Hello Dr. Luginbill,
For quite some time I've been dealing with people who accuse me by saying things like, "you think you're more holier or better than us for not participating in our activities, or doing what we do!". To me, this seems like the enemy is trying to get me to sin by giving in to these people's desires and trying to make me feel guilty. I never think of myself better than anyone, I'm just want to follow what God says. I'm always thankful everyday that God saved me (an undeserved sinner) from the fires of hell. Some people (professing Christians) want me to participate in Halloween activities which may involve dressing up like demons, alcohol, pagan activities, etc. Is it ok according to scripture to participate in such festivities as Halloween parties, let alone celebrate Halloween? I try to follow what Paul through the Holy Spirit said in regards to these matters; to be all things unto all men, but not to participate in sinful activities. What does the bible say in regards to these matters. Thanks!
God Bless you and your ministry,
Always good to hear from you. First, it is always very important for Christians to do what they feel it is right to do in their hearts, especially when as in your case the judgments they make are 1) in the Spirit, and 2) based upon careful consideration of the scriptures.
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23 NKJV
Especially for those like yourself whose conscience has been trained through the Word of God, avoiding anything and everything about which one has qualms – like Halloween, especially the things you mention about it – is the correct procedure. That, by the way, is exactly what "the appearance of evil" in 1st Thessalonians 5:22 means, namely, staying away from things that appear to you to be evil rather than some self-righteous formula of pretending "not to appear to others to be evil". See the link: "1st Thessalonians 5:22".
Finally, this is what Peter says to those of us who experience such conflicts with the world and those of the world who are intolerant of our good behavior in trying to please our Master Jesus Christ:
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
1st Peter 4:3-5 NIV
There is absolutely no reason for you to feel guilty! As followers of Jesus Christ, there is really only one question we need to ask ourselves: "what is the right thing to do?" Then do it. If we seek to please our Lord, we will often displease others. But we are here for Him, not for them – and not even for ourselves. Here another brief link on this topic: "Christmas and Halloween".
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Once more, I have to thank you for your advice, and while I suspected/have been told as much before... it's nice to hear that I will for sure eventually get passed this initial 'apprehension' phase, and was surprised to hear I actually have a tender heart (or that's the assumption you reached). Don't worry, I won't let it get to my head, but it is a little refreshing, that's all. And now, if it's not too much trouble, another question or two? These ones aren't so pressing, but there is much controversy to them, and I'm not sure if there is an answer to scripture in them or not.
Well, as you probably have assumed, me and my fiancee are eventually going to have children (after marriage, of course). I do have doubts if I'll be a good father or not, but it is a learning process, and I'm fairly confident I'll be able to pick up on what I need; however, there is something that I've seen that's been of concern to me, and it is something me and my future wife may disagree on depending on what the actual answer is. On Holidays. I know the true meanings of Christmas and Easter, but is it right to also go along with the secular themes which seem to go along with them? For instance, the hiding of the eggs on Easter, or the tree and Santa Claus during Christmas? Part of me (unnecessarily?) is worried about lying to the kids about Santa, or am I just being too sensitive or overreacting to what is otherwise harmless fun? More worrisome yet is Halloween, although I am aware of All Saints Day, as well. I realize in modern culture, Halloween at this point is pretty much solely about children dressing up and getting candy, and the actual intent there isn't to celebrate any pagan holiday that I'm aware of. This question is essentially a 'what do you think?', and I realize I should read more into it myself... but again, there is a surprising amount of division about it, and I am not sure scripture would provide an answer about this?
If it's not too much trouble,
I'm very glad to be able to be of some small help to you.
As to holidays, the word itself means "holy day", and we who are of the truth know very well that no day is more important than any other day: we should be resting in Jesus, walking with Jesus, and serving Jesus equally well on every single day.
You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:10-11 NIV (cf. Rom.4:5; Col.2:16-17)
As I often say when I get questions like this, in my view there is a middle ground between falling in lock-step with current cultural practices on the one hand and iconoclastically raining on everyone else' parade by harping on how un-Christian certain practices are on the other. There are no truly Christian holidays, period. And those holidays which have become traditionally a part of "Christian" celebration, Christmas, for example, are much more cultural than they are Christian by any measure. For example, there are plenty of "Christmas" songs which never mention Christ – a person could fill up the holiday with them. And there is a very good reason why we don't know the date of Jesus' birth: the cross is the reason He came into the world, and that is what we are to celebrate, His death in communion, "whenever we eat and drink it", not "the baby Jesus". I don't think there is anything wrong with participating in Christmas. As long as a person knows the truth and makes a point of 1) not getting wrapped up in the holiday in any spiritual way and 2) making it clear to anyone who is interested in knowing what the truth is and how one feels about it, then I think it is fine to let the immature and the unbelievers have their "fun"; if a single person is led to think seriously about Christ as a result, well, at least that would be a good thing (not saying it is "worth it", but then no one is coming to us and asking us if it is OK with us to hold Christmas this year!). Take something like Santa Claus. My own application would not be to perpetuate the myth with my own kids and to tell them the truth when and if asked (that is how my own parents handled it and I am grateful for it) – but not necessarily indoctrinating them at three years old that there's "no Santa"; rather letting them know from the moment they can receive it that there most definitely is a Savior of the world.
