able to feed yourself and others, and consider it quite an honor that you find this ministry worthy of being your spiritual base, so to speak. I am always pleased to hear from you and to help you any way I can, and I very much look forward to seeing you come into your own teaching ministry, the one which Christ has ordained for you from eternity past.

Keep fighting this good fight – there is great reward therein.

In Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep.

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hi Bob,

Why is Evangelical teaching so terrible these days?! Everything is all confused and incoherent, and nobody really knows anything. People debate over stupid nonsense (cessationalism and continuationalism being a great example) and treat the truth like it's something banal like public policy.


Response #20: 

I certainly agree. All the more reason for dedicated Christians like yourself who see the problem and hear the call to become as prepared as possible as soon as possible to do what Christ has called you to do.

Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
John 4:35b NKJV

Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Luke 10:2 NKJV (cf. Matt.9:38)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hello Professor,

I thought that it may now be a time to draw a strategic plan for the study and ministry preparation. It is a new chapter. Your input in all the areas listed will, as always, be greatly appreciated.

I Prayer

Your insight as to how to deal with this will be greatly appreciated. I'm not sure if I should pray for everyone every day, or keep those most important for me in my daily supplication and decrease the frequency of prayer for others. Maybe sometimes one should just say a genuine prayer for something or for someone and then leave it there, rather than add all the intentions to the prayer repeated daily. I don't want it to be a meaningless repetition out of a sense of guilt. A long list of the same prayers expressed with the same words can lead to where I have found myself.

II Study

1. Bible reading

1a. Old Testament

I decided to go through the whole Keil and Delitzsch commentary, but going through some parts of it is not the best use of time - as you did tell me a while ago. Here also, once I have started, I would feel guilty not to go through the note for each verse. I thought the plan could be to go through all the NIV SB notes, they are not too long and do saturate the reading and then to consult Keil and Delitzsch when I encounter a difficulty or to help answer a question already noted.

1b. New Testament

Giving up going through every note by Meyer has been a progress too. Here I follow a similar pattern, only I read the New Testament always in the Greek. Then NIV SB, then Meyer or others - as needed. Otherwise I could spent a couple of hours on a couple of verses and didn't establish any flow and rhythm to the reading and the whole exercise was done in the spirit described above, which doesn't bear much good fruit.

2. Languages

I plan to do some of the Greek readings you recommended (all the books arrived now) maybe once a week, to keep the Greek moving forward. As for Hebrew, not sure what you recommend. Here, however, I have to say I feel quite good. Reading a chapter daily has been going well and I haven't been encountering real difficulties recently.

3. Textual Criticism

This is where I may need some more guidance. Since I read Metzger I haven't invested time into this. What should I do to progress further? Where can I get a better idea on using critical notes?

4. Theology

Here I've got your resources and books you recommended, like Guthrie. Curt's ministry has now also become an important part of my daily Christian walk and if I'm not reading, I'm listening to his videos - they've been most helpful.

5. Ancient history

Another neglected area. I'm not sure how I can fit it, but I suppose I will have to.

III Ministry

This is where I have been investing quite a lot of time recently, but I need to keep growing myself for the teachings to develop. Any insights, Professor, will be most helpful. Overall, not only I'm now working to use the time better as there is always room for improvement.

Time is short - one senses it. And now that I am beginning to enter the production phase on a very small scale, I don't want any of the sheep being starved. And, what sometimes seems impossible, I have to simply commit more time to it all, there is a lot to study and now writing and resources preparation also take up the time. I have seen it before, though - we put the Lord first and time somehow will be found.

In our Lord,

Response #21: 

First let me emphasize what I have probably said many times before, namely, that there is no "one size fits all" plan for such things. Even if there were something like that, circumstances change, and, in fact, everything is always changing – except for the principles of truth. So as long as we are operating on the basis of the truth, the details are of less importance. There may be a million variations on "the right way" to do things, individually considered, but it is as I tell my students: we still have to stay away from the billions and trillions of wrong ways.

On prayer, I know what you are saying. Being determined to be scrupulous about a commitment we have made and not feeling good about letting down on it in any way is not a bad thing – just as long as our follow-through does not lead us to ridiculous and harmful extremes (e.g., missing a flight or being late for work because we are not yet finished with our prayer). We are not perfect and we are not going to get to perfection in this life. That is not an excuse to let down in the important area of prayer; it is a reminder that we can't let the lack of perfection in our method undermine our attitude or our approach. If we are doing something wrong, we should stop it. If we are doing something that might be improved upon, we should improve it. If we are not doing what should be doing, we should start doing it and try to continue doing it no matter what – recognizing that there will be times when we in our imperfection do not do all we have purposed to do or do not do it in a way in which there is no room for second-guessing. But we cannot allow these instances where our "feet of clay" are revealed to have a disastrous and counterproductive effect arising from needless over-reaction. Or to put it a bit more simply, prayer, like anything else, has to be kept in balance and in perspective: we need to fight this part of the fight as best we can each day even though as with all other aspects of our struggle in this world we will be doing an imperfect job, and we shouldn't abandon our approach just because it's not perfect . . . since there is no such thing as a perfect approach (and if we feel we have arrived at one we no doubt have a problem we don't realize we have).

On study and languages, time is the most valuable resource we have, and in our imperfection we are never going to be perfect in its utilization. That being the case, we need to make the most of the time and energy we do get around to deploying as effectively as possible in this cause in which we are engaged. Anything we learn is valuable. Some things are more valuable than others. The Bible itself is the most valuable thing, and, particularly, the truth it contains and the means of digging it out. I would start with scripture and build outward rather than starting with the tools and helps which may illuminate it and heading inward. I have always found that reading the Bible is the best of the best. I get a great deal out of reading it in English (OT and NT) and I get a great deal out of reading it in Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic – although there's not too much of this and BA is very similar to BH). We are all different. Reading commentaries occasionally pays dividends. Reading scripture itself pays more. But of course we have to have some exposure to other things.

