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Ministry and Preparation for Ministry VI

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Question #1: 

Hello Mr. Luginbill. I hope all is well.

My faith has been challenged a lot lately, but it has been growing slowly but surely none the less. I was challenged by some recent questions such as I mention below.

There are some groups out there that say Jesus' ministry lasted for 70 weeks, not 3 years. Some video I just happened to see and at the end of it said "why this matters". I feel a bit uneasy for asking because I feel like I should know, but then again I feel like these are again just tests of my faith. How would you show or prove the correct answer? This "scholar" supposedly believes it to be just over a year or something like that.

My other question was when did the disciples get saved? I know there is debate regarding that as well.

I happened upon the video I mentioned above while listening to one of Mr. Omo's lessons and so I got sidetracked. I try hard to avoid getting sucked into outside sources but once in a while my curiosity gets the best of me and I give in. Hopefully God will help me overcome this habit. Satan has really been trying to distract the heck of me lately.

Response #1: 

I highly recommend Curt Omo's ministry (link)!

On the three and half year ministry, here is a link to a chart which outlines that and compares our timeline of our Lord's ministry with that of John the baptist (the context around the chart also gives explanations); you will see from the chart the scripture references wherein it is possible to clearly delineate the 3 1/2 years from the sequence of Passovers and other calendar events described in the gospels: "Comparative Chronology of the ministries of John and Jesus" (link).

As to the disciples, well, Judas never did believe. The other eleven were "of Israel", and that was a nation wherein everyone was supposed to be a believer (with unbelievers being executed). Of course that never even came close to being the case. But it does explain why John the baptist's ministry – and his water baptism – is a repentance ministry. That is, it was a ministry to bring wayward believers back to putting God first in their lives to prepare them for the advent of the Son of God. We know that the disciples were thrilled to have "found the Messiah" (Jn.1:41), so I would say that the eleven were all saved before they ever met the Lord. Not that they were anything like mature – and we also note how much better Peter and John and co. do once they receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Testing and trials always come to those who are determined to advance spiritually. That is the way the Lord refines, strengthens and builds our faith. So be encouraged, my friend, and keep fighting the fight. That is how the crowns of reward are won.

(3) May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, (4) and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, (5) who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time. (6) In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials (7) to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ. (8) Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, (9) when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – the [eternal] deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:3-9

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Thank you Mr. Luginbill. Yes I listen to Mr. Omo's lessons almost everyday and they are extremely helpful. I only use your and Mr. Omo's ministries. I trust them highly and have no need to use others. I do occasionally, as mentioned in my email, visit or quickly glance over other sites usually just out of curiosity. I suppose its ok depending where I go as long as its Biblical, but I would rather avoid it for the most part due to all the false teaching out there. And when I get to such a place, it troubles me, all the reason to stop doing it. Lately I was troubled with the "Apocrypha". I know they don't belong in the Bible and know that the 66 books are the complete canon of scripture, but for some reason satan seems to like troubling me with it. This, along with the 1 year ministry theory. God is pulling me through it though. Its so very easy to see the intensifying attacks on scriptures these days. But I suppose it's the "signs of the times."

Oh yeah, thought I would ask this as well. Do you think I should start studying Greek/Hebrew? Like, would it be ok if I didn't? Its just that my time is already filled up during the day with stuff I most certainly need like, prayer, Bible reading, Bible lesson, and Bible basic series. By the time I'm done with all that I don't have much time left till I go to work. But its not just that. Its not that I don't want to, its just that I don't feel like God is calling me to undertake it. I feel like it would also take me forever considering the likely time we have left till the tribulation begins. That and I'm a slow learner as it is anyway, I was never academically smart in school. I know there are advantages to knowing the languages, but does God call everybody to study them or just a certain gifted few? What would you say about all this? Is it for everybody?

In Christ

Response #2: 

You're most welcome.

For something on the Apocrypha, please see "Bible and Canon IV" (this leads to other links as well).

On Greek and Hebrew, it all depends. You have indicated before how that the Bible and the truth of the scriptures are now "your life", and that may be an indication of where your spiritual gifts and future ministry lie. If you are considering becoming a pastor-teacher, if that is where you suspect or are convinced that your gifts are focused, then giving serious consideration to learning at least a minimum of the two main biblical languages is natural enough to do. True, the time is short. True, the task is long (especially if one desires to get past a rudimentary level and does not have the option of becoming a full-time student immediately). But there are things that can be done on one's own. I have had correspondents who have learned both languages to a reasonably high level on their own (not sure I could have done it myself without formal academic training); and I have had others who have tried and been unable to do so, then have gone on to formal training; and I have had others who have tried and had to make their peace with merely attaining some general familiarity with the languages. Anything one learns is likely to be valuable – just as long as a person is not tempted to extrapolate depth of understanding from superficial acquaintance (one sees that in very many ministries these days, after all); it is fair to say that superficial acquaintance is all that the vast majority of seminary graduates receive these days (when they receive even that). But if a person wants to be able to say with confidence "I know this is what the original language says and means in this passage", the only way to do so is by learning Greek and Hebrew (at least to some significant degree).

That doesn't mean that the lack of "having Greek and Hebrew" must stop a man from ministering the truth. We have seen historically that there have been successful Bible-teaching ministries where the pastor was relying on the translations and exegesis of others. But it is a limiting factor. I seldom read my Greek or Hebrew Bible without getting some insight that wouldn't necessarily be obvious from an English translation, and I also seldom read my English Bible (in any version) without coming across a phrase or clause or word that is clearly (to me) misrepresenting the text in some way.

Additionally, it is certainly also the case that Greek and Hebrew are most definitely not necessary for a Christian to grow up and progress spiritually. And if the spiritual gifts a man has been given are not pointing in the direction of a Bible-teaching ministry (i.e., if apologetics or evangelism or, or, or, is where the fellow has been gifted), then again while knowing Greek and Hebrew is wonderful in its own right and possibly very helpful, neither language is essential for these other pursuits.

So the answer to your question has to be tailored to you personally, my friend, and you will have to be the one to do the tailoring.

It's a pleasure to know you and I want to encourage you to continue your spiritual progress. I have no doubt that the Lord will make clear to you at the right time just how it is that He means to use you in ministry once the time is ripe.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Thank you for the response and for your patience.

I must say I am challenged by all this. Come to think of it I suppose I could undertake studying the languages. I could make time. I have not the slightest clue what my spiritual gifts are, not even a hint. I do think however that Greek and Hebrew would be a worthy investment and could open up all kinds of possibilities that could serve me well down the road. I mean, even if I spend the rest of the time before the tribulation growing spiritually and learning the languages at least I could be prepared to jump into action when believers will need more help than ever. Not saying that I wouldn't take any ministry opportunities before that time, but you know what I mean. I just have to remember to walk humbly, that its all for His glory and not my own. I told Him that I want to give Him my all, to do everything I can for Him, forgetting my carnal past, and using the rest of my time on earth as much as I can for Him. I find Daniel 11:33-35 to be motivational. I tell God "I want to be among those who give insight!" I want to help people! I especially think of my family.

With that all in mind could you recommend any books, sites, or what not where I could start learning? I have no experience with the languages whatsoever so I would be a complete beginner. Or perhaps a college/university? The only thing about the latter is I'm hoping I wouldn't have to take any junk classes. So if I went they would teach me strictly what I came for, not throwing in a bunch of other subjects which have nothing to do with what I'd be studying.

All in all I will consider it with an open mind. Definitely worth praying and giving some time to think about. I wouldn't want to jump into something too quickly without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for taking the time with my emails by the way. I'm sure you're a very busy person so I pray God will continue to give you strength to keep going. How much sleep do you get? I know I'm almost useless when I'm running on little sleep. Not to mention I'm irritable and grouchy. I just don't know how some people do it.

Response #3: 

My pleasure – and thank you for your kind comments.

This is a very common set of considerations for men who are growing in the Lord, so I have had occasion to write about these things many times before. Please have a look at these two pages of links at Ichthys (sites are constantly changing servers, so apologies in advance for any "dead links", and thanks in advance for reporting them):

Greek Language Resources

Hebrew Language Resources

And here are some links which are apropos of the issue, even if you're not sure you may be wanting to / supposed to teach some day:

Seminaries and Universities

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry V

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry IV

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry III

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry II

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry I

As to college, in my experience, if you can "read words", you can get a college degree. It may take a good deal of effort and a considerable amount of time, but it can be done. College today is much more expensive than it was when I earned my first B.A., so I am always reluctant to suggest it without regard to financing and outcomes. Most degree programs do indeed require a person to take classes that are not precisely what they prefer taking. If Greek and Hebrew were the reason for going, depending on the school and the options available, these might only constitute 10-20% of the coursework necessary for the degree. But I wouldn't sell myself short, if I were you. You are clearly an intelligent person so that I believe it would be doable. Again, there are many considerations to take into account.

And do feel free to write me back about this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

One last thing and then I'm done as I have nothing else to say. Is staying in the word and growing spiritually the best way to discover what my spiritual gifts are? I so want to serve the Lord with whatever He has for me. I've been tempted to think, "well if I can't win all three crowns then I'll settle for two I suppose," since the latter is awarded for ministry service. But that's a terrible mindset to have and I will not accept it. I want all three and I'm not ashamed to say it. I love my Father and want to give Him my best.

Response #4: 

It's no problem – good to hear from you. I appreciate very much your enthusiasm for the Word of God!

It sounds like a reasonable plan to me. You can also pray about it. I think it is likely that if you do so and consider the matter that over time it will become clear where your gifts lie. That is the way it often happens – rather than a sudden epiphany.

As to the crown of glory, however, as I have written this up (in CT 6 at the link), this is given for successful completion of the ministry to which one has been called. But ALL believers are called to ministry, just not all to a direct teaching ministry (in fact for most believers that is not what the Lord is calling them to do). The types of ministry are as disparate and variegated as the Body of Christ and the combination and potency of gifts given by the Spirit. All godly ministry does have to do with the Word of God (in ministry to unbelievers or believers), but teaching is a small subset of the possibilities. Anything that contributes to the formation and edification of the Body of Christ directly or indirectly would constitute a valid ministry in the Lord's eyes. We are feet and hands and legs and arms and ears and eyes and noses etc., but we are ALL part of the Body of Christ and we ALL need each other absolutely. So we all need to be willing to play the role the Lord has assigned us, whatever that may be: the Spirit gives us our gifts, the Lord Jesus Christ assigns the ministry, and the Father produces the effects for those who are doing what they are called to do (1Cor.12:4-6). We merely participate in the process – and are rewarded for doing so if we do so in a consistent and energetic and godly way. No believer is prevented from being among the most highly rewarded in the Church; we are only limited by our own lack of willingness to respond to the truth.

For more on gifts please see in BB 5: Pneumatology: "Spiritual Gifts"

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

I had a conversation with my Greek professor from last year about some links and ideas I had come across regarding the best way to go about moving forward in Greek. I'm not so naive to believe that I'll be able to achieve lots over my 4-week or so winter break, but I want to get some better habits in place so I don't fall behind in coming semesters. I'd be curious to get your take on the following matters:

The best way to go about doing Greek classwork/reading texts? My current methodology for preparing translations for class: copy text, double spaced, one side for glosses (written above the Greek), other side for grammatical markup. Some people (like my professor) say mixing English and Greek is very problematic and should not be done, as it encourages "thinking in English" rather than Greek.

The DCC Greek core vocabulary list: http://dcc.dickinson.edu/greek-core-list

Are vocabulary lists like this even useful to begin with? Context is obviously very important. Is learning solely by reading better? How can one learn by context if you don't have any context to compare to because you're just starting?