Easter is less problematic on the one hand because it is far less of a universal cultural event; but more problematic on the other because of the fuss Christian groups make over it. This always spills over into pageantry of some sort, rituals old and new, and a complete misappropriation of time and emphasis. It is even very rare for churches which "do Easter up big" for the truth about the cross and all of the important doctrines related to it even to be mentioned, let alone taught and explained (see the links: BB 4A: Christology; and BB 4B: Soteriology) .
Halloween is all cultural and in no way Christian (at least not Protestant), so it is easy enough to downplay that one in my view, and I think it is sort of funny that many churches which are becoming more involved in returning to ritual in the manner of the Roman Catholic church are often the ones which inveigh the most vociferously against Halloween (which again is of no moment whatsoever for those who realize in complete understanding of the truth about such things that it is of no moment whatsoever).
Most of the above I think makes the point that the really important question which this question of festival observance evokes is "what to do about a church?" That is a great question, inasmuch as there are so very few churches which really do teach the Bible in a sound and orthodox way as their main focus and reason for existence, and so many which are so wrong on so many things and would never provide enough spiritual food in a month of Sundays to keep a bird alive. That explains why this ministry is on the internet: as a humble and partial solution to this increasingly serious problem.
You are welcome at Ichthys any time. Here are some links where these matters are discussed:
Is it valid to celebrate Christmas?
A Christmas dilemma.
The Date of Christmas.
The Origin of the name "Easter".
Is it wrong to celebrate Easter?
Computing the Date of Easter.
Easter and Christ's "Three Days" in the Grave.
Should Christians celebrate Halloween?
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I heard a sermon where the preacher said the true origins of Christmas is pagan, even the name Christmas. He said it has its origin from the celebration of Saturnalia and the birth of Tamuz, the sun god. That the RCC gave that pagan holiday a Christian veneer. He further stated that Christmas means "Christ" and Mass= death sacrifice, so when someone says Merry Christmas, they're essentially saying, "Merry death of Christ" instead of His birth. Is this true?
On Christmas, it is true that the holiday is nowhere in the Bible, and that it is impossible to know for certain the precise birthday of our Lord (which would be quite odd if we were meant to celebrate it at all). Personally, I think the traditional date is fairly close (for more on why that is see the link: "The Birth of Christ"). Christmas is a cultural holiday, and before Dickens and, more to the point, before Washington Irving popularized it in the west, was not nearly the phenomenon that it is today. So talking about its origins is really somewhat pointless (like what the Romans or the Roman Catholics did in the distant past). American football may have started as an offshoot of an early form of rugby, but that is really not much help at all for someone who has never seen it and is trying to understand the Superbowl. The holiday today means whatever it means to the people who celebrate it. It is not really particularly "Christian" in my view, except for those Christians who choose to invest it with genuine Christian meaning. My biggest problem with that theologically is that the Bible is focused on the death of Christ, not our Lord's birth, because the creation of all things and the playing out of all things in history and the entire plan of God hinge on His cross, not His cradle. Here are some things I have written about this in the past if interested:
Is it valid to celebrate Christmas?
A Christmas dilemma.
The Date of Christmas.
Yours in Jesus,
I read your Easter article this morning and thought it was excellent. It really was a well-balanced position. For years I was in a group that opposed the celebration of Christmas and Easter but after I left that group I became aware of our "uncharitableness" concerning these issues. Lately, I've been thinking about a Christian's relationship with the Law and how it relates to these traditional holidays. While we're not "under the law", idolatry still isn't acceptable as there are several directives against idolatry in the New Testament. The whole issue has been a personal struggle for me for years. No matter what I do, I can't make myself comfortable with these holidays but can I show from scripture that these are absolutely forbidden and am I blowing the issue out of proportion? This year, I have found myself in a position of Sunday school teacher, alternating every other week. It has fallen to me to teach on Easter Sunday this year and I'm not sure how to handle this. I am inclined and so far have planned to indirectly address the issue without naming names of holidays. The problem would be that no one except the pastor would probably know what I'm talking about. The pastor knows of my former positions on the issues but he trusts me - not necessarily to tow the line for him but to deliver the truth faithfully. But it is not a position he agrees with. I could probably settle down a bit except there was a reference to the relationship between Easter eggs and the resurrection and that really irked me. If we could keep Christ out of the Easter egg it would be a lot easier for me to live with. I know you addressed much of this in your article so I'm not asking you to repeat yourself and I'm not really asking a question that I need you to answer but I do welcome your comments and insight to my unique situation. If you can, I would really appreciate it.
Thank you for your time.
Good to make your acquaintance. While your situation is no doubt uncomfortable (I know because I have been there myself), it is sadly not really that unique. I receive emails all the time from believers like yourself who are conflicted about their current church (almost always because it is either not teaching the Bible at all or teaching something clearly wrong – or both). Trying to be a force for the truth from within is always a dicey business. Personally, having tried it (more than once), and having had much time to reflect on that approach, I think the odds of changing a church or church group from within are infinitesimally small. Most of the time the "change agent" either gets co-opted or booted out.