On textual criticism, you could do worse than spending some time in Metzger's other book, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, or at least in reading his articles about alternative readings whenever you notice these while your reading your Greek NT (I have probably mentioned this before). For Greek and Hebrew both, it's good to try to get into the habit of checking the apparatus criticus as you read through. I would resist making it a matter of pride always to follow up every note (for one thing, most of the notes are of no great import; for another, there often aren't notes in important places where they should occur). Getting used to the notations is something that takes practice – like nearly everything else.

On ancient history, you have a lot on your plate. We've talked about bibliography before. I don't know if you do any leisure reading – since it doesn't sound as if you're leaving yourself any time for that whatsoever – but relaxing with a good book about some topic in ancient history is not a bad method for gradually getting into the flow of it. Also, I don't know whether or not I've ever recommended before Paul Harvey' Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, but that is an excellent book both for reading through item by item (and skipping whatever one thinks is superfluous) but also for looking up certain aspects of the Greek and Roman world, including historical events. Other helpful books to "get the feel" include Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Davis' A Day in Old Athens, and Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life. There are endless books to read and – I don't know about you but certainly in my case – it's not that easy to remember all of the details of what one has read. So what we are trying to do with some study of ancient history is precisely what we are trying to do with some study of church history, namely, to get a basic frame of reference to aid our perspective on these things. It may be (and in the early going probably will be) the case that when we come upon a passage wherein history/culture/the contemporary secular world will illuminate the meaning, we will find ourselves doing some research in any case. Getting a bit of a background may only serve to alert us that "something is out there", but that is definitely a positive thing. Again, if the objective is not to be an ancient historian, we are back to the issue of time again, especially for those like yourself who have jobs . . . and ministries.

Speaking of which, I am very encouraged by your attitude, that of a kind and responsible shepherd, of wishing to make sure that no one who is at all dependent upon you goes hungry for spiritual nutrition as far as you are able to provide it and they willing to accept it. That is the proper attitude, and therein is great reward from the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. If we only had "one thing to do", perhaps it would be a simple or at least a simpler matter. Having to balance between job, ministry and continuing preparation is a challenge, but it does make life fun and interesting – as long as we are approaching things with the correct attitude. We are never going to be perfect about that either, but we can improve day by day.

In short, I'm not "the Judge", but as far as I can tell you are doing a wonderful job. We can always do better, but for those like yourself who are by nature very disciplined, hard-working and scrupulous to a fault, there is also the danger of hewing too far to that side of the road. I find it refreshing, because in my experience most other people I have met (students in particular but also Christians) have the opposite tendency, namely, of skewing too far to the lackadaisical side of the road. The main thing I suppose I would want to add, therefore, is to encourage you to find the joy in all of this on each and every "front" on which you are fighting on each and every day. I also know from experience that keeping one's eyes on the Lord is very helpful for that – in fact it is essential.

Finally, the Lord certainly knows what your experiences are, and He is of course preparing you for the particular ministry He has in mind – indeed, you are already engaging in it. I very much look forward to following your work.

Keep running your race well, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Yes, I know you always emphasise individual application and it's something that I really appreciate. At a time of asking I sometimes wish it was as easy as you saying - "do this and this and don't do that and that" - but I know this is not how things work. In hindsight though, I see not only how we can get things right if we are guided by the Spirit and rightly motivated, but also - how much damage the legalistic approach does in false religions like Catholicism when one is corseted into a set of dead regulations which are then externally enforced. It is a sad joke to share, but I still cannot help but smile at the absurd of someone murmuring a dead prayer like "Hail Mary" on an occasion like Christmas and looking carefully at everyone else to check if they are following loudly enough, being ready to snipe and correct those not zealous enough. Church police. A real comedy.

1. As for the prayer - I understand your points and will be applying them. I want to pray for all those close to me and particularly those who search for the truth and want to grow in it, but there are others also, who are yet to open their hearts. I always start with the former and will keep those daily, as for others - I will just do as much as I can do with the right focus. The rest I can maybe do a bit less frequently than every day.

2. As for the Bible reading - I agree with what you wrote and this is why all morning is devoted to it.

3. On Textual criticism - I will get this book immediately. A technical question - when was the last edition published? I see some 1995 editions. Not sure if these are just reprints or maybe some content has been updated.

4. On Ancient History - understood. And it's this background understanding that I need to get now. Admittedly, I've not had any time for leisure reading, but I may create a slot for this type of study on one day a week. Then my plan was to go through Cary and Scullard's "History of Rome" and Hammond's "History of Greece"..

Finally, just a couple more questions on resources.

1) Perhaps the time is ripe for me to invest in BDAG, which I haven't done so far. OliveTree, from where I've been making all my Bible software purchases, has an offer for BDAG bundled with HALOT. Have you used HALOT yourself? Is it a resource worth investing in? I've got BDB and I have put it to use, but given the discount I could get HALOT too.

Software versions are more expensive, but I think it might still be the right move for me, given that I used the BibleStudy Application from them daily and I have to say - it has been very good. It's well designed, makes searches quicker than browsing through a book, copying and pasting is also much quicker.

2) I also want to add the translation I have been reading a lot and got somewhat used it - NASB - to my application. There is a version with Strong's numbers and with a Concordance Would you recommend either? Or both?

In our Lord,

Response #22: 

On Metzger, there is a second edition. I use the first edition (1971 / 75) and am well-satisfied with it. The only time I was made aware of a difference, I recall that the newer edition had reversed itself on a particular point I can't now remember – only that they got it wrong in the revision "correcting" what was right (in my view).