The rational behind such a list: http://dcc.dickinson.edu/vocab/core-vocabulary, https://camws.org/cpl/cplonline/files/Majorcplonline.pdf (Neither of these is very long -- I'm not sure I know enough to be able to say if their reasoning is valid or not). What do you think?

What is a good number (% total lemmas) to view as "core"? Is ~65% enough? Approx. what percentage in texts will be specific/technical vocabulary (that would make memorizing less useful since it changes from text to text)?

The entirely digital textbook written with the DCC as the foundational vocabulary (and references to Smyth throughout): https://ancientgreek.pressbooks.com/. Have you ever heard of it, and from a cursory look, does it look decent (or flawed)?

Sources for morphologically tagged texts outside of the New Testament? (E.g., Homer, Plato). Not texts parsed by Perseus or TLG, but actual tagged-by-human texts. These would be for practicing parsing.

Consciously practicing vocabulary-building techniques: methodology, good places to start? Systematic sources for meaning of morphemes in prefixes (apo-, etc.) and other compound "templates"?

In particular, I'd like to get your thoughts on the idea of spending time learning a statistically determined "core" vocabulary to make reading less painful. (This semester has tried my patience in the number of words in Plato and Homer I have had to look up). My professor was rather skeptical of the concept, emphasizing the importance of context and the choice of corpus in such a list (he though, e.g., that the inclusion of many numbers towards the end of the DCC -- in the 500s -- was inappropriate because numbers do not occur very frequently in authors like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotos, Hesiod, etc.). He recommended a German book called Grund-und Aufbauwortschatz Griechisch in lieu of the lists that were constructed by taking frequency data from Perseus and TLG.

I'd also like to know if you are familiar with any good sources for learning some of the mechanics of Greek word-building systematically. While Greek is obviously not as root based as Hebrew, it is still a fairly productive language, from what I can tell (much as German is). My professor recommended some of the sections from Smyth and also this book on comparative grammar.

Please take your time on this. I've got about two weeks left with finals and stuff before I can really work on setting up a more rigorous study plan for moving forward. I'm trying to bounce ideas off of a number of people before I go charging ahead, that's all.

Yours in Christ,

Response #5: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I'm keeping your Bible study in my prayers, and also praying and hoping for a good, strong finish to the semester for you.

On learning Greek, I have to say that I am very much in agreement with your Greek professor. It's better to go over the text you are preparing multiple times than it is to write anything down. It's better to read the text out loud as you do so than it is to take notes. If you have to look a word up too many times, it's useful to try and remember it. You can write down vocab you look up, but just the word itself, I suggest, on a list you review over and over again in the short term – which trains your memory so as not to have to keep going to the dictionary. If you have to go over a text four times to be solid on it for class, OK – you'll learn something every time you go over it, if you're concentrating. Actuarial approaches give the appearance of work but that is usually deceptive. Better to sweat – and learn – than write and not.

On lists that have nothing to do with the text you are reading "right now", I also don't see the practical value for most people. Even for those who are good at this sort of thing, that is, list memorization, I have noted students who "have it" on the list in their head but can't really apply it when they bump into it in the text. Only actual reading cements things, and reading out loud does it much quicker and better.

The problem we have learning Greek is that we are not speaking it. If we were speaking it, things would "stick" better and that would be helpful – if we were doing it right. Of course there are now no native speakers of ancient Greek, so folks who try to go that route are being only a little less artificial than those who try to hold conversations in Klingon and Elfin. What CAN be helpful is writing in Greek. So if you have any opportunity to do a Greek prose composition class, that would be a very good thing.

In terms of working on your own, reading is the thing – but please do it out loud. That is how your language ear will engage in the absence of being able to converse with ancient Greeks.

I also agree with your professor that Smyth's section on word formation is the best thing out there on this, but it's not going to be terribly helpful to do more than peruse it a bit if you have questions. By this time you've already figured out how words are formed in Greek. What you need to do is to focus on the roots. And, in fact, focusing on roots is even more helpful in Greek than in Hebrew (because Greek is much more consistent on this issue, and uniquely so of all the Indo-European languages I know anything about). How to do this? Liddell and Scott's two smaller iterations both key to the root; make a habit of always asking yourself about a "new" word's root(s) and follow it down until you get the base root.

On "the other book", I'm a bit surprised that your professor recommended a comparative grammar. This is a good book and a nice update on Buck's famous volume (if 1995 can still be considered an "update"). It's fascinating reading, but 1) it won't improve your vocabulary significantly and won't substitute for learning vocab through reading, and 2) you would get a great deal more out of investing time in something like this after a linguistics course in phonology and a class in the history of Greek or of Latin or an introduction to Indo-European linguistics.

My suggestion: find something / someone you really want to read in Greek and find the most enjoyable way of doing so (i.e., in your arm chair on your IPAD on Perseus listening to music . . . or whatever). And read it out loud.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Bob,

Some follow-up questions:

1) Both you and my professor came down much more adamantly about the no-writing thing than I had expected. In my conversation with him today, I pointed out that I was basically the only person in my class earlier this semester who was trying to struggle through in-class translation without having glosses written in the margins -- and it showed. Others, by and large, had much "cleaner" translations and didn't stutter so much when going through the Greek. So eventually, since I was the only one, I started doing what everyone else was doing. He recommended I ignore other people and go cold-turkey on the English since there is no way to really learn Greek in the long term if one constantly has English around. According to him, as long as other professors don't foolishly grade on the "quality" of class participation, the only negative consequences of closed-book translation is the appearance of ignorance, when in reality, one is much more progressed than the write-in-the-margins types.

2) You also both came down much harder on the vocab list idea than I was expecting. I don't know. It just makes lots of sense to me to brute force the most common words for a few months until you don't have to look them up any more. It's not like we are talking about thousands of words here, just several hundred. Aside from the obvious diminishing returns, there are definitely other caveats -- you have to know in what contexts what definition applies, changing meanings based on attributive/predicative use, various usage irregularities among many frequent words (e.g., τίς has simple definitions but complicated use -- so is less a vocab thing than experience with actual situations), and so forth. But these don't seem to negate the general fact that spending some time focusing on very common words in the corpus will net less friction when trying to read/translate later. It's a matter of time spent now saving more time later.

It seems to me that posing this as "only flashcards" vs. "only reading" is somewhat of a false dichotomy. Beginning students can't simply learn definition and usage by context as they haven't read enough Greek yet (so at least some measure of vocabulary by rote is necessary). Experienced Greek students should already have all the frequent vocabulary down, and thus can learn text/author specific vocabulary as they go -- a much lower total vocabulary burden -- as well as refining their understanding of already-learned words by observing usage across different contexts. You can drill the most impactful words in the beginning while still reading lots.

So I guess I just don't get why it's a bad idea to forgo learning the most frequent words up front. After having two far-more-knowledgeable people explain it to me now, I can accept that I'm probably in the wrong here, but I still can't see exactly why. Even having a general, fuzzy, incomplete notion of word's meaning (through memorization) strikes me as much more helpful than continually having to look a word up over time until it is learned -- which is similar to studying flashcards but slower due to the delay/lookup time involved. Particularly if one knows all the dangers and imperfections of the memorization approach (accepting that one's understanding will get better and more nuanced with more time and reading experience), I just see mostly positives and not many negatives.

(All this interest is born out of feeling like my intro textbook's vocabulary left me unprepared for the Homer and Plato that I've been reading. I have to look up way more than I'd like -- and I know that a whole bunch of the vocab that I learned in my first year is not being put to use now. So maybe all my arguments are valid, but should be targeted at making intro textbooks line up better with real word-usage frequency? What about those of us now who went through textbooks and learned a bunch of infrequently used words instead of commonly used words?)

3) How do textual commentaries and text notes fit into this? Are they a crutch that should be excised too, or are they more necessary?

4) It was only under persistent questioning from me that my professor recommended the comparative grammar (he suggested the Smyth sections first, and recommended them more strongly). He also knew that I have background in IE linguistics to an extent, and wouldn't get as bogged down as some people. He also didn't suggest I buy the book, but look at it if I could my hands on a copy (and wanted more information after Smyth).

You brought up the abridged LSJ versions mentioning roots. Is this the best way to build one's knowledge of these things? I feel like I've heard a lot about this sort of "learning roots and combining them to expand vocabulary" thing, but never actually done it much myself, or seen much in the way of writing that tells one how to do it. So I'm just a bit fuzzy on the specifics of how this works. Could you give an example?

Thanks for helping out on these matters. Perhaps someday I'll get around to drafting an outline of accumulated Greek study wisdom -- I sure wish I'd known some of what I know now at the beginning!

In Christ,

Response #6: 

1) Yes, I agree with your prof on this too. Professors are smarter than students often give them credit for – I mean we are not as stupid as students sometimes think we are. It's pretty clear to me when someone is struggling with the Greek versus merely reading from notes or a prepared translation etc. It's really not possible to fake it (not with a prof who's been around a year or two, anyway).

2) Be pleased to do as you like, absolutely! I'm only trying to give you the benefit of my own experience and observation. Lists are a waste of time for most people, unless you make them yourself. Trying to memorize them is a rote exercise wherein the actual information doesn't seem to penetrate the language-learning part of the brain. The list is only as good as the use you make of it. What won't happen, I can almost guarantee, is the spending a great deal of time on committing such a list to memory resulting in obviating time in the dictionary. And after all, the dictionary is "a list" too – just a very good one. The "magic" happens when you look something up and actually spend time on the entry, as if it were fun, as if it were interesting, as if you were really trying to get to the bottom of the word and its root "DNA", rolling it around on your tongue, visualizing it and using it in a sentence. If a person looks up a word and makes so little mental contact with it that by the time he/she is back to the text the "definition" is already forgotten, he/she is doing it the wrong way. I'm for whatever helps.

If you are reading, you will be using the dictionary; and if you are reading the right way and using the dictionary the right way, you will be learning vocabulary in the natural way that the mind is meant to learn it. Don't forget to be reading and reinforcing vocabulary by saying it out loud (did I mention that?). Doing things "this way" will make all of the paper-chase efforts students (me included) do in the early years unnecessary much more quickly.

Every author is different, and in Greek and Latin, because of the vastly greater number of possibilities for altering the texture of a period (through endings, vocabulary flexibility, word order flexibility, and grammatical constructions not possible in English), the difference in style between author A and author B is always much more striking than when comparing any two English authors / texts. You're not "unprepared"; you're just bumping into what we all bump into all the time, anytime we start a new author.

3) Commentaries which have genuinely helpful notes for reading are good things at your level. It is typical of Classical commentaries, however, to be crabbedly unhelpful where a student really needs help and to cast doubt on things that would otherwise seem to make sense. If the author you are reading has a "good one" available, use it in lieu of running to an English translation. A translation is a commentary, after all, but it answers too many questions and can often give the impression of having mastered a sentence when in fact there are many things hanging out there, flapping in the wind.

4) OK. If you were still planning to go to grad school and get a Classics Ph.D., spending a 100 hours or so on this book might be useful; under the circumstances, skimming some pertinent chapters would be more than enough even if you are interested.

5) That is how I did it. It takes a consistent approach over a number of years to get there. Example: lab is the essential root of lambano and there must be several hundred (or perhaps more) Greek words which contain that root. So when you bump into brachysyllabos you will know that a syllabos is a "taking [of letters] together" (i.e., a syllable), and that this is a "short" one – which you probably already knew, but this is an example. And even if you didn't see it (whatever the "it" may be), when you get around to looking up a word and considering the roots, you'll be able to see how they got "here" from "there" – and will remember the word now more easily.

Another thing that is helpful is to always be on the lookout for etymologies in English words, many of which have Greek roots as you know, and often roots which are not common in, e.g., Herodotus. With the advent of the internet, this sort of thing is crazy-easy to find out, and fun too. Example, "polymer" - you can guess poly- but you might not know the word meros, "part" (actually, you probably do, but it's just an example).