My own approach is to "consider every day the same" as I believe that to be our true mandate in the age of the Church. At the same time, I try not to bump horns with those who take a different view (Rom.14), but also see it as my responsibility to set the record straight if anyone becomes vociferously dogmatic in the wrong direction. Easter is doubly problematic because in addition to the pagan connection of some of the rituals which have accreted to it, at its most biblical it is essentially the "resurrecting" (pardon the word) of Passover in the cause of organized Christianity. That is a problem because Passover looked forward to the cross, but Jesus has now been resurrected and glorified, so that like much legalism it compromises grace in a fundamental way. Our Lord did give us a way to remember what He did for us and who He genuinely is: "Keep on doing this in remembrance of Me" (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:25), so compromising communion which is required is another downside to Easter which is not. Easter as Passover is just another relic of the Roman Catholic church's arrogation of the trappings of the Priesthood to itself (cathedrals, altars, holy water, priests, high-priesthood, festivals etc.) from which – even though the Reformation is more than half a millennium distant now – Protestant churches have yet to liberate themselves entirely. In fact, the trend in most churches today is toward more erroneous ritual, not less. So I applaud your efforts and validate your concerns. Best wishes for your continued teaching of the truth of the Word of God. Feel free to write me any time.
In Jesus our Lord who is the only truth – the way and the life.
Hello Dr Luginbill,
A brother in Christ said that Love is God rather than God is love as the bible says, and I told him that was incorrect. His response was that I was just arguing semantics and they both mean the same thing. To me that's like saying the couch is red is the same as red is the couch. Is he correct in saying that love is God?
My other question is regarding the word "craft" in the Old Testament. In the book of Daniel is says that the Antichrist will cause craft to prosper. A preacher said in a sermon that this is referring to witchcraft because witchcraft is often referred to as "the craft". I did a concordance search and it gave the definition as (deceit, cunningness, etc.). Would craft in the book if Daniel be interpreted as witchcraft?
As usual, you are spot-on. Grammatically speaking, both in the biblical text and in the example given, the subject comes first and is described by the predicate – it is not at all necessarily identical with the predicate. "God is love" is meant to describe God, a unique characteristic of His essence. Reversing the proposition at best presents us with something nonsensical; at worst it makes LOVE some sort of god with God Himself out of the mix (and that is not at all what the original Greek suggests; nor can we do this in English: "Fred is nothing" means something quite different from "Nothing is Fred").
As to "craft", the coincidence of the English words is meaningless, especially inasmuch as we are looking at a translation from Hebrew. One might as well say that all planes are satanic because they are "aircraft", etc. I translate the Hebrew word in question (mirmah) from Daniel 8:25 "cunning". Without question antichrist will be involved with the devil – he is the devil's son. But seeing the "cunning" here as specifically "witchcraft" puts an entirely incorrect slant on the interpretation of a verse meant to emphasize the beast's political cleverness and ability to deceive through traditional propaganda (see the link in CT 3B "The character of antichrist" where this passage is exegeted).
Hope this is helpful!
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I had a brother in Christ tell me that taking medication is participating in the realm of sorcery. I take medication for high blood pressure and pain and he told me that I need to stop taking them because that is the same as sorcery. He said something alone the lines of the word pharmacy is derived from the Greek word for sorcery. Is any of this true? and what am I supposed to do if I stop taking medication for blood pressure and pain? Thanks!
Please do not stop taking your medication.
There are many differences between the ancient world and the modern world. For one thing, pagan religion was thoroughly integrated into the state and the culture of all of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations. So it is not surprising that in such nations no one would even be able to contemplate separating medicine from religion. In Israel, medicine was first and foremost the province of the priesthood. However, we know that there were others who had medical roles (e.g., the midwives of the Exodus). Today, we have no national priesthood nor state religion of which medicine is an integral part. What we do have is secularized medicine. The fact that pharmacy derives from the word pharmakeia which means "witchcraft" as well as "drug therapy" should not be misapplied to mean that we should never use a pharmacy (just because they had trouble separating the two in antiquity does not mean that we cannot tell the difference between legitimate medicine and illicit drugs). If we subjected everything to that etymological test it would wreak havoc with all sorts of things.
Consider this: Paul was attended to by "Luke the beloved physician". If there was anything wrong with medical care coming from a believer who knows there is nothing necessarily wrong with medicinal herbs, for example, surely, Paul would have told us. "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" (Ps.24:1 NIV). We may make use of everything in the world as long as we do not misapply it in our use. Just as Paul had absolutely no problem eating a steak that had been sacrificed to an idol – it's just a piece of meat for which we give thanks – so he clearly had no problem with taking legitimate medical help. I would not go to a witch-doctor (or the equivalent). I would not take medical help that was part and parcel of some demonic rite (or anything close). But I have no problem taking aspirin when I have a headache – even if I bought it in a "pharmacy". We trust the Lord to heal us (Ps.103:3) – we also make grateful use of the means He has provided us in modern medicine and pharmacology, always recognizing that it is His provision and power that is helping us, not some magic power belonging to the evil one.
Yours in Jesus Christ our all in all.
I hope this isn't too much trouble but I would like to be clear on what God tells us about going to Mars and other places. I have always thought that God really didn't want us to venture out into outer space. But I don't know where I would find that in the bible.