On ancient history, as mentioned I would suggest approaching this as a leisure activity. Personally, I find it "fun", so that whichever of these wonderful books you own you spend some time in, you should find it both profitable and enjoyable. Another title to share with you is The Oxford Classical Dictionary, another wonderful resource for when, for example, you are reading along in CAH and something is mentioned you'd like to know more about. OCD is now in its 4th edition. I have a copy of the second and the third, and I like the second better (don't know much about the 4th). One other very fine resource which may be quite difficult to find in print is Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (see the link for an online version of which there are several – I highly recommend getting familiar with it).

As to Koehler-Baumgartner (aka HALOT), I have a copy of the first edition. It was quite pricey even when I bought it many decades ago now, but I have always been very disappointed with it. I don't know how many thousands of dollars it would cost to get the current five volume set in print, but I can assure you it's not worth it. I see there is an electronic option for around $200. I think that is a waste as well. I don't know what KB (now KBS++) has to offer that BDB does not except for additional, speculative cross-references to usage in other Semitic languages. That is a dubious method for informing vocabulary study in any case, and mostly unnecessary given that the size of the OT as a corpus and the ancient witnesses to it (the LXX and Vulgate are at least as helpful as what some root may or may not mean in Arabic – and BDB has some of that as well). I couldn't recommend it.

Finally, the NASB concordance I have (ed. R.L. Thomas, one of my teachers at Talbot many years ago) has proved to be worth its weight in gold, especially in the early going in refining my Hebrew. It is keyed to a dictionary in the back so that on those occasions when BDB stumps one's efforts to look up a word, cross-referencing in the NASB concordance will yield the answer – and even the BDB page number! So, yes, this would be a good buy in my view.

What I have found over the years, as I've no doubt said before, is that reference books are always potentially valuable, and much more so than commentaries and the like. Concordances, of the NT and OT, and also of Greek and Hebrew texts as well as of some English version, have proved to be among the best tools I possess. That is because they are so useful in finding comparison passages for the same or similar vocabulary when one is trying to puzzle out the exact meaning of a passage. Ultimately, the context where a word appears is the best evidence for its specific meaning, and similar contexts are very helpful in sorting that out, if one can find them.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Greetings Dr. Luginbill,

Many blessings to you my dear brother. I wanted to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Also, if you don't mind, I would like to take this time to express my immense gratitude for all the help you have given me over the course of our correspondence relationship, as well as the kind and generous spirit is which you have done so. I don't have to tell you (though I will) how much of a blessing you have been in my life and how much your friendship has meant to me. I don't really tell this, but, to be honest, I have had to fight different insecurities much of my life, often feeling inadequate due to certain physical challenges, learning challenges, issues with self-discipline in certain areas of my life, not to mention fears that God will ultimately be displeased with my life or that I will be ashamed before Him when he returns because I have never done anything important for Him. In short, I have often felt like a loser - spiritually, soul and body. You've probably had your fair share of "battles" or "discouragements" too, huh? Over time I have come to better understand that most, if not all, of that stuff has come from the evil one, and the kingdom of darkness, hoping to throw me off the divine course, so to speak. Yet, even in the midst of such battles or discouragements, when all hope seems lost, it is then that I find strength and comfort in my relationship with the Lord and in the promise of His Word! I grew up "hearing" about, but now have "seen" through experience, the power of the Word of God to transform one's entire life. As the Scripture says, "Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?", or "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." That's not to say that there haven't been severe or intense battles, indeed there have been! Yet, the Lord has "delivered me from the mouth of the lion" each time, and I know that I couldn't have lasted if He was not there beside me, strengthening me through them all!

I tell you these things because, in addition to the fact that I have come to trust you by virtue of our friendship (whatever degree it may be), I also firmly believe that the Lord brought you into my life to be a help to me along the "journey", not the least of which has been the fact that you, my friend, have been used by the King of kings as a choice carpentry tool in the fashioning of another "creation story", a labor that will certainly not go unnoticed by the Almighty. You may never know, until we both stand before the King, how much your friendship and kindness have meant to me, and what an impact they have made in my life, not to mention the fact that through your kindness to me you have been able to impact others. I will be the first to admit, I am not a highly educated person (as the poor grammar of my letters often evidences), however, I do love the Lord Jesus will all my heart and I seek to glorify Him and uphold the Word of God, if perhaps I may have some treasure to give Him on that Day. I understand that we may not always agree on certain matters, however, all of the time you have invested in my life (however inconsequential), answering questions, helping me better understand things, and/or correcting misunderstandings, has not been wasted. I'll admit, I am not always able to re-verbalize in eloquent or sophisticated speech the things I have learned, however, I take such matters seriously and I try to the best of my ability to stay faithful to what I learn, that is to say, I do not intentionally twist facts for selfish gain or self glorification.

Many times, when I recall the goodness of God toward me, or even when I am facing discouragement, I have been reminded of the rich blessings I have been given by the hand of the Lord Jesus. I am reminded what a blessing it is to have life, loving parents, family, friends, health, food, water, clothing, etc. I am also mindful of the blessing of having the opportunity to know you, having the chance to correspond with you, learn from you, and hopefully develop a friendship of sorts. Now, let me say, I am under no delusion, I understand that we are not "long lost buddies" who have know one another for 20 years. Yet, even so, I want you to know (for my part) that I do consider you a dear friend, as well as a God ordained blessing in my life. I am genuinely concerned for your welfare, and that of your family, and my hope is that you will accomplish your mission for the Lord, ultimately bearing fruit for Him and hearing those words, "well done my good a faithful servant, come and share your Master's happiness!" Suffice it to say, I hope I have not bored you, nor inconvenienced you, with my long speech. I just wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude to you, and to tell you (not in a weird way) that I love you and your family, and I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!!!

May the grace, mercy and peace of the LORD be with you and your, may your Faith be strong!