Believe it or not, it's not the first time I've pitched some of these things at you, but a person has to be ready for it. Or as I tell my students, I've noticed in language learning that for anything complicated, there seems to be a "rule of twelve": it takes me jumping up and down about something in this category on twelve different occasions before someone in the class will turn to a neighbor and remark, "Y'know, I think he's mentioned this before".

Happy to be able to be of some service to you in this noble quest of preparing to teach the Word of God!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

I think I'm beginning to see a bit better.

My main motivation for the whole vocabulary thing was taking advantage of something called spaced repetition, which has a lot of science behind it. Basically, the best way to encode things to long term memory is to study them with increasing gaps ("spaces") between seeing them. If you study something in too close proximity to when you last studied it, you don't get as much out of it. The ideal is seeing something again right as you are about to forget it -- the neural connections created in such a circumstances are stronger.

A program called Anki makes spaced repetition really easy to implement for flashcards, particularly the ideal sort (which is somewhat difficult to achieve without algorithms).

As I sat here and thought about your response, I started drawing out a list of pros and cons for each approach. Here is what I got to:


+ Easy to implement spaced repetition in an ideal way
+ No friction/extra time required to look things up in dictonaries

- Definitions in the void aren't nearly as helpful/memorable as those with a particular example (like the sentence one is reading)
- No practice determining the right meaning from context, which is just as important as possible meanings when reading

Looking up when reading

+ Always have context with definitions
+ Practice determining meaning from context
+ No "untransferable skills." The goal is to be able to read Greek efficiently, not learn flashcards efficiently. It follows that reading Greek gives one "better practice" at using the definitions of words.

- More time looking things up (vs. having definitions already on flashcards with zero effort)
- Not as easy to implement spaced repetition of the ideal sort

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the two cons of the reading approach can be mitigated. Since I use electronic resources for my readings (e.g., Perseus), the dictionaries are already tied in to the texts, which makes looking up words just as fast as clicking a button to flip a flashcard over. (And dictionaries like the Middle Liddle always have more useful information than a flashcard).

The spaced repetition issue is a bit less fixable. One thing you said that really made everything click into place was the idea of constantly going back over older readings. I realized that I haven't been doing this -- once I "finished" a text, I wouldn't look at it again really, until I was studying for a test. (!).

So then it becomes a matter of going back over texts in such a way that you don't too it "too soon" or "too late." Of course, one can do some of this by heuristics to an extent, "eyeballing" the values and estimating the best times to revisit things. This just won't line up with ideal spacing as well as what a computer program can calculate.

At this point it is clear to me that the benefits of reading in context exceed the slightly less optimized spaced repetition (you are getting a form of spaced repetition by going back and reviewing things you have already read). I may tinker around with the Perseus API (and see if there is a way for me to implement API calls to other digital humanities desktop programs like Logos) to see if I can't figure out a way for me to use Anki's spaced repetition algorithm with blocks of text (so, for example, it will automatically tell me when the best time to go back and review a particular passage is, and I can click on a link on a flashcard to automatically go to the passage in a relevant program). This would totally negate the other con of reading in context, making it the superior choice without qualification.

I suppose there wasn't really a question in there, but I just thought I'd share my thoughts. Please let me know if if all this sounds right and reasonable; if I "got it" this time around.

In Him,

Response #7: 

Sounds good. If you figure out a way to do so, perhaps Perseus might be interested too (see the link).

When I was a Classics undergraduate at U of Illinois after the USMC, one weekend strolling through the mall I noticed in the window of Radio Shack . . . a personal computer! It had a little tape player as the memory, a little TV set for the screen, and some kind of keyboard on steroids for the input and CPU. I remembered thinking, "Boy, if I had one of those I could record all the words I look up electronically and learn and review them so much more quickly!" We're a long way down the road now since those early days, but I still find value in looking things up in the physical dictionary occasionally.

I'm for anything that helps.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dr Luginbill,

I now know over a hundred Greek words so far! I was hoping you might tell me: are there any Koine/Attic Greek Grammars and Classical Greek Lexicon/Dictionaries that you think are particularly good? I didn't see anything about it on the website; but if I missed it, could you please direct me there?

I always think every moment gone is a moment gone forever, but also a moment closer.

Response #8: 

Good to hear from you, my friend.

You already know more Greek words than my first year class, so good for you!

The best lexicons for practical use are Liddell and Scott's Abridged Greek Lexicon and Abbott-Smith's Manual Greek Lexicon for the New Testament; the former is good for all secular Classical Greek as well.  In terms of grammar's they are of very limited usefulness until a person has had at least a year or so of Greek or the equivalent.  There are a number of good pedagogical grammars which teach Greek and grammar at the same time, however, Allen's First Year of Greek is excellent, as is Cambridge's Reading Greek (two volumes, a reader and a grammar companion).  I use the latter in my classes, but the former is better for self-instruction.  You can find all of these titles at Abe Books (at the links).

Keeping you in my prayers daily for you growth and progress in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 


Thanks for the confirmation of my Matthew 23 observations, and the advice.

I’ve been praying for your health and your job. I’m sorry to hear about the salary decrease, but more time to spend in ministry is indeed a nice silver lining. Of course I know and fully understand your policy regarding money (cf. 1 Cor. 9), but God forbid you were to lose your job or a substantial portion of your salary I would think the Ichthys community (if I may call us that) would be able to contribute (certainly I would).

Changing topics, to the one in the subject line, I’m almost finished watching Dr. Rosscup’s Hermeneutics lectures. He recommended lots of books as resources, but there’s three specifically for which I wanted to get your opinions (if you have them): Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy Zuck; Manners and Customs in the Bible by Victor Matthews (now in its 4th edition and titled The Cultural World of the Bible); and The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times by Ralph Gower. And, with regard to the latter two, are there any other resources you would recommend for learning about the ancient customs and things that help the modern Bible reader to better understand the historical context of the scriptures?

Yours in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,

Response #9: 

You're most welcome, my friend.

Most of these "manners and customs" books are a complete waste of time. That is because for the most part the only things we can know for certain about the "manners and customs" background of the Bible come from 1) the Bible itself, or 2) ancient sources relating to parallel cultures. When it comes to #1, most people who write m/c books don't know much more about biblical interpretation than the average Christian – certainly not more than you or I. And they often also have incorrect interpretations of scripture which inform (actually, misinform) their take on these subjects. Also, books like these have to take a broad brush and treat things topically – which makes them even less potentially valuable. Better are decent Bible dictionaries or reputable Bible encyclopedias which go into some depth on each specific topic covered. In most cases, what one will find in these as well is merely a compilation of biblical data on a topic (which can be helpful in and of itself) and an admixture of whatever else the author of the article thinks can be gleaned from extra-biblical information (and there are occasional flashes of brilliance one finds in such treatments – along with a whole lot of errant speculation). But an m/c book to the extent that it is one author's work, shorter than the other two mentioned resources, and written by someone who is no particular specialist in Assyria or Egypt or Rome or Hellenistic Greece e.g., is going to suffer by comparison. In short, these may make the author some money and may be informative to someone who's never read the Bible, but I would be loath to recommend any such work.

The proof is always in the pudding, of course, but every time when in younger years I was in an book-buying phase these sorts of works never panned out. As to #2, there is value in knowing something about the surrounding civilizations and their histories. Ofttimes books which treat these (such as Cambridge Ancient History) are not, however, focused on "manners and customs". Classic works which span both categories include such useful titles as:

A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (5 vol.), by Emil Schürer

St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, by William M. Ramsay

Sketches of Jewish Social Life, by Alfred Edersheim

Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, by A.N. Sherwin-White

Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, by Joachim Jeremias

Epochs in the Life of Simon Peter, by A.T. Robertson

These are just examples of the sorts of books which focus on topics related to the "manners and customs" category. Note that all of these are at least fifty years old or older and done by individuals of noted scholarship. This sort of thing – a quality treatment by an actual expert – is relatively rare these days (as far as I can see). Nowadays, believers tend to be lacking in scholarship and scholars tend to lacking in any sort of even marginal pretend-respect for the Word (so as to not put any stock whatsoever in the prime source, the Bible, on the one hand, and not feel any need or desire to illuminate it on the other). If you find something you feel exceptional, I'd be happy to know about it.

I also appreciate your offer regarding this ministry. If it every gets to the point of having to take the Ichthys ministry "off the air", I would certainly sound the alarm and ask for help. Blessedly, the Lord continues to hold me up, but I do very much appreciate your good thoughts. And as I always say at such times, I always recommend Bible Academy (link), the Bible ministry of my good friend and former seminary colleague, Curt Omo, a worthy ministry, a worthy cause, and a genuine need.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Teacher

Thank you for explaining. I am being so slow with emailing these days. On the positive side, I like to think that that allows you more time to help other people. Generally, I email you just because I like to read something personal from you. I have been making a point to search the website for everything I would otherwise ask you now but I wish to just talk with you whenever I can. I'm not sure if that is a bad thing but I treasure your emails.

I was reading one a couple days ago and I found it extremely refreshing. You wrote it in response to my difficulties with discussing things with our friend at the time. I remember that I was worried that his analysis of the closing post I made of my "teaching ministry" on Facebook contradicted your position on it and I didn't like that. I liked to consider the two of you in perfect agreement and I wouldn't have to choose whom to believe. Because of that emotional overload, I didn't quite notice much of the encouragement in the email at the time. But when I read it again, I was very inspired. Still, for all the potential you see in me, I can only wonder if I will ever be anywhere near you and our friend. I had to answer a couple questions for my fiancée the other day about how the resurrection will change us and about Samson's likely place in Heaven and after giving her answers from my best understanding of what you taught me, I went and looked up Samson on the website and saw that I missed one thing, and a pretty big thing too - his obvious sexual indiscipline and the role it played in damaging him. I was hesitant to make a big deal of it because I figured that Acts 17:30 suggested that God was lenient toward such behavior at that time. But it makes a great deal of sense that his indiscipline led to his trusting a very dubious character with information that he should never have been even tempted to give away and ultimately to his death. It humbled me to see just how little I still understand. But I know also that I have come a very long way from five months ago.

I also found our friend's works on the site and downloaded them. They look like they're going to be very, well, delicious.

I have a confession. I don't know whether it is a problem, that is why I want to tell you about it. You instruct us to read the Bible daily. I don't remember if I ever had a daily habit of doing so. What I do remember is that I used to read very large portions at a time every so often before. Since I started studying Ichthys, the thought of Bible-reading has not felt like a chore because parts of it that used to sound like a strange language in my head began to make sense. But it is hard now to make a habit of reading both the Bible and Ichthys studies everyday. I read plenty at a time from either so in the end, it feels like I don't have enough time in a day for both. I could read Ichthys until my battery dies. And my head stays in it even after so that I am distracted while trying to read anything else.

Basically, I'm saying that I don't read the Bible everyday except in association with reading Ichthys or having a conversation or something. And whenever I prioritize doing so, I may not read Ichthys that day. It's hard for me to read only a little bit at a time out of anything.

So, is that a problem?

And I was meaning to ask: there are going to be ranks in the Kingdom and the Eternal State, right? Don't they correspond to the level of rewards we win? Is it wrong then to say that you aspire to the highest ranks in the Kingdom even when you know that being the greatest in the Kingdom means that you served the most here, that, in other words, you put your brothers and sisters here first and strove to help them grow up into Christ in all things and fulfill their own ministries? Does the fact that you aspire to the highest ranks mean that you are proud and want to be greater than other believers?

How is your health, sir? And how are you generally? I pray for you every morning and I often wonder what you might want me to pray specifically about.

Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ

Response #10: 

Always a pleasure, my friend.