So, if you could get to this question I would appreciate any bible verses that you know of that will help.
Does God want us to go to outer space?
In His Grace,
Good to make your acquaintance. No trouble at all!
I don't think there is anything particularly sinful about NASA and their activities (except to the extent that over-focusing upon the secular scientific viewpoint on the nature and origin of the cosmos turns people away from the truth; see the link: The Problem of Science and the Bible). Having created the earth, after the Genesis gap God reestablished it specifically for mankind, and likewise made mankind specifically for the earth. It would be powerfully peculiar if He intended us to live elsewhere in the universe, especially in these sinful bodies. Even in eternity, when history comes to an end, it will be the earth that is the place where the Father returns to commune with saved and resurrected mankind (the new earth and New Jerusalem, that is: Rev.21-22; see the link).
It won't turn out to be a practical concern, however. Like many technological advances which might in theory completely wreak havoc with God's plan for humanity, these will not be allowed to advance to the point of the issue ever coming up (in spite of the devil's desires for them to do so). Long before any planned "flight to Mars" our Lord will return and render the question moot. For more on that please see the link: "The Seven Days of Human History".
Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Can you tell me anything about the Annunaki?
Good to hear from you.
There are no such things as space aliens (by whatever name). This is a satanic hoax. God has only created two categories of creatures possessing the image of God, namely, free will: angels and human beings. How long angels have been around is an open question. There was some probably considerable period after the initial creation when only angels existed in terms of creatures who could respond to God. This period seems to have lasted many eons. The fossil record suggests that it did, but we cannot know for sure because the Bible doesn't specify. Also, all scientific methods of dating are suspect because they assume that things have remained largely the same since the beginning when in fact we know from scripture that this is not the case. For instance, after a long period elapsed, Satan rebelled against God, taking one third of angelic kind with him into rebellion. God allowed him and his followers to "rule the earth" for another considerable period (also of unknown duration), but eventually judged the earth and the universe, plunging them into darkness and filling up all of space with the universal deep, the tehom of Genesis 1:2. At this point, nothing was alive in the universe with the exception of angelic kind (angels do not possess physical bodies and so were not destroyed by this judgment). This all changed again approximately 6,000 years ago when God graciously re-made the world in six days, resting on the seventh. All present physical life in the universe goes back to that point of time, very recent in geological terms. This is a long way of saying by way of biblical demonstration that even if evolution made sense or were possible (both of which are of course incorrect premises), it would still have been impossible for any sort of extraterrestrial intelligent life to have developed in so short a time. And of course the earth is the focus of what God is doing so that only a scientific philosophy which rejects God (either directly and overtly or indirectly by rejecting His Word) would ever be able to posit any such creatures outside of angels and human beings.
In terms of claims of skeletons of very large hominid creatures (again, by whatever name), even if it were true that such finds did exist and were not merely the stuff of popular culture, all this would prove is that there were at some time in the past hominid creatures of some size. We certainly can accept the existence of great apes today and the possibility of similar creatures before the Genesis gap judgment on the universe. We also know that in antiquity there were individuals of some considerable size (e.g., Goliath and his kindred in the books of Samuel, and the Riphaiyim and the Anakites of Deut.2:11). It seems possible to me that these latter are mythologically related to the Annunaki, who are, technically speaking Sumerian gods or demigods (that is the origin of the word and its traditional meaning at any rate). Despite being of great stature, the biblical references all refer to actual human beings (and in the case of the Sumerians to mythological figures). There is also the issue of the Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels having relations with human women in the period before the great flood (and a major reason for God's judgment of the world at that time). It seems doubtful that any of their skeletons could survive the great flood intact, but I suppose it is theoretically possible. For the latest link on that topic (which will lead to many other links), please see: Fallen Angels, Demons, Nephilim, and the Devil's Methodology.
Finally, as I have opined previously on more than one occasion, I think it is certainly possible that when antichrist appears on the scene that he and his supporters will let it out that he is "an alien". If so, that is likely to add to his mystique. The world of our day is becoming increasingly credulous about such things (even as it more and more disdains the Word of God).
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I hear you and thanks for the response, but what about the information contained in the Sumerian stone tablets, is it also a satanic farce aimed at ridiculing Gods word?
Every ancient culture (and many modern ones) has a system of mythology, and some of these (I think of Greek and Roman mythology) are highly elaborate, having continued to be embellished by major authors long after the time when anyone believed they had anything to do with the truth. What the story was with the Sumerian myths for Sumerians in the days they were invented, passed down, and later enshrined, I'm not sure anyone knows. Sumerology is a very complex field and very little is certain because of the many difficulties of the language which as yet have not been resolved (it is often quipped that there are as many Sumerian languages as there are Sumerologists). Given what we know about the subject from scripture, it is safe to say that wherever we find pagan or false religion, there we find the devil and his influence. Religion is one of if not the premier way in which Satan influences human affairs by enslaving humanity with the fear of death (Heb.2:14-15).
Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
1st Corinthians 10:19-20 NIV
People only believe lies (and all mythology is a lie) after they have rejected the truth. For that reason, the devil is always keen to push religion of every sort (as opposed to biblical faith in Jesus Christ and in the Word of God) – not to mention the scientific version of religion (of which belief in extra-terrestrial life is certainly a part). Everything that furthers Satan's aim and gives the person rejecting the Savior some nonsense to believe in place of the gospel is a benefit to him and would certainly meet these criteria.
In Jesus Christ who is the only truth – the way and the life.
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I heard a sermon on the cross and Jesus and the preacher spoke on how he's reluctant in wearing crosses. He quoted bible passages where it says that the cross is a curse and whoever hangs on it is cursed. He said, "if you kill the king's son with a piece of wood, would you consider the weapon to be holy?" He used that analogy to prove that the cross is not a holy symbol and it is an accursed object, and how crosses were used long before Christ. He further said that wearing crosses on our person would be tantamount to wearing a cursed object. Is any of this biblical?
Good to hear from you!
I can certainly understand Bible-oriented Christians feeling that excessive displays of iconography are problematic (cf. the whole approach of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches), but I agree with you that this particular diatribe goes too far. The New Testament uses the cross repeatedly as a metaphor for our Lord's spiritual death in dying for the sins of the world (because it took place on the cross):
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14 NIV
With the possible exception of Exodus 12:13, the only place I know of in the Bible where the cross is a visible symbol (as opposed to a literary metaphor) is when it will appear in the sky at our Lord's second advent (Matt.24:29-30). However, there is no recorded instance in the Bible of anyone wearing a cross. So on the one hand I don't adopt the practice myself and am somewhat "nervous" about excessive displays of symbolism (I do have a "fish" with the URL of my website on my office door), while on the other hand I think that the arguments you report here are illogical and unfounded, and, what is more troubling, tend to distort the symbolic meaning of the cross given to it by scripture. It is ever the case that attempting to "correct" a questionable practice by distorting the truth (on the grounds that the end justifies the means) almost always results in greater error and straying from the truth in general than would have been the case if the person left well enough alone (this is particularly obvious whenever Christians venture into politics, for example).
Yours in Him who endured the cross that we might have eternal life through His death for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thank you, Dr. Luginbill.
I look forward to studying the completed parts of the Coming Tribulation series.
Your insight into my specific concern is very intuitive: "what I should be doing" for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I guess the guilt comes from knowing He gave everything for me. How may I ever repay such sacrifice? I am working to understand how I may serve my Lord without wasting so much precious time with this kind of negative energy. Intellectually, I know it serves no purpose & even hinders the process of being a servant of the Lord. Again, knowing is not controlling.
I would love to know your secret for time-management. You seem to be able to write brilliantly, with clear & concise understanding. I understand we all have the same amount of time in this world. I am certain you have more demands than most of us. How do you manage to work in all the things life brings to you? How you manage to maintain the enormous volumes the ministry requires is mind-boggling. You have an amazing gift & we are grateful that you share it with the world.
Praying for Christ's eternal love to embrace us all.
None of us is perfect and we can all do better. At the same time, one of the things I personally always like to emphasize is the importance of consistency in the small things.
"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' "
Matthew 25:21 NKJV
" 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' "
Luke 19:17 NIV
It is a very common thing for pastors and motivational speakers generally to gin up the audience to an emotional high. The result is in some small percentage of the audience a legitimate effort to "do better" (whatever they may think that means or whatever it may entail). But anyone with any sort of common sense and experience of the real world should know and understand that emotion doesn't last (unless it is responding to true dedication deep in the heart backed up by self-discipline). All successful endeavors in any field require a consistent, steady, well-considered and sustainable effort over a long period of time. To that end, for example, I tell my college students that it is much better to dedicate 15 minutes a day to a subject they care about, being consistent in the effort, than it is to try and learn the whole term in an evening. In things like Bible study, a little done with consistency is a solid rock that may be built upon as capacity increases, self-discipline hardens, and opportunity beckons. Olympic athletes did not start by spending 12 hours a day in the pool. They built up to it over many years. Better to do something positive, something good, something truly beneficial at a reasonable rate than to bite off something anyone would have trouble sustaining. The latter only results in frustration and self-loathing for the failure, while the former, when mixed with self-discipline and consistency, yields results – even in the short term.
Best wishes for your continued and continuing spiritual growth and progress in the truth of Jesus Christ,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
We had a meeting at work where a new age occultist author was discussed. We basically had to read his (Jon Gordon) book. He refers to God as merely a "source" or "whatever" and is a pantheist. He also believes we can basically tap into that force because we are that source. I didn't want anything to do with this occultist and the people at the meeting basically accused me of being a negative person (btw, the authors book is called the "energy" bus) and tried to force a guilt trip upon me. My supervisor (a JW) was basically the one who brought on the subject. And there were those who professed to be Christian who were completely against me, and none of them took a stand for God. What do I do in these situations? Should I compromise and just give in and go along with the new age occult doctrines they're disseminating at my work? I can't speak out because they will tell me I can't discuss religion at work and yet they're doing that very thing here. What is the biblical way to respond or behave?