Response #23: 

I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving day as well, and I want you to know that I am keeping you in my prayers too. I am confident that the Lord has a mission for you, and that He is in the process of preparing you to do it. Persistence such as you evince and the clear love you have for the Lord and His Word are clearly prerequisites for hearing that "well done" on that great day of days. So I want to encourage you to keep growing in the truth day by day, keep applying that truth in your walk with the Lord up the high road to Zion, and keep making use of the opportunities you are presented with to minister that truth to others. In days to come, it may be that there will be many such opportunities, coming in ways and places not expected as we get ever closer to the end. Being prepared for what is coming is so very important, and putting oneself in a position to be of benefit to the Church of Jesus Christ in the service of its Head our Lord will no doubt turn out to be a very profitable thing to have done – and for all eternity too.

Thanks so much for these extremely kind words, my friend – and I do consider you my good friend in Jesus Christ our Lord. Know that they are greatly appreciated (Ps.115:1)!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Hi Bob,

I never noticed before that Jonah had a rather elaborate prayer in chapter 2.


Response #24: 

Good for you – both that you are noticing more things and that you are reading scripture aggressively as to be able to do so. As you prepare for the ministry the Lord has for you, this is a critical part of that preparation. It is so important to have some idea of what is actually in the Bible – as opposed to common perceptions of what is "in the Bible" and as opposed to teachings which may or may not be biblical or, even if they are, are not framed in terms of the language the Bible actually uses. All that has to be straightened out before a man can really minister in a way that is truly valuable to the Church of Jesus Christ.

So keep up the good work, my friend!

Best wishes for a solid and rewarding end of semester and Christmas with your family.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Isa 54:7; 54:17

These passages from Isaiah really inspires hope and comfort that the Lord is on your side.

I wish you and your family a merry Christmas

Response #25: 

Thank you!

This last one is a verse which has also been much on my mind of late. If we are truly serving God, He is not going to let anything or anyone stay us from doing what He wants done. All the more reason to serve Him as best we can, "unworthy servants" though we may be (Lk.17:10).

Merry Christmas to you and your family too, my friend!

Keep me posted.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Good morning Bob and family,

I hope this email finds you well and I would first like to take the opportunity of wishing you and yours the very best for Christmas. It’s just a shame that it is celebrated for the wrong reasons, without giving one thought to Jesus, the very one who has given us so much by His unselfish actions in winning our salvation. I can never express in words how I feel about this, there just aren’t any words that can explain how I feel.

For a while now I feel that God has been laying on my heart to do something for Him and I’m unsure at the moment exactly what it is that He wants me to do but as time goes by I’m confident He will reveal it. I think He is preparing the ground and I’m beginning to get an idea of what it is and I’ll keep praying about it as I know the answer will come. I just hope I’m able to perform whatever it is.

When I first found your works, I guess a couple of years ago now, I must admit I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the Bible as I thought I was – knowledge and understanding are two different things, knowledge of something is usually related to knowing it in your head, the sum of things learned but understanding is much deeper and relates to grasping the meaning of knowledge gathered – knowing why it is so. And ichthys has been a wonderful help in that understanding and when I first started reading it, I began in the Coming Tribulation series, simply because I wanted to know when ... and I went on to all the Peter’s epistles which are so good and I re-visit them many times over. Now I am reading the Satanic Rebellion and I’m part way through Satan’s world system and I realise that I should have started in this series first as there is so much learning and grounding there, nevertheless I am enjoying it immensely. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I am so thankful and grateful to God first for raising a man like you Bob and to you second for devoting your life to this work – I have grown closer to Him through your efforts and I cannot thank you enough. I truly wish more will find it.

Something that happened yesterday that gave me concern and that is that I couldn’t access ichthys from my favourites pages; I kept getting a window saying it couldn’t be accessed for some reason, so I tried to open it up on Google but I got the same message. Fortunately all is ok now but thinking on it further I thought about when the days finally arrive I’m sure that there will be many who will want to take ichthys down and I’m sure you’ve thought about that possibility and that you may be arrested but I know you will accept that and it may be my fate too. Whatever happens I hope and pray that God will preserve you and that ichthys will have free course in the world and that others are drawn to Him through it.

I’ll keep this short for now Bob as I know you burn a lot of midnight oil but I’ll look forward to meeting you face to face and when we both see Him together.

As always dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #26: 

Thanks so much for your heartfelt Christmas greeting, my friend! It's a tonic to me at this time. I always appreciate it when believers respond to the truth, and it is a sheer pleasure to see when they grow in it as you have clearly done.

As to your question, I do have somewhat of a "succession plan" in place should I meet with an errant bus or something of that sort. When it comes to the Tribulation, there are so many things we can't predict or specifically prepare for, it seems to me that we are invited by the very nature of the coming circumstances to leave that sort of thing mostly in God's hands (along the lines of Lk.12:11ff.). What I always advise believers who are concerned about this sort of thing to do is to download the Ichthys archives in toto: the more positive believers who have this material safe and sound and "off the grid", the more likely that they can be disseminated in one way or another in the future by means and in circumstances that cannot yet be anticipated.

Hope you had a great Christmas – wishing you a very happy new year (and a joyful one in the Lord too)!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

It has been a little while since we last spoke to one another. I wanted to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and also a Happy New Year to come. I would also like to take a moment to express my gratitude to you for your continued friendship, generosity of time, willingness to answer my sometimes novice or lengthy inquires, and finally the joy and encouragement it has brought to me over that time. As I have expressed to you at various time in the past, your influence in my life has been very important, and I truly believe that our blessed Lord, King Jesus, Whose incarnation and birth we celebrate this season, divinely orchestrated the crossing of our paths. I was just saying to someone yesterday how I consider myself so blessed to some of the unique individuals I have had the chance to know (in any capacity). I am humbled, and drawn to give thanks to our great Prince, when I consider that He allowed me to be one of the folks who had the opportunity to know you in this life. To me, who am of the very least, of a most insignificant and lowly disposition, has this grace and blessing been granted. It just goes to show that the Lord’s ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. As the heavens are high above the earth, so the vastness of His wisdom and understanding are above that of mankind. HIS is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, unto the ages of the ages, world without end.