First, I wouldn't get down on myself for not knowing everything yet. Come to think of it, I don't know anyone who already knows everything (myself CERTAINLY included). As you continue to grow, as you continue to become more and more familiar with the scriptures, the Spirit will begin to make things ever more clear and reward your efforts in study. These insights come to prepared men who are working hard at their ministries – and I am convinced that you will soon be one of that rank.

As to reading the Bible, it is very important. Nothing is more important. When I got serious about being a Christian, the ministry to which I apprenticed, a truly wonderful ministry, down-played personal Bible reading . . . no doubt for two reasons. First, because learning the truth through a proper, godly system of teaching the truth is the most efficient way to go from zero to spiritual maturity in the least possible time, and second because in my pastor's estimation – dealing with all manner of hyper-opinionated fundamentalists who were zealously unteachable as a result – reading scripture could be counterproductive in some cases. Mind you, it's not that we were forbidden to read it, merely that it wasn't emphasized as the most important thing. As a result, I, like you, put off a program of intensive, daily Bible reading longer than I should have done. Today, as has been the case for very many years, reading the Bible every day – in English, Greek and Hebrew – is absolutely fundamental to my own growth and inspiration, and this ministry would never have developed as it has unless I had changed my opinion on this long ago. When I read scripture daily, it is rare that I do not see things I've not seen before and I am always reminded of things I haven't had my mind around in a minute – and I am always encouraged. I will also say that having a good idea of "what is there and what is where" is very important in the Spirit's guidance of any teacher of the Bible.

So I do think it is very important (as "Read your Bible" certainly makes clear; at the link). But I would also say that it is just as important for you to enjoy doing it. So please do not attempt to strap on more than you are able to do with joy every day. If ten minutes is all you can do and love doing it, don't make yourself feel terrible because you didn't do an hour. It is critical to approach this with the right spirit.

On "ranks", here is what I read in the Bible:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

This is one of just many passages where eternal reward is held out as a key part of the motivation of every Christian to grow, progress and produce for Jesus Christ. So aspiring to be "high in rank" in eternity is a good thing if it helps motivate us to fight a good fight. The thing to avoid is thinking about this the wrong way, as in being "above" or "better" than others, especially here and now . . . which is something that even the disciples were sometimes wont to do (Matt.10:37-41; Lk.22:24). And also we should be careful about assuming too much about where we "rank" before the time – especially considering that Paul was reluctant to rank even himself "before the appointed time" (1Cor.4:3-5), even though we know that he will have his name inscribed on one of the gates of New Jerusalem.

Anticipating rewards (and rank is a reward) is something we are encouraged to do. We should all be striving day by day to do what we can to fill up the treasure chest we have in heaven, as all earthly treasures are destined only to rust and rot.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

I am doing OK, finding "work-arounds" to the health issues (as with the other issues, job et al.). The Lord is bringing me through – as He always has and always will. Thanks for asking and thanks for your prayers!

Do feel free to write me any time, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

I was smiling when I read your email. I wasn't sure I was right about the way I was reading the whole thing especially without expertise in the original languages and access to the best manuscripts. I was very happy to see that you agree that it is as I thought it was.

I am ashamed that I haven't started learning the languages, sir. I hope that I will soon. Our friend already sent me books but they are stuck in the capital and in a sense I am stuck here miles away in the village as well for now. And I think I'm a little scared about the task. The bravado is gone and I can't help wondering if I can really be ready by the time the Tribulation starts. It HAS taken our friend seven years and he doesn't think he is thoroughly prepared yet. And I only have about eight years with a marriage in the offing and a need to start earning and taking care of my responsibilities. Of course, preparing is my highest priority but it's not like I can spend the whole day everyday preparing even if I had nothing else to do and I do.

Sometimes when I read you, I simply can't imagine how I could be that good at this. Granted that the Lord is sufficient for all our weaknesses and deficiencies, I am still me and I still have eight years. LOL. When I read several of the email postings, I see just how poorly I would do if I had to deal with some of the questions and responses you get. I didn't even imagine that you must get nasty emails until I actually read you say that you did. It just wasn't what I figured to expect for you. And you soldier on. But for some sort of spiritual change that occurred after I started learning from you, I was always insecure about how I was being perceived even though almost no one was overtly antagonistic toward me. Even now I still worry a little when I respond to questions on that WhatsApp group I've belonged to for a while now and get nothing but silence in answer. Not nearly as much as I used to but I still worry. I've a great deal to learn from you still. Both in doctrine and in composure.

Response #11: 

On "time left" and "preparation", let me emphasize that no two Christians are the same and that no two Christians are gifted in the exact same way or put in the exact same place or destined by God for the exact same type of ministry in precisely the same mission/ministry field. What we as teachers and prospective teachers of the Word of God have in common is that we want to do a good job for the Lord in our preparation and a good job in our execution in ministering the Word. We can always do better at both, I assure you, but there is the other side of that daily free will choice as well. So the only thing for it is to try to look at things one day at a time and do as close to our best as we can on that one day to prepare and to grow and to walk with Christ and to minister in the opportunities He gives us. That is all any of us can do. If we try to affect things four years out or focus on things in the distant future, it will only warp our effort today. Best to think about today and do a good job today. Tomorrow is uncertain and today has enough evil of its own, after all (Matt.6:34). I am confident that you will do a good job learning as much as you reasonably can about the original languages and the other things that are good to attend to even as you do all of the other things that life demands. How? By picking up your cross every day and moving forward – and not worrying about what you're going to do tomorrow. The Lord has a precise ministry for you and it is different from the one He has for our friend and the one He has for me and etc. He knows what you'll need and He is helping you get ready. He could have had you born ten years earlier – if you needed ten more years. We have what we have in terms of resources viewed from every angle: time, money, health, energy, educational opportunities, access to books and the internet, intelligence, talent, necessary spiritual gifts. The mix is always different, but the Lord ensures that we have the right mix to do what He wants us to do. It is clear to me that you have got a great deal going for you. And if you are consistent about using what you've been given for the kingdom on God one day at a time day by day, you will do well, you will help others, and you will earn a wonderful reward. Getting overly focused on the height of the mountain we are climbing can discourage us in our daily climb. The only way we are going to get to the top of this mountain is by climbing it one step at a time putting one foothold after the other step by step. That has ever been true for all who have ever aspired to the noble task of edifying the Church through teaching the Word of God (1Tim.3:1). The Lord has already charted the way to the top for you, so just keep climbing.

I do know what you mean about looking at the work of others we admire and feeling that one is deficient by comparison. I think I may have already shared with you that after attending a conference given by my mentor back when I was in seminary I seriously considered taking up plumbing – because I felt that there was no way that I could do what he did. And indeed, I still don't think I could do what he did. But that was not the ministry the Lord had for me. What He had for me, I am – by the grace of God – able to do. That is the second point that cannot be missed or understated. There is NO WAY I could do what I do without the guidance, help and empowerment of the Spirit. To be honest, I don't even know how what has been done got done or how some things work out the way they work out – except to attribute it to the Spirit. The glory is all God's for a reason: He is the One who really does it whenever "it" has a positive spiritual component. So there is no sense in any of us getting proud about having accomplished something – that is ridiculous and dangerous too, because if it is good it is because God did it. The flip side of that is also important: there is no way that any of us should be fearful about being inadequate about performing the task to which we have been called: because the Lord supplies everything we need to do what we need to do, and He is the One inspiring us and leading us in the right direction through His Spirit. Our job is merely to "make ourselves available" for Him to use. We do that in the first instance by being diligent in preparation. We do that in the second instance by being diligent in working at the ministries He has given us. But He is the One putting in the most important elements which are essential for this to work, elements without which it wouldn't work, elements that only He can provide.

Question #12: 

Does 1 Corinthians 9 teach that the teacher has a right to ask for material support from those to whom he ministers spiritually?

Response #12: 

This and other passages which discuss the issue tell me that a pastor-teacher has a right to receive support and that a congregation which is benefitting from his teaching has an obligation to provide it. But that is not the same thing as the pastor-teacher asking for support or demanding more of it or much less "charging for his services". If you have to ask, maybe you've got the wrong congregation. And Paul, of course, refused to take any support from the Corinthians at all (because they didn't have the right grace attitude).

My dad, who was a Presbyterian minister, was never well-to-do, but we got by, and he was very generous with me and my brother – and our mother was very frugal so that helped too. He also had to pay his own social security (in this country most employers pay that). But when his last congregation wanted to give him a raise he refused it because he knew the budget problems the church was having. That is really something! I'm not sure I would have had the moral courage to do the same in the same situation where my family's support was entirely tied to a salary. I'm very happy that the Lord has provided for me a good job so that I don't have to worry about being supported from this ministry.

Question #13: 

Hello and thank you for this forum. A friend of mine has decided that he is going to start doing convention, whereas people will have to purchase tickets to hear his lessons from God and have a type or question and answer session. I personally don't believe that anybody should have to pay for information regarding the word of God, unless your buying a bible or something of this nature for edification. To set out to have a convention, unless all monies are to pay for the place of space so that the people can come together as a group I think is fine. What are your thoughts?

Thank You

Response #13: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

This ministry, as you may know, does not charge for materials; nor does it solicit donations.

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
1st Timothy 5:17-18 NKJV

As this verse shows, "paying the pastor-TEACHER" is a valid scriptural concept. In the New Testament, however, all of the instances I know of have individual Christians giving voluntarily. I don't know of any place in the New Testament where believers are "charged a fee" to hear the Word of God! And I find the idea particularly offensive as well. It is to avoid all such possible offense that I decided many years ago not even to ask for donations for this ministry – it has proved to be a great blessing to have nothing to do with money (this ministry is supported by my "day job").

As Christians who have been given spiritual common sense which is empowered by the Holy Spirit, we certainly have a duty to use what we know of the truth to evaluate every tree to see if the fruit produced is healthy or poisonous. Some peripheral indications may be misleading (in either direction), but "by their fruit you shall know them" (Matt.7:20) is still the perfect measuring rod.

Selling tickets may not be a determinative sign – but it sure says something (something unpleasant).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #14:  

Hello Bob,

Glad to meet you as well.

I was excited and elated for the quick return of your response. I became a fan of this site since 2006. I had not actually been back to the site since then, but had copies of some of the lessons which I enjoy reading. I truly love the Lord God and seek daily to fulfill the purpose in which he has called me into (Rom 8:30) which I believe is the help and healing ministry. I have a helping / compassionate spirit.

The explanation for the inquiry was most helpful and scripturally agreeable, thank you! I don't know if you have any type of bible study forum other than the website, but if you did I would be pleased to join in, and also if you did spiritual counseling.

Again, thank you for being prompt and God focused and may I AM continue to with you in your walk and your crowns be many.

Response #14: 

Thanks so much for your encouraging email.

I don't do counseling; I do answer emails (sometimes not as quickly as I would prefer, depending upon how swamped I am).

There isn't any forum connected to Ichthys, but thanks for asking. The only thing I have now is the RSS feed (at the link). But you are certainly welcome to everything at the site (I generally post something new every week).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Professor, just one more thing I wanted to ask you for the prayer for. Four years ago I got connected to a player with whom I've done some professional work. He has displayed, well, literally proverbial perseverance, writing to me at regular intervals through these past years. And we started to write about faith. As it turned out, he comes from Catholic background like myself, he opened his heart and have displayed a real desire for the truth, which we know is so rare. In the past couple of weeks we have had one of the most fruitful dialogues I have ever had with anyone and it is clear that he has just been waiting to receive the truth. I wrote him how I came to Christ being from the same background as him, explained salvation by faith rather than works, what true faith is and what it is not. The genuineness of this openness is evident through his desire to get to know the Word of God (I have also just had another dialogue with a hard-hearted Catholic who took almost everything I wrote as an offence and shows no regard for the Word) and through the good questions he is asking.