Wow! I have never heard of any such thing – outside of Communist military organizations (i.e., commissar-led indoctrination lectures and discussions). I am no lawyer, but I would imagine that forcing an employee as a condition of employment to subject him/herself to religious writings of any kind would be illegal. After all, I would imagine that if a company made workers read and discuss the Bible we would be seeing that on the 6 o'clock news pretty quick.
It sounds to me as if you need a better job. I will be praying for you about that.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
My apologies for not clarifying a few things in my last email. The management basically wanted to "encourage" us and give us "energy" in moving forward in our workplace so they told us to read a book called "the energy bus". They didn't say that it was mandatory but they were implicit about it. I did research on the author and several Christian apologists agreed that he is a new age guru type and teaches that we are the "source" and refers to God as the source. The author people such as the Dalai lama and Ghandi and his premise is basically "name it and claim it" in new age terms. I was one of the few who had a problem with the author and integrating his belief system at our workplace. The majority (who were just loved by the others and thought of as wonderful examples) of our staff just loved the book and placed posters of the book all over the office. At our meeting, the management brought up the subject of the books premise and how it teaches us important values. Most, if not all of the staff considered me the "negative energy" because I disagreed with book and its premise. There were one or two Christians who said to me, "I know, I completely agree with you, but just pretend to go along with them." I don't feel as if the bible tells us to "pretend" to go along with occult teachings. I believe that the bible commands us to stand for the truth of the Word of God and not compromise. It seems to me that those who are willing to stand for the truth regardless of persecution is a rare find today. I'm not saying that I'm better by any stretch of the imagination, I just wish that there were more who are bold enough no to compromise. The word "lukewarm" seems to be the epitome of the description of what the so-called church is today. It is very difficult to stand firm in our belief of the truth without being persecuted, even by professed Christians. If you mention to the Pastor of a church that reading Harry Potter books is NOT ok, he'll tell you that you're a legalist or that there is no harm in that. I believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; but if I take a stand for the truth, I'm somehow a legalist. Then others will accuse me and say, "you think you're better than others". This is disturbing because I feel like Paul when he said,"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?". I follow the Lord because I love Him and am willing to lay down my life at any moment for Him if I had to, and this is why I try to be obedient. I pray for everyone and it seems as if God chooses a select few out of those who I prayed for and draws them, because it also seems as if a light goes in in their head at certain times. I really apologize if I seem upset, and I really should just relax and do God's will and let Him take care of the rest. I also apologize for this rant, and I'm not sure how I got off on this tangent. Thanks for your prayers and teachings.
Thanks for the additional details. I certainly wouldn't want to sour you on a job/career with which you are otherwise happy. I find the exercise you relate pointless at best, illegal at worst – but certainly not unprecedented. In my own field of academia, we are constantly bombarded by secular viewpoints of every sort (and these often take the form of books we are encouraged to read or paradigms we are pressured to adopt). I make it a point to "stick to my own knitting" as much as possible. There is usually a "sweet spot" between engaging in vociferous confrontation on the one hand and sewing one's mouth shut on the other. In my own observation and experience, a carefully chosen, well-thought out word is often much more weighty than an extensive critique, no matter how technically correct.
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NIV
Of course, we all have our own talents, and we all have to analyze the specifics of each situation according to the light we have been given. One suggestion on all this is based on the observation that during the Tribulation when we are arrested and asked to defend our faith, we are told by our Lord not to worry ahead of time about what we ought to say, "for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit" (Mk:13:11 NIV). Since the Spirit will be in complete control of our defense on that day, it seems to me reasonable to give Him as much control as we possibly can today as well, not worrying overly about what to say or how to say it, trusting Him to help us decide whether to speak and precisely what to speak, relying on Him to guide us and keeping our ears attuned to His "still, small voice".
You seem to me to be handling yourself in a most admirable fashion, so please do not take any of the above as "second guessing". I am only concerned for you.
May the Lord grant you clear guidance in all these matters.
In Jesus our Lord,
I am emailing you on the behalf of someone telling me because I have tattoos that I am going to hell and that I am not walking with the lord. Even though I read my bible I study the gospel and go to church and I have gave my life to the lord. I am soon to be Baptize and I am fully giving my life to god. So is this true what this person speaks to me ? Jesus die for my sins. Not saying I should sin because of that,. I am just saying what the gospel says. Could you help me thank.
Good to make your acquaintance. Telling someone they are "going to hell" for any other reason than a failure to believe in and follow Jesus Christ is not only wrong but incredibly offensive (to any true Christian).
While I am no fan of tattoos (for reasons given in the links below), that is a personal opinion. As Christians, when it comes to activities that are not demonstrably sinful, we are responsible to the Lord for the decisions we make. Trying to tell other people that whatever we don't personally like is therefore sinful (or worse yet, dangerous to our salvation), is the very definition of self-righteous legalism and the antithesis of the law of love.
On tattoos, please see these links for more info:
Body Marking in the Bible
Should a Christian get a Tattoo?
Tattoos and Salvation
Tattoos and Piercing
Is Body Piercing a Sin?
Tattoos and Leviticus 19:28
And on legalism, here are some other links which may prove helpful:
Combating Legalism I
Combating Legalism II
Combating Legalism III
Combating Legalism IV
Combating Legalism V
Combating Legalism VI
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I prayed and keep praying for you that you are given all the gifts you need and that the important matters you mentioned are resolved for your benefit according to Our Lord.