I also wanted to remind you, though I trust you know this already, that your intellectual and relational investment in me has not been wasted. I am a rather outspoken person (in a good way) and I’m always glad to help others with the things I myself have come to learn form others, either directly or indirectly. As the Scripture says, “freely you have received, freely give.”

Suffice it to say, I don’t want to take up too much of your time as I’m sure you will want to spend your Christmas time with your family and friends, I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts and say “thank you so very much” for all of your help and your friendship. You are a blessing my brother and I myself am blessed to know you. May you, your family, and your friends have a blessed Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may you each experience the peace and joy of the Lord! May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and yours!

Love and blessings from your humble brother in Christ Jesus,

Response #27: 

Thanks so much for your heartfelt Christmas greeting, my friend! Please know that I value your friendship in Christ as well, and am very gratified to know that our time spent together has been a blessing to you – it has been to me as well.

I'm also very happy to learn that you are continuing to mull over the issue of ministry, and I keep you in daily prayer on that issue.

Hope you had a great Christmas – wishing you a very happy new year as well!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Dear Brother Bob,

Holiday greetings from the Philippines!

May the Lord God Almighty continue to bless, protect and prosper you and your Bible teaching ministry.

You and our brethren in Ichthys are in my prayers, my dear brother. Thank you for your ministry and prayers and also those of our brethren in Ichthys - I feel I would not have made it this far were it not for them (It is a spiritually tough year for me).

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

Your brother in Jesus Christ our Savior,

Response #28: 

Thank you my friend!

I appreciate so much for your heartfelt Christmas greeting. Thank you also so much for your prayers – they mean a great deal to me.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas. I wish you a very happy and joyful 2017 in the Lord too!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

How's your health?

I can't trust anybody except you, and I realized that if you die I probably will be unable to feed myself, spiritually speaking.

Response #29: 

I remember one Master Sgt. in the Corps who once had a clerk who was aces and then some. This clerk knew it all and did it all and did it all fast and first rate. Time came for reenlistment and said clerk was a little surprised that the "Top" hadn't given him the hard sell; finally as the deadline approached he worked up the nerve to ask him why he wasn't begging him to reenlist. Top took the clerk into his office and showed him a glass of water sitting on the desk with a pencil in it. "See that pencil?" he asked. "That pencil is you." Then Top took the pencil out. The glass was still there. The water was still in the glass. The water level had not changed to any visually perceptible degree. Then he said, "This glass of water is us without you". Obvious moral of the story – proven in every organization over and over again since time immemorial – no one is indispensable. And it's very dangerous for everyone, the person him/herself or anyone in the organization, to take a different view.

"And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
Matthew 3:9 NASB

The sentiment is appreciated, however.

I have great hopes for you and for the ministry the Lord will call you to one day. So please do keep your spiritual advance as your top priority, even though you obviously have a lot going on in your life. In the end, spiritual growth, progress and production (impossible at a high level without the other two), are the only things that really matter in this life. Everything else is just noise and distraction.

p.s., my health is pretty good – but there's always that errant bus.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2017, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30: 

If nobody is indispensable, then the reverse must be true also: nobody is nonredeemable either. Anybody, no matter how long they have been resisting the Lord, might be given an important place in his ministry the moment they repent.

"Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God." (Joel 2:14)

Response #30: 

It's true – only after death is the ability to choose for God gone forever.

Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
Ecclesiastes 9:4 NIV

Question #31: 

Dear Professor,

I wanted to wish you a slightly belated happy new year!

I visited family back in Malta over the Christmas period and just returned this week. My brother and I planned it so that we were there together. Unfortunately, as it has been the case ever since I came to saving faith, there are many hardened hearts to contend with. This however was all outshone by my brother - his discipline, enthusiasm and thirst for the Word was nothing but inspirational to me. Whenever we go home we always make sure we train hard and we tend to spur each other on. This time, it was not only the physical training but also the spiritual. This was a great encouragement to me personally, especially in the midst of the futility of our family gatherings. We would always walk away from them speaking about truth. My heart always weighs heavily whenever the time comes for me to catch the plane home. I see my close relatives around twice a year. I always leave yearning for their salvation but at the same time motivated to work towards my eventual production in ministry that may one day be for their salvation.

In the last few months it has been dawning upon me all the more how time is short and that the Lord has graciously gifted me, as He has done to us all who are in Christ. I am eager to produce, and my self-discipline is slowly getting better. I chopped away a few weeds in recent months (Mat.18:8) in an effort to reduce worldly entanglement and start meditating upon truth more regularly throughout the day (Psalm 1). One of these major tentacles was actually social media - I’ve cut off all ties from it and it has really been liberating. I am starting to realise the blessings of also living ‘single’ as Paul points out (1Cor.7:32). At the same time I am not oblivious to the numerous temptations that come along with it and these continue to be a battle. At the moment though I just cannot imagine having someone else in my life due to the fact that my time is so finite and any spare time that I do have I want to spend it growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Work continues to be challenging and I feel that undoubtedly this is my daily personal tribulation. It is a perverse environment full of corrupt people and I just don’t feel comfortable there. I am grateful to be in a prestigious position where I can have a full-time job and to be able to afford food and shelter, but I definitely cannot be doing this all the days of my life because of its interference on my spiritual growth and potential production. Time is ticking. I am keeping this in prayer Professor and seeking both guidance and discernment from the Lord.

I am currently coming to the end of Part 5 of Satanic Rebellion series - it has truly been a wonderful study and has enlightened so many aspects of truth for me. Thank you. I praise God for the way in which He has used you and also the manner in which you have made yourself available for use.