Professor, you can say a prayer for him that he may come to the truth? It is very rare to meet a person like this. I hope he perseveres in this pursuit of the truth.

It also seems that there may be at least some evangelical element in my ministry, although I hope I will be able to write some in-depth teachings as well. But if I am to be an agent that sends people over to you and your teachings, than I will be fulfilling this task happily.

As for me - I'm getting by too. The health is a climb for me, but the main thing is that spiritually things are better. Test results on the health front are surprisingly good.

Also Professor, I have just been flooded. As soon as I saw that I wasn't going to be able to stop the water from getting in to the place I thought of Tribulation - days when we may need to take what we are able to carry and leave may not be far away now.

Finally - I got another message from our friend and, as you have also observed, his attitude is positive and he is growing. I took the direct route with him exactly in the hope that at some point things would be as they are now and it is thanks to his open heart and putting truth first that he has overcome what needed to be overcome.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #15: 

I have put your friend on the website request list and on my personal list as well.

I'm always very pleased to hear of your persistent good efforts in sharing the truth, my friend! Whether or not it is your life's work, it is most certainly ministry with which the Lord is well pleased.

I have no doubt that the Lord has something very important for you to do. Exactly what form that ministry will take I don't think anyone could pretend to know at this point. Technology is changing, the world and the situation is changing, and the opportunities for sharing the Word and the truth are many while "the workers are few" – those who really know something about the Bible and its truths, that is.

So please be encouraged, my friend. You are fighting the fight, and doing so in a way that is an inspiration to all who know you.

I'm very pleased to hear that you have received good news on the health front! This is the Lord. Just when we think that there is no help to be had, He changes everything. I am very hopeful that this will be the case with your other concerns as well.

I'm sorry to hear about your flooding. I hope the place hasn't gotten any sort of mold problem as a result. That can be very detrimental to health and you don't need that complication.

Yes, our friend is turning out to be a real gem, in my estimation. I am receiving a lot of questions from him lately and they have been quite spiritually perceptive. I certainly wish he had more spiritual support close to home, because this is a critical time when pressures sometimes slow down growth as opposition also grows – so it is good of you to be keeping in touch with our friend.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hello Professor,

Thank you for putting him on the list. It is very rare for someone to show such openness to the truth and desire for it. I hope he comes to salvation and starts growing spiritually. All the conversations I have had do show that the percentage of those who will be saved is likely proportional to those who survived the flood, as you once mentioned. My father does not let any opportunity to speak about faith pass him and he is still to come across the first open heart.

It is true that the exact form of the ministry is only gradually becoming clearer. I am now quite certain it will be an online ministry like yours and I intend to send potential readers to yourself and Curt. And as for me, it is hard for me to imagine that I would ever produce systematic, in-depth teachings like yours, even though I would definitely like to do that. On the other hand, maybe it is about me having to move to the next level with my faith. I recall feeling the same way about languages - I didn't begin the study immediately as I thought I would never be able to do that.

Yes, health does seem to be improving slowly and there is some hope in me that maybe this trend will continue and I will be able to get to a half-decent shape.
Flooding in the end wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been had the water not been let out when it was.

Our friend clearly is a deep thinker and a highly intelligent person. With regard to those around him, the good thing is that arguably the person closest to him - his fiancée - is also a believer who grows spiritually through your studies. As for the rest - well, one of the reasons my ministry will also be online is that there seems to be so few believers around. Those few are scattered around the world and had it not been for the Internet, they would have been on their own among unbelievers. On the other hand, I have seen that having a good source of teaching and even a couple of believers committed to the truth with whom one can stay in touch means more than all opposition. I know that we are all different and I shouldn't assume that everyone would find the lack of face-to-face fellowship no problem at all - as has been the case with me. But having your studies and your continuous support was all I needed. In fact, there has been disappointment about nearly all those with whom I was hoping to enjoy true fellowship. Given our friend's commitment, I hope he will be fine too. And I will help him in any way I can.

Professor, I have just received a message from our other friend in Africa. He writes for scriptural guidance on a difficult matter. His business concern is on the point of getting sufficient funding for him and his to survive, he is worried about pressures to bribe officials in order for the loans to go through and would like to know where the Lord stands on such matters. I'm now flying out of the country on business and will not be able to respond tonight, but your prayer and guidance will be greatly appreciated. I have now heard many times how corrupt Africa is and it may be a real test for our friend also.

My initial thoughts are that: 1) he will have to stand firm in his faith, because ultimately it is God who provides and not these officials; whatever happens we must always keep this perspective; 2) in the Bible bribery is forbidden as a practice, although the context of these prohibitions is different that the situations he will potentially be facing (he is not, for example, trying to bribe a judge to pervert justice); 3) although the context is different, it is a practice that we as Christians should stay away from, as it only deepens the already ubiquitous corruption; 4) if his income depended on such a decision - well, I would still encourage any Christian to come back to the key principle in point 1 rather than justify such a practice, but in all this I also don't want to legalistically set standards for other Christians. And this particular problem is in some aspects more "grey" than other scenarios where it would be much easier to give a definite "yes" or "no" (e.g., a Christian should never demand such a bribe for himself being in a position of authority).

What I can say is that in a totally corrupt business like the one I'm in God has been sparing me from situations when I would have to compromise on the scriptural truths that I try to live by and this is rather miraculous. Would I pay an agent to be able to get a "big" job? Well, all the good work I got always came to me rather than me forcing anything and the latter never ultimately brought the fruit I wanted. And agents work on commission in any case, so the parallel is not direct. I will give it thought, but your insight will be appreciated.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #16: 

I'm keeping your dad and his ministry in my prayers.

Things always seem to develop contrary to expectations, so the best we can do is to keep fighting the fight day by day, and keep preparing in every way. The Lord uses people who are prepared. How He uses us may not conform with our "grand plans" before the fact: mine certainly didn't pan out, but I am VERY pleased with the way things did turn out (and wouldn't have been happy, actually, if things had gone "according to plan" – as I can see pretty clearly now with the benefit of hindsight).

As far as our other friend is concerned, on the one hand I am thrilled to hear that he has been making progress in terms of putting bread on the table! I am very grateful to the Lord for that. On the other, it seems that in this world one always bumps into compromise. There are compromises and there are compromises. On the one hand, no one can be totally "squeaky clean" and live in this world. It reminds me of a preacher who told his congregation that if they had jobs as waiters or waitresses where alcohol was being served, well, they couldn't be good Christians and serve alcohol or even stand by and see it be served, so they had better quit their jobs. Now if a person's conscience not under duress from false teaching of that sort leads them to pursue another line of work for not wanting to be in an environment where people are getting drunk all the time, well and good – I certainly understand that. But to have to go on welfare or become homeless because of trying to measure up to someone else' false, legalistic idea of what is sanctified, that is a very bad business indeed.

So it would be wrong of us, it seems to me, to tell our friend "what to do". If a person is living in the Soviet Union under Stalin or in Nazi Germany under Hitler, consequences for trying to avoid all compromise as some would define it would be different from what they are in the US or UK. Telling a person to "move to a better country" is also not helpful, especially nowadays when that is a daunting prospect indeed, especially for those living in Africa. I think your analysis of the situation is spot-on. We can pray for him, but we should be very reluctant to tell him what to do or how to do it, not being there and under that system ourselves, and not knowing exactly how things are happening "on the ground". Some things clearly should be avoided – as in the two examples above if we were ordered to do unspeakable things to other people – even at the risk of our own lives. The Tribulation is coming soon, and there will be great pressure to compromise in worshiping the beast and taking his name/number – death is better than that. Things that are not so dramatic and not so clear are best left to the person in question to decide and to navigate, relying on the Holy Spirit's guidance and the truth one has learned. But we certainly can pray for our friend, both for wisdom and guidance about what to do, and also for circumstances that will be at once clear as to the right course of action and easily dealt with in a godly way. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, after all, despite the way things sometimes look to worldly eyes.

Your friend in Jesus Christ or dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob and family,

It has been really nice to have fellowship with you over a couple of years and I am so very thankful for that – I have been thinking about something I would like to send to you.

You have always said that each of us is granted at least one gift, some even more according to scripture. Because I was always good at English at school, not academically brilliant but certainly good enough to convey my thoughts in an understandable way to those reading whatever I have committed to them.

Some time ago, back in 2012, my good wife and I were having a conversation about the END TIMES and Tribulation – and she said to me, you’re retired now so why don’t you study it and write it up so that we can pass it on to our children and others. So I began to do that in a limited way but because my knowledge of Revelation needed improving, I turned to the internet looking for answers to help me understand what I was reading and of course, cross checking everything with the Bible it didn’t take long to determine fact from fiction. (You may remember I’ve mentioned that before.) What started out as being 10 or 12 pages snowballed into something much larger and I eventually realised so much more was needed to be added – there was so much missing and I wanted to make it as good as I possibly could. Then I found ichthys – an absolute lifeline, my knowledge was expanding. There are a couple of condensed paragraph excerpts from ichthys included and I have made mention of where they came from and I hope that sits well with you.

As it is a sincere desire to help others in their walk wherever they may be, about 9 or 10 months ago I thought about where I could post this information (just emailing it to friends who I thought might be receptive wouldn’t reach a much larger audience, which is what I wanted) so I posted it on HubPages under theological discussion, you most probably know of it. I don’t really like it because in my opinion, there are a lot of ‘nut cases’ who post there but as it is a free site to post such information I did so.

Quite often lying in bed at night I get ‘seed thoughts’ which I’m sure is the Spirit and since first posting this article I have added much to it via these promptings. It is my hope that you would see this as my ministry.

With your permission Bob, I would like to send the article to you in the hope that you would read it and give me your valued opinion as to what may need changing. I understand that you have a very busy life schedule and as this article is well over an hour’s duration, it certainly doesn’t have to be read in one sitting – it doesn’t need a response straight away, please, only when you have time. I didn’t want to just send it to you without asking permission first.

Will make this do for now and very much again, with brotherly love,

Response #17: 

I'd be very happy to take a look at it, my friend, so please do send it along [now linked at the link].

We are just about at the end of the term here so the next week or so will be a bit busy but I promise to try and get to it in a timely fashion.

I'm very happy to learn also that you are seeing things in term of ministering. Good for you!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Also Professor, one more question on Aramaic - I want to start studying it soon and one question appeared to me - how do you maintain a level of proficiency in it, if there is hardly any scripture written in it? Now that I read Hebrew daily I'm able to keep making progress with it. The same with Greek, even if my New Testament reading is slower and because of that I spend about an hour every week on grammar revision to keep it fresh. But what about Aramaic? If one learns it and then scarcely uses it, it will no doubt begin to weaken, so I wanted to find out how you have addressed this.

Response #18: 

On Aramaic, not only is the amount of Aramaic in the OT very small, but generally speaking not difficult. The most theologically significant part is Daniel 2:4b–7:28. These are very important passages, but their interpretations do not generally depend upon difficult-to-translate-phrases (unlike later in the book where the Hebrew is some of the most difficult to interpret). So I've never seen this as a major problem. I did Aramaic in seminary, but did not concern myself with the later varieties of that language which are extra-biblical. My approach has been to read the Aramaic as I would the Hebrew when I come to it in my daily reading of the OT. This has proved sufficient for me in my view. Let me put it this way, I wouldn't want to compromise my growth in Hebrew for the sake of a misplaced emphasis on Aramaic. That is what many in graduate school actually do, as a matter of fact – or focus on Arabic because of it's value for "comparative Semitics"; but knowing Hebrew well is at least a thousand times more valuable than being able to draw some loose (and usually spurious) comparison in another language.