I have finished the Biblical Anthropology study and send you another set of questions, as always asking you to take your time in responses, as this is another long set.
You wrote: 'No personal fig leaves that we might manufacture, human works designed to "make up" for our sins, will ever count for anything in God's eyes when it comes to the forgiveness of sin.'
I can understand your statement and the need for Our Lord Jesus to atone for our sins. I would like to understand it, so to say, at the most abstract level. Is my understanding correct: Our 'good deed' cannot make up for the sin that we commit, because no good deed can wash away the bad deed. That means that God, who judges according to his own, highest standard of righteousness, cannot accept 'a mixture of bad and good'. I'm just trying to fully comprehend why no sacrifice or commitment can atone for the sin we committed, I would just like to fully understand how this 'scales', so to say, works.
I certainly do appreciate your prayers on this matter and in all things. As to your latest set of questions:
An important question. Sin requires judgment (e.g., Heb.9:27; 10:26-28). To be atoned for, the sacrifice must be both qualified to bear that judgment and able to do so. No human being is qualified to bear judgment for a single sin – since we are sinful (compare the fact that the Levitical sacrifices had to be "free of blemish" symbolizing the sinlessness of the sacrifice: cf. 1Pet.1:19 NIV: "Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect"). So the idea that a "good deed" or something of the sort can somehow substitute for the blood sacrifice God demands to wash away sin is anti-biblical. Abel understood this, and offered a blood sacrifice – representing what God would do for us in sacrificing Jesus Christ. Cain chose not to, and offered vegetables – representing the "good" we "do" for God, which is not "good" at all in His eyes. The only way a human being can do something "good" in God's eyes is by responding to the will of God and operating in the power of the Spirit – so that it is really God doing the good:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 NKJV
So to use your balance analogy, our "good works" are not even allowed on the balance; the only thing God allows on the balance to neutralize our sins is the blood of Jesus Christ. All legitimate "good works" follow salvation and are done in obedience to God and in the power of God. They are factors in our rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, but have nothing whatsoever to do with our forgiveness.
You wrote: 'One good rule of thumb is that anything one does oneself (e.g., a cup of water offered in the Lord's name) has the most chance of being legitimate service to the Lord, whereas anything that is done through an organization one does not control (i.e., outside of the local church) is highly susceptible to being coopted by one of the devil's schemes.' Is this because anything done by more than one person increases the chance that the intention of the people involved in the action is not completely clean (i.e., serving the Lord)? This would mean that endeavours involving a number of people are 'highly unlikely' to be fully driven by the desire to serve the Lord, although a definite judgment there might be hard to make.
Yes, I think you understand my argument completely. This is only a "rule of thumb", not a principle derived directly from scripture, but a deduction backed up by personal experience and observation which, while not necessarily true in every case, is much more often true than not, so that it constitutes a good point of departure for evaluation. Organizations are run by people; people are sinful, imperfect, and motivated by all manner of things, most of which are usually not readily apparent to others and sometimes not even fully so to the individual him or herself. The effect of this is that complex organizations have a sort of negative multiplier which tends to diffuse (if not corrupt) whatever genuine "good" might otherwise be done. This makes all non-grass roots Christian charity problematic. I may have some idea that someone in my neighborhood needs help, and might be able to give that help in a Christian way and with a legitimate Christian message. But what are the chances that an impersonal organization with a headquarters far away is even going to identify this particular person and give them the help they really need, doing so in a way which genuinely promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ? Just on the basis of problems of logistics and information gathering, it would be a very tall order for them to do so better than I could, and of course there is also the problem that organizational activity is expensive so that my one dollar is likely to go farther than their ten dollars (or twenty or even in some cases a hundred). Of course, if I am not inclined to "do it myself" or with my local church, giving a hundred dollars that might only produce a one dollar effect may be better than nothing. My main concern is that in the case of many organizations it will turn out in fact not to have been better than nothing, and indeed in the case of organizations whose message is corrupt it may even be worse than having done nothing. The only person's motivation I have a chance to control is my own, and I can only even hope to affect positively the administration of things in which I have a direct hand. This is not a brief to stay away from charity; this is a brief to accept realistically what organized charity really is so as not to make the mistake of abdicated the responsibility of producing for Jesus Christ according to the gifts one has been given. I am sure that in our present day and age when even the local church is in most cases fraught with problems, most of us who do want to give charitably will be doing so to third parties (i.e., most of us do not have the gift of charity nor the means to make charitable giving our primary area of ministry). In such instance, the smaller and the more local would seem to me to be the best bets, especially if the organization in question really does adhere to the principle of giving as Christ gave and making Him the issue in all that they do.
You wrote: 'A second rule of thumb is that anything that genuinely helps individual people is much more likely to be true divine good, whereas anything that attempts to change a process or an institution or engages in any sort of political activity of any kind is very probably not'. In all honesty, I wholeheartedly agree with your words and recognize them as true. My own experiences, both with regard to spiritual matters and beyond, led me to the same conclusions. Although, I was wondering for a biblical basis of such a view. Would say that a violation of free will is a biblical argument against collective solutions?