All glory be to God,

Response #31: 

Thanks for the update! It is greatly appreciated.

I'm very happy to hear about you and your brother being so gung-ho for the Word of God! I certainly encourage you both to persevere in this noble course – therein lies great eternal reward.

I do hope and pray for you and him too that you will be able to find just the right niche to maximize spiritual growth and, when the time comes, begin to engage in daily ministry yourselves. What niche is best is hard to say. I can tell you that you will doubtless never find a place that is spiritually wonderful. This is the devil's world, after all. That is why Paul says about the impossibility of avoiding unbelievers who are far from honorable "you would need to go out of the world" to do so (1Cor.5:10 NKJV). Still, some places, situations, professions are better than others in this regard and some are worse. I would only counsel you to avoid a time-consuming and ordained-to-fail quest to find a "perfect" situation – that energy is much better spent making the best of what the Lord has given you here and now. Change is sometimes good, of course, and only the Lord really knows what is better or can bring that change about in a spiritually healthy way. So rely on Him in all you intend to do and you won't go wrong (Ps.37:5).

Please pass along my good wishes to your brother too. I keep both of you in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32: 

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your prayers for our friends. It is a difficult time and a real test of trust, as it is impossible to know where the deliverance can come from. Until late last year they had been getting their teaching from the ministry of pastor Chris Oyakhilome and having done some research on him, I recognised serious issues with lack of scriptural depth, emotionalism and false teachings such as prosperity gospel. He says what people want to hear - and we know that those who desire the truth are few - and has gained a large following as a result. They have now begun to do some Bible study together using Bible Academy (link) and are growing. I hope and pray that it continues. I know that your studies would be challenging for them for language reasons, particularly but I know they can overcome these. They are both highly intelligent people and although I recognised early his zeal, I now also see that her quiet intelligence and perspicacity definitely lend themselves to a ministry in the future.

You are in my prayers daily, both your spiritual and earthly commitments.

In our Lord,

Response #32: 

The wolves greatly outnumber the true shepherds these days, and those shepherds who are actually doing their job out of a genuine concern for the flock which belongs to the Great Shepherd are really few and far between. All the more reason for us to stay serious and dedicated.

I will be keeping him and your concern in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #33: 

Hello Professor,

You are correct. This is not to say that there are no other such shepherds - there no doubt are at least some scattered around this world - but I personally got to know only you and Curt. And this is also how I feel responsible - some of the sheep in my native country have no source of truth apart from what I write. Unfortunately, some of my friends and close ones don't speak English, so they cannot use your ministry or Bible Academy.

Thank you for your prayers. There is progress in the last few days.

In our Lord,

Response #33: 

It's a lot on your shoulders – but I am sure that they are broad enough (as we say). And at least there is no problem of access in your homeland. I think of all the potential thirst for the Word in China, but of course all Christian sites are blocked by the government there. Still, the Lord provides for everyone who perseveres in the quest for the truth.

So plenty of motivation for us all to keep fighting the fight.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Question #34:  

Hello Bro,

Is sticking to sound doctrine a big deal? As long as one is saved scripturally - that is important. Anyway, in the end all saved people will be gathered in Jesus Christ regardless of what doctrines they believed in while still on earth. Is it not just belaboring in something that in the end will not really matter? Scriptural salvation and sharing the message of the gospel is important most of all.

I would like to know your thoughts based on scriptures about this as most Christians are tired of doctrinal debates or arguments.

Saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone,

Response #34: 

Good to make your acquaintance. One of the biblical texts that provides the phrase upon which your comment is based is the following verse:

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:
Titus 2:1 NKJV

This is Paul speaking to Titus and giving him instructions about how to handle things on Crete. This is a command from an apostle to a pastor-teacher and thus to the whole Church, especially pastor-teachers. However, the phrase "sound doctrine" is better translated "healthy teaching". That is what the word "doctrine" in the Bible means, namely, teaching; and Titus is here commanded to make sure that his teaching is "healthy" – by which Paul means not infected by anything false and also not given to produce any sort of infection of the false in those who hear it. In other words, Titus should teach those who listen to him in a good way, a way that promotes their spiritual welfare, their spiritual growth, their spiritual progress, their spiritual production. That is the plan of God for the Church in a nutshell.

I think I do understand where you are coming from. Whenever I hear the word "doctrine" in traditional Protestant or Evangelical circles, it usually has to do with controversy. That is to say, this word has come to stand for died-in-the-wool denominational positions on many matters which are in fact not important . . . because they are not even really biblical or because they are only tangentially biblical and do more harm than good. Anything which does not actually promote the genuine spiritual edification of the Church is to be avoided. This was also true in the time of the apostles and Paul often warns about stirring up controversies about mere "words" (1Tim.1:4; 3:9; 6:4; 2Tim.2:14). And it seems to me very easy to tell when people are just interested in arguing and debating and not really interested in what the Word of God has to say.

However, while it is absolutely true that being saved is the (first) most important thing, notice that we are not removed from the world after salvation. Why not? Obviously, in order to carry out the Lord's plan for our lives. What is that plan? Specifics vary individual to individual, but the overall plan is the same for every Christian, and it is for that reason that there are teachers in the Church:

(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

The only way we can "attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ" and become "mature" is through hearing, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God; that is the only way in turn for anyone to be prepared to contribute to the "building up" of the Church "in love".

It is most unfortunate that in our day actual concern for everything the Bible really has to say is very unusual in individual Christians and almost unheard of in brick-and-mortar churches (this is the age of Laodicea after all). Arguing about predestination or the filioque clause or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – or indeed arguing about almost anything at all – is not spiritually edifying (we do have to stand up for the truth, however: 1Pet.3:15). In order to please the Lord, a believer must grow to maturity, progress in their walk with Him (passing the tests that come the mature believer's way to refine his/her faith: 1Pet.1:7-9), and help others do the same through whatever ministry the Lord has in mind for them. That is how the crowns of righteousness, life and glory are won, that is the only way to eternal reward (see the link).