Question #19: 

Dear Teacher

Thank you for that answer. I have the books. I cracked First Year Greek on Saturday and promptly got lost. I couldn't even read the first page. But I saw that the alphabet was in Part 2 and figured I should probably learn them first. So I took a look at them today and I want to take some time to get used to the symbols. But what do I really know? Where should I start and how should I proceed? Our friend sent me The First Year of Greek (James T Allen), Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary, Reading Greek: An Independent Study Guide, Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises, Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Annotated Key To Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, and J Weingreen's A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew. So, how do I set up, sir?

I'm slowly working into a routine that works for me, I think. I want to test a split into morning and night beginning tonight. To do my Bible reading and prayer all at once takes a great deal of time. So, I think I should split it up to see if I can do it more productively.

I'll send another email tomorrow with some questions that I have from my Bible-reading.

Is Greek a phonetic language, sir? Hebrew too? I want to figure out how to pronounce the words - when I start "seeing" them, that is.

Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ

Response #19: 

Glad to hear you've gotten the books and can begin to "dig in". Learning Greek and Hebrew is no easy matter – that is why 99% of even evangelical "pastors" don't bother doing so today beyond a superficial level. But without these languages, there is no way for a pastor-teacher to be sure that the translation he is using in any given passage is right. He has to rely on someone else' judgment. That is not necessarily fatal to good teaching, but it certainly is a handicap, one remedied only by a lot of consistent hard work over a long period of time. And that is what every aspect of good teaching requires too, after all – another reason why it is absent in the ministry of 99% of so-called preachers/pastors/teachers in today's evangelicaldom.

Check out this website: "Ancient Greek Tutorials" (link). I don't know of a better one to learn how to pronounce Greek; I use this same site for teaching my intro classes (one doesn't need this fellow's book to benefit from the sound-files).

I'll take your move and the catalyst to find some sort of employment as an answer to prayer. I know that the Lord is working all this out for the good, my friend. In my own life, I can look back and see that I hardly ever anticipated the twists and turns that came, but I can also see His hand in every one.

In terms of how to handle things, assuming you have limited time, my advice to you would be to concentrate on Greek first. In the early going, it is easier than Hebrew (though that levels out and reverses after the first or second year in an academic approach); also, it is more accessible for us who speak Indo-European languages. I would personally recommend trying to begin to work your way through Reading Greek after you have learned the alphabet (rote – from the book), and also how to pronounce words (from the website). Read the sections one at a time, do all the grammar in the other book along with them, and also do all of the exercises. This will be slow going at first – it might take you six months to do a good job on section 1 – but will get faster over time if you are consistent. Do not try to rush it. It takes time for your brain to assimilate this entirely new batch of information. After you have made a good start in Greek, then try to add Hebrew. The terminology and methodology for learning both is similar, so once Greek is well underway, Hebrew will go smoother. Trying to do them both at the same time is something I would recommend only to someone who can devote the bulk of his time to the effort and consistently so for the foreseeable future.

Do feel free to send along your questions any time. However, I have been tagged for jury duty here, and it has made a hash of my schedule. It lasts for two weeks or so, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to all email responses that otherwise I would get to day by day.

Keeping you and yours in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

I hope you are doing fine. I have been praying for your ministry asking God to give you more strength to keep at it.

I have been praying persistently to God asking Him where my spiritual gifts and ministry lie. I also asked Him to grow me spiritually and to help me not become weary because of spiritual attacks and secular problems. I will keep doing so. The parable in Luke 11:5-8 really hit the nail on the head for me, especially the part where it says "yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs." I took this passage to heart, and it has inspired me. I have been very stressed and anxious lately. I sometimes went without sleep for over 48 hours. Majorly affects my behavior. Much of this is because I have been trying to decide and move with the idea of whether I want to go to trade school and become a welder or not. Just through prayer and discernment I just don't feel like God wants me to go to college, and I want to work with my hands as I believe I am more gifted in that area. But then I thought "what about ministry?" I sorta came from the mentality that in time I would have to quit work and do ministry full time, but it all sounds so impractical and even a bit foolish if I may say so kindly. I may know the answer already, but I just wanted to solidify it and so I'm asking you for assurance. Do you think I could have a profession and eventually do ministry off the side? As in, could/should I do both? I know we have to support ourselves. I've been praying to God about it telling Him that I won't go anywhere unless I've come to Him about it first. I also told Him I would put Him first before anything, so that wherever I go and whatever I do I will not allow it to ruin my walk with Him. I do know it can be difficult maintaining a good walk with Christ while negotiating work and classes. But I know I can do it with relative ease because I would be dropping back to part time at my job and classes at school only add to 24 hours a week. Combined, both work and school would only be 48 hours a week, which is only 8 hours more than what I work now, and I have had plenty of time to spend with God.

I don't want to end up in the thorny soil worried about the issues of basic life. I don't care about money. Its just that the job I work now is night shift and its wearing me out. I just want to get these basic secular issues out of the way. Hopefully God will help me with this anxiety as I know that excessive worry and anxiety are foolish.

Response #20: 

Good to hear from you, my friend, and thanks much for your prayers.

I would probably drop dead after a week of night-shift work.

As to your question, given the state of contemporary Christianity in the US today in the era of Laodicea, I would be very reluctant to suggest that any believer who is contemplating ministry to look for any sort of full-time situation where the ministry would provide the support. Not saying it's impossible. This was something I struggled with many years ago after my first year in seminary. I decided after much soul-searching of the kind that you are doing that it would be a very bad idea for me to continue with my plan to become a Presbyterian minister. Looking back, I am beyond glad that I did things the way I did them on this score. And the Lord has provided, wonderfully so. This profession, Classics professor, has allowed me to put bread on the table, clothes on the back, and a roof over the head while continuing with this ministry. I do know of some individuals who have found churches or ministries / founded churches or ministries where these provide all or most of their support – and that is the biblical standard for teaching ministries. But the closer we get to the end the less opportunities I see (personally – my perspective may be a bit myopic) for such things to happen in a GOOD way (i.e., there are plenty of people out there being paid to minister, just not in any sort of group or organization that I would want to be associated with because of a lack of respect for the truth).

Paul made tents, after all. So if the greatest apostle felt there were times when we might need to support ourselves while we minister, it's certainly a telling example. How we make our living is up to us, and of course doing something one is good at and enjoys would seem to be superior to trying to force one's round-peg self into a square hole. And if anyone is reluctant to be ministered to by someone who does welding for a living, well, if the welder is actually prepared to teach the Word and is teaching the truth, that is just a level of ignorant prejudice that could only come from a very immature believer – someone no doubt better off in one of those mega-churches where music and showmanship substitute for in-depth teaching of the truth in an orthodox way.

I have been praying for you my friend and will continue to do so. We both know very well that the Lord will answer your prayers and give you the guidance and assurance you need to figure this one out.

Do feel free to write me back and keep me in the loop.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Dear Teacher

Thank you very much for your patient guidance.

I think that you have my number when you say "don't try to rush it". Inside I always feel like a horse straining at my bridle. I used to say that it was God Who slowed me up for years so that I would get Him right before running out. That way, I wouldn't ruin my life and other people's with half-baked assumptions and loads of ignorance. I think that that is still true. I think that shows in everything I do. In Aba, I have nothing to do as yet (since conditions at my brother's construction project make it impossible for him to let me work with him even as any other day laborer which was what I asked him to let me be, at least) besides read, study and practice problems. Still, it feels like everything takes too much time. I think it probably does but still.

The routine I follow for Bible-reading involves trying to study two chapters each from six books of the Bible everyday (three from the New and three from the Old). That takes me at least three hours. While I read, I try to catch the puzzling feeling I get when I find something difficult to understand (my nature is to skip what I don't understand and expect something ahead in my reading to make it clear to me later) so that I can write the question down in the best way that represents my confusion. Then I read the resources I found on Ichthys for each book - if it exists - to see if my question was already answered. If it is and I have no new questions, I move on. If it isn't or I do, I note that it isn't then put all my questions together and send them in an email to you. I like the whole thing enough to want to keep going when I get started but I get worried that I am using up time that I should be using for the question of finding sustenance. While it is ironic that I have no job to go to so that there is little sense in worrying that I am letting daily Bible-reading and prayer make me irresponsible, there is also my concern that perhaps the right thing for me to do now is to get out and start asking around for work and at the same time study the books that our other friend sent me to see if maybe that new career path is where God might want to take me.

Point is, even without the unpredictable pattern of life with my parents, Aba still presents its own unique challenges to spiritual growth. It is just as you said. It does not get better. It just gets different. It's really tough having to make all these judgment calls. It feels exciting and liberating to be able to try to figure out the right way to apply the Truth we learn but sometimes I just wish someone would tell me what to do so that all the trouble I have to take is to make myself do it.

I feel a little sad inside and have for maybe a few days now. You did warn me to not expect too much of those that God gives me grace to help. But it is still painful even if only a little (talking about it makes me feel it more acutely so I suppose I was dealing with it by resigning to it prior). The WhatsApp group that I'm on is back to not engaging at all. Perhaps they're all very busy. Perhaps I'm just too much in their faces with all this stuff. Or perhaps they don't want to know anything about it. But an old friend who sort of complained (or something) to me that she was backsliding and didn't know if she wanted to stop or not and who said she was happy to have me helping, checking on her, sharing your teachings with her to help her figure things out and make the right decision told me last night that she blocked me on WhatsApp because I was breathing down her neck about the whole thing, that she regretted telling me about it. I had been checking on her sometimes everyday, sometimes every other day. If I ran into something on Ichthys that I thought she could use I sent it to her. That happened only three times. Otherwise I left her alone. And I had for maybe three days or so when I decided to check on her again and my message didn't get through. When I called her up, she said there was nothing wrong so I said I would call later to know what her progress was like. That "call later" was last night. I asked her if she understood that she was choosing to cut me out of her life because I was concerned about her spiritual safety and she said that she did but that she wanted to sort it out herself. I told her that the world as is is dangerous enough for Christians without taking into recognition the terrible traps that churches are and the catching nature of lukewarmness such that believers who are committed to following Christ are the best company a believer in her position could desire but that I would not force my company on her. If she felt convinced that she had to do this by herself then I would remove myself. She can text or call anytime and I would answer her but I wouldn't reach out to her anymore. And she thanked me.

It was what she wanted. But I felt quite sad. I considered yours and our friend's example of essentially letting those who are seeking to come to you rather than badgering them and thought that perhaps I should not have been as forward as I was with her and as forward as I am with my WhatsApp group. I try to give people space to believe what they choose and be who they want but I'm not sure I know how much space I should give in each case.

She is not the only one who has told me straight out that they want me to leave them alone so that they can figure things out for themselves. Another old friend who was quite close to me while I was in uni did the same some months back.

It is the Laodicean era as you taught me, sir. Still, I keep wishing for more. As you said, during the Tribulation, many of these people who take too much for granted will wake up and smell the coffee. But I wish they won't take till then. And I fear for myself too. I have seen God's power in keeping me focused on these things but to think that even mature believers could be at risk in the Tribulation makes me wonder just how careful I can be. The world is filled with excuses for which we can deprioritize the New Jerusalem. And everyday that I don't complete my Bible-reading or not pray as I think I should or not pray at all is a day that tells me that I could still fall. That is to say nothing about how little I realize I know of God's Truth each time I read the email postings. I have a vast lot to learn and I'm very suspicious that during the Tribulation, we might find Bibles very hard to come by and if that, I wonder how anyone could access the main manuscripts when you would have no time to learn Greek or possibly any way to use it substantively then. I think you mentioned this in the CT series but I don't remember very well now - another reason I know that no day spent reading and rereading all the series on Ichthys is wasted.