To the extent that anyone forces their choice on anyone else in matters where the choice ought to belong to the person being forced, yes, I would say that this is at the very least a situation a true believer in Jesus Christ would wish to avoid. I think that perhaps nothing was worse for the true Church in its history than those instances in history where people were forced or pressured into becoming "Christians". After all, just because someone joins a church, gets baptized, shows up for rituals, etc., means nothing and says nothing about what is going on in their hearts. If that is true today when there is no necessity of doing such things unless they mean something to the individual in question, it was certainly true "in spades" when there was a definite political advantage to pretending to be a Christian (and a genuine disadvantage to being honest). These issues will all surface again in reverse during antichrist's pushing of his own brand of pseudo-Christianity during the soon to come Tribulation.
There is a dilemma I've been recently struggling with. I've been trying to help a local beggar. I've visited him on numerous occasions over the course of the last few years, tried to motivate him to change his ways, offered help. Unfortunately, this is a devil's world that we live in and this society (by that I mean English, but that refers to many others, western in particular) has got a badly distorted image of social help, which translates into a high benefit that this beggar receives. As an uneducated person and addictive gambler, he wastes all of that money and the fact that he receives it deprived him of any motivation to change his life for the better. My dilemma is finding the balance between Matt.18:12-14,Lk.15:8-10 and Luke 9:5. How long (and how, in general) do we search for the lost sheep, how far do we go in motivating a lost human being and trying to bring him to the Lord and when do we shake the dust of our feet? I know that these are questions that may require some individual consideration, but your general view would be appreciated, as always.
On this one, I appreciate your correct understanding that it is a matter of individual human beings evaluating by scripture and the Spirit individual cases. Since we as believers are differently gifted et al., there are certainly some instances where what would be profitable for you to do would not be so for me and vice versa. My rule of thumb here is not to "chase" the negative. If a person is interested in the truth and genuinely so, that will come out at a critical time and point. I am eager to "show hospitality" in the truth to all who wish to have it extended (e.g., Heb.13:2), but I am reluctant to throw pearls before swine. For me, a demonstrated desire for God's Word is the best way to draw the distinction. That does not mean that Christians should not engage in charitable activities without regard for such response; it does mean that material charity can only be followed up by spiritual charity where there is a willingness for it. Getting this mix correct is crucial for any Christ-centered charity. On the one hand, it is a mistake for a "Christian" charity to keep its Christianity a secret; on the on other hand, it is a mistake to require "response" before help is given. I have seen both extremes. A prudent approach will manage to make it clear that Christ is the reason and motivation for the love expressed without hitting the recipients over the head with the message or worse requiring them to pay it lip service before being helped.
What does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33?
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.
There are many things a Christian could do which would not be sinful but which would also not be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Life is all about the choices we make. I like to think of each day as a stream of opportunity. We are free, for example, to think about the weather, or about lunch, or about our friends, or about some book we read or movie we saw; but it is more beneficial to think about the Lord, to "think about the things above" to "meditate [on His truth] day and night". No one is perfect in this sort of thing, of course, but Paul's observation is true regarding virtually every aspect of our lives. In the particular context, he is addressing behavior which is not necessarily sinful but which might offend a fellow believer. There are many things we have the freedom to do which, if done in certain ways and under the eyes of weak believers over whom we have some influence, might distract them or at least lead them to be less productive for Christ. If we cause them to fall into sin, that is not just "not profitable" but actually wrong in violating the law of love (Rom.13:8-10).
You wrote: 'Both the weak who judge and the strong who indulge are "right" in an abstract, absolute sense' (regarding the passage from question above), yet it seems to me that in the example from 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 they cannot both be right 'at the same time', as their views are mutually exclusive?
The relative factor here is the individual conscience. If I am convinced that doing X is wrong, then I am right to refrain from X. If I have learned that X is really not wrong, then I am free to indulge in X. X is still X. But I must not violate what my conscience condemns as sin and must stay away from X unless and until it comes to be revealed to me from studying God's truth that X is really not sinful. Problems arise when 1) those who think that X is a sin begin to bully and judge those who know it is not a sin; or 2) those who know X is not a sin flaunt their behavior in front of those who think X is a sin. Both things are wrong even though in both cases the individuals in question are both technically "right" about what they should do regarding X. The problems come when either group disregards the freedom and/or sensibilities of the other.
Regarding making the sign of the cross - what I meant here was performing a gesture during which one touches the forehead, chest and both shoulders, saying: 'In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit', when beginning or ending the prayer.
With constant prayer for you and your ministry and in Our Lord Jesus,
Yes, I do understand that this ritual is used. What I don't understand is what it means. To the extent that someone feels the ritual is validating the prayer (in this case), to that extent I would say it actually invalidates it (as a kind of works which one assumes God will be obligated to honor). If it is just a traditional ritual, I would still want to know what the performance of the ritual is meant to accomplish, and why it would be necessary or desirable – since I don't find it in the Bible, see some obvious problems with it, and have never felt the need of it myself (although this last element is added more to show where my own traditional prejudices lie than as any kind of argument).
Thank you for your most encouraging dedication to the truth of the Word of God!
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior with who we shall enjoy sweet fellowship together for all eternity.