So while I agree that there is no point in arguing for the sake of arguing about different paragraph's in one's church's confessional or doctrinal statement with people who just like to debate, that does not mean that giving one's attention to what is actually in the Bible – beyond a superficial level – is wrong. Indeed, it is the one right thing for all believers of every stripe.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105 NKJV

For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
Psalm 138:2 NKJV

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11 NKJV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1 NKJV

There is very much to say about this broad topic (I am in the process of working on a "Basics" posting which will cover the topic in detail, but that is many months away at present), so I will offer you some links here to investigate further, if interested. I also invite you to write me back about any of the above (please understand that this is just a short and to the point response):

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth II

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #35: 

Dear Dr. Bob,

That was a quick reply. Thank you so much for the care for other believers.

What I am confused about is separation from a church made up of believers who are stubborn landmarkers in their landmark teachings (Cotton Grove resolution, historically dishonest "Trail of Blood", and all that) and serving the Lord in a local church, which is the scripturally appointed place of service. How can a Christian minister when the people whom he serves label him as a heretic because he cares so much about respecting God's word by rightly dividing it and thereby correct long-held doctrinal errors? To them it is insulting so they return the favor by calling the "offender" a heretic.

To me, godly living is determined by sound doctrine treasured ("keep"-kjv) and conscientiously lived-out. Now I might fail my God by no longer serving him in a local church by leaving and separating from error. Sad to say that church was my own Kedar and Meschech.

Didn't God built the local church for a place of service and as the pillar and ground of truth? What can a Christian do when despite his service delivered in a godly caring way can't find an assembly who seriously treat the things of God as important?

Thanks a lot for bearing with my whining.

In Jesus Christ to Whom confidence belongs,

Response #35: 

You're very welcome.

I'm not acquainted with your minister, nor your local church, nor your particular denomination/church and it's particular doctrines (e.g., I've never heard of "Cotton Grove resolution" or "trail of blood" before, so they may be unique to your country), but I will say that it is not at all an uncommon thing for a new pastor to run afoul of his congregation by attempting to change things – and particularly if he attempts to change things for the better by actually beginning to teach the Word of God. It is very true that the local church is supposed to be "a pillar and buttress . . . of the truth" (1Tim.3:15 ESV). But what that means is that the pastor/elders will be spending most of the time teaching the truth of the Bible and the congregation will be spending most of their time learning and living and ministering the truth. However, most of what local churches do today has nothing to do with the Bible at all, certainly not after the pattern of the believers in Berea who "received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11 NIV). What we have today in the vast majority of local churches are congregations who are not interested in the Word of God and pastors who are not interested in (or in most cases even able to) teach it in depth, substance and orthodoxy. That is a sad state of affairs (and explains in great measure why this ministry is on the internet). And just because one side or both sides are squabbling about "doctrine" does not mean that either is actually interested in learning and living the truth found in scripture.

I am sorry to hear that you feel forced out, but I also have to say that in my observation and experience, most believers who have diligently set themselves to following the Lamb wherever He leads through His truth in the Word become alienated from their local churches sooner or later – for precisely this same reason. It is virtually impossible for one believer to change a church from a social club filled with controversy about unimportant matters into a Bible-centered place dedicated to learning the Word of God. Why? Because such change requires the people therein to change, and we cannot change other people's hearts. The best we can do is to be true to our own heart in its desire to know our Lord better and follow Him more closely, and pray for those with a different attitude.

So if you feel that you are a spiritual "wanderer on the earth", you certainly have a whole host of brothers and sisters with similar experiences who are connected in one way or another to this ministry (2Tim.3:12; Heb.11:36-38; 13:13). Please know that you will always be welcome here at Ichthys.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #36: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill -

Thank you for responding so quickly. I am continuing to read on your site and watched the Basic Series by Dr. Omo. I also investigated R. Thieme and his site and downloaded some materials, including about Rebound. I also read criticisms of him by others in the theological community regarding his "doctrines".

I was involved in two Precepts Inductive Bible Studies (these are recommended by Dr. Utley as soundly historical/grammatical) and decided not to continue them because it seemed I needed to understand doctrine and study on your site and Bible Academy. Since reading about R. Thieme, Dr. Omo's site listing of doctrines gives me pause that I have yet again driven myself off into a ditch.

Believe me, I have pursued just about everything and anything that was not of God over the years. Besides questioning my salvation, now I am unsure where or how to seek God and solid teaching, church-visible in my area being in various stages of apostasy. Please do not think me impertinent by asking - if R. Thieme can lead sheep astray with his formulation of doctrines around his Greek/Hebrew studies, how will I be able to evaluate Dr. Omo's and your teaching to not be led astray?


Response #36: 

You are most welcome. I'm not acquainted either with Dr. Utley or with the "two Precepts Inductive Bible Studies", so I won't comment on these unless you have some questions about specifics you might want to share.

This ministry, Ichthys, is based upon the Bible. I know that everyone says that; I really mean that. For that reason, unlike many other ministries, I enthusiastically encourage all readers to be avid Bible readers on their own account – not avid "theology" readers, but avid Bible readers. I certainly understand that without the gift of teaching, without years of proper preparation and without a proper methodology and due diligence, even pastor teachers cannot grow. But every member of the Body of Christ, in order to properly fulfill our Lord's mandate to be "wise as serpents" even as we are "harmless as doves", needs to have a sound grounding in what the scriptures actually say – that is the only antidote, in conjunction with the voice of the Spirit, to avoiding being led astray. So let me start by saying that I thoroughly agree with your caution, and the biggest part of the answer to your question about how not to be led astray is to "read your Bible". If you have not already done so, before going any farther with this ministry, I would encourage you to read the short study by that name at the link: "Read Your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility".