Finally, I was having a thought about being hardened. I have since you gave me corrections regarding the comments I made on Ahab and his prophets. I wonder if perhaps hardening is possible because God deliberately allows (by His Own Choice to not fully unveil Himself to creation) those who reject or oppose Him to do so by letting certain lies about Him go unanswered. I wrote something small about it. And I have been comparing it in my mind to what I learned from the Exodus 14 series when I read it yesterday. Could you look at it and tell me what I may still be failing to appreciate about it?


Then, I think it was yesterday or so that I thought about Eternity and the Lake of Fire and it dawned on me (quite literally too, in a sense) that sin, defiance and rebellion against God will not continue after we die.

This life in this world is the only time in which any human being will have a free will. Those who choose to use it to rebel against God are only able to do so because they are shielded from His full reality. To come face to face with God is to lose one's hold on every lie. It is impossible to behold God's glory in its fullness and still be able to reject or defy Him. Satan and the other fallen angels were able to do so only because too they did not see God in His full glory. At least, I believe that because although it may be logically a circular argument, the Bible quite clearly says that

[10]so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11]and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For creatures to actually be free to say "no" to God, the fullness of God's majesty must be concealed from them. If it is not, just the terror of Him would compel them to do His Will. They could never refuse. So, the angels had a free will and were able to say no to God before. Then after they saw a demonstration of His Power that completely shattered certain important aspects of the Lie that came into existence through Satan, to a reasonable extent, that free will was negated. No angel currently is able to choose anymore whether to trust God or rebel against Him. Those who choose for Him have been eternally confirmed in their acceptance of His Authority because of that Genesis Gap Judgment and those who rebelled have been confirmed in their rebellion as well. But Satan and his angels have remained free to try to oppose God's Will to some extent by the fact that that Judgment left certain aspects of the Lie unanswered. So, creatures like Satan can still to a certain extent deny the full reality of God since it has not been made manifest to them. If it had, they would be completely unable to continue opposing Him in the manner that they have. They would be too afraid to do so. Every time that God executes a judgment of power against disobedience in the sight of free-will creatures or manifests Himself in some powerful way, their ability to doubt Him is fatally affected.

At the moment, it is the incredible unopposable Wisdom of God that Satan and his angels are getting educated in (the elect angels are learning too but just like Satan, this is only confirming them in their election). See Ephesians 3:9-10. The time will come when "every mouth will be stopped" (Psalm 63:11).

At the Judgment of the White Throne, God's refulgent glory will be fully unveiled in Jesus Christ. Not one single angel or human will be able to continue to be defiant. Every last lie will cease.

The point is that those who today luxuriate in lies of whatever persuasion as though even in hell, they could continue to be defiant are going to be extremely disappointed. When God renders His Last Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, not a single human or angel would be able to disagree with its perfect justice and fairness or with its finality. Those who rejected God in time will wish for all eternity that they hadn't. Their misery will never end because they now know and can never again escape the truth that they made the worst possible choice.

Understanding this brought me into a sort of new soberness. First, as unpleasant as that might sound to some, it made me happy to know that those who live today like they are themselves God will not continue in that arrogance forever. The Judgment will end all of that. Second, it taught me a lesson about how God for all His Mercy and Love just must not be trifled with. Every time we sin (and unfortunately we will continue to battle sin in these bodies until we die and/or are resurrected), we essentially act like God is not someone we need to worry so much about. He may not like what we think, say or do, but so what? Who is He? This is the attitude that defines sin of all sorts. It is truly a madness because God is Stark Reality. He is the Wall you come up against at the end of the Universe. And when you get there, you want It to be a comfortable meeting not a surprising one.

In other words, there won't be sin anymore in eternity. Not even in the Lake of Fire. There will be no unbelief either. Faith and the lack of it will all end at the Judgment. Those who have believed will see and know with a certainty that is currently incomprehensible. Those who have not will too. And everyone will bow to the awesome Reality of God and those who end up thrust away from the joys and pleasures of that Reality will still not escape it. Rather they will be tormented by all of the Eternal Anger of an Eternal God. All they will have is regret. It's such an unpleasant outlook to even contemplate. And yet, this is the destiny of the vast majority of humankind.

I'm sorry that this is so long. Please bear with me. I hope that you will take your time with it. I can wait. At least, it could help me learn to be patient and not rush.

I have prayed for and will continue to mention your jury time before God. Is there any news about our friend's health yet?

Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ

Response #21: 

Good to hear from you, my friend, and thanks much for the update. Thanks for your prayers too – I was let off of jury duty both Thursday and Friday (one finds out when one calls after the work day is over what one's "fate" is for the next day), so I was able to get some things done. Also will be off tomorrow (no word yet on what the rest of the week holds). So I will be pretty far along in doing "summer chores" that need to be taken care of before I get into my research phase and prepping my classes for next year (starting a week from tomorrow). I haven't received any word on our friend's health situation yet and am reluctant to email him as I'm pretty sure that good news would have been forthcoming already. I did learn (from the caring website) that my seminary classmate is getting a bone marrow transplant that will we hope cure his leukemia. Plenty to pray for. And I am praying for you. There are worse things than spending the day on the Bible and Bible study. I think the Lord often gives those newly enthused with the truth a "honeymoon" to take in as much as possible as soon as possible. That happened for me. After I decided to get serious, I found myself alone in a one bedroom apartment and in a staff job in the USMC with no distractions after the work day was done, so I was able to listen to tapes at a prodigious rate. As for looking for work, I'm not sure what that is like in your country but it is terribly difficult here, even if the unemployment rate is theoretically low (many people have stopped looking and are no longer counted); you are young and that is a plus (I don't think I could get hired as a grocery bagger – the first job I had as a teenager – at my age and purely because of it). I know that the Lord will work this out and give you guidance. It doesn't surprise me that our other friend sent you books that are very advanced – he is very smart in very many areas. When he sends me math-related arguments I have no idea what he is talking about. But he really is a "good egg".

On dealing with others, I went through a phase (several, actually) when I too tried to "cram it down their throats". Not that I felt I was doing that, but in retrospect with the passage of time I can see that this is what it amounted to. You are learning the right balance. The day will come, probably quicker than you imagine, when you will have to husband your time for ministry and have to be fair about portioning it out as well. You have a lot to offer, obviously. Your disquisition here is wonderful (I might have some quibbles about the state of the angels but we can talk about that later: "God's last olive branch"), but overall I enjoyed it thoroughly. You make excellent points! At several points I thought I was reading something I had written myself but didn't remember writing – so it has to be first rate stuff (lol). Seriously, you are getting very well-prepared very quickly as is obvious from your materials. Be patient. The Lord is putting on the finishing touches and He is the One who will put you into service at precisely the right time and in precisely the right place. Pray about it. I'm certainly doing the same for you. If my life experience and all that I've observed are any guide, it will probably be in a place and in a way you never suspected before the fact.

Finally, of one thing I am absolutely sure and convinced: you don't have to worry at all about falling. Not saying that we don't all stumble from time to time (although better not to, for sure). But you are going to make it safe and sound to the other side and you will be helping many others do the same – with the result of a great reward. So be pleased to keep fighting the fight day by day. As your writing makes clear, that is what is important in light of the wonders of all that is to come.

Pleased to be your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

[Believer with hearing problems frustrated at the potential difficulty of ministering]

Response #22: 

I appreciate all you have written here.

I might know more about this than you realize. I was on the periphery of the deaf community when I was in college many years ago, and I came to realize early on the gravity of this cultural difference you mention. Blind people are, culturally, just like everyone else, only they can't see. Deaf people are in many ways in a world of their own which only other deaf people can fully appreciate. In my career as a Classics professor, our department at U of L combines languages and a very large ASL program, so I have contact with deaf colleagues on a regular basis as well. I also know what you mean about the challenge increasing deafness poses for older people. My mother (who died about a year and a half ago) was increasingly hard of hearing and it posed many problems for her. However, I do have to say that not everyone reacts in the precise same way to these things. She was a fighter and did her best to stay engaged despite the growing problem.

In fact, the cultural divide you mention may be the opportunity. It seems to me that you are in a rather unique position, namely, to understand and appreciate the hurdles and challenges of both sides trying to understand each other inasmuch as you have a foot on both sides of the line, so to speak. And for the record, I've never thought of you as anything but a good Christian who is trying to learn, just like the rest of us (should be). Believe me when I say that I have had to deal with MANY believers who had no problem hearing but who were pretty much unable or unwilling to listen – that is a far more deadly handicap.

In any case, you are NOT worthless!!! You are a believer in Jesus Christ and you have been given discrete spiritual gifts by the Spirit. The Lord has a ministry in store, just for you, and the Father has a plan for you that includes – following spiritual growth and progress through passing significant tests – a particular positive effect in helping the Body of Christ. I appreciate your humility. That is a good thing – up to a point:

Then Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." So the Lord said to him, "Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say." But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses
Exodus 4:10-14a NKJV

Keeping you in my prayers every day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 


Response #23: 

You are most welcome, my friend. I know God has something important for you to do when you are ready. Of course none of us is "Moses", but many of us are equally likely to resist "the call" when it comes and however it comes (even though not directly and audibly in this age we are in), and it is a mistake to think of that as humility (as it was for Moses).

Keeping you in my prayers,

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

[but not sure what form ministry could take then]

Response #24: 

Here is what I read in scripture:

And to every [Christian] has been given a manifestation of the Spirit for the good.
1st Corinthians 12:7

This comes in the context of spiritual gifts so that is what Paul is referring to (see also the discussion in BB 5: Pneumatology). We all have gifts, and they are as diverse in their combination as is the Church. Speaking about pastors (with the point being applicable to us all) Peter says that we should serve the Church "not by compulsion but willingly" (1Pet.5:2), and we know that "God loves a cheerful giver" (2Cor.9:7), meaning that whatever we give to the Church should be done not only freely but in joy. If we feel pressured to do whatever it is then we should think twice about doing whatever it is.

Prayer is wonderful and I would encourage you to continue being a good "prayer warrior". Don't worry about what might be next. No one can tell you that. If my life-experience is any guide, things NEVER turn out the way we expect them to. Life is pretty much a surprise from beginning to end. Nothing is impossible for the Lord and He will prepare you and guide you into whatever He has for you, no doubt something that will only start to become clear over time after much growth. So keep on praying . . . and keep on growing! God uses prepared people. That is the trouble with the church-visible today, after all. In Laodicea too few are interested in doing the hard work of spiritual growth so as to be available to the Lord when He does call. That is what this ministry strives to do, namely, make the material available for believers to be able to grow – but each person still has to put in their own daily, consistent effort.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Dear Professor,

How are you? I wanted to apologise for not getting back to your previous email. It has been a hectic month (and a bit) that’s for sure. But still no excuse.

Thank you for taking the time to narrate in detail your experience, albeit horrific. You have certainly had a spectacular deliverance throughout that ordeal and I am so glad you made it through. Praise our Lord!

Yes you are certainly right in saying that our friend is a good man, exceptional in fact! He has influenced my life more than I will ever realise this side of heaven. I still remember the first time he suggested for me to read “Read your Bible” - which was my first encounter with Ichthys back in October/November 2011. It led me to your teachings, which have also been nothing short of life-changing. A testament to power of God’s truth empowered by the Spirit in one’s life.

Professor - main reason for this email is that I have attached a few resources that are edited versions of the gospel notes you currently have on Ichthys. I have been going over these for the last year and half or so and it has truly made a difference to my Bible reading. More questions arose, however, as I was going through these. What I decided to do is for any (most) pertinent verses that hadn’t yet had any questions/answers. I attempted to conduct as thorough a search as I could across Ichthys to find any questions/exegesis on these verses. I also decided to link snippets from Ichthys studies with applicable verses e.g. Spiritual death of Christ; Our Lord’s Prayer. You can see these in the table of contents where I write “excerpt from…e.g. BB 4b Soteriology”.

I actually printed this document (Matthew) off, and it is quite a document. Hundreds of pages on exegesis of this gospel from all the questions put forward by our friend and many other Ichthys readers, including all your responses. I use this as my reference guide whenever I read a passage from Matthew and it has been a difference maker in elucidating correct interpretation of verses.

I have also just completed the same for Mark - although to a much lesser degree due to the comparatively shorter nature of this gospel. I intend to do the same with Luke’s gospel next.

I thought you would also like to know that I have also commenced a similar process for pastor Curt Omo’s lessons. I was prompted by both Curt and our friend as to whether I would be willing to do this. It is a very time consuming process (as is anything done with due diligence), but at the same time it has been labour prompted by love. I have attached the first two lessons I have typed up on James as an example. I have also forwarded these to our friend and Curt to see what they think.

I don’t expect you to read through all of these, but a glance through and any insights you may have would be very much appreciated. This would provide a lot of motivation for me if e.g. I knew it had the potential to benefit other believers.

Your student in Christ,

Response #25: 

Great work here on James!

It's a real pleasure to see you coming into your own as a teacher – I know that the Lord honors this noble intention and will provide the "congregation" in due time. Being prepared is something that takes time. Clearly, you have been working on this diligently, and that is a great encouragement to me.

I would be happy to post this piece on James at Ichthys if and when you are ready to have me do so, my friend. I would also like to do the same with your work in organizing the materials for Matthew and Mark (your own contributions are very good as well!). Your presentation of the material is very helpful. I've long thought of doing something like this myself, but I'm afraid with all that's on my plate it would have been years if ever before I could have even ever consider it.

Thanks for all your great work! And thanks so much for your friendship.

Let me know on this.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Dear Professor,

Thank you so much for your encouragement. This really means a lot to me and serves as great motivation for me to continue pushing ahead, according to the purpose I have been called.

I also appreciate the kind offer as always to post this at Ichthys. I shall endeavour to complete the whole series, and once I have done so, I shall forward onto you and you are more than welcome to post at Ichthys should you deem it to be beneficial to readers.

It goes without saying that you are welcome to post Matthew and Mark too - the bulk of this work is ultimately yours, our friend, and your congregation (Ichthys readers). I shall be going through it at some point (most likely following James series) to tidy up the formatting. But I don’t imagine the content changing too much.

It is pleasure to be able to support your ministry in some small way. It is the least I can say thank you for all the materials you have so painstakingly and diligently compiled. Ultimately, I am only performing my duty as a soldier of Jesus Christ in this battlefield here on earth, as we should all be doing. It soon became apparent to me that I wasn’t advancing on this battlefield. And we know that makes us prime targets for bombardment from the evil one and all the temptations the cosmos diabolicus has to offer. And as we know, with [spiritual] advancement comes a more perspicuous view of the front line as well as a battle-hardened attitude.

Thank you again for all your kind words. I hope that this is just the start, and as I commit more to tasks such as these, the Lord will lead me into the ministry He has prepared for me.

All for the glory of our Lord and Saviour,

Response #26: 

Very good! I'll get to posting the Mark and Matthew offerings later this week, time permitting, and will let you know how and where.

Your help is very much appreciated and you are finding what we all find when we engage in ministry, namely, that we learn a lot thereby – much more than would be the case if we were merely "consuming" in a passive way. Not that there is anything wrong with "consuming" the truth. Far from it! That is why this ministry is here. But at some point growth yields to progress as we are tested, and as we overcome opposition through trusting the Lord, then He leads us to begin to minister in serious ways. It's a great pleasure to see you pushing forward, and I am betting that your reward will be substantial before the Judgment seat of Christ.

So keep up the good work and continue with all your preparations. I'm also sure that the Lord has quite a lot in store for you, my friend!

Looking forward to seeing your continued progress and production for Jesus Christ (more than others look forward to seeing grandchildren and great-grandchildren).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Thank you for the most encouraging of emails, Professor.

I think your estimation of me far exceeds what I know of myself in reality, but we know that the Lord uses even the dullest of us in marvelous ways.

What you say about moving on from consumption to actually progressing to a point where we can produce our own crop is an excellent one and one that resonates with me very well. I am starting to understand how when one has to organise such notes together, the level of thought process and contemplation of the deeper meanings of these imperative truths goes up a few gears.

It is most encouraging to have fellow brothers cheering me on in the vineyard. And it is most exciting to start placing my first few steps in the vineyard, even though my soil may not be as fertile just yet. Though I am no expert in agriculture, I know that even with farming patience and perseverance are key tenets of producing a bountiful crop.

No problem and no rush with regards to the postings. I look forward to hearing where they end up when the time is due.

Thank you once again!

Response #27: 

I think you have great potential, my friend, and I am counting on you living up to it.

So hang in there and keep "plowing" (cf. 2Tim.2:6-7).

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 125:5-6 NIV

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 NIV

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Dear Bob,

I recently received this writing from who knows who, and it has rather unsettled me. Am I right to feel unsettled? Is not this message a little too flippant? Humanistic? Or taking Our Lord too lightly? Please just read it and tell me if I am being rather too serious or square. If that is so, then I will lighten up and take my Christianity more lightly with all that this implies.



Jesus was always the grand conversationalist. He knew how to stir up discussions with anyone. He was not into separating himself from people and their culture, as the religious did. Jesus never played the game of hierarchy, positioning himself over others. He was not an exclusivist; Jesus was all-inclusive! So many of his conversations were at social events, around the table.

About three weeks ago, Diana and I visited a long-time friend in Tubac, Arizona. We enjoyed getting to see the beautiful countryside and the Village of Tubac. Most of all, we thoroughly enjoyed the people we met. Each of them has a back-story, before retirement, that is a "good book" or maybe a "movie" someday.

Our friend, Jackie, hosted a very large party at her home. There were nearly 100 in attendance. We, along with two other friends from California, were stationed at the front door to be the friendly greeters for the evening. Jackie had shared with many of these friends that we were neighbors and I was her Pastor for years.

The four of us had the most fascinating conversations... about Jesus. I was amazed at how attractive Jesus was to everyone, when he was discussed WITHOUT certain things: FIRST: When he is removed from his "founder of Christianity" role, Jesus is shockingly different, because this rumor is so prevalent.

SECOND: When he is removed from his identification of being responsible for and a fan of the "institutional Church", Jesus becomes one of us, who thinks as we do.

THIRD: When he is removed from his identity of even being a Christian, since Christianity is a man-made religion that began 300 years later, Jesus is free to be his awesome self.

FOURTH: When he is stripped of all religious baggage, Jesus becomes irresistible to everyone who cares-those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

This is Jesus as he really is...JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Do you know him or just a lot about him?

Response #28: 

The rhetorical spin here is typical – or maybe it's only very bad logic (to give this the most generous interpretation).

Our Lord went to social gatherings during His earthly ministry.


Therefore we conclude . . . nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

And so this lead us to . . . blasphemy, foolishness, lies.

"Do you know Jesus or only a lot about Him"?! Knowing the Word is knowing our Lord because the Word is His thinking (1Cor.2:16). Better question: "Do you know any of the truth of the Bible and have you believed it and committed yourself to live by it, or are you only using the words of the Bible to advance your own agenda (whatever that might be)"?

Following this piece would encourage a person to think less of the Bible, to think less of serious believers who strive to understand it, and to think less of the Lord. Cults always try to do this sort of thing so as to deconstruct whatever weak edifice of faith the victim-recruit possesses, then rebuild his/her thinking on a foundation of lies once the resistance is removed.

I would be curious to know the true provenance of this piece.

Good to hear that you are still in the fight, my friend! Me too – in spite of everything.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior – the Commander we seek to please (2Tim.2:4).

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Thank you for your always wise long distance advice ! I agree entirely with your assessment.

That message came to me from a “pastor” visiting the DR and whom I sought for advise /guidance. Being discreet, I reproduce the email sans nom. Today he asked me to sit by him and his wife. At the end of the service he asked me if I had liked the sermon, and I told him point blank that the preacher sounded more like a new age, self help, motivational speaker than a man of God. Diplomacy is not my forte, notwithstanding the fact that I've been an Ambassador on several occasions.

This is the third Sunday (and possibly the last) that I attend that congregation. When I am there I feel stupid, a waste of time, for my taste. This morning, as I was driving over, I felt uneasy so I asked God to give me a sign I couldn't ignore if this was a real church (sometimes I question my motives).

Well, lo and behold, as the visiting preacher was being a clown on stage, a fifteen feet long banner hanging high on the wall behind him came crashing down. I thought the roof had caved in!

Thank you again!

Response #29: 

It's almost impossible for believers today even in this country to find a church where the Bible is taught in an orthodox and substantive way, especially as the raison d'être. The best one can usually hope for is a place where the people actually are Christians and the environment is not predatory. Sounds to me like that place doesn't even fulfill the "safe to socialize" requirement. "Teaching" silly stuff is all the rage nowadays. It's all about entertainment. No one (with a few exceptions) is interested in the actual truth and therefore few are coming along to teach it: supply and demand equaling out. A pity too, because the truth is so very powerful, once it is taught, once it is learned, once it is believed, once it builds up in a person's heart and begins to inform all that they think and say and do. In fact, there is no way to fulfill the plan of God for one's life without the truth taught and learned and believed and acted upon. And it is ironic that evangelicals, people who are so gung-ho to "share the gospel" don't understand this: they help a person come to Christ only by sharing the truth from the Word. How would they help a person walk closer to Christ except by the same method? And the principle happens to be biblical (of course):

But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:16

(6) So then, exactly as you [originally] received Christ Jesus as [your] Lord, be walking in Him [in the very same way], (7) rooted and built up in him, established in the faith just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

Keeping you in my prayer daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30: 

Hi Dr.,

Thanks for the link explaining the situation for tenured professors in Kentucky, bad news! Trust in the Lord is all we have, He is always faithful. I will keep you in prayer on this.

I know what you mean about higher ups not having our best interests at heart. They talk a good game (out both sides of their mouths), but their hearts are far from us. They think they’re pretty slick, but the Lord knows all, and like you I’ve got a few suspicions of my own.

Stay strong in the Lord Sir.

Response #30: 

I keep your job in my prayers too. Bad as it is being associated with a public university in a state that historically is no friend of higher education, being associated with a "Christian" institution as you are I would imagine would be fraught with more dangers. These sorts seem even more capable of doing wrong and persuading themselves that they are "doing the right thing". I had an acquaintance back in California who had given up in protest a position at Biola (Tablot is their seminary) because of a colleague ill-treated on a tenure issue. He ended up being a successful handyman. Personally, I'm not sure I could be a successful garbage tipper if I got canned, so I'm very hopeful that this is not "the plan" – and actually confident of that too. God is good.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31: 

I get what you are saying about “Christian” institutions. A few years ago the local Liberty University kicked a fellow preacher's radio program off the college broadcasting station for teaching that the doctrine of the “rapture” was false and dangerous. Also, during the last election, one of the higher ups in administration was forced to resign due to his vocal opposition to Mr. Trump, who happens to be a personal friend of the Dean. I could go on, but it would probably ruin your appetite.

Victory is for those who side with the truth, in the end He/we win!

All the best!

Response #31: 

Why am I not surprised (in the least)?

Just got word that our state budget passed with the 6.25 cut for universities (that's 11 years in a row now and down to 70% of 2008 funding), and they didn't take out the "fire at will" language either.

But the Lord is my Fortress.  My hope is in heaven – that is where it is anchored.

Hoping that you will try to get a little bit of a rest, my friend. "Burn out" is a real thing, and in the end slows us down even if we had a little more progress in the lead up to it.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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