Going beyond the basics and actually growing up to spiritual maturity does require more in-depth teaching, so every Christian today who really wants to do so (and in our lukewarm age of Laodicea [see the link] that number is distressingly few – so kudos to you) will eventually face the dilemma you are facing. On the one hand, a good Bible teacher is needed; on the other hand, the vast majority of said "teachers" out there today are either wolves in sheep's clothing or else are teaching much error or at least little substance. But I do know that if you seek, you will find. If you keep knocking, a door will be opened for you. If it is not Ichthys – and this ministry is not, for a variety of reasons, everyone's cup of tea, then something else will turn up. For I do know that the Lord has never let an ounce of interest in doing what He wants us to do, namely, grow in the Word, go unrequited for lack of good teaching. It may take a good deal of effort on our part to find the "right place / person", but if we persevere, He will provide what we seek; that is, after all, the "good part" He has promised us (Lk.10:41-42). The struggle it takes in getting there is to test the resolve of the believer in question in order to show – both him/her and all the angels – that it really is genuine.

Let me share with you some characteristics of what I would consider good versus bad ministries. These may not be determinative in all cases, but they are worth considering in my experience:

1) Money. Does the ministry/teacher obsess over money and contributions? If so, that is a negative sign as it gives an indication that the true priority is not the spiritual growth of the congregation.

2) The cross. Does the ministry/teacher put the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the heart of the teaching? If not, that is a troubling sign, because everything – the entire plan of God – is based upon what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins.

3) The Bible. Does the ministry/teacher emphasize the scriptures over "doctrines" or "theology"? In my view, a good Bible teaching ministry will start with scripture and strive to show that the Bible actually supports all positions/statements, great or small, and attempt to demonstrate how it does so in ways that any Christian ought to be able to understand – and only move to principles from the clear statements of scripture. Of course if the ministry only gives lip-service to scripture, it won't be of any help in growing up spiritually.

4) Responsiveness. Does the ministry/teacher entertain questions? I would never teach anything I did not believe with all my heart. But I recognize that not every truth of scripture goes down easily with every Christian. We all have bumped into "hard sayings". So while I would never expect any genuine Bible ministry/teacher to back off from something truly believed because of questions about their teaching (exactly the opposite in fact), those who are committing to or have been committed to one's ministry have a right to expect an explanation in cases where they may be worried about errors or mistakes or have other concerns, et al. Honest questions have a right to a hearing.

5) Independence of Conscience. When it comes to applying the truth to life, it is often the case of taking principles of truth and applying them to complicated situations. Therefore the Christian life needs to be inflexible about the truth but flexible in approach to non-critical things, in large part because "the right thing to do" often has as much to do with where the individual Christian is "at" spiritually as it does about the details of doctrinal application (cf. Rom.14:1-23). What this all means is that a genuine ministry/teacher will give the Christian learning under its teaching the means to grow (truth then believed and applied in the Spirit), but will never seek to micro-manage individual decisions. Any ministry/teacher, therefore, which seeks to intrude on the lives of its congregants, to make the believer in question "accountable" to that ministry and "report" on behavior is to be avoided at all costs: we are accountable to the Lord (Rom.14:4). Demanding accountability to other people is cult behavior.

6) Substance. The proof, as ever, is in the pudding. If a ministry/teacher really is providing good solid teaching in sufficient quantity and depth, that will be apparent early on. I should say that this is a very rare thing and to be treasured when discovered. We all know the difference between a fresh, well-cooked, nutritiously balanced meal and a box of chocolates – or at least we should. And most places out there are only serving up the boxes devoid of even the chocolates. If no true teaching is being done, or if it is so narrow in scope or small in volume that growth is unlikely, that is the most negative indication of all. But if a place is found where the meal is, if not absolutely enjoyable, at least demonstrably nutritious, that is the thing to esteem.

There are always other things which might be said. I am confident that this ministry compares favorably on the basis of the above criteria. But that would be yours to judge.

As to antecedents, you will find a good deal of information at the link: Antecedents of Ichthys (where there are more links to follow as well). The link was written many years ago while the Col. was still alive, but the truth of it hasn't changed. On the one hand, I learned a lot from his ministry; on the other hand, I can't endorse everything in it and would not want my gratitude to be taken for a blanket approval of anything that might be found therein (without asking first, at least), and can say with surety that many of the things taught at Ichthys would have caused my "excommunication" immediately had the Col. ever taken notice (I am very much "post-trib", for example). But this ministry was never officially associated with Berachah church, and Col. Thieme never even knew my name. This is not at all to denigrate his ministry – which was of immense and incalculable benefit to me as a young man groping my way towards preparation for ministry and engagement therein. It does mean that I not in a position to nor am I the right person to defend his teaching or his methods (which in very many cases are not my own). I will say that many of the criticisms I have seen leveled at him and his ministry on the internet over the years have dealt much more with his personal style (which some found colorful but others abrasive) than with the substance of his teaching, rightly understood (and for many of these critics there was much misunderstanding of the substance out of sloppiness in their own method), or else came from genuine disagreements on points of doctrine (where in many cases his critics were actually more in the wrong and he was more in the right).

As to criticisms of theological positions, I am happy to discuss any concerns you may have about what this ministry teaches. I have found over the years that answering readers' concerns has been good not only for them but for me and for everyone else connected with this ministry.

Finally, please do not be too hard on yourself. You are trying to find the truth which is precisely what the Lord wants you to do. I do hope that you will find Ichthys worthy of helping you in this noblest of quests, but I also know that with the right attitude of being confident enough in your own appreciation of scripture so as to not be taken in by a false ministry and of being humble enough to recognize and accept help from a good one, you will eventually find the right place. Just don't give up.

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Luke 11:9-10 